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Thinking about changing track.

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I'm 19, and I've been studying to sing opera. I'm becoming a little jaded about the whole thing, and I was wondering if I had the chops to switch to a more modern style. I've attached a clip of me singing I Who Have Nothing (please excuse the piano playing). My (pop) idols are Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, and Shirley Bassey. Part of my problem is that I really just love belting it out, is there any room for that kind of voice in other genres?

CD2E0900.WAV - 32.60MB

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Hey now, not a big deal, but if you can get a mic that won't overload that would help a bunch. I really liked what I heard of your singing, but the overloading sound was a bit painful. If you can lower the input somehow on the mic you're using, or even get a cheap mic if you are relying on a laptop internal speaker it would help a bunch. Some of you guys are fantastic singers, and doing that to your voice is a crime! It's like taking a tasty ice cream sunday, and pouring motor oil on it. For ice cream fans, this is putting us in a funny position.

That aside, beating yourself up because you have opera chops is like beating yourself up because you're "too good at beating people up." I'd be willing to bet 90 percent of people here can't sing opera and you know why? Cause we don't have the chops. I always got the John Lennon opera voice when I tried, you know the 'faked' sounding one? "Oh Danny Boy....." You've all heard it.

But I'll give you the straight talk as a music fan. While I like a lot of operatic sounding voices and your voice in particular has a great possibly commercial sound to it (it sounds Josh Groban(ish) to me), part of what I like in the pop music sphere is a more 'rawness' or unrefined emotional earnestness that is a bit less controlled. While it's true, sometimes the full operatic sound might be a bit extreme for some styles of popular music, my theory is someone with 'more' operatic technique is not at a huge disadvantage if they are willing to take some risks or expose a bit more vulnerability. Those are the kinds of things the average person might more easily relate to.

We actually share a favorite singer in Sinatra. He had a fairly bel canto inspired sound and I relate so much to a lot of his music. But for me as a music fan, it wasn't his technique that attracted me to him. What initially caught me was when I listened to some songs off "In the Wee Small Hours" and I could feel this utter vulnerability, like he was just pouring his soul into the music and sharing his innermost demons with me in a way I could relate to. The fact that he had more of a bel canto sound didn't really interfere with this, and in fact that smooth legato, the jazz like phrasing, the vibrato, almost all of those things helped express this sound to me so well. Later I delved into a lot of his other material, and found he could express so many things. Swagger, fun, bemusement, wistfulness, earnestness, so many different things. He used his voice like an expressionist painter, with the rhythms, the textures, the swing, the groove, and the melody.

Now, from what I know of the opera world, I would honestly feel the same way being surrounded by attitudes like I've experienced. Disillusioned, confused and wanting to run the opposite direction from that a mile a minute. I've gotten a lot of snooty comments coming from that direction, along the lines of 'if it isn't opera, it's wrong, and you suck, etc.' But that doesn't really have anything to do with whether the singing is good.

I'm kind of rambling, but I have this idea that might help you out. I'm envisioning a bit of a crossroads. I'm thinking over your options here. What I can think of:

1. Continue singing opera in the same way, even if it's not exactly what you feel. You're good, you can probably do this (least risky).

2. Continue singing operatically and enter popular music in a more conventional manner (Groban). This might be the safest way to crossover, but you might feel deep down like you want to express something a bit deeper or profound than this more popera style has achieved so far, right?

3. Continue singing operatically, but find some way of expressing something unique that people find very valuable. Write songs with deeper meanings, focus on using your voice in a way that resonates with your emotions better, as opposed to being a 'by the book' technique. This is a risk, here, but people like me might become huge fans.

4. Try to adjust into a different style? It's possible for people to do this, but this is a pretty big risk here as you may find that a lot of popular styles are more constricted and might end up being less comfortable. You are already really good, I can tell so I'm not sure whether it's the right risk to take.

Maybe just thinking about what you want to express with your talents, with your art, maybe your answer will be easier than you think. I really wish you well, I hope you can find what it is you are looking for.

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It really is the whole 'academic' environment that's ruining it for me. Everything has to be done a specific way regardless of what feels the most honest. Also when I get the 'operatic sound' that people keep trying to get me to make, it just feels like I'm making sound instead of singing.

I've always used music to be able to express things that I wouldn't normally be able to, but when you sing opera everyone wants to be a part of your artistic statement. For everything. That's part of what is frustrating for me, because I always pour my whole soul into it when I sing.

To give you an idea of the kind of style I'd go for if not opera, other non-operatic songs I sing are Nature Boy, many songs by Elton John and Billy Joel, some of the more ballady Beatles stuff, and anything big band.

Thank you for your response, and for your comments. I do actually like opera very much, it's just the modern take on it that I have a problem with. I really just want to be able to express myself as honestly as I can through my music.

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Yeah, the opera 'community' is more the problem... The operatic technique is strong, there are some great sounds coming from it, it's healthy and good. But I know you want to express something more in your soul, and having a community there that harps so much on doing everything 'proper' has got to be maddening for when your soul disagrees. I'd be willing to bet your soul is right a lot of the time, and these people are just pedantic.

It's similar with classical music for me, I love a lot of the melodies and harmonies, but if you go on youtube and see people perform it, the comments are filled with 'textbook nazis.' But if you go to a Beatles song, people are just 'feeling' it you know?

You have a lot of the same tastes as me. Sinatra, Beatles, Elton John, that's actually amazing, all some of my favorites. But make no mistake, you're good. You're damned good. And that you feel that passion, and you feel that pull for that kind of honest expression without so much pedantic BS, that's the sign of a true artist. I really hope there is some way you can do this.

To be honest, the pop music world is awful right now too. When something like Kesha is what is selling the albums, autotuned to an oblivion, it makes me wonder if like we slipped something into the water, that screwed up my generation. I look back into the past, Strawberry Fields? That's like the Mona Lisa of Pop, I don't see why on one side you have textbook nazis and on the other side you have people that actually seem to not care about creating timeless classics.

Here's your biggest advantage. Nowadays people like me don't know where to go for music unless you're willing to really scour the internet like a madman. Someone like you is desperately needed. Someone with the passion for the art, someone with the chops, someone that wants to make people feel valuable things and make a quality work of art that will stand the test of time.

I bet you've got what it takes. I just hope neither 'sides' of the musical landscape, will continue strangling everything that is truly great about music. I want to hear you on the radio, man. Maybe I'd turn on the radio then and I bet a lot of other people would too.

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Wow, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. There's just so much of a disconnect between how much I tend to put in my music and how people usually respond to it in opera.. Everything is about technique first, then fitting the interpretation around it. I'm glad there are people out there that can actually GET it. I put way to much of myself into it for it to just be reduced to 'success or failure' in delivering a song.

In pop, I'm hoping that artists like Buble and Josh Groban are carving enough of a 'niche' for the kind of music I really want to sing. Music is so much more than entertainment, that I think part of the problem is that what record companies are trying to turn it into. It can be entertaining, but you should always feel something after you listen to a song as opposed to just waiting for the next beat to start.

I'm definitely going to try. I'm 19 so it'll probably be years before I find out where I'm really happy, but it's just getting so hard to not up and leave singing altogether to avoid all of the BS. Your posts are very encouraging though. I grew up singing Whitney Houston and Billy Joel songs, so when people started telling me I sound 'too operatic' for pop it was heartbreaking. Especially since I wasn't getting the same thing out of opera that I was then.

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Hey, one of your biggest assets you can take advantage of is in fact your fiery free spirit. You have to look at the reality. People throughout their lives are constantly told what to do from birth to death. What to wear, what to say, how to act, how to function in society, and even when they try to be creative or make music someone else has already made all of the 'proper rules for them to follow' and when they break the rules, they get a bunch of flack.

I think a lot of people can pick up a vibe from the opera community, that some of these people were essentially told how to sing from birth until death. Told what to sing, how to sing it 'properly,' that there was a 'right way' to do each piece and society has the right to define what the right way is for them.

Now with almost everyone having negative feelings about being stifled, one of the biggest reasons people are attracted to some of this less technical music is the feeling that the artist is actually standing up and saying: "I am fed up spending my whole life being told what to do. I have something important to express in a way that resonates truly with me, not how everyone else has told me is proper my whole life and you are going to hear it."

You have that fire, buddy. Not so long ago, this Alfie Boe guy made national headlines, for stating how he felt about the opera world:


Unfortunately, he's not a very eloquent speaker and I doubt he expressed the message in a way that resonated so well with audiences, but the 'idea' certainly attracts a lot of attention and headlines.

The difference with you, is you can put that sound into your music. You don't need to say a damned thing and put your foot in your mouth publicly because that's not necessary in music. You can instead work on your swagger, your confidence, and taking risks to express something no other operatic singer dared to. You can be the 'true rebel' singer that people would likely relate to and go crazy for, in a sea of by the book trained automatons.

If people can feel that fire, if you can express it just right, through the right stage presence, your image, maybe even write songs and sing songs that express that fire and freedom, that's the kind of thing that could resonate for a lot of people. And a more operatic tone has always had a special place at the heart of rock and roll. You do too. It's not as different as you think or have been lead to believe by the ignorant. Burn that passion buddy.

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