A very common occurance: Kid grows up singing with the radio/TV/internet, all the popular songs of the day (Top 40s). Kid decides he or she likes singing and wants to learn more. Kid gets ready for college, has to go either for classical or music theater training (done by classical teachers) or jazz (also done by classical teachers). Kid gets into a school and gets assigned a singing teacher.
Singing teacher has to teach “art songs”, in English and Italian, maybe German, French, Spanish or some other language, and maybe also music theater songs. Singing teacher imparts whatever knowledge he or she has to the student. Student does not “get better”. Student gets blamed. Student tries harder, manages to force the voice to do something along the lines of “resonance” (pick a place in the face/head) and “breath support”, that the teacher accepts. Student learns rep, manages to graduate (or quits school) and tries to go out and get a job singing (see previous post). Singer has “problems” and maybe manages anyway, but can’t quite get his or her voice to do what is required, or what she wants. Hmmmmmmmmm.
This is a COMMON scenario, not a rare occurance. Why?
Because you cannot layer a classical vocal technique over a voice that has grown up singing pop music without making it worse. You cannot get the proper resonance, range, power and flexibility out of a voice that is solidly locked into a “chest dominant” mid-range (which is easily camoflaged unless you know how to recognize its characteristic behaviors), no matter what kind of classical training you might have or teach. You can tell the student to “bring the sound forward”, or “resonate in the masque” (whatever that means), or your can tell her to “vibrate the bones in her face”, or you can tell her to pull her belly in (or up, or push it out or down, or all of those) to “support” the tone, and she could still “not improve”. You could tell her to “make the sound seem to go out from your eyebrows” (that’s a doozey) or “lift the tone over the back and spin it out” (even more of a doozey), or you could ask her to support from her public bone (do bones contract?), and she could still “sound wrong”.
You can ask and ask and ask and the student might finally, if she is musical and determined, sound “better” but she won’t feel free, she won’t really know how the mechanism can work if it is properly balanced and she will never experience the sheer unmitigated joy of singing a completely free sound, and for that, you can thank her instructor.
You cannot layer a classical technique over a CCM mechanism. It can never work.
You can take the CCM sound apart, rebalance the instrument, and put into place coordinated muscular responses that could not possibly arise on their own. This takes patience and time but it also takes a keen ear, good solid information about function, and lots of skill. After the sound (and the physical responses that create and effect it) is correctly organized, the student will not only be able to generate appropriate resonances and manage breath support easily, but she will also be able to go back and sing the CCM stuff (whatever style it may be), with authenticity and ease as well. It just won’t be with the same behaviors that she uses in the classical repertoire.
I have worked with many highly skilled professionals who have never been able to sing the way they knew they could because of this very real problem. Some of them have had good careers lasting for decades. All of them, however, kept seeking “the way out”, as their deep intuition knew that something wasn’t happening that should have been happening, or vice versa. If you are one of these people, there is hope, don’t give up! You need Somatic Voicework™. If you are a teacher and you have a student who “won’t improve” but seems to work hard, you need SVW™, too. Barring a vocal pathology or a deliberately passive/agressive personality disorder, if your students do not improve in a classical training program, question what you do, how you do it and why. Question yourself, not the student.