Fear of Training

Why would anyone have fear of training?

I have written here before about people who are afraid of training their voices lest it make them sound different. There are those who think that training somehow is an admission that you need help, in the sense of not being “good enough” (a very ignorant point of view, indeed). There are those who think that training consists of having someone else listen to you and tell you how to “relate” to the song, such as what is found on The Voice or American Idol. (NOT). There are those who think that training means that you sing everything in an operatic voice regardless of what the music is or how it was meant to be performed in terms of style.

There is a recording out now that promotes opera singers doing the music of John Denver. Long ago he made a recording with Placido Domingo called “Perhaps Love” that was quite successful. It is a very good example of two men singing in the same pitch range in very different vocal qualities. Denver’s voice was completely natural and Domingo’s very suave and sophisticated, although, to Placido’s credit he scaled his voice down to match Denver’s (probably without electronic help, back in that day). I have not heard this new recording, but I can’t help but wonder what it will be like with all those opera singers. Who knows, maybe they can adapt their voices even more than Placido did.

I come back, again as I have in the past, to say if a bunch of CCM singers got together to record Puccini and Verdi arias in their own style of vocal production, how would the classical world take that? Would classical people rush to purchase the record? Perhaps now, as opposed to decades ago, they would. Tastes have changed quite a bit in recent years. But would they just laugh at it?

Going back to the idea of training, functional training should be aimed at sound for its own sake, separate from repertoire but with the idea of the style of the repertoire in mind when the training is about half-way to a professional level — perhaps after two years. In the meantime, learning classical songs, whether art songs or opera arias, will not add anything to the ability to sing rock, pop or gospel, although it wouldn’t necessarily be harmful. It could be an enormous  waste of time. Yes. There is something valid in fearing that training the voice will make it  “sound different” but if it is done properly it will simply make the person sound more authentic. Of those vocalists who have gone outside their primary sound, who has been really successful in the marketplace?

Sometimes it seems that all the opera singers in the world want to prove that they can cross over to other styles. Most of the time, they are not too successful. A few, like Eileen Farrell, and Leontyne Price, made recordings years ago that were excellent,  but they were wise about their choice of material and the arrangements.

Fear of training is real and sometimes, depending on the kind of training and the length of time over which it takes place, it is valid. There isn’t really a fear of “no training” but in some people there probably should be!


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