“Natural” Singing

What is natural singing? Think you know? Ask any two singing teachers and you will absolutely get two different answers. Ask 100 singing teachers and you will get 100 answers. Ask 1000, the same.

Natural singing depends on what you consider to be natural vocal behavior. If you want to measure what is natural, do you look at normal healthy speakers who do not sing? Healthy singers of any style, age and level of experience? Do you look at professionals or those without training? Do you look at the difference between normal and average? Do you decide what a high level professional normal is and use that as a baseline?

Believe me, there would be a thousand arguments on these topics and in the end, no one would be any better off after all the haranguing stopped. So, for the sake of expressing something concrete and perhaps meaningful, let me try here to describe “natural singing”.

Natural singing means that the vowel sounds don’t distort. They sound true to themselves across a person’s range. It means that the mouth and jaw don’t do great huge extended movements all the time, but perhaps they move more on high notes, loud sounds and during exaggerated emotional expression. It implies that there is an easiness to pronunciation and pitch accuracy without fuss. It implies that breathing is solid, consistent and not obvious. It assumes that the sound is clear, not nasal, not noisy, not breathy. It assumes that the sound of the voice is recognizable and unique. It generates resonance (or specific acoustic enhancement) but without seeking to do so in an exaggerated manner. It is smooth and flowing but can also be detached and choppy, as needed. It has vibrato, not too much or too little, except when vibrato is not wanted.  Kids sound like kids, young adults sound like young adults, older adults sound younger than their actual years.

If you want a good example of opera singing that is about as natural as you could ask for it to be, go on YouTube and look for Rosa Ponselle singing Carmen. You won’t have to look hard to find many different mezzo’s singing Carmen with all sorts of over-darkened, weird sounds that have little to do with how we actually communicate. That’s where we have gone in recent years.

The further away we travel from clean simple sound-making, no matter what style we are singing, the further away we get from honest, direct emotional truth and clear communication. If you are someone who really doesn’t care about naturalness, and there are some who think that singing SHOULD be manufactured, you won’t understand any of these arguments.

Everyone who studies with me for any length of time is going to learn to sing as naturally as possible, following the above guidelines. They will always sound like themselves while they increase their freedom, strength, expressiveness and stamina. They will always be the people who decide what kind of sound they want to make and will learn to discern the difference between a distortion for artistic sake and a distortion caused by poor technique. They will expand in every vocal direction without having to sacrifice anything, but they will also understand that all of this takes work and time to learn and dedication to maintain.

Natural singing. Natural expression. Natural communication. Even in a very heightened communication in a big space with a large audience, you don’t have to throw these things away.

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