What’s It Worth To You?

What is your voice worth to you?

What is it worth to you to be thought of as an excellent vocalist? Not an actor, not a musician, not a dancer, not a ‘creator’, but a VOCALIST?

I ask because there are people who don’t really care about the voice at all, yet they sing. They think the voice is a kind of “leave it alone” sort of thing that’s best left to its own devices. They are unwilling, unable, or unconscious about “vocal development” for a variety of reasons.

Some singers think that lessons will somehow change the basic essence of their voice or their sound, so they avoid them. That is a legitimate fear. You could be turned into an “opera singer” whether you want to sing opera or not. Rather than risk that, they stay away from formal training, and end up with none. As long as they sing well enough to get by, they do. If they have a vocal issue, they may take some training, but by that time, it can be too late. They never bother to find out that there are teachers of singing out there who can not only help them sing beautifully but help them sound MORE authentic, not less.

Some singers think that acting will bring the voice to wherever it needs to go. If they are dedicated and committed to their acting decisions, the voice will reflect that. Perhaps that is so, but perhaps not. Speech for theater can be very demanding. The Brits understand this but we in the USA do not. Ever been to a show where you can barely understand your own native tongue, America? Yup. The actors think, I don’t need “speech training”. Wrong. And, if you are being asked to sing in a musical and you don’t train your voice, good luck. It’s amazing that there are professional music theater actors who believe that acting alone is enough to get the voice to go wherever it has to go. I don’t think so. No.

There are singers who believe that being a musician and creating interesting musical expression is the most important thing about singing. They like having a voice that’s “funky” and “different”. This includes artists who do jazz, R&B, Gospel, rock, rap and maybe folk music. Making the voice “too perfect” is seen as a threat to individuality or to uniqueness. Ignorance, this idea. Just ignorance. You can make much better musical and expressive choices if your instrument is programmed to do all that human beings’ voices are capable of doing, but you can’t possibly find out what that might mean if you do not deliberately develop it functionally to go beyond it’s natural boundaries. In fact, I encounter on a rather regular basis in jazz women, the idea that singing in a soft breathy sound all the time is a good thing. Since few people speak that way and even fewer people who are vocal professional singers speak that way, constantly reverting to a soft breathy sound while singing, for no particular reason, is like wearing old ratty sneakers every day because you don’t want to scuff up your “go to church” shoes. It makes for less individuality, not more.

If you care about acting or being a musician, if you care about your ART and what you are creating, and if what you create as an artist comes through your voice, you had better care about it and what it can and cannot do. You need to ask yourself why, in all good conscience, it should be ignored, taken for granted, distorted, pushed or harmed just because you don’t care enough about it to treat it like something special and important. The truth is, it IS something special and important, whether you think so or not.

Ask the singers who have lost their voices due to surgery, illness or accident, what it’s like to not have their voices be available. ALL of them will tell you that their voices are worth whatever it takes to fight to get it back and keep it running. What is it worth to you to have the best possible voice you could even have and what would you be willing to do to keep it that way? Really, answer this question honestly. You need to know.

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