Suppose you’re a rocker or a pop singer looking for a voice teacher. While some may stress they are all about the rocking or teaching a certain vocal “method”, some of these teachers mention being classically trained in their bios. So, what exactly does that mean- and does it mean he or she can still help you get the sound you want?
I myself am classically trained . I got my degree in vocal performance after studying a healthy diet of art songs, oratorio, and opera arias. Now, here I am as a voice teacher- and I can count my classical students on one hand! The rest sing commercial music styles- metal, pop, R&B, and more. The bottom line is that all healthy singing means you use classical technique- which is a different ball game than classical STYLE. Let me explain!
When a singer uses classical technique, it’s a lot less complicated than it sounds- really! Classical technique has been around forever: we breathe and support very low on our bodies. We stand with proper balance. We sing clear, round vowels. These are the principles I was most focused on as a young classical singer tacking Puccini, Schubert, Barber, etc. -but almost every genre can benefit from all of those things, right? You better believe it!
STYLE comes from other things you do- the artistic choices you make when you sing. For example, you may choose to be a little breathier in your lower register in a sultry jazz tune, or make the sound sassier and brighter and more “in your face” (literally!) if you’re belting a big Broadway song.
In rock, we don’t sing the words out as nearly fully as we do in an aria- and it’s much more conversational.
So, putting the two together- the technique with the style/attitude, is where it’s at, as far as I am concerned! Think of it as the best of both worlds. Don’t assume that all classically trained teachers won’t welcome other genres- many of us do! In fact, rock was my first love. Sharing what I know from the classical world has helped my rockers feel a lot more confident in their abilities . They have mentioned an increase in stamina after long rehearsals and gigs because they breathe and support just like the opera singers do (and those singers have a LOT of singing to do- talk about your vocal athletes!). They realize they need NOT scream or push to get a lot of good sound out.
Classical vocal training also stresses the importance of a good warmup, and being mindful of good vocal hygiene . Although I wouldn’t suggest sticking to a regimen of solely vocal exercises in lessons like students did MANY years ago when preparing to sing operatic roles (that would get SO dull!), do spend time doing exercises that cover a variety of vocal skills. These skills include flexibility, diction, breath control, and dynamics. All of these things can and should be applied to your songs- whether they be Mozart arias or Judas Priest covers!
Hopefully this eases your fears about your classically trained teacher “turning you into an opera singer”. That would take years of practice, first of all! Also keep in mind that good teachers are respectful about your preferred styles of music and would never consider turning you into someone you are not. Quality voice teachers also want the best for all of their students- and want to ensure many years of healthy singing for all of you! Classical technique can do that for you, regardless of the styles you choose to sing. Here’s a wonderful example of a rocker who was classically trained- Pat Benatar! She’s still rockin’ and sounding great in her sixties, all because she was taught solid classical technique on Brahms art songs long before she was a “Heartbreaker”.
As one of my colleagues once put it: “why shouldn’t ALL singers have the tools the Wagnerians have?” .