Will studying with a vocal instructor ruin my natural singing style? I’ve heard some singers who sound overly “trained”, and their voices sound boring and copycat to me. I want to develop a better singing voice, but I’m afraid that lessons will only make me sound just like those other singers.
Some singers are afraid that taking lessons will make them sound stereotypically classical, too polished or not emotional enough. They are afraid of losing their “edge” and uniqueness. Some are afraid that if they learn too much about the voice and technique, they’ll lose their instincts and forget how to sing from the heart.
While some singers do become overly preoccupied with applying correct technique to their singing and get so caught up in the sound and mechanism of their voices that they forget that their real job is to express how they feel, lessons aren’t to blame. Singers who “lose their edge” and uniqueness after taking lessons likely didn’t have much true edge and uniqueness to begin with. Some aspiring singers are self-conscious on stage, and they find a false sense of security in singing with “perfect” technique, hoping that great technique will translate into a great performance. However, a singer who can’t connect with a song or an audience on an emotional level after taking lessons probably also had great difficulties doing so before he or she began to study vocal technique.
Assuming that you are capable of singing from the heart and of truly feeling the emotion behind words and music in the first place, solid technique will enhance your performances by making expressing emotion through song easier. Technique’s job is to enable a singer to be more expressive, not less, by equipping the singer with greater control over his or her instrument so that he or she is able to use the voice in a variety of ways as he or she pleases. The more mastery you have of your voice, the more you can do with it. Just as a musician who refuses to learn music theory will always be somewhat limited as a musician, it is ignorant to assume that you won’t be limiting what you can achieve by refusing to learn the technical side of singing.
Although there are both classical and a variety of contemporary approaches to teaching, technique instruction is not typically influenced by any one genre, and proper vocal technique is applicable to all musical styles and genres. A rock singer needs to breathe just as correctly as an opera singer does. Good tone is just as important to the career of a country singer as it is to a musical theatre actor. All aspiring singers, regardless of preferred style, can benefit from better registration, greater range, vocal agility, stamina and control. Effective vocal instruction will equip a student with more skills and versatility, and thus the ability to sing in a variety of genres or styles, if desired, and to safely use a multitude of vocal effects.
A good instructor will not promote the imitation of other singers because every singer’s voice is unique. Instead, his or her students will be taught first of all to sing properly with good technique, then to apply that technique to his or her singing outside of the lesson room. The individual singer’s style will be encouraged to remain unaltered. Voice lessons won’t change who you are as an artist; they won’t alter your natural style unless you are no longer being true to you. They will only change how you go about (approach) singing. Those singers who sound very classical or polished choose to sound that way because that is the sound and style of singing that they personally appreciate and aspire to develop.
Even in the case where a singer selects a vocal coach – for a more detailed explanation of the differences between a vocal coach and a technique instructor, see my article on this site entitled Vocal Coaching or Vocal Technique Instruction? - based on that particular coach’s style of expertise, the student should never feel as though the coach is attempting to mold him or her into someone else. A vocal coach should offer several suggestions for how to vocally interpret a particular song then allow the student to come up with an interpretation that is unique and natural to that singer, providing critical feedback of the student’s work but never encouraging a student to mimic another singer.