Be true to yourself

Jan 22, 2021

Has anyone told you – you sound like Maria Callas, Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, or Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Martti Talvela?  That’s great and, since it is a real compliment because these were all amazing artists, be sure to thank the compliment giver.  

 

But … is it really what you want to become? Someone who sounds like a great opera star of a bygone time? If it is, stop right here and go onto the next blog post, because today we will deal with individuality and uniqueness of sound. 

 

My opinion is that today’s singers seem to sound very similar. The colour of their voices is often beautiful but bland. In the last few years, there have even been academic studies done to determine if there has been a decline in “heavier” voices necessary for Verdi and Wagner*.  

 

For the purpose of this blog post, my view point is that you, as a young singer starting out, should pay close attention to your individual timbre and cultivate it. 

The important thing to remember is the uniqueness of your sound. There are roles for every voice range, from soubrette to heavy bass. And within these “Fachs”, there are many nuances – lyric, lyrico spinto, jung dramatisch, etc. etc. The important factor is to find those roles that fit your voice and personality best.  And that means feeling comfortable while singing. Don’t let any singing teacher or coach force you to do anything with your voice that feels uncomfortable.  Yes, you may be able to fulfill the requirements of the role, but if there is even the slightest stress in pushing or producing the sound, please consider to not do it.  First and foremost because it will hurt you physically in the long run and secondly because the listener can immediately tell if there is effort or pushing.  The listener will suffer with the singer, believe me! And will not have pleasant associations with that singer. I don’t want that to be you. 

 

This has nothing to do with putting on any diva/divo attitudes, of being fickle in your choice of roles and “difficult” because you may say “no” more often. It only has to do with the fact that you should know yourself, know how far you can go vocally and stay true to your voice and your personality. 

This also has nothing to do with not going outside your comfort zone to experiment with different techniques, try out roles – in fact, I would encourage you to do so. You may be pleasantly surprized at finding techniques and roles that work for you. But listen to your body and – in the long run – don’t overstep those boundaries that feel uncomfortable too often. 

 

If you are lucky, you will intuitively know what is best for you. Even luckier – because it shortens the process of trial and error – to find a coach or teacher who correctly recognizes your potential. He/she will have the experience and knowledge to advise you on your own, personal development. He/she will not try to model you in his or her own image or, worse, push you into a mold that does not fit you. 

 

Remember, it is your voice, it is your life. 

If it requires that you change your teacher or coach more than a few times until you find the right one, so be it. 

 

*Prof. Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University https://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/music.html