The Scoop on Vocal Technique …Sep 02, 2021
So, you're trying to establish yourself as a singer, and you've heard in order to be successful, you have to have good technique. But what exactly is vocal technique? And which one of the many methods is the best?
In the upcoming vlogs, I'm going to break down the pros and cons of the three main techniques for contemporary singing so you can decide which one is best for you.
These singing techniques have been around for a while, so they've been time-tested to produce positive results. I've been fortunate enough to study each method for several years from certified instructors and take official classes from their institutes.
So, first, what is vocal or singing technique?
Singing technique is a system for using your anatomy and physiology to produce sound in a healthy way that goes with the style of music you want to sing. For example, if you sing classical music, you want to use a classical technique. However, if you're going to sing contemporary music, you will definitely want to use a method geared towards that.
The truth is, is that different voice techniques are useful for different things. And while I'd love to discuss all the fantastic singing techniques out there, I decided it would be best to focus on the three most popular techniques for singing contemporary commercial music. Which are as follows …
- Speech Level Singing
- Estill Voice Training
- Complete Vocal Technique
Once I tell you all about them, we can then talk about which technique is best for you.
Please keep in mind that I’m not a representative of these techniques. I've learned about them so that I can help my students achieve their goals. Also, I tend to geek out because I love learning about vocal different techniques. And there's a lot of jargon, so I'll try to explain everything clearly and in a fun way so that I don’t bore you to death!
First, I'll give you a bit of background on each technique, then some of the key points, and at the end, I’ll give you some insight into how these techniques align with your goals as a singer.
The first vocal technique I'd like to talk about is the first contemporary vocal technique I'd ever come across, called Speech Level Singing. In fact, I remember buying the book (and yes, cassette tapes!) back in high school in order to work on the training exercises. I used them so often I wore out the tapes and had to buy the CDs later -- they finally came out on CD. LOL!
So, here's the scoop on Speech Level Singing. Speech Level Singing (or SLS) is a singing technique originated by Seth Riggs. Seth is a classically trained vocal coach who lives in Los Angeles. I had the great pleasure of working with him in the mid-'90s when I was performing professionally.
Seth received his master's degree in Opera theater from the Peabody Institute, where he studied the classical Bel Canto technique. Bel Canto, which means “beautiful singing” and is an Italian school of singing that was popular when the church set the bar for what good singing was supposed to sound like. By the mid-19th century, Bel Canto singing was the standard and reinforced in every church across all of Europe.
After graduating college, Riggs, who loved the popular music of the day, realized that Bel Canto was not all that helpful to singers who sang popular music. So, he began to develop his own method of singing while teaching in Los Angeles.
Being pretty much the only contemporary voice teacher at the time, most of the stars took lessons from Seth. Everyone from Pavarotti to Michael Jackson. Wanting to expand his studio and bring his method to the general public, Seth created a teacher training system in which he called Speech Level Singing.
Now, the goal of Speech Level Singing is to keep a balanced registration (or mix) while keeping a mid-resting larynx. The same as when you speak. Seth believed when you speak; there is no tension or manipulation of your larynx, so it should stay in the same place when you sing.
In Bel Canto singing, where Seth got his ideas, there are three registers: chest voice, head voice, and mixed voice.
According to Bel Canto, a register is a series of notes that, when sung, have the same quality. For most singers, as they go from chest voice to head voice there's an audible break. But Seth believes the break happens because of the lack of coordination and/or strain from joining the registers.
In this form of singing, the goal is to overcome the disconnect. That being said, Speak Level Singing uses vocal exercises designed to keep the "speech-level" sound consistent from the singer's lowest part of their range to the highest. Thus, resulting in one unified voice where the registers are so well blended, there's no break or strain.
Speech Level Singing calls the blending of registers a “mix”.
While mixing registers, Seth believes it is crucial to maintain a resting larynx. The larynx is the muscular organ that contains the vocal cords. When an untrained vocalist sings from low to high, the larynx usually rises with the pitch.
He also believes that this rising of the larynx is responsible for the strain that ruins voices. So, a large part of Speech Level Singing is dedicated to keeping the larynx stable even as the pitch changes.
Let’s watch a video of Seth Rigs talking about Speech Level Singing …
(Click the image below to play video.)
The endgame of Speech Level Singing gives the singer the skill to balance their registers, so they can have the freedom to sing whatever notes and style of music they want, with no breaks or changes in quality.
In other words, a singer should "mix" from the bottom to the top of their voice.
Studying Speech Level Singing is designed to help singers hit high notes without straining or disconnecting to falsetto. This level of singing does not address style, different qualities, effects, or tones your voice can make. So, if you're a singer who is just looking to fill in the break, so you have one sound throughout your whole entire range, then Speech Level Singing is for you.
Stay tuned … In the upcoming vlogs, I will fill you in on many other great vocal techniques for contemporary singers – just like you!
Being prepared is the first step -- and that will lead to a great career.
If you are a singer and want to learn how to better your singing voice and or get your name out there, or just simply have a few questions and need some advice … feel free to comment below or hit me up by dropping me an email.