Will singing pop damage my classical voice?

 

I have just discovered this excellent site and would be very grateful if you could give me some advice. I am a classically trained singer, but I have always enjoyed singing pop songs using my chest range. Now, at 34 I have decided to earn a living singing in clubs and pubs. Although I enjoy this style of singing very much, do think it will eventually damage or restrict my ‘classical’ voice?

 

This is a tricky question to answer without hearing exactly what you are doing in both your classical and pop singing.

It really depends how you use your chest voice. If you use it in the same way as you might use chest voice in classical singing (ie strong and dark up to about E or F above middle C, then above that it feels like serious weightlifting), then yes, you might actually do some damage in the long term.

If however you are using a “chest voice” (as opposed to “head voice”) type of sound, but it moves easily up to Bs and Cs above middle C, then you’re probably going to be ok.

The reason I’m saying this is because of the way different singers use the term “chest voice”. The operatic chest voice tends to be a different “mix” to the one used by pop, rock and jazz singers. The operatic version is designed to match the power and depth of the upper ranges, and so tends to have more things in it. Without getting too technical, and speaking very generally, operatic chest voice has more “pull down” or depth, “turn” or “tilt”, and more mouth cavity space in it, usually with a flatter tongue.

What we refer to on the website as clear-strong or speech quality has comparatively less depth, less “turn” and is a more straightforward sound, speaking easily. As it moves up above the F above middle C the sound and feel gets closer to calling than singing (hence “speech” quality). For classical singers finding it for the first time, their comments usually include “but I’m not singing”, “that’s just like talking on pitch”, “I’m not projecting” and “that feels completely different”. We show you how to do this in our training Webinars Taking Chest Voice Higher and Taking Chest Voice Higher – Mixing

Remember that the operatic chest voice is designed to be projected acoustically without enhancement (most of the time), whereas almost all the musical styles known as contemporary commercial (pop, rock, jazz, blues etc etc) and musical theatre use a sound system of some kind. Therefore the training and voice production for these sounds are different.

Incidentally, not all pop is sung in “chest”, but we’re presuming you know that already!

This strong-clear setting is only one of the many sounds that pop, rock, jazz and musical theatre singers use, although it tends to be the basis of most of the vocal setups in those styles. We help singers all the time in our studio to move between different vocal setups without harm, and to find and maintain different muscle memories when they sing. The voice is an immensely flexible instrument, and can make and hold many different positions safely. And remember, singing is also about identifying with the sound or style of the material, so aptitude and attitude play a part.

And in answer to your question, if you find a healthy, uncluttered sound like the one described above, then no, it won’t adversely affect your classical voice.

In fact, we usually find that when classical singers find their clear-strong (modal or chest) voice, it actually enhances their classical voice.

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