MT type/vocal classification and physicality

MT type/vocal classification and physicality
Thursday musings...

The week often reveals a topic or a theme in teaching and conversation.

The idea of voice classification, type, range and more came up on Facebook this week.  The my good friend and colleague, and brother in music,  the illustrious Jean-Ronald Lafond wrote a wonderful blog about  fach/vocal classification and opera which you must read here!

I thought I would add my 2 cents about vocal classification, and the business according to music theatre.

Often, the requirements, and the parameters are different in general.  Roles in theatre are broke up into genre of theatre (traditional vs pop/rock vs Sondheim vs contemporary etc etc);  then legit voice vs belt voice vs mix belt vs pop belt  vs rock belt and on and on...and then the roles that are both sing/dance and more!

Instead of trying to fit in the box or slot yourself into the "type",  I say, figure out what you DO WELL.  Then develop that.  Know what you are, what you do and lead with it.

Type in theatre is not just vocal, but physical as well.  However, just as Jean-Ronald speaks about opera, so it is in music theatre.

Our bodies are our instruments.

The physicality of our instruments informs the voice.  Even though often in MT we are mic'd,  we still must prepare and develop an instrument that can be balanced in resonance and physicality without added amplification.  We then use that amplification as a tool, not as a crutch.

We need to understand, as singers in the business, what the business must know about us, and not follow blindly into the path of "stupid singer".

What do I mean?

Range does not determine vocal type.  Just because you have a high C doesn't mean you can sing up there all the time.

If you are auditioning for a show,  or a role,  it is up to YOU to make sure you do the research to know what that role requires: vocally, dramatically and physically.  Do you meet that criterion or don't you?

If you want to be seen as a soprano for ensemble,  then with your audition material,  SHOW the business that you have the notes, the tessitura and the weight in the voice to be that soprano!  (same for any other voice type!).

The idea of just giving your "range" doesn't tell us anything.  It could be the distance between a grunt and a squeak!  If you must give your range,  you better understand how to write it down and not lie!  I love getting and seeing resumes with a range on it that makes NO physical sense.  Bigger is not necessarily better.  If you put it down, we assume you can sing, sustain, and resonate evenly through that range.

Where is your voice most comfortable?  Do you understand vocal classification?  This is where your teacher and you need to speak frankly.  Can you sing both legit and belt?  Or legit and mix?  Do you recognize the difference in yourself?  Do you recognize the difference in roles? Do you recognize the requirements in the music presented?

This is crucial in theatre.  This is crucial in your study.

The beauty of the computer era is that you can really focus your resume when giving your '"voice/theatre type" for each and every audition you go in for.

The voice type you suggest on paper should make sense with the roles you have done or are preparing and should then be clarified by the audition material you present in the room.

Singing is not one-size-fits-all.

Work for the knowledge you need to discover your strengths and what you stay clear of.

If you do not understand what tessitura is - as it pertains to your voice, and the repertoire you are singing - then find out.  If you do not understand how you talk about range,  then learn.

If you do not have the proper language in order to describe belt, mix, legit in order to describe yourself honestly and clearly,  then learn and ask and figure it out!  Within all these "types" of voice, there is soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone and bass!

Some singers are very much defined as a type/voice type.  Some are not.  Some have more versatility in type.  Find out what you can do and what you can do WELL.  Find out what you can develop to do exceptionally!

As Jean-Ronald speaks about in his blog about opera,  the physicality of the voice lies in the physique of the singer.  As MT singers,  this is also true and it requires ongoing recognition as we tend to do 8 shows a week!!!

You need to discover YOUR voice;  its resonance, its balance, its power, its timbre, its physicality, its weight, its range, its comfort - and how that informs a character, a type and a production.

Trying to "be" a type or "like" someone else makes me sad.  It completely alienates what YOU bring to the music.

Pretending, wanting,  wishing do not a MT singer make!

I want to see singers find their voices;  claim the balance of resonance and freedom;  discover their comfort tessitura in order to live with vocal vibrancy and allow the dramatic intention to reside in the voice, in the breath and the body.

Do you sing the song or the does the song sing you?

Do you have the physicality to embody the role night after night or will you be on vocal rest in 2 weeks?

Do you have the range of that role comfortably or are you faking it?

 The viability of that range and tessitura of role, and that physicality of role means, to me,  every note you sing is healthy, balanced, free, vibrant and has the ability to be heard withOUT amplification,  and to be sung 8 shows a week.  Whether it is a legit role, a mix role, a belt role, or a combination of several  vocal styles,  can you actually PRODUCE, SUSTAIN, and REPEAT?

The body, the voice,  the psychology,  the knowledge,  the intellect.  All have to be developed, embraced and understood as you take on the MT repertoire.  All need consistent and constant reflection and practice and study.

What can you sing/nurture/project/and embody with authority?

THIS is your type.  THIS is your vocal classification.  THIS is your mission!

 When you inform the role with the craft of YOUR vocal ability and development, then and only then can you claim it.  You do not try to be another artist. You work to reveal YOU the artist.

Demand from yourself to reveal and discover and build what you have and what you need.  Find the vocabulary.  Know what you do.  Know what you mean.  Mean what you know.


Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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