When it comes to learning how to sing “properly,” many students assume that figuring out their voice type is the only way to do so. However, here at The Vocalist Studio, we have seen countless students and vocal coaches succeed without pigeon-holing themselves to a single type. By studying the art of singing as a flexible, liberal art rather than a definite, archaic art, they were able to understand and transcend the power of their own voices.
To better understand how and why vocal types aren’t the “end-all, be-all” (especially in the world of contemporary singing), let’s take a closer look at them.
What Are Vocal Types?
In a nutshell, vocal types are the “types” of voices used in the vocal Fach system to determine which types of singers can sing which types of notes. This classical system of singing is often used in opera and as such is often used by students and teachers to determine which songs are “appropriate” for their voices.
For instance, a singer who is classified as either a “soprano” or an “alto” is often described as a woman who can sing high notes and thus could NEVER sing low notes compared to “tenors,” “baritones”, and “bass” singers.
Meanwhile, a singer who is classified as either a “bass”, “baritone,” or “tenor” is often described as a man who can only sing low notes and thus could NEVER sing high notes compared to “sopranos” and “altos.”
Overall, this type of classification is great as a starting point for figuring out how singing works. However, what this system fails to take into account are that voices, much like personality types, do NOT stay the same throughout the rest of our lives.
Okay, so What Exactly Do You Mean By “Not Stay the Same”?
Singing, much like writing and practicing martial arts, is a type of art that requires people to constantly improve their voices via trial, error, and many, many hours of practicing.
Depending on where we live and how our bodies develop over time, our voices can develop so that one moment, we can sing in the range of a “soprano” and the next an “alto” or below.
Vocal Types in Relation to the Human Body
As most of you already know, singing is both an art and a form of exercise. In order to become a better singer, one must be willing to understand singing as both.
Here at The Vocalist Studio, we encourage our vocal athletes to not only study music theory but also understand how the vocal folds work so that they can better understand their voices and thus be able to maintain their vocal health and (potentially) sing a wider range of notes, even as they grow older.
Your voice, much like the rest of your body, does NOT remain static throughout your entire life. Even if your ultimate goal in life is to become a traditional, Italian opera singer, being able to understand how singing works beyond the aid of a single chart can help you maintain good vocal health and understand the potential of your own voice many years later. Especially in regards to where you grew up in and how you communicate with others on a daily basis.
Vocal Types in Relation to Human Culture
Often regarded as “the universal language,” music, as well as the art of singing, has played a huge part in forming human culture. In order to understand both the art of singing and culture itself, one must be able to understand it from multiple lenses as opposed to a single set.
According to one NCBI article,
“All peoples engage in activities that we would call music, often in relation to play, and everywhere in relation to ritual. All peoples of the world sing, an activity recognized on the basis of context or by cultural consensus as different from speech. All peoples have some form of instrumental music as well, however rudimentary. ”
Singing, like any form of art, is a type of art that is heavily influenced by the culture that forms it. It is also an art form that utilizes “the universal language.” Without taking the time to understand it from both a cultural standpoint and a biological standpoint, it would be much difficult for people to be able to mimic and adapt the sounds that they want to integrate into their own voices.
Singing, like any form of art, is an exercise and a soul-searching activity. If you only focus on one specific type of singing, you’ll NEVER be able to unlock its full potential in your life as a vocal athlete and as a human being. That is why here at the Vocalist Studio, we are strong and proud advocates of the hardworking, everlasting, experimental vocal underdog.
So the next time a singer (be it a teacher, peer, or relative) asks what your vocal type is, treat it as if he or she is asking you what your musical Myers-Briggs personality type is. By the end of the day, that’s pretty much what vocal types are.
Now tell us, what did you find most interesting about this article? Do you think that vocal types are pretty much musical Myers-Briggs personality types or are they more than that? Let us know in the comments below!
Also, if you want to take your current vocal skills and talents to the next level, be sure to either pick up a copy of Robert Lunte’s THE FOUR PILLARS OF SINGING or follow the Vocalist Studio on Facebook and Youtube.
In the meantime, as a special treat for all of those who made to the end of this article, here’s a special treat of Robert the rockstar baritone singing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.”