It Is Different!

It Is Different!

Three Ways CCM* singing is different than classical

*CCM = Contemporary Commercial Music, ie: rock, pop, jazz, musical theater, folk, country, cabaret, R&B, etc.

Aretha Franklin In Concert - Toronto, ONWhen Aretha Franklin sang “Nessum Dorma” at the 1998 Grammies, there was an outcry among the classical voice community.  Many felt she was not singing it in the proper style, with appropriate vocal production.  Yet many classical singers have released jazz and pop albums in which they approach our American contemporary music like Mozart arias, and it just sounds wrong to our ears.  This is why it is important to pick a voice teacher who has experience in the style you plan to sing.

What are some key differences between classical and CCM vocal production?

1)   Closer to Speech.  CCM styles tend to sound more natural, like the way we talk.   While in most CCM styles (pop, jazz, musical theater) some vibrato is desirable, in general vibrato is used far less than in classical music.  Other CCM styles (folk, country-western, some jazz) rarely employ vibrato at all. In general, CCM styles use less resonance.  Vowels are placed more to the front of the face then the back of the throat, and we’ll sing a phrase in a way that is closer to how we would actually say it.

2)   More Chest-dominant.  CCM styles tend to be more chest-dominant than classical styles, because they were influenced by the tradition of African-American call-and-response singing.  Most CCM styles today require singing either in a “mix” of head and chest or in a “belt” (chest voice brought high).  This difference is especially noticeable in female singers, and if they are just being trained as classical sopranos they will not have the right sound for pop and rock.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding in the classical community about belting and many teachers avoid it altogether.  In particular, if you are planning a career in musical theater, pop, or rock you must be able to belt! And since incorrect belting can be harmful to your voice, you should study with a teacher who can teach you to do it in a healthy way.

3)   More Natural Enunciation.  Classical singers are taught to sing with a lot of opening in the back of the throat, with consistently round vowels, with very clearly enunciated consonants. While it’s always important to understand lyrics, exaggerated articulation sounds too formal or aristocratic to our ears, and doesn’t fit with popular lyrics.  It definitely sounds wrong for folk, rock, country and blues, where sometimes a more southern pronunciation is used.

While there are many similarities between classical voice production and CCM singing, these are some important differences.  It’s good to understand them so that you can adjust for different styles and have control and versatility in your singing!

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