Am I Too Old to Learn to Sing? A Voice Teacher’s Advice

MO - Am I Too Old to Learn to Sing

There is one question that gets asked above all the rest, one thing that everyone wants to know: can I still learn to sing at 20, 30, 40… and even beyond that?

At 24, is a professional singing career out of reach? Can you get as famous as Lady Gaga, or any other famous singer? For the hobbyists out there, is it even worth taking lessons at 52 years old… if you’ve always self-proclaimed yourself as “tone deaf”? Read on as voice teacher Douglas W. answers the commonly asked question.

Am I Too Old to Learn to Sing?

I’m very happy to tell you that the answer is that you are never too old to learn to sing!

Think about it: you’d never tell someone that they were too old to learn a language, or that it’s too late to get in better shape. We all have to start somewhere, and getting past the mental block of ‘I’m too old to do this’ opens up the door to so many different possibilities for you in life.

too old to sing

The Myths & The Truth

I had a 32-year-old student who constantly feared that she’d never be any good due to starting so late. We’d been working hard, and as I was packing up my stuff to leave, I started absentmindedly humming part of a song we’d been working on.

She was listening, picked up the tune, and absolutely slayed a part that had been giving her trouble for weeks! In that moment, the burden of years dropped away, and she was simply a person feeling the utmost joy in her musical agency. That’s the kind of thing that taking voice lessons can give you, at any age.

It’s a flat-out myth that you either ‘have it or you don’t,’ or can only do it if you start out young. While you certainly have more time to develop if you start out early, and some people are born with natural gifts that make it easy for them, dedication and hard work are what take you where you want to go.

Now, here come the excuses…

too old to sing

“I already took lessons and didn’t get much out of them, what’ll be different this time?

While I believe every student should absolutely set their sights high, we do have to be realistic about what our voices can and can’t do.

I can’t hit the same notes as someone like Mariah Carey, but I’ve definitely improved my comfortable singing range in both directions, and can absolutely help you do the same. Starting with a good, solid foundation can help you manage your expectations, so you can enjoy your successes more, small as they may seem!

I know that personally, when I started out at 17, I didn’t see results as fast as I thought I would, and I got frustrated because of it. I made things much harder for myself by not enjoying the process of learning and being overcritical of myself.

But this is what teachers are great for! Learning in a vacuum is difficult, but having someone there to encourage you, keep you on track, and hold you accountable will help ensure you’re progressing as fast as you can, and, most importantly, taking joy in each step of the way. Singing is not a competition or a race; it’s about developing your tools to express exactly what you feel in your heart in a way that can be heard in your voice.

too old to sing

“I don’t sound like Bruno Mars (or whoever your favorite singer is), who says I can now?”

The beautiful thing about singing is that everyone has their own voice. You don’t sound exactly like me, and vice versa. This seems like an obvious point, but it’s something to think about. Some of us get into music chasing our idols without remembering that we have our own unique stories and feelings. You might need help bringing out your voice, and that’s alright! That’s what a great instructor will help you do.

too old to sing

“It’s definitely too late to be noticed for my singing, isn’t it?”

This is patently false. Hard work will trump ‘natural talent’ any day of the week, for any age who might think to try! Bill Withers, he of ‘Lean on Me’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ fame, didn’t release his first album until he was 34 years old! Sheryl Crow didn’t release her debut album until she was 31, and many other singers have struggled before becoming famous.

The point is, if you have music in your spirit that needs to get out, it doesn’t matter how old you are. What you put into it will truly be what you get out of it. Enjoy the process of learning and creating, and you never truly lose.

Even if you don’t aspire to be famous, there are plenty of goals you can work toward. Some great ones to start out with are:

  1. Extending your range a bit
  2. Being more comfortable singing in front of other people
  3. Nailing your favorite song to sing along to
  4. Joining a choir
  5. Strengthening a specific part of your voice (e.g. head voice, mix voice)

too old to sing

It is never too late to better yourself or learn something new. Learning to sing is a great way to do that.

For a long time, the idea that I couldn’t learn as an adult kept me from trying things. If you’re at all interested in learning anything, be it singing, an instrument, or a language, I implore you to give it a try! There are so many amazing teachers here that the only limit to how far you can go will be your desire to learn.

And in every little success, every hurdle overcome, you’re working toward a passion you can enjoy your whole life, no matter when you start.

Readers, are you worried you’re too old to learn to sing? Leave a comment below and share your story with others!

DouglasPost Author: Douglas W.
Douglas W. teaches singing, guitar, and music theory in Cleveland, OH, as well as online. Learn more about Douglas here!

Don’t Crack: The Singer’s Guide to Vocal Registers [Audio]

Don't Crack - The Singer's Guide to Vocal RegistersAs a singer, learning how to adjust your vocal cords is what helps you sing low notes and high notes with ease! This is what happens when we talk about vocal registers. You may have already heard about head voice and chest voice, but what else should you know? Here, voice teacher Elaina R. breaks it down…

 

If you’ve ever heard a teenage boy’s voice crack (or heard your own voice break, as you try to reach a high note), you already know something about vocal registers. It may seem like your voice is simply your voice — after all, you only have one set of vocal cords — but vocal registers can make it feel like your voice is split into several different pieces.

Here’s what’s going on in your larynx to cause those changes – and what you can do to avoid the dreaded crack in the future.

What Are Vocal Registers?

Vocal registers are caused by shifts in your vocal cord positioning. A good way to visualize this is with your hands. Try clapping normally, then try “clapping” them using just a portion of your palms. Notice a difference? The same thing happens with your vocal cords.

The Three Main Vocal Registers

There are three main vocal registers that I want to address first, starting with the lowest and ending with the highest. To get a better idea of what these sound like, watch this funny video that uses pop music to illustrate different registers.

  • Chest Voice (also known as modal voice)

A quick note on the term “chest voice” — it has nothing to do with your chest. I have no idea why it is called that.

What it sounds like: Strong, lower. Most people speak in chest voice.

Vocal cord production: Thick, fat vocal cords vibrating evenly along the length of the cord.

Listen:

  • Head Voice

Same deal here — head voice has nothing to do with your head.

What it sounds like: Higher, lighter. This is what female opera singers predominantly use.

Vocal cord production: Long vocal folds, partially touching (only about a third of vocal cords vibrate during head voice singing).

Listen:

To learn more about chest voice vs. head voice, take a look at the video below by teacher Melody M:

  • Whistle Tone (also known as flute register)

Whistle tone is relatively rare, but I am including it here because I have it and lots of people ask me about it. I consider it one of the three main registers because there is a strong, defined break between whistle and head voice very similar to the one between head and chest voice.

What it sounds like: Very high, pure. Mariah Carey is one of the most famous users of this upper register.

Vocal cord production: Long vocal folds almost entirely touching; only a small area vibrates, producing sound.

Listen:

  • Mixed Registers

If you mix blue and yellow paint, you get green. This color mixing applies to vocal registers too. There are middle registers possible between basically all vocal registers.

  • Vocal Fry (also known as glottal fry)

Vocal fry isn’t really a combination of any two registers; instead, it is considered an “extended technique” or even a vocal fault for classically-trained singers.

What it sounds like: Low croaking.

Vocal cord production: Thick, floppy vocal cords that are barely moving enough to produce sound.

Listen:

  • Chest/Head Mix (also known as middle voice, modal voice, healthy belt, just “mix”)

What it sounds like: A mix of head and chest voice, very useful for singing high notes in pop and musical theater without sounding strained. High belters such as Ariana Grande and Idina Menzel use this a lot.

Vocal cord production: Longer vocal folds partially touching (a bit more vibrating space than in full chest voice).

Listen:

  • Head/Whistle Mix

I don’t know how popular this one is, but it does exist.

What it sounds like: Lighter, easier notes at the top of the coloratura soprano head voice range (D-F6 for me); slightly heavier notes normally at the lower end of whistle range (F#-A6 for me).

Vocal cord production: Slightly more vocal cord vibration than in pure whistle, but not much.

P.S. If you’re wondering where falsetto is, I didn’t forget about it… I just didn’t think it merited mentioning as a mixed or true register. Here’s why.

So, Why the Cracking?

Cracking between registers normally occurs when a singer snaps from one register to the next. So if you’re singing in chest voice and you abruptly switch to head voice, you might crack.

How can you overcome this? In theory, the answer is simple: learn how to sing in mixed registers and glide in and out of registers.

I used to be a belter, and I had a horrendous crack between my chest and head voice. Only after years of work am I able to glide smoothly from one to the other and fully exploit my chest/head mix. With lots of practice and the right voice teacher, you’ll get there too.

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

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Listen Up! Helpful Singing Tips Just for the Guys

singing tips for guys
The basics of singing are the same for everybody — vocalists should be aware of unnecessary tension in your throat or body, maintaining good breath support, and never forcing your voice beyond its natural range. The principles are the same whether you are singing opera or rock.

However, there are elements of vocal technique and style which apply to different genres and voice types, and some singing tips for guys that are as important for the next budding Pavarotti as for the aspiring death-metal frontman.

Vocal Range
The most basic and important thing to establish is your vocal range. Although voices can undergo considerable change as you mature, the basic sound and pitch of your speaking voice can give a good indication of where your voice might sit comfortably. For example, if you sound like you’ve gargled with gravel when you speak, no amount of training is going to turn you into a high tenor! The basic classical voice types for guys are:

  • Tenor – the highest natural male voice range, and usually the hero in operas, or the young male lead in music theatre.
  • Baritone – the most common voice type for untrained male voices, often used for “everyman” roles.
  • Bass – the lowest male voice range. True basses are really quite rare, and bass roles are often cast with “baritones with low notes.”

Another less common male voice type is the male alto, or counter-tenor. Singing exclusively in the falsetto (high) range, this voice type can sound other-worldly, and is used to great effect in classical music, particularly in the baroque era.

It’s important not to force notes that you don’t really have. You can’t turn someone into something they’re not – again, use the colors in your singing voice as a clue. Even if your range is relatively limited, a brighter, lighter sound implies that with training, you’re likely to have a higher vocal range.

Additional Singing Tips For Guys

  • Know your voice — not just your range, but how your voice works when you’re not feeling your best. Avoid singing when you’re sick if you can, but since we are our instruments, we all have days when we’re not 100%, but still have to produce the goods. Know what you can and can’t do comfortably on these days.
  • Avoid anything that will damage your voice — this means smoking, some prescription medications (talk to your doctor), excessive alcohol consumption, and throat clearing. If this is a habit for you, break it as soon as you can.
  • Get plenty of rest — not just for your voice, but for your body too.
  • Exercise — again, not just scales and vocal exercises, but find a physical activity you enjoy, and stick to it.

Singers and Singing Styles
No discussion of singing tips for guys would be complete without considering artists who have taken their art form to a world-class level. Let’s consider probably two of the most distinctive male voices of the last century — the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and Freddie Mercury, the charismatic frontman of British rock supergroup Queen.

Even though their musical genres couldn’t be further apart, they have more vocal similarities than they do differences. They both have extraordinary vocal facility and freedom. Pavarotti’s golden, bright, rich-toned vocal style incorporated the Italian “sob” — a technique particularly used in verismo (“realistic”) operas. Mercury’s extraordinary vocal agility, attention to words, and stunning musicianship made an impression on many.

As you improve your singing skills, keep these tips in mind and always keep your particular vocal style in mind. You’ll begin to notice what works and what doesn’t for your range, and capitalizing on that will make you an even better singer!

Photo by Unsplash

 

 

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The Importance of Hydration for Singers

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There are many important reasons to stay hydrated for general health, but for musicians – particularly vocalists – hydration is a key to success. In order for your body to function properly, hydration is vital. Our bodies are made of 70% water, and hydration affects every organ and cell in your body!

Hydration for Singing
Singers need to take extra precautions, because your entire body is your instrument. With excessive use, vocal cords can be easily damaged, as they are made of extremely delicate tissue. Read more

7 Great Audition Songs for Sopranos

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The best audition songs for sopranos help singers stand out from the crowd and be heard when auditioning. The perfect song should be reasonably challenging, in order to show off your abilities, and should also exemplify personality. This could mean singing something to which you feel you can relate. Ideally, you should be able to create a tone similar to the original but, above all, you must enjoy the song.

Almost all pieces, provided they are in your range and you can sing them well, work well as audition songs for sopranos. There is disagreement between singers whether songs that are frequently used should be avoided. Consider yourself safe if you feel you will be able to impress the musical director; just avoid anything too slow and repetitive. Here are some of the top favorite audition songs for sopranos:

1. “When You Got It, Flaunt It” – The Producers
If you have a powerful voice, it’s important to demonstrate your abilities in the full to the director. “When You Got It, Flaunt It” from The Producers is the perfect piece to do that. It may not be suitable for a serious singing role, but if you are looking for a comedic part, this song is ideal. The song involves some high E flats at the end, as well as a Swedish accent!

2. “Gimme Gimme” – Thoroughly Modern Millie
“Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie is a great choice to show off your skills through transitioning from a slow, gentle beginning to an energetic end. The most challenging part of the song is probably the final belted out C, as it is held for a very long time.

3. “A Wonderful Guy” – South Pacific
Simple yet sure to impress if it is sung well, “A Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific is a perfect song to choose if you need to show off some acting skills while you are singing. With a very small range, it is not a difficult piece to sing, but can produce great results when executed correctly. Consider “A Wonderful Guy” if you are auditioning for a lighthearted role.

4. “Till There Was You” – The Music Man
“Till There Was You” is a beautiful classic that allows you to demonstrate your wide vocal range, while showing how you are able to incorporate acting skills into singing. This is an ideal choice for sopranos to show how they can interpret and incorporate lyrics into their performance.

5. “Fine, Fine Line” – Avenue Q
Sopranos who have a classic Broadway tone would do well to consider “Fine, Fine Line” from Avenue Q. While soft and thoughtful, this song will show off your ability to hit powerful notes, and it includes a number of held high notes.

6. “Where Is Love?” – Oliver!
“Where Is Love?” is a favorite among children auditioning for soprano roles and is frequently chosen when the audition does not specify a particular piece. This is a great option for boys with a powerful range.

7. The Boy Next Door – Meet Me In Saint Louis
Another song geared toward younger singers is “The Boy Next Door”. Songs like this one are ideal in order to demonstrate range, vocal abilities and ability to express emotion in lyrics.

 

Photo by Dickson Phua

 

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How to Select a Vocal Duet (+26 Duet Song Ideas)

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If you’re new to singing, or if you’re just trying to fine-tune your vocal skills, one fun and helpful exercise is to sing duet songs with your vocal instructor or a friend. Pick a style you both like and you’ll find that the possibilities for both fun and music making are endless!

Why Are They Helpful to Sing?
When you sing with piano, or with a chorus or band, there’s often someone else playing the same line you’re singing. While this is great for learning to sing in tune and working on the tone of your voice, you’re not really stretching your listening skills.

When you sing a duet there are just two lines; your part is all your responsibility and the only thing you have to find your notes from is the other person’s line.

What Are Some of the Best Duet Songs?
If you’re new to singing vocal duets, starting with some that you like and know well is the best way to learn. This way you’ll already have the tune in your ear and you probably have lots of recordings to listen to. Here is a list of some of the best duet songs from many different genres.

  • From Broadway
    • “Something Good” from The Sound of Music
    • “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera
    • “A Little Drop of Rain” from Miss Saigon
    • “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story
    • “Till There Was You” from The Music Man
    • “People Will Say We’re In Love” from Oklahoma
    • “The Rain In Spain” from My Fair Lady
  • From Pop
    • “Endless Love” sung by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
    • “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” sung by Elton John and KiKi Dee
    • “Quando Quando Quando” sung by Nelly Furtado and Michael Buble
    • “When You Believe” sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston
    • “U Got the Look” sung by Prince and Sheena Easton
    • “Under Pressure” sung by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury
    • “I’ll Be Missing You” sung by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
  • From Your Childhood
    • “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast
    • “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
    • “One Song” from Snow White
    • “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book
    • “One Song” from Snow White
    • “Can You Feel the Love Tonigh”t from The Lion King
    • “A Girl Worth FIghting For” from Mulan
  • From the Movies
    • “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge
    • “Almost Paradise” from Footloose
    • “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease
    • “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman
    • “It Takes Two” from It Takes Two

Games
There are also fun games you can play with your duet partner that can improve your ear and singing abilities. One great idea is based in the jazz tradition; simply improvise! Pick one person to sing a solo and have the other harmonize. You’ll find yourself quickly learning what sounds good and what doesn’t work as well. If this seems too daunting, just pick a song from the best vocal duets listed above, make up your own verses, then play with the harmonies, and then play around with the melodies. This is a great way to train your ear and your voice.

Duets are a great way to have fun and improve your singing skills. Start with what you know and then branch out from there; you’re sure to have a great time and even learn a thing or two!

 

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A Brief History of A Cappella

a cappella groups
Over the past few years, a cappella has become a popular genre and trend. But what exactly is it? The term a cappella is an Italian term that means “in the manner of the church” or “in the manner of the chapel,” referring to the type of music that is sung without the use of musical instruments. History tells us that a cappella music got its beginning in a religious setting, but the genre continues to grow and change as shows like Glee and movies like Pitch Perfect move the style into popular culture.

Progression of A Cappella Groups
In the early years of the twentieth century, a cappella earned its popularity with barbershop quartets.  These groups would sing beautiful four-part harmonies and usually dress in matching suits for their performances.  Even though the dawn of radio threatened to put barbershop quartets to rest, the barbershop revival in the 1930s kept the phenomenon growing, and today The Barbershop Harmony Society keeps the love of these popular a cappella groups alive.

In the 1960s and 70s, groups like The Persuasions and The Manhattan Transfer started performing a cappella music, which introduced pop music to this ancient style of singing.  Many well-known artists have since done a cappella songs, which keeps the love of this style alive.  One of the most popular pop a cappella songs is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Nylons.  Even though this song was released in 1981, it continues to be a favorite.

Many other a cappella songs have turned into huge hits. Billy Joel’s “For The Longest Time” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland” are two great examples of this.

A Cappella Variations
While artists and a cappella groups continue to perform their music without instruments, many of them through the years have begun creating instrument sounds with their voices to complement the words.  An excellent example of this style is the “beatbox,” which is very popular in rap and in hip hop, where many of the songs are performed without use of musical instruments.

A Cappella Lives On
In 2009, NBC aired the popular show The Sing-Off, which featured several different a cappella groups who competed for a cash prize and a recording contract.  The show returned for additional seasons because of its popularity.

The hit television series Glee is a good example of yet another television show that supports the performance of a cappella music.  Many of the songs that have been performed on the show, by the New Directions or one of their rival singing groups, are done a cappella or with a cappella elements to them.

It will be interesting to see how this incredible genre of music continues to evolve and transform the music world.  It’s a beautiful form of musical expression that deserves to be celebrated and recognized as it has been for many years!

 

Photo by indoloony

 

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15 Powerful Audition Songs for Altos

audition songs for altosThe most important part of vocal auditions is taking a piece and making it your own. When looking for talent, directors don’t want to hear another rendition of something they have heard many times before; you need to make sure you stand out!

In musical theater, your song choice is usually dependent on the role for which you are auditioning. Many singers recommend avoiding songs from shows like Les Miserables and Wicked, as these are very common choices and tend to be overused; however, if you believe you can sing one of these audition songs very well, do not be afraid to use it!

Here are a few options for audition songs for altos that are bound to make an impression.

1. “I Want to Go to Hollywood” – Grand Hotel
The context of this song makes “I Want to Go to Hollywood” a good choice mainly for younger singers who want to show off their ability to reach the lower notes. It is best used for musical theater auditions requiring something a little more upbeat, and for anyone who feels jazz is their strong point.

2. “Somewhere” – West Side Story
Another one of the most popular audition songs for altos, “Somewhere” incorporates interpretation of lyrics into your audition. If you need to show your ability to both act and sing, this song is a great choice. It also includes a number of reasonably high notes, so is useful for showing off your ability to sing a wide range.

3. “I Can Hear the Bells” – Hairspray
I Can Hear the Bells should only be attempted by altos who are sure they have the ability to sing this reasonably challenging piece. When sung well, it can be the perfect choice for an up-tempo and jazzy audition.

4. “Another Night at Darryl’s” – Witches of Eastwick
“Another Night at Darryl’s” is made up entirely of notes that any alto should be able to easily reach, while at the same time shows off a wide range. This is an ideal choice for reflect your talent as an alto rather than falling into the common trap of singing something that is verging on soprano. Full of character, “Another Night at Darryl’s” is not very frequently used (nor are most other pieces from Witches of Eastwick), so it gives a good opportunity for you to “wow” your director!

5. “A Change in Me” – Beauty and the Beast
Although songs from Beauty and the Beast are frequently used in auditions, “A Change in Me” is not used as often. The song starts quite low but rises much higher near the end, so it’s perfect for showing off a good range.

6. Various gig songs
When looking for audition songs for altos for any other types of gigs, you may want to avoid musical theater songs. Some popular audition songs to consider include:

  • “Here We Are” – Gloria Estefan
  • “Lithium,” “Good Enough” or “Lacrymosa” – Evanescence
  • “Close to You,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” or “Only Yesterday” – The Carpenters (great for lower altos)
  • “The Power of Goodbye,” “Frozen,” or “Live to Tell” – Madonna

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15 Best Audition Songs for Baritone Singers

audition songs for baritoneOne of the most difficult aspects of an audition is selecting the right song to sing. When considering your audition song, you need to think about whether the tune shows off your voice without forcing you to sing notes you can’t reach, whether it conveys the right emotions for the part for which you are auditioning, and whether it will help you stand out from the competition.

While there are numerous options for audition songs for baritone in musical theater, you also have many rock and pop options. Here are some great choices to consider:

1. “I Can’t Stand Still” – Footloose
“I Can’t Stand Still” from Footloose is a great option to show off the energy in your voice. This jazzy and upbeat piece is ideal for auditions for musicals that have a similar lighthearted feel. Although you do not need a wide range to sing the song, it can sound very impressive with the right energy.

2. “Forest for the Trees” – Spitfire Grill
To impress musical directors with your rendition of “Forest for the Trees” from Spitfire Grill, consider incorporating some acting into your performance. This is the perfect way to exemplify your ability to interpret lyrics. “Forest for the Trees” is quite a challenging piece, as it includes a number of high notes. If you can sing this piece well, it will definitely help you make an impact at your audition!

3. “The Sweetest Sounds” – No Strings
If your audition calls for a slow piece, “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings is a good option. This is your chance to show you can make a gentle and romantic piece also powerful and interesting. As with any slower tempo piece, it’s essential to incorporate emotion to keep the attention of your audience. Because No Strings is a comedy, this song is best suited for auditions for comedic musical theater works.

4. “Pretty Women” – Sweeney Todd
“Pretty Women” is another piece that involves lyrical interpretation in your performance, both through the emotion in your voice and some acting on stage. It’s a wonderful piece to show off your singing skills because of the juxtaposition of lighthearted passages with the serious, darker areas. Similarly, while some parts of the piece involve singing very softly and emphatically, other parts are powerful and romantic.

5. “Greased Lightning” – Grease
For an audition in a rock musical, there is probably no better choice than “Greased Lightning” from Grease. While not very difficult to sing, as it has a limited range, “Greased Lightning” is all about showing off your energy and the power of your voice. It’s also a great choice for incorporating acting and a bit of dancing.

6. Pop and rock pieces
For pop and rock gigs, it’s best to consider the range of the original artists as you look for audition songs for baritone. Some great options include:

“Sweet Caroline,” “Forever in Blue Jeans,” or “America” – Neil Diamond
“Light My Fire,” “Riders on the Storm,” and “People Are Strange” – The Doors
“It’s Been Awhile,” “So Far Away,” and “Epiphany” – Staind
“The Clouding” – Iced Earth

 

Photo by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

 

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How to Sing Bass | Vocal Tips for True Basses

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True basses can provide great depth to choral and a cappella groups – your deep voice is invaluable! As you progress through your singing lessons, you may also find your range increased, making it easier to hit lower notes. Here are a few tips and notes to consider for true basses.

Letting voices settle – the dangers of “making” voices
Some voice types become apparent fairly early on; as a general rule, the lighter types of both soprano and baritone voices settle down at a young age, and are usable in a trained, professional context by the singer’s mid-twenties. Other voice types, particularly lower and heavier voices, mature much later, and when a young male vocalist is considering how to sing bass, special considerations need to be made.

Focusing on classical fach – a German term used to describe voice types and suitable repertoire for them – as a young bass, you can learn a lot by listening to popular singers with a similar range, such as Isaac Hayes or Barry White. Let other genres feed your musical education, too – after all, good singing is good singing.

Training the bass voice – how to sing bass
As a young bass, you may find that your range is relatively short, perhaps only a good octave in the middle, with one or two extra notes either side. Work with your teacher to expand your range, and don’t put yourself in a box too soon. Within classical music, there are several types of low male voices, with appropriate repertoire for each.

One of the the best approaches when you’re just starting to settle into serious study is to arm yourself with bel canto vocal exercises, such as those by Vaccai or Marchesi, and work on evenness of tone, and ease of vocal production. Pay special attention to working through any register breaks, and don’t be afraid to slide between notes in practice – when you tidy these up later on, you’ll often find the gaps have vanished.

Suitable repertoire
When exploring how to sing bass, the most common complaint from young singers is that there’s no repertoire. While it’s true that within opera, most true bass roles are “old man” roles, a little imagination and exploration can provide you with repertoire that you can perform early in your singing life, and also works that you can grow into.

For example, Superintendent Budd in Britten’s Albert Herring doesn’t have to be an old man. Good fun can also be had wading through the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Although more traditionally sung by a bass-baritone, Figaro’s arias sit low, and are useful study material for the younger singer.

Bass or bass-baritone?
Truthfully, the distinction is a small one. If the top of your voice is easy, and you have good low notes, you may wish to consider yourself a bass baritone, especially as your repertoire choices will be greater, certainly early on. While a true bass may be limited to Sarastro (The Magic Flute), Gremin (Eugene Onegin), Fafner (Das Rheingold), and King Mark (Tristan and Isolde), a bass-baritone has access to a large quantity of Italian repertoire, such as Verdi and Puccini, and Mozart staples such as the Count in Figaro, and the title role in Don Giovanni.

On song repertoire
In terms of exploring song repertoire, since many classics are available in a variety of keys, you will not have difficulty finding works that suit your voice and your personal tastes. However, when learning how to sing bass, you may find that Russian composers in particular understand how to write for those unique colors you have in your instrument.

Special rules apply for every voice type when training, although one important rule holds true for everyone – you cannot impose a voice type upon a singer. Patient work on exercises and repertoire will help a voice to develop until it tells you what it is. A true bass is a very rare and valuable voice indeed, and learning how to properly care for your voice and use that to your advantage will help you throughout your career!

 

Photo by CarbonNYC

 

 

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