Help your students unlock the artistic and commercial benefits that come with being able to adapt to different musical genres.
In the cut-throat worlds of music and theatre, it pays to be versatile. A performer who can nail pop (think Six) and lofty/legit style (think Oklahoma!) is far more employable than a singer who can only do one or the other.
And then there are the artists who have boosted their fanbase and longevity by exploring different genres, such as Beyonce (R&B/pop/hip hop/soul) and Lady Gaga (pop/rock/jazz).
On the Singing Teachers Talk podcast, Cassi describes cross-genre training as “taking a singer who is comfortable in one genre and helping them find their footing in a new one”.
Reasons for cross-genre training
“The first and most obvious benefit is the possibility of more work,” Cassi says. “If you can do more things, you’re more hireable.”
But there’s another benefit too. “I find that when a student explores different types of singing, they learn more about who they are, where they fit and what feels like home.
“In terms of vocal flexibility, that is where artistry comes into play. And that’s what we all want to be when we’re professional singers – we want to be artists.”
So how do you guide a student from jazz to rock or lofty style to something more belty? Cassi and William share three tips for boosting vocal versatility.
Cassi says the key to confidence is knowledge. “It’s important to demystify what we’re doing for the singer.
“When we are switching genre in quick succession, I will say ‘Okay, when we’re going into this lofty piece, what are the main tenets that we need to think about?’. We’re thinking about breath flow, raised soft palate and tall vowels.
“Once that song is over, we take a second to go through what the main tenets of the pop/rock song that we’re singing are – glottal onsets, vocal fry and breaths that are a little bit smaller.
“I will have set up a vocabulary with that student about what those styles feel like for them so that we can take a moment and reset before we go in.”
Flexible breathing strategy
It’s vital, William says, that contemporary and MT singers have a flexible breathing strategy.
“The breath demands change so much and vary so much in contemporary singing,” he says. “Phrase length can be super long sometimes and then very short. A singer needs a flexible breathing strategy so that they’re not over-breathing for those short phrases and can feel expansion when they need to manage longer phrases.
“They also need a flexible breathing strategy that matches the vocal load and demands for each genre.”
William is also adamant that singers must “sound like themselves” in every genre.
“Imitation is important in learning how to sing,” he says. “We know a lot of voice teaching is call and response, so a student’s ability to mimic is super important.
“But having the base of each genre be in their speaking voice is important too. This gives them a neutral place to start from when they want to develop their skills in a genre. Whether they’re singing a lofty song, or a contemporary one, it should sound like them.”
Learn more about vocal versatility
Listen to the latest episode of the podcast: Episode 84 The Benefits of Cross-Genre Training with the Vocal Collective.