Classical Voice Lessons: Are They Good or Bad

All about classical voice lessons and how they work

Legendary classical singer Leontyne Price was an amazing singer who received classical voice lessons but also applied her own contemporary singing techniques

If you’re a professional singer or even an aspiring singer you’ve probably heard of the term “classically trained.” You may have heard someone say “I’m a classically trained singer.” Or you may have heard someone reference your favorite contemporary singer as a “classically trained singer.” However, what does it really mean? Do you have to only sing classical music to be classically trained? Do classical training only sound right when a professional classical singer sings it? There are so many misconceptions about classical voice lessons and how they work. You may have even heard some say they’re bad for modern day singers. Now you can learn all about classical voice lessons, how they work and if they’re good or bad.

What are classical voice lessons?

Classical voice lessons are vocal lessons that are based on training the voice classical style, using opera techniques and components. Classical voice lessons teach the student/ inspiring singer classical warm-ups and tips that are used for opera singing. The vocal coach is usually a classical singer himself or herself. They also tend to play an instrument and also know music theory. This is because classical voice lessons are all about teaching the foundation of music and practicing tradition. It may seem difficult to grasp at first and tedious but it makes learning any other style of music much easier. This is because classical music prepares you voice to sing any style of music. One of the biggest misconceptions amateurs have when taking classical vocal lessons is that it will put your voice in a box. It actually does the opposite.

Should you take classical voice lessons?

Amazing vocalist Mariah Carey is a great example of singer who was classically trained and has used her training to apply it to her R&B, Pop and Gospel singing.

As celebrated and respected as classical singers are there are some that are against classical voice lessons. There are some that debate whether or not classical style training should be taught to singers or not. So the question is are classical voice lessons good or bad? Should you be taking them? The answer is yes, you absolutely should be taking them. The reason why some people are against classical lessons is because they believe it will distract the singer from trying to sing contemporary songs. They think the singer will be too fixated on trying to remember all the classical technique tips and this will negatively affect any other style he or she sings. However, that’s not true. Once again classical training prepares you voice to sing any style of music. This is because of the powerful tips, quality and techniques you learn with classical voice lessons. Once you master a technique that’s grounded in classical training you can apply that technique to any genre of music you sing. The key is to remember there’s a difference between classical technique and classical style. Yes, if a singer tries to sing any song classical style, then of course it won’t sound right. But if a singer uses a classical technique for other genres of music while still sticking to the core of their particular genre their voice will sound amazing no matter what. A lot of mainstream singers who sing many popular genres such as R&B and Pop are actually classically trained. Whitney HoustonMariah CareyMichael JacksonCeline Dion and many more are classically trained vocalists. However, they can sing many popular, mainstream songs and it still sounds great. It doesn’t sound “classical style.” This is because they’re singing their desired genre yet applying their classical technique.

Legendary vocalist and performer Whitney Houston who was known for her amazing voice received classical voice lessons but also had a natural tone for contemporary genres such as R&B, Gospel and Pop.

What is a classical technique?

By now you may be wondering “what is a classical technique?” A classical singing technique is a skillful, organized method that allows the vocalist to properly sing, while the method is rooted in classical music and opera singing. The reason why this technique is so great and widely used is because of its level of quality, healthy foundation it has on the voice and its versatility. With classical voice lessons you learn how to truly use your voice as instrument. This is what gives you the ability to sing any song, in any style or genre. Even if you have to jazz the song up and make it your own. Below are the main components a singer develops from classical vocal training.

  • Breath support – the biggest quality a singer gains from classical voice lessons is extreme breath support. Breath support is singlehandedly the most important tool a singer needs to become a great singer. When you sing it should be from your stomach. To accomplish this you have to breath through your diaphragm. When you first start classical voice training that’s the 1st thing you learn. You’re taught how to breath through your diaphragm and how to truly fill your lung with arm. This way you have plenty of air to release which is what allows your voice to come out.
  • Open throat – another top method classical voice training teaches is how to sing with an open throat. Singing with an open throat allows your voice to flow out naturally. It allows your voice to sound more clear. It also makes it easier to project your voice. However, the biggest thing singing with an open throat does it allows your larynx to remain in a neutral position the entire time you sing. This is exactly what you want your larynx to do. You don’t want it too high or too low.
  • Round vowels – classical voice lessons teaches you to round all your vowels when singing. This will allow all your notes to go into the correct placement. It’ll bring all your notes forward when you sing. It will also allow you to sing with no tension in your mouth and throat.
The most powerful thing about classical voice lessons for singers is learning how to properly breath with the diaphragm.

How to apply your vocal technique

If you’re a R&B, Pop and Gospel singer you may think classical voice lessons aren’t for you. You may think it’s going to make your contemporary songs sound to “opera-like.” This isn’t true at all. As stated many times before classical singing prepares your voice to sing any type of music. If you were to take lessons with a r&b vocal coach 9 times out of 10 the coach will be classically trained. They probably will also start you out with classical singing warm-ups, classical vocal training exercises and more. Then once you have that established that’s when he or she will transition into a modern singing lesson style. That’s the key to applying your classical training to your everyday singing. It’s to know how to transition and blend the 2 properly. The best way to achieve this is to use your classical training as the foundation of your technique and then add your r&b and pop training. For example the foundation of your technique would be how you were trained to breath, which was with your classical training. The other foundational tips would be singing with an open throat and singing your vowels with a round mouth shape. However, your contemporary tips that you would add to your technique would be which vocal register you rely on more to sing with. Another modern tip you would add onto your classical training would be how low or soft you start off singing. Or at what key you decide to switch over to head voice. Those type of methods are developed based on the singer’s own personal style, voice type and comfort level. However, the skills your learned from your classical voice lessons should always lay at the foundation fo your singing.

Another amazing vocalist who’s classical trained but applied that technique to modern singing styles is Rachelle Ferrell

Another thing to remember when learning about classical vocal training and your voice technique is it takes time. Everyone will master their voice at different times and on different levels. It’s also important to always remember not everyone has the same voice type. Even if you have the same voice type as someone no 2 singers have the same tone. However, using classical voice lessons as you foundation, mastering that foundation and then applying it your passion for soul or r&b is a great way to become an amazing, versatile singer.

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