Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wouldn't it be better if it was bigger?

Voice "size" is often confused by singers.  So is it better if it's bigger?  The short answer is "no".

As far as voice goes,  actual "size" of the instrument doesn't matter.

Often,  so-called "large" voices can sound impressive in a smaller space, but if it's not balanced, it simply won't cut it - figuratively or literally - in a larger spaces.

Guess what?  So-called "small" voices are exactly the same.

One of the hardest things singers have to deal with, is themselves.  What is unique about your voice?  What does your voice do well right now?  What else does it need?  Size has simply NOTHING to do with it.  You can't BUILD or develop size.  It is irrelevant if you want to be honest and develop your instrument honestly, truthfully and completely.

If you are an 'ina' you aren't going to sing Isolde.

However, if you are Isolde, you aren't singing Despina either.

Bigger is not better.  It is different.  Smaller is not weaker,  it is different.

Voice is about weight, timbre, balance of resonance and true acoustic balance that cuts through an orchestra and can be heard.  What you hear in your head is NOT what is heard in the house.  Period.  Every day of my teaching life, I repeat my mentor and teacher,  Ted Baerg's words to me: "Could you sing for the people who bought the seats please".

Ultimately,  you aren't in competition with a larger voice.  You are in competition with your previous self.  What can you do to not just accept the size of your voice,  but actually make it better, more balanced, more true?  What happens if you develop it to its best possibility and then sing the repertoire that was written for your voice type in mind?

If you want to sing well,  you need to discover what you have,  and how you develop that.  Wishing, wanting, whining isn't helping you.  In fact, it hinders you.  What is stopping you from not just accepting what you have, but developing it to its fullest potential?

Every voice type, and every voice individually has its own issues, its own hurdles, its own rewards.  Why not find out what yours are, embrace them and DO something about them?  Why are you fixating on someone else's issues and ignoring your own possibilities?

What we as singers need to discover is how the physicality of our instrument needs development, accessibility and do-ability.  Voices need balance, and the ability to cut through and project without pressure.  Volume isn't projection.  Nor is size.  These are acoustic properties that  develop with study,  physical and technical behavior and absolute resilience and dedication to discovering it.

You have to be tenacious enough to WANT to sing well with YOUR voice.  Wishing you had a bigger instrument doesn't allow you to develop what you already have. 

Each voice needs to find freedom, physicality, projection, balance, and the ability to discover what repertoire you can wear with ease and accessibility!

If you are constantly comparing yourself to what others have, how can you truthfully develop what YOU have?  Your focus is elsewhere.  It needs to be on YOU.  You need to believe in what YOU can do,  and do it well.  Do it uniquely brilliantly.

You need to find a teacher that knows how to help you build YOUR instrument into the balance that is YOURS.  You need coaches that reinforce YOUR voice.  You need a team that challenges your thinking to not just accept yourself, but embrace it, and develop it, not people who feed your delusions or frustrations.

If your voice isn't balanced yet, or can't project evenly,  then you need more time.  Release the idea of volume and size, and work for balance and projection or CUT. 

Singing pianissimo can find the seats in the nose bleed section if it is buoyant, balanced and projected.  Volume has nothing to do with it. 

Singing the correct repertoire for your voice with a well-balanced voice has EVERYTHING to do with it.  Big is not better.  Small it not wrong.  REAL choices,  REAL acceptance, REAL development is what makes it just right.


  1. Nail. Head. This should be preached by every voice teacher today. How many times have I heard some 19 year old state they have a "big voice" because so-and-so told them, then proceed to scream through Vissi d'Arte that is either peeling away their vocal cords or the paint from the walls. Someone gives them an inch, and they take a mile. What you COULD develop into isn't what you are NOW. Or you will NEVER be, no matter how old you are. I have heard this said, meant to be funny: "It was a big, but ugly voice." Unfortunately it holds true often enough. Although I am not a teacher, I often hear of teachers "projecting" what they think their student will develop into. First, they may be wrong, or second, the student may try to mold the voice right away to what they perceive to be their future vocal self.

  2. To add to my previous comment... ironically enough I once knew a soprano in her mid 20's who was well on her way to developing into a healthy, larger voice type. It was gorgeous and everything was starting to coordinate. She soon decided on her own that the development must be "wrong" because it wasn't "easy" to sing. So she left her teacher. She began to sing with this very tight, wobbly hot mess of a voice. She complained that she had vocal fatigue often. She then went teacher hopping because no-one was telling her what she wanted to hear. She finally found one that gladly took rather large sums of money telling her what she wants to hear. She remarked to me "THIS teacher understands that I don't want to have a big sound." Well, sweetie, God gave you a larger, beautiful instrument and you cannot force it into a small package!