The Benefits of Vocal Training

The Benefits of Vocal Training

As an actor, you’ve spent countless hours studying Stanislavski, Meisner technique, and Shakespeare. And, of course, if you’re a dancer, you’re extremely well-versed in ballet, tap, and modern dance. Have you spent much time investing in your singing voice?

Vocal training helps with musicianship, diction, breath control, communication, projection, tone quality, and characterization. Studying will help you gain confidence and give you the tools to sing a better audition.

Through the study of voice, you will learn how to lead an accompanist through an audition. Your studies will allow you to communicate a text to its fullest potential, making every work and syllable count. Phrasing will convey the meaning of words so that a stranger will care about your song. You can become a performer that can grasp the attention of any audience or auditor.

Breath control helps with projection, singing of long phrases, tone quality, and dynamics. Those of you that are actors know a great deal about diaphragmatic breathing. Dancers are not as familiar with this type of breathing. They are accustomed to holding their stomachs instead of allowing the stomach to expand. Many singers spend years learning how to breathe correctly and how to sustain breath. Did you know that it takes more breath to sing soft than loud?  How do singers sing soft and high?  With special breathing techniques, it is possible to learn how to control dynamics. Breath is the most important foundation for a good singing voice.

Vowel shape is also a very important part of a good vocal sound. Mouth shape helps to create a bright or darker tone. It also aids in belting, mixing, and legit style. Vowel study is important in learning how to work with diphthongs. Diphthongs are pronounced in some contemporary musical theater and country music but generally only the first part of the vowel is sustained in most musical theater, especially if it’s legit. For example, night would be sung  “nAHAHAHeet.”

Projection and resonance are essential aspects of singing. Through the use of [mae] and [n] projection can be attained in many styles.

Registration in the female voice consists of essentially three registers, belt or chest, mixed, and head tone — and in the male voice two registers, chest and falsetto. The vocal cords are in different configurations for each registration with thyroarytenoid muscle dominance in belt and cricothyroid muscle dominance in head. Picking music that is suitable for each registration is part of the voice study process. Singers who learn to sing in all of their registers have tremendous breath control and flexibility.

As actors and dancers, you’ve spent many years honing your craft studying Classical technique. Classical voice techniques will allow you to become a very well rounded singer with excellent skills that can translate to any style. Some of our best musical theater singers, Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, Donna Murphy, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Groban and Jason Danieley obviously have many years of Classical training in their background.

Laurie Carter Rose (AEA, AFTRA, SAG), a student of mine, sums up the importance of studying voice in these words: “If you are a singer, there is never a good time NOT to be studying voice  It is important to be consistently and frequently “flexing” the muscles of your singing voice — during times of auditions and performances, but especially during stretches between auditions and active employment. I like to think of singing in terms of my other athletic pursuits. Solid, consistent training over the arch of a long period of time is going to yield the best race results when you step up to the start line on race day. You also will have gained the comforting confidence of knowing you are prepared and ready for the challenge and able to avoid injury.”

– Deborah Bulgrin

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About author

Deborah Bulgrin

Deborah holds a Bachelor of Music from Ohio University, Piano and Voice Master's from Washington State University, and Voice and Choral Conducting Doctoral Studies from University of Arizona. Deborah performs regularly with Bel Sonore Chamber Ensemble, has been a featured recitalist in concerts with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Guild, and Prairie Crossing Concert Series. She has also sung at CAMI Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Arts.