Episode 19 – Is Your Style Really Style?
Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Is your singing style really authentic style? Or does it mean something else?
For many, what they call style is really a manipulation they’ve developed to help them get the notes! I’ve done it. (-:
To them, it’s an identity that is tied up in their vocal technique which gets enmeshed and and becomes dysfunctional.
Technique and style need to function separately and freely so that the synergy of the 2 create a wonderful experience for singer and audience.
This is a very overlooked, yet important topic that I dive deep into.
Enjoy and please share if you like it.
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 19 – Transcripts
Is Your Style Really Style?
You’re listening to episode number 19.
Welcome to the Inner Singer Podcast, providing tools and techniques to strengthen your inner singer, your beliefs, your confidence, your mindset. And now, your host for the Inner Singer Podcast, Mike Goodrich.
Well, hi there! This is Mike Goodrich. Thanks so much for listening to the Inner Singer Podcast. This is episode number 19.
It came to me to chat about this a little a bit. I wonder if you have this, “Is your style really style?”
What do I mean by that? Is your style when you sing, really style?
And I’m going to elaborate on this a little bit in a couple of different ways.
I recently saw a gal in my studio who came in and convinced that she had some vocal problems. And she’s been to an ENT and she had some puffy cords, a little bit swollen, maybe a little bit of reflux. And I’m certainly not doubting that. I’ve had that myself.
But when I vocalized her and got her going, I really probably wouldn’t have known too much about that since I didn’t know her voice if she hadn’t told me. But then when I saw her sing, I could tell immediately what was going on.
When she was singing, she was singing with very little cord closure. It’s a very breathy sound. There’s very little breath supporting the vibration of the cords. She played the piano and sang at the same time. Nice style though. Good songwriter, nice style and nice voice. But she was having a lot of difficulty.
So I vocalized her. We got her some cord closure and got some good things going on. Then I had her sing again. She sang the same way. It’s the same way she had sung before.
And so then I took her out of the song. And you can take a page out of this because this is very interesting. We’re going to get to the inner singer part of all this. I vocalized the part of this song and I started really just taking apart the challenging bits of the song, the parts she was having trouble with, the parts she was calling high.
It actually weren’t high at all. They were barely out of her chest voice if out of her chest voice. And so they weren’t high. It was more her approach and a lack of cord closure.
Very nice gal, very nice voice, very nice song. Very, very nice song, as I said. An dthis is merely an observation, not any kind of a criticism, but an observation that may help.
So when I started vocalizing her, I took it off the lyric, and put it on a noo (like a nook without the K). I had her vocalize the line, it was a little better, but not a lot better yet.
Then when I took it out of the context of the song and I broke the melodic pattern and the rhythmic pattern – I guess, broke the rhythmic pattern really. Well, I guess those of my friends that are out of the country may not know this, but we’re going to do the national anthem. Maybe that’s not fair. You know what I’ll do?
There’s no way to not offend anybody these days. I just discovered that. I was going to sing Jingle Bells and I thought, “Well, not everybody celebrate Christmas either.” So, I’m desperately trying to keep this podcast politically correct and it’s just not working at all, is it?
Happy Birthday, let’s say. I was going to sing Happy Birthday. So let’s say that the melody was [vocalizing]. “Happy Birthday to you.” Let’s say that’s it. So say, she’s having trouble with that. I say, “Let’s do it on noo.” She goes, “Noo noo-noo-noo noo-noo…”
But let’s say, “Well, okay. That didn’t really work well. It worked a little bit.” Let say it was just 25%, 30% better in terms of cord closure and ability to sing it easily.
So what I did then was I just broke the meter of the song. I broke the pattern in terms of the timing. And so whereas the timing is da da-dee-dee dee-dee, I went bop-bop-bop-bop-bop, noo-noo-noo-noo-noo. And I had her very definitely do noo-noo-noo-noo-noo, noo-noo-noo-noo-noo – no emotion, no lyric, no nothing. And of course, we weren’t singing Happy Birthday, we were doing her song.
And then all of a sudden, markedly better, like 80% better immediately. And the more I did it, the better it got.
And then put her back in the song, put her back in with the lyric, but that way. “Happy birthday to you.” Very robotic, “Happy birthday to you.” No style, no emotion. I pulled all the style out. Much better!
I went back and said, “Okay! Now, get a little closer to singing it.” And the closer she got to singing it, the more she went back to the, “Happy birthday to you,” that kind of a thing.
I started talking about her style. “Well, your style is really nice, but your style is really affecting your ability to sing. It’s affecting your voice. You’re losing all the air because you’re singing with open cords. Because you’re singing breathy, it’s actually slightly abusive to your cords, which is really accentuating the problems that you’re having. It could be a lot of the problems that you’re having.”
“Well, I don’t want to change my style.”
I said, “Well, I don’t want to change your style either. I see your style is very nice, very effective. But what we need to do is get you a better cord closure, so your style becomes a choice rather than simply a default way of singing.”
Now, here’s where the inner singer comes in. I could really tell I was pushing some buttons there because her style, her vocal style was her identity. I was actually beginning to threaten (and not meaningly at all) her identity when I was attempting to not even change her style, but just give her a healthier vocal condition, so she could choose to stylize that way, but give her a lot more colors on her palette to paint with.
Because the only color on your palette from a vocal standpoint – and I talk about colors a lot, painting a lot and we use that metaphor – if the only color on your palette is (I just looked up at a painting in my house) yellow, it’s going to be really not much of a painting. It’s going to be dull and boring and the same, old thing. There are only so many shades of yellow.
But by just opening up that can of worms, I was really pressing a button and really, I could see her begin to close down, fearing that I was attempting to change her style, which was in her mind, questioning her identity.
And the more I assured her that, “No, no. I’m not trying to change your style. I’m strictly trying to give you a healthier vocal condition, more colors to paint with, so that you can then choose to stylize that if you wish to. But you will not be limited to singing with a breathy sound.”
And I proved it to her. I took the style out of her voice. “So let’s take the style out just for fun. Let’s remove it. Sing the melody in tempo, but the way you did the noo and sing it strong. Do not stylize. Do not emotionalize. Don’t put any feeling in. Just basically robotic, ‘Happy birthday to you, so I can hear that you have cord closure.’” And she did it and it helped.
So I said, “You know what I would like? If I could see you again soon to really help you re-establish this, that would be great.” What a surprise that I never heard from her again.
And again, that’s not a criticism. But when our identity gets wrapped up in our style and our style is actually negatively affecting our voice and our ability to sing, we have a little bit of a conflict.
So when I say, “Is your style really style?”, it’s a couple of things.
Number one, is your style really style based on choice and a free voice that’s built and you can sing high and low, loud and soft, and now you are choosing to stylize a particular way? In other words, is your style separate from your technique? And is your style separate from your identity?
Now, I don’t mean that you don’t have some of your identity in your style. You have your personality in your style. Of course! That’s what makes you unique. That’s what makes me unique. That’s what makes singers unique. But there’s a difference between expressing our personality and our self authentically through the voice which comes out as an authentic style versus this is how we sing because this is the identity we’ve created and we’re attached to it and it is not only entwined with our identity, but it’s entwined with our technique, in other words, what I’m calling style is actually the way I get the note. And if I remove that, I can’t get the note.
And I had a real similar experience to that years ago when I was doing Evita. I wouldn’t necessarily call it style, but it really is the same kind of thing. In my position, it was more geography on the stage. It was movement. It was how I was using my body. But that was transferring and translating and how I was using my voice, so you really could call it style.
I was doing Che and Evita years ago and a director from another company had seen me do it and wanted me to do it for their company. But I had to audition, so I was there with a couple of other guys that had done Che. I went out and sang one of the songs onstage, big stage (it was a big theater, which was fun). And the director really wanted me. But the music director kind of didn’t.
Now, it’s not that he didn’t want me at first, but when he gave me direction and I couldn’t take it, I think that’s when I pretty much lost the part. Because if I’m singing the role, I could do that.
So I did my thing on the song.He said, the music director said, “Can you just stand there and sing it?” And mind you, I just come off the role. So, I was doing all the movements and I was doing the whole thing right. And he said, “Can you just stand there and sing it?” Translated into musical director or director speak, that means (basically what he was saying, but not saying is), “Are you locked into doing that way or are you going to be able to take our direction?” And you know what? I said, “Sure! I can do that.”
And I couldn’t. I could not stand there and sing it. My interpretation of that role, my voice and my movements were locked together. I was completely unable at that time, spontaneously, to take any direction other than what I had worked in even though I was trying. I literally stood there and sang and it’s almost like my voice wouldn’t come out. My voice was dependent on the movements I was doing.
And so that’s analogous to this gal or anybody, quite frankly, whose style is tied up in their technique. And we think its style, but it’s really a way to get the note because if we remove it temporarily, you say, “Don’t do that thing that you do on that note,” they take away that thing that they do that they call style, then all of a sudden, they can’t get the note.
So that’s not what you want. You want your style and your technique to be separate so that you can stylize and interpret by choice and freely and spontaneously, but it’s not tied your technique in a way that you have created a specific style to make up for a vocal weakness. And now you’re calling this thing that you’ve created ‘style’.
And that quite frankly is a little bit of what this person was doing. Now, she was putting her personality in it and what have you. And like I said, she had a nice sound. It was cool. But it was limiting. And the very fact that she was coming in wanting expert opinion on what was going on and was so tied up – her vocal style was so tied up with her identity that she would –
And again, this isn’t blaming. She would rather compromise her voice than look at changing her style. Not even that I wanted to change her style, I just wanted to make her style a choice and give her more dynamics, more colors, more cord closure, more things that she could stylize with actually because her style was completely limited.
That’s an inner singer thing. That’s because the inner singer isn’t taken care of. And the inner singer is feeling, “Oh, I’m being questioned here. I’m being challenged. I’m feeling vulnerable. I’m feeling like I’m being criticized.”
And what happens with the inner singer is – let’s talk about the inner singer as being or wiring our program and conditioning for a second. If we’re talking about it from a brain standpoint, we begin to feel threatened.
And the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, starts hijacking us. It hijacks the prefrontal cortex. All of a sudden, we’re just scared. And so what did she do? Well, fight or flight. When she left, she never came back because she didn’t want to feel that uncomfortable situation again. She didn’t want to be challenged in that way.
And that is the inner singer. That’s what’s going on.
Now again, I haven’t seen her again and maybe she plans on coming in. I don’t mean to be unfair. Like I said, she was a great gal with a beautiful song and she had a really wonderful talent. I’m just using this as an example.
I have another example. My mom was a phenomenal singer. And years and years and years ago, way before I was around, my dad was a really great singer too. My mom was a little further along vocally, but my dad had a phenomenal voice.
So he was studying. Actually, they met at their singing teacher’s years ago, which is, sort of, not unlike my wife and I who met in a singing class, a singing performance class. But that’s a whole another podcast.
Anyway, my dad was studying with this amazing soprano. And my mom, of course, was a soprano. My mom was a soprano who had some teachers that were smart enough to realize that she did some things so well that they weren’t going to mess with her.
So they really didn’t teach her much. They just coached her on operatic repertoire. So they worked the languages, the phrasing, a little of this, a little of that, but no technique at all.
So my dad takes her to this gal, who was just a very famous, a phenomenal soprano. The gal listens to my mom and has some very – knowing my mom’s voice, which was fantastic whether she had some limitations. She couldn’t sing softly. There were some things that she couldn’t do that she would have needed to do to have a really world class career.
This gal saw that. But because this gal didn’t fall all over my mom and tell her how wonderful she was (and this is no criticism to my mom. I loved my mom dearly. She was a phenomenal singer), since we’re just talking about wiring and programming, over which, when it’s operating and when we’re unaware of it, we’re really not to blame. We just don’t know. We just don’t know.
It’s not surprising that when this gal didn’t fall over her and tell her how wonderful she was, but told her that she needed a little of this and little of that to have a world class career, my mom never went back to her because my mom was used to having people dote over her and tell her how wonderful she was.
But that was challenging my mom’s inner singer. That was challenging her identity. It was challenging down to the core of her very being. It wasn’t actually just saying anything about her voice even though it was. It was interpreted as, “Wow! You are challenging my very existence, my very identity. I don’t like this. I’m not coming back.”
We all do that. We all do that in our certain ways. Of course, nobody wants to feel uncomfortable on purpose. We all want to move towards pleasure and move against anything that’s going to make us uncomfortable or scared. But anyway, I’m just bringing this up because we’re all singers and it’s really important to be aware that sometimes, we have our style, we have our movement, we have a lot of things tied up in our voice that we don’t realize are tied up in our voice.
So our voice needs to be a little bit like a piano. If you go and you buy a piano, you get a piano. It’s fully built, it’s functional, it’s ready to go, it’s tuned. All you have to do is learn how to play it. The piano sits out there and you sit down and you learn how to play.
Now, the voice is very different in that it’s the only instrument really that I can think of that we build and learn how to play at the same time.
So it’s very common to get all these things all enmeshed and tied up. What we call style is really a way that we get this high note. What we call style is really our identity.
It’s very, very common. But the more separate we can keep them, the freer we can be to be very spontaneous and paint with all the colors on our palette. It’s very important. And that way our inner singer is kept very, very clear.
But this is really an inner singer issue. So it’s a question you can ask yourself. Is my style, is my identity wrapped up in my vocal technique? The two really should be separate. And the sooner you have the two, technique and style, coming together, it creates something phenomenal. But if they’re all emeshed with the identity, then it’s a big mess. And at any time, we don’t do terribly well, our identity is questioned, we feel like horrible people. All of that comes up, all the stories around it because we built a tremendous amount of stories around all this.
So the more separate we can keep those two so that they can work together in a synergy and create an amazing experience for us, the more fun we’re going to have with all of this.
So, I touched a little bit on the singing versus vocalizing and how vocalizing can help the singing and applying. I’m going to go into that in another podcast because that’s also an inner singer thing. People may not realize it, but it really has a lot to do with the inner singer.
Anyway, I hope you’ve gotten something out of this. I hope you enjoy these podcasts. If you like them, please share them. I’d love to see these things really get out there. I think that from all of the singers that I talked to and have worked with over the years, this is a huge issue. And these things that I’m covering in the Inner Singer Podcast, they are really commonly needed, universally needed by a lot of singers. The only problem is a lot of singers don’t know until they know. Like anything, we just don’t know until we know.
So if you hear something in this that resonates with you, you’d like to share it with your friends that are also singers, I’d love that. That would really be great.
So anyway, good bye, until next time. I’ll talk to you next week. Thanks so much. Bye.
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