I often hear from singers who say “I am having trouble finding my own sound”. Have you ever felt that way?
For commercial singers (recording artists and musical theater singers) it can feel like you don’t quite know what lane your voice fits into, or what kind of singing or genre is the most organic for your voice. If you’re an opera singer, it can feel like being unsure of what fach you are in or what repertoire you should be singing at this stage of your artistic development.
It’s an interesting concept, the idea of finding your own sound. It’s an exploration that involves discovering and accepting the true nature of our singing voice, which is no small feat.
When we are younger, most of us grow up emulating the sounds our favorite singers make. When I was a kid (and I’m about to date myself here) I wanted to sound like Whitney Houston. I don’t have to tell you. . . . there’s no way a 10yr old white girl from Florida is gonna sound like Whitney Houston. But damn if I tried! Oh, I manipulated my voice, I pushed, I darkened it and in my head it sounded just like Whitney Houston. But it wasn’t a healthy sound, and it wasn’t my sound.
If we do this for too long and without any exploration into what our own true sound is, then we are nothing more then parrots. And we remain parrots into our adult singing life only to realize at a certain point that we have no idea how to sing as our true selves, with our own sound. It can be terrifying and paralyzing.
When we force our voice into doing things to make someone else’s sound we do it because we like that sound and because we assume that’s how we need to sound to be successful.
The only problem is, when we’re making someone else’s sound, we’re usually singing in a way that is not organic to our instrument. This can create a whole lot of bad habits and prevent us from actually finding the organic sound that will bring us the success we so desire.
The process of uncovering our true sound is a mind/body endeavor. It involves having a technique you trust enough that you can let go of all the other manipulations. It also involves being open-minded and wiling to see things in a different way, and perhaps even go in an entirely different direction then you’ve been going because – and this is key:
The music you like, might not always be the music that likes you.
Just because you love listening to a certain type of music doesn’t mean that your voice was built to sing it.
I love Top 40 Pop music, but it’s not the music that loves me.
Opera is the music that loves my voice. I can sing a lot of different kinds of music and I can sing Top 40 Pop pretty damn well, but at the end of the day it’s not what loves my voice the most. Opera does. And it took me a long time and an entire career detour to accept that.
It also doesn’t mean that I can’t, won’t or shouldn’t sing pop music. It just means that I have the awareness to know where my most organic, true sound shines the most effortlessly. And it’s usually when we are in that lane that we are the most successful.
So how do you tell what kind of music loves your voice?
It’s the music that feels the most intuitive to sing. It’s the music that when you sing it, your technique hooks in the most effortlessly. It’s fitting a square peg into a square hole – there’s no manipulation needed and very little thinking involved. It just works.
Are you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Are you trying to force and manipulate your voice to fit a sound you like but that doesn’t like you? That might be why you are having difficulty finding your own sound.
So here’s where I wax a little spiritual about all of this.
I believe that the journey to finding your own sound begins with surrender.
Let go of what you think your voice is supposed to sound like. Explore the kind of sound you make when you aren’t trying so hard to sound like your perceived notion of a “good voice”.
Let go of only singing the type music you usually listen to, and start exploring how it feels to sing other, different kinds of music until you find what likes you!
Most of us have a lot of unexamined self-imposed limitations around our singing.
The path to finding your own sound is one of discovering and then surrendering your self-imposed limitations.
This is a deep dive. It might feel intimidating or even impossible to jump into on your own. If you are someone who wants a guided experience into this kind of work, message me about the 4 Month Intensive. This is what it was designed for.
Whatever path you take, approach your discovery process with a gentle curiosity and an open mind. From that spirit, you will uncover what’s true for you, and in that space you will come to find your true sound.