My thoughts...Wisdom from over the years

“POP” Style Vocal Training

Posted in: Blog, tip of the week ♦ Monday, October 1st, 2012, 12:49 pm ♦ 4 Comments on “POP” Style Vocal Training

“Pop” Style Vocal Training

I’m increasingly amazed at the proliferation of contemporary vocal teaching.  Teaching someone to sing like a ‘pop’ singer is to me sort of an oxymoron.  Now I say this a bit tongue in cheek, but try to follow my logic.  I found this interesting definition of pop music on :


Noun 1. pop music – music of general appeal to teenagers; a bland watered-down version of rock’n’roll with more rhythm and harmony and an emphasis on romantic love


popular music, popular music genre – any genre of music having wide appeal (but usually only for a short time)



Traditionally speaking, the pop music of the day has been performed largely by the formally untrained artist.  The music itself is supposed to be simple and uncomplicated, easily appreciated by the musically uneducated. Here’s what Wikpedia has to say: “In opposition to music that requires education to appreciate, a defining characteristic of pop music is that anyone is able to enjoy it.

So I suppose that’s why it seems odd to me that so many contemporary or pop style vocal coaches are ‘popping’ up….;-) Do we need training to learn how to perfect the untrained sound? How do we learn how to sound more uneducated vocally? By simply telling people how to sing the way an untrained singer would naturally sing! Do we really need help with this? It kind of makes me think of a “contemporary style athletic trainer” who would help teach you how to veg out on the couch…ahem. There are only so many ways you can help someone sing more ‘pop’ like without actually treading into that fateful ground of true, actually classic style training.

I’m not saying that folks who want to sing in a contemporary style of singing should NOT get training. On the contrary! It’s the TYPE of training they get that concerns me.  I care about vocal health. Far too much is being offered on the altar of pop singing. Namely-singers! We’re losing wonderful, gifted and anointed singers because they’re burning out their voice and ruining their vocal cords all in search of ‘style’. This is so unnecessary. A great (and healthy) pop sound CAN be achieved but not the way most pop style trainers are going about it.

I spent my young years studying voice. My goal was to be a ‘pop’ singer. Gratefully, I realized early on that in order to understand how to be the best ‘pop’ style singer I could be, I needed to learn the best ways to use my voice.  I needed to know the proper way to care for my voice. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls that so commonly besiege young pop singers-including nodules and exploding vocal cords. Thankfully, I got a great education and learned how to use my voice in the way I wanted to AND get the best performance out of it long term.

This is what is sorely lacking in ‘contemporary style’ vocal training. It’s all about achieving a specific sound. A sound which, by the way, may not be popular five years from now! (see above definition) In order to achieve this certain sound, we’re willing to try things that have long been known to be harmful to your vocal health, but your ‘pop’ style vocal coach is likely not telling you that, I often wonder if these pop coaches even realize this themselves.  Are they still around when their students end up in the chair of the local ENT with a scope down their throat trying to determine how bad the damage is?

I’ve seen and heard so many erroneous things taught in the name of contemporary singing it makes my head spin.  Here are a few of the most recent:

Sing with two distinct voices— encouraging folks to have a break in the middle of their range between their ‘head voice’ and their ‘chest voice. Any way you slice this, you’re left with a broken voice. To me that’s like teaching someone to walk on their broken leg instead of fixing the problem.

Larynx generated vibrato– by oscillating the pitch with your vocal cords, training people to sing with a wide/nasal tone (think country and western style of old—was that ever a PLEASANT sound to anyone?),

Add air to the tone- far and away one of the worst vocal techniques for your voice. This technique causes damage almost immediately to the vocal cords. Whispering has long been known to be harmful to the vocal cords. Adding air to the tone is simply prolonged whispering-yikes!

High larynx singing- high larynx singing is probably one of the worst culprits for tension in the throat. Not only does a high larynx cause tension surrounding the vocal cords, it also creates issues for tone quality, range and greatly increases the chances of a break in the voice.

Wide mouth/Nasal singing-this one always gets to me. This is exactly what people do naturally. Most people who are not trained tend to sing with their jaws only ever so slightly open. This does a number of things to the tone, none the least of which is to create an overly nasal sound.  I spend my life it seems trying to pry open peoples mouths!  A nasal tone has historically been the characterization of old style country music. Unless this is what you’re looking for, you might want to watch it (and open your mouth!).

Belt voice- the use of the ‘belt voice’ is a very dangerous practice if you don’t know what you’re doing and how to do it. Without the proper strengthening and training, this technique can cause permanent damage over a period of prolonged use.

Some of these techniques can be used on occasion by someone who has been properly trained and has become a true “vocal athlete”.  A true athlete though, needs to learn and understand the human body and work within those parameters. If someone tries to continually push the limits of the body without proper rest, strengthening and restoration there can be disastrous affects.

I want to see the Body of Christ continue to raise up (and care for) healthy music ministers.  To this end, if you are a singer, look to get some good training for your voice which may well include some good old ‘classic’ training. You can choose the genre and style of music you wish to apply that training to, but get yourself some good training. Happy and healthy singing to you!


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4 Responses to ““POP” Style Vocal Training”

  1. Posted by: Lana Tramonte
    October 1st, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Can you further explain what using the ‘BELT VOICE’ is?
    I’m not very familiar with this term. Please provide clarification so I won’t possibly abuse my voice this way.


  2. Posted by: Sheri Gould
    October 1st, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I am sending you an article Lana, I hope it helps!


  3. Posted by: Chioma
    October 13th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you Sheri, for sharing from your heart. It was a pleasure to meet you at the Unite Conference in Shrewsbury, MA.

    A vocal coach once told me that the best way to sing with a loud voice is to sing loudly, to belt, to practice by singing like Yolanda Adams or CECE, who are awesome singers with amazing vocals. There is nothing wrong with singing like that, however, without proper training and coaching, one can really damage their vocal chords which is exactly what happened to me. But I thank God for His faithfulness and the healing process He is taking me through.

    I have learnt a great deal from this article and by God’s grace I will be able to apply the tips you mentioned.

    Thank you

    God bless you


  4. Posted by: Sheri Gould
    October 13th, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    It was so great meeting you Chioma! It is so sad to me how many people receive incorrect vocal training like you mentioned. When people try to imitate what they THINK they are hearing, they can often run into trouble. In your case, you were even told by a “professional” to do things the wrong way. I am so saddened by this and sorry for your experience. I am happy to hear that you have recovered vocally and are on to greener pastures! God bless you and happy singing!!


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