I am an opera singer. I have been studying and training as opera singer for quite some time now, but I didn’t always used to be the classical lyric tenor that I am today. When people ask me when I started singing opera, and was it in high school perhaps, I ask them if they know of a lot of high schools that put on operas. No, in high school we did musicals. I did a lot of musical theater in high school and college, and did I mention I was in a band? A rock and/or roll type of band? Not to mention all of the pop and jazz I sang in my various a cappella groups! I could sing anything. But now, though I give it a valiant effort, it’s just not the same anymore.
When I sing along with the radio, it sounds a little, well, operatic. I mean, look, I am still great at singing along with Katy Perry at the top of my lungs in the car, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t think I can get all of that opera out of my voice the way I used to. And I was thinking about it today, and trying to figure out why. Here’s what I came up with.
When you’re singing, you have to be doing at least a hundred things at once. It’s not for the faint of brain. But of course no one can actually think of all the things they need to be doing at the same time, because it’s too much. We have to turn these good choices into habits. When I started taking voice lessons, way back in the day, I spent a year or two learning how to breathe. I was not using my diaphragm correctly, and I had to really think about it when I performed. Now I do not think about breathing anymore. Not in that way. My body knows how to take a breath. I have done it a million times. I used to think about posture, but now I don’t need to anymore. I spent time making good posture while singing into a no-brainer. And the more I sing, the more things become ingrained into me, by necessity of course. so that I can focus on the next problem. And there’s always another problem, isn’t there?
So back in college, when I had to actually think about what I was doing, I could switch very easily between different types of music and their various vocal styles. And I still can, to some extent, but there are just so many things now that are a part of my voice. I was trying to demonstrate vocal fry to some people last week, and I couldn’t do it. I could kind of do it, but my voice and my body just refused to work that way, without a ton of effort that didn’t seem worth it for the demonstration. I’d love to be more gravelly and straight-toned when I am singing along to heavy metal songs on my iPod, and I am certainly capable of being more gravelly than I usually am, but I just don’t think I am capable of an authentic heavy metal sound these days. Or, you know, any days ever really, but that’s not the point!
I don’t know. Fellow singers, do you have an opinion about this? How easily can you switch between styles? Does your current voice just come out on autopilot? Could you turn it off if you tried? All the way off? Or maybe I am worried about nothing. I can still belt me some musical theater numbers. They’re just 5-10% opera now. No one will notice except for me, right?