I got my first job as a singing teacher in 1985 and I still love to teach! Every voice is different and every singer has its own story to tell. As a jazz singer and singing teacher of jazz/pop styles I in particular like the fact that there is so much freedom in chosing how a song is performed. Everyone is free to sing their own interpretation of a song and is free to:
- change the key
- decide the tempo
- sing it in English, French, Dutch….
- sing it with a jazz feel, sing it as a ballad, sing it uptempo
- change a pop song into a jazz song aor the other way around
- make embellishments
- use different sounds
and so on.
What makes a good jazz/pop singer?
Because there are so many options both in terms of interpretation and in the use of singing technique it’s important to think about how you work. What do you need in terms of musical skills, singing technique, interpretation skills and as a teacher, what is the best way to teach this? In order to answer these questions, the most important question to be answered first is: What makes a good jazz/pop singer?
Individuality and Professionalism
For me there are two qualities that define how I work as a singer and as a teacher:
- The development of individuality/authenticity/ character/ expressiveness
- The development of professionalism
The development of individuality is what singers sometimes refer to as ‘finding your own voice’. As a pop and jazz singer you are part of a living tradition. Each singer adds something new to this tradition and most jazz/pop singers are valued because of their individual sound and interpretation.
Professionalism concerns skills and knowledge in areas such as body alignment, breathing, singing technique, how to practice, improvisation, microphone technique, stylistic skills. Professionalism makes you a reliable musical partner capable of communicating with other musicians.
In the jazz/pop world, there isn’t one ideal sound. Everyone sounds different and tells their own stories in their own way. Unlike in classical singing, where you’re trained towards a fairly fixed sound ideal, in pop and jazz, technical training expands your range of choices. Good vocal control is an aid to keep the voice healthy and to acquire more artistic freedom and individuality, making more means for expression available. However you don’t need a perfect singing technique in order to become a successful jazz/pop singer.
If your main goal is to develop the singer’s individuality supported by professional skills, your priorities may change to questions like:
- What does this singer want to express?
- What are his vocal possibilities?
- What repertoire fits best?
Working from the Inside Out
In this way, you work from the inside to the outside. You start from the singer’s vocal abilities (voice), the singer’s personality/taste/history (singer) and explore how they relate to his repertoire of choice (song).
In my opinion jazz/pop singers should develop their technical skills and obtain optimal vocal freedom, no doubt about that, but from the very start this development should be closely linked to the development of an individual sound, interpretation and repertoire. Stylistic skills, improvisation and variation and microphone technique are equally important subjects, also for beginners.
My book ‘Singing from the Inside Out‘ will help you to develop your voice and to find your own expression. It will help you to ask the right questions and also answer yours!