Thursday, 12 October 2017

Why Every Classical Singer Should Sing Jazz

by Cordelia Hobbs

A year ago, I was primarily a classical singer. I sang at the Cathedral and in Chamber Choir a few times a week alongside weekly singing lessons. Then one day my singing teacher introduced me to a jazz piece that I absolutely loved and from then on my voice and love for music has improved so dramatically I felt I had to write about it.

Some choral and classical singers will turn their noses up at the scat style improvisation and label it as messy and untraditional. This musical snobbery is not well placed. In fact, this free musical style leaves room for a singer to exercise his or her inbuilt musicality. Exploring the tricks your voice is capable of, such as slides and the ability to throw the pitch around (a care in the world is definitely not obligatory) is a wonderful feeling. Often classical singing can feel like a straitjacket with technique, posture and specific notes to hit. Whilst these are important, when singing jazz these rules can often be relaxed. You can improvise and work with your accompanist much more; there’s nothing better than sitting with your accompanist when they go off on an improvised section and get lost in the music with you. As singers, we can often get very stressed with our voice not doing what we want it to do or if it sounds different to someone else’s version. But singing jazz combined with the support of classical is like falling in love with your voice all over again.

I can't stress how important acceptance of your voice can be for a singer. Throughout your musical career you have to learn that you are stuck with the same vocal chords, so going about straining and ripping them to shreds is far from ideal. You don't want to spend years repairing the damage you did to your voice in your younger years. This can be crucial if you're auditioning for a conservatoire and find that your voice doesn't have that same sparkle that it did a few years ago. 

Also, remembering that there are roughly four voice parts but crucially not four voice types, you may be a soprano but that doesn't mean you have to sing exclusively from say a middle C to a top C. The freedom of jazz is that anything goes. This means that you can exploit the range of your voice whilst actually staying comfortable. The beauty of classical is that your technique and support is incredible and after training and singing in a choir you learn to listen and adapt yourself to blend with other people (King’s Singer Julian Gregory argues that this is the most important skill for a singer, before even singing itself). After doing both you will find that your classical singing is more legato and better controlled and your jazz singing is more supported and tuneful as well as more virtuosic and downright better fun.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Cordelia - excellent and inspiring piece -chimes with my experience as a classically trained jazz singer. Spread the word further and I hope to hear you sing soon.
    Jane @


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