Whenever an aspiring singer approaches me to become their vocal coach I always ask them what they are trying to achieve. One of the most common answers is that they want to become a professional singer. In most cases, after I hear them sing a couple of lines I know they have quite a way to go if they want to comply with the standards of professional singing. I do make a distinction between professional singing, which is essentially getting paid money to sing, and the standards of professional singing, which are what you should aspire to if you truly want to learn your craft and gain the respect of your peers.
As you may have surmised from the above paragraph, I have a much more critical ear when it comes to judging the quality of singing. The closest thing I would compare myself with is a ballet instructor because I do not only look for talent but also a strong grasp of the fundamentals. When the general public views a ballet dancer they see the grace and the poise. However, experts in the field see more. They are first and foremost looking at the compulsory elements which are required for all ballet dancers at the professional level. After they see that these basic elements have been mastered they then view how graceful and poised the dancer is, ie. their artistic impression. I listen to singers as a professional vocal coach not a casual music fan. I too am looking to see if the basic elements required for professional singing are in place. If a singer is pulling on their vocal chords and howling like a cat in heat, the audience can tell the singing is not that great, I can tell exactly what the singer is doing wrong. I can also pick up the smaller mistakes by more accomplished singers that the general audience misses.
It is my opinion that quite a few of today’s professional singers are merely stylists not singers. They don’t know how to consistently project or control their voices. They have little grasp of the technical elements required for professional singing. In actuality, they can’t really sing but they somehow get by on style alone, which singers can do to some extent. In disciplines such as ballet and figure skating, this is not possible. Skaters need to be able to do the basic jumps, moves, etc., or they are not considered professional – someone that is not ready for prime time.
I strongly believe that the fact the singers are not held to as strict guidelines is the reason we hear so much bad singing and why so many singers cannot sing live.
Diana Yampolsky B.M. Ed.
Master Live Performance Vocal Consultant/In-studio Vocal Producer/Non-surgical Voice Repair Specialist
Specializing in Talent Scouting, Accelerated Artist Development and Artist Management
RPVS division of: 4 A.M. Talent Development and Artist Management Group Inc.