Who are the good? Who are the bad?
Who has suffered vocal injuries due to poor singing habits?
Pop genre is ever present in musical preferences of young people and can have a profound influence on their vocal development. That influence can be positive and inspiring—but it can also lead to unhealthy singing habits. Rather than shut pop stars out of the classroom, why not use them to aid in your healthy vocal instruction? Even though we would like our young singers to listen to Renee Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo, none of them are likely to appear on their Spotify “most played” list. You’d better believe, however, that they can burst into Katy Perry, Adele, Bruno Mars, or Lady Gaga at a moment’s notice. Use the following names and video links to grab your students’ interests ~
Lady Gaga has had the same vocal coach since she was eleven years old. She studied voice at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has a history of showing off her versatile vocals from singing with Tony Bennett, performing music by Stevie Wonder, and my favorite, a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music. Her sound is resonant, energized, and open. It’s obvious she takes time to train her voice for whatever style she is singing. At her Super Bowl performance, even though she is gasping at times, she maintains support and energy through-out her phrases.
- The Sound of Music Medley https://youtu.be/JxcFcKvjZCk
- Lady Gaga mid-Super Bowl: https://youtu.be/g9rM__3Q7i4
Kristin Chenoweth has performed many different styles of music but is always consistent with sound and technique. Chenoweth first earned a Master’s degree in opera performance from Oklahoma City University. After becoming famous in the Broadway arena she transitioned to movies and giving solo performances around the world.
- The Girl in 14G shows off her opera vocals as well as her jazz vocals: https://youtu.be/jBJn4BHtqqY
David Draiman (lead singer of Disturbed) – If this name doesn’t ring a bell then you must not listen to much heavy metal (I don’t either). Draiman was first classically trained as a hazzan—a Jewish precentor trained in the vocal arts to help lead the congregation in songful prayer.
- Years of vocal coaching helped him create his heavy metal, rock vocals. Search for Down with the Sickness for an audio example (disclaimer: this is not a student friendly song to share) He went back to his classical training to achieve the purer, smoother vocals when his band recreated a Simon & Garfunkel hit Sound of Silence. Hear his classical sound mixed with his edgier rock sound: https://youtu.be/Bk7RVw3I8eg
- Draiman on his singing technique: https://youtu.be/8JoCUpV3Hgw
THE BAD and THE INJURED
I am not out to belittle the following artists. They would not have achieved their fame without some vocal knowledge or ability. These artists are examples of what can occur with sustained vocal abuse and unhealthy singing habits.
Adele famously endured a serious vocal injury that nearly derailed her career. She attributes that injury to overuse and lack of rest, but it was also likely the result of forcing her lower singing register to sing high notes as well as her aggressive glottal attacks with her onsets. Adele’s throat hemorrhage required her to back out of performances and undergo major surgery because of her vocal injury. You can hear her glottal attacks and pushing.
- Rolling in the Deep: https://youtu.be/n84uLQanjBg
Fergie is an example of hypertension in the voice and an extreme forward, nasally sound. Even though it is painful to hear, it is good for students to have examples of bad habits as well as good ones.
- The Star-Spangled Banner: https://youtu.be/V5cOvyDpWfM
Mariah Carey wowed listeners with her extensive vocal range as well as her difficult melisma passages. However, years of raising her larynx to hit her trademark high notes have caused her voice to now sound breathier and tighter and her onsets to be delayed.
Compare videos of All I Want for Christmas is You eighteen years apart:
Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith) An up close look at the vocal folds of the seventy year old rock star ir provided in the following video. Tyler, sixty-one years old during the filming of this series, put his voice through the ringer with his edgy vocals and screaming high notes. Tyler, like Adele, was forced to undergo laser surgery to correct his vocal injury, a throat hemorrhage:
- https://youtu.be/9MDn5GgyxyU (ends at 6:30).
Fortunately, Adele and Steven Tyler were able to resume their singing careers after vocal surgery. Many such operations, however, result in complications that can shorten or end a singer’s career. Julie Andrews, of The Sound of Music fame, awoke from her nodule removal surgery without her iconic voice. Vocal paralysis, excessive scar tissue, and severe chronic hoarseness can also result. In the interest of our students’ well-being and the longevity of their singing voices, we must always emphasize the importance of healthy vocal training to reinforce singing for a lifetime.
Please email author Jennifer Berroth at DevelopingVoices.blog for questions and more information on helpful teaching tools for your classroom:
Thank you to fellow director Emilia Chiroy for help with these examples.