By Cari Cole
The voice is a precious thing. Most people think you’re either “born with it” or not – that you either have it or you don’t. But just like an athlete has to work their skills and train their muscles, it the same as a singer. Voices are built and transformed.
As a vocal coach for 3+ decades now, and having transformed tens of thousands of voice, one thing I know for sure. The voice is an instrument that can be developed and nurtured into greatness. I’ve done it too many times with too many students to think otherwise. Yep, a mediocre voice can become great – albeit with a lot of work, but it can be done. With the right kind of work. With the right technique and the right training at the helm.
The voice is an instrument that is housed inside your body. With it’s inner workings tucked away from plain sight, the mechanics themselves are often misunderstood and remain mysterious to most, even coaches and practitioners. Technical things like hitting better high notes, increasing range, belting, power, endurance, avoiding injury or burn-out all seems to be a sort of magical accomplishment, or not.
But lots of artists are afraid to train. They’re afraid it will take away their uniqueness. Actually, with Mama at the helm, you’ll actually have more originality. It’s my speciality. None of my singers sound like each other. They don’t sound like they are students of Cari Cole. Nope. Not on your life. I help you be YOU not someone else ;).
Here are my 6 Steps to Vocal Transformation Without Losing Your Uniqueness
1. The Wind Beneath Your Wings
No matter whether you’ve got 4 records out or 1, no matter whether you’ve toured the world or not, no matter if you are a seasoned well known singer or an aspiring one, nothing is more valuable to your identity as your voice. It’s what you bank your whole career on.
If you want true wind beneath your wings, the most important thing you do for your voice is to study and train. Hard. For a long while. With a great coach. Whitney herself told Clive Davis, just before she left this world, on the brink of her comeback “I’m going back to vocal lessons”. She knew the power of training to build her voice. Lady Gaga, in preparation for her 2016 Oscar performance of Diane Warren’s “Til It Happens to You” worked with her vocal coach every day for 6 months. These legends know that it’s more than talent. Do yourself the biggest favor ever, and train. Hard. The voice is an instrument that excels with training.
And while technique, which absolutely cuts the path (and continues to forge the way) to vocal freedom, there’s so much more to vocal transformation that accompanies the journey…
2. Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say
No matter what anyone says, voices that say something, mean more. Think Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Adele or Lucinda Williams. It’s the pulse behind a voice that makes it matter, not how many high notes they sing (and yes, I love me some high notes too.) But, what you sing is just as important as how you sing. In some cases even more. A singer without a great song will only go so far. Choose your material carefully. Be sure it speaks for you and is a good representation of who you are. Singers like Bonnie Raitt, Kelly Clarkson, and Adele are examples of singers who carefully choose their songs and keep their ear to the ground for the best new undiscovered songwriters. A singer like Amy Winehouse bet her whole career on songs that spoke the truth.
3. Don’t Be A Copycat, Be An Original
Voice are celebrated for uniqueness, not for sounding generic. And while it’s tempting to jump on trends, do your best to sound like you. Be an original, not a copycat. And if people tell you that quirky is not commercial, think again. Voices like Sia and Bon Iver prove that wrong every day.
4. Push The Boundaries Until You Drop
Your voice is your loudspeaker. It’s the star of the show. To stay up there on the world stage, to really make a statement — you’ve got to keep pushing your own boundaries. First with yourself and then out there in the world. That means having a spine, being an excellent musician and keeping your eye on the prize — art not commerce. I just saw our beloved Leonard Cohen on his last tour. There he was, 70 years old, singing his heart out, sliding on his knees across the stage (that had to hurt.) He kept pushing his own boundaries and working his craft until the day he died. R.I.P. our beautiful brother. We. Will. Miss. You. Hallelujah for You.
5. Believe in Yourself, You’re All You’ve Got
Something happens when a voice settles inside. Something shifts internally when a singer finds their home. Sometimes it’s after a lifetime of searching, of healing, of attempts to make sense of the world and one’s place in it. Sometimes, it’s after finding the right teacher who gets you and can help you find yourself and help to unveil the voice inside. Most importantly, be mindful, that the most important thing you do to transform your voice, starts on the inside. It starts with you.
Last year, after a long battle with my self esteem from early abandonment, I finally settled into myself. Yes, I’ve lost a lot of treasured people in my life. And most recently even more. And out of it, I realized that the only thing we truly have is ourselves and our truth. And when you have the courage to speak your own truth, little by little you take steps toward yourself, instead of away. As a result of this vigorous practice, I started feeling a huge opening in my chest, throat and head where I now feel tremendous vibrations when I speak or sing.
Believe in yourself. You’re all you’ve got.
6. Self-Care To Sing Like a Songbird
Just as Whitney knew that the road back to her voice was returning to the training, it’s a lesson she had also learned in self-care. After years of hard-living, including drug use and smoking, Houston’s voice had become a shell of its former self. She knew she’d done things to hurt it and that she had to change. It took years of coaching sessions to get even part of it back.
Your voice is an instrument inside your body and therefore affected by it. What you eat, how much you sleep, hydration levels and lifestyle choices are the cornerstones of vocal transformation. One of my students who kept losing her voice on tour came to me on her knees for help. Her career was at stake. So we carefully and artfully mapped out a plan that included self-care. The results? Her next tour was free of vocal issues. Boom.
What do you need to pay attention to, to get better at to practice your own vocal self-care? Be good to you and your voice will pay you back in spades.
Wanna transform your singing voice in 6 short months? Take the leap!
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