The million dollar question right? I have had countless hours of discussion on what ‘good singing’ is. Conversations with professional singers, vocal students, singing teachers, music industry members and the general public. I thought I’d summarised the common elements that people seem to identify when they think about ‘good’ singing. These seem to be the common parameters and expectations identified defining ‘good singing’, regardless of genre.
By the way I am not referring to that subjective viewpoint people take when they are touched by a singer’s voice, personality or the words they communicate through song. Nor am I referring to the singers we are ‘told’ are good, by a pushy music industry who want us to buy the product for their financial gain, instead I am referring to the technical and musical components that separate the person who can sing in the shower from a singer who is consistently able to deliver high level and consistant performances.
1. Accurate intonation and pitch control
2. Musicality this includes rhythm and phrasing
3. Access to all areas of the range, able to navigate easily between chest, middle and head registers
4. Accesss to fullness/richness of tone, not too ‘heady’ or ‘weighty’
5. Vocal control through out the range, no flip flopping about or straining
6. Good breath control i.e. breaths in the right place, not running out before the phrase ends
7. Access to a variety of vocal qualities and tones e.g. Fry, onsets/offsets, breathiness, falsetto, belt quality etc
8. A decent working vocal range, 2 or more octaves
9. Good dynamic control, whether pp or ff
10. Well controlled vibrato, no wobble or tremolo, can go easily from a straight tone to vibrato or visa versa
11. Ability to express emotion throughout the range
12. Words clearly understandable
13. Vocal flexibility e.g. Can access vocal licks, runs and melismas without voice falling apart
14. Longevity i.e the ability to sing through the whole gig, week, tour etc.
A ‘good’ singer may not have all of these elements but I would be expected that they would have the majority. Certain styles demand better vocal control and understanding than others e.g. classical, R&B/Soul, metal and musical theatre. Others may not require wide ranges such as the current popular commercial vocal style is ‘quirky’ think Adele, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.