I frequently get new students who come into lessons with the impression that after they sing for me, I will declare a grand judgment over their singing:
You sound good!
You sound bad!
Of course, this idea is part of what makes singing in front of a voice teacher a nerve-wrecking experience. What if you sing and she/he tells you that you’re terrible and have no chance of learning to sing?
Although that will not happen in my studio, if that ever happens to you with another teacher, consider them a very uninformed teacher and RUN AWAY!
So how do you decide if you sound good? That seems like an easy question to answer, but in reality it depends.
What does it mean to “sound good”?
“Sounding Good” can mean the following:
You’re singing in tune with the melody.
You sound like the genre you intend to sing.
You sound “bright enough” or “dark enough”.
You match your own idea of what sounds good.
You’re matching someone else’s idea of what sounds good.
Other than singing in tune, everyone has different ideas of what sounds good. Even within the classical genre, which has more clear-cut boundaries as to what fits in classical genre (country accents will never be heard in classical singing!) there is a lot of ongoing debate as to when and how a singer matches the ideal classical sound.
In contemporary music styles, this is only going to get more complicated because many styles get blended with other styles. There are also not as many clear-cut rules in contemporary styles. When I can clearly hear that a singer has a lot of skill, I can also easily find people who hate the sounds they are making. The reality of being a singer is that there will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like the sounds you make simply because of the genre or blend of genres you’re singing in!
So the more useful question is WHO decides what sounds good? This will help narrow down your options a bit.
If you are singing for yourself, just for fun, YOU decide what sounds good. Record yourself singing and decide if they match your own ideas of what sounds good in singing. Find singers you like to listen to, and if you have a skilled ear you’ll see patterns emerge, or you can bring those songs to a lesson.
If you are singing to become a professional singer, than both you and your audience decide what sounds good. For example, try to pick an audience that likes punk rock if you’re singing punk rock. In addition, if you are dependent on a record label to get your career started, they will also have a say in both what sound good, and what sounds sell. What sells and what actually sounds good don’t always match (but that’s just my subjective opinion).
If you are singing as part of an a cappella group, y’all will have to decide together what sounds good.
Once you decide who you’re singing for, it gets easier to clarify what good sounds you’re going for.
Now once you know what sounds you’re going for, it will be easier to decide whether you sound good according to your (subjective) sound ideals, or not.
What if I don’t sound good!??!
That’s the topic of the next post. 🙂