Gospel singers possess impressive vocal power and voice technique. How can singers who have not grown up in an African-American church or who live far from this tradition develop the same power and control in their voice? Is this something you’re born with or can it be trained? Monique Thomas, an RnB artist and voice coach joins me to discuss these questions and offer her insight.
Gospel has been described as the opera of contemporary music styles. Gospel singers often demonstrate an impressive technique, vocal agility and expressive singing. The soulful, RnB and gospel sounds can add edge and power to performing in any contemporary style. However, there is no school for this type of singing. Most gospel singers learn through imitation and by growing up around gospel music. How can Australian singers, who have not had this upbringing and who live far from the gospel tradition, develop the same gospel sound? While attending a conference for voice teachers in Edinburgh, I grabbed Monique Thomas who is an RnB singer and voice coach and asked her to offer some suggestions.
Monique highlighted the importance of having good vocal technique. She defines this as the ability to sing evenly from the bottom of the vocal range to the top with the same volume and effortlessness. Also, the ability to produce vibrato evenly throughout your whole vocal range. She noted that gospel singing requires access to a wide vocal range.
Gospel singing is often confused for loud singing, but this is a common fallacy. Intensity is more important than volume. Smokie Norful is an example of a gospel singer with a lighter instrument who achieves a good sense of power without forcing his voice. All voice types, if used correctly, can be powerful.
Monique suggested that this is achieved through a depth of adduction where more vocal fold mass is used across the range. She demonstrated two exercises to achieve this. Both use the syllable “goo” and a “dopey” voice quality on arpeggios. The “dopey” quality helps achieve a lower larynx and prevent “reaching” for the high notes.
Careful choice of keys is another suggestion. By knowing the characteristics of your voice and where your “best” notes lie in your vocal range, you can choose keys that allow you to highlight your strengths.
Through listening to great gospel singers and through developing one’s vocal technique, it is possible to achieve a gospel sound. However, we must be careful to develop range, evenness, and not confuse intense singing for loud singing. Thanks to our guest artist Monique Thomas. You can connect with Monique by visiting her music website. For information about voice lessons with Monique visit Vocal Arts Studio
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