How Singers Can Find Their True Sound

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Photo Source: Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

It can be difficult for singers to find their true singing voice. If you’re a commercial singer such as a recording artist or a musical theater singer, you may wonder what genre or style of singing is the most organic for your voice. If you’re an opera singer, you could be unsure of your Fach or what repertoire you should be singing at a given stage of your artistic development. Ditch the discordant and find your best singing voice by following this guide, with advice from a singer–voice coach–vocal producer.

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Types of singing voices

Singer in the booth

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Singing voices are classified by vocal range—the range in which a person’s voice is the most comfortable. The main types are:

Bass: A low, guttural voice ranging from E2–E4, like James Earl Jones, Barry White, Patrick Page, and Johnny Cash.

Baritone: A richly deep voice ranging from G2–G4, like Frank Sinatra, Norm Lewis, John Raitt, and Otis Redding.

Tenor: A high, bright voice ranging from C3–C5, like Paul McCartney, Adam Pascal, Titus Burgess, and Justin Timberlake.

Alto: A husky belter voice ranging from F3–F5, like Rachel Bay Jones, Cher, Ella Fitzgerald, and Liza Minelli. 

Mezzo-soprano: A more common middle-range voice ranging from A3–A5, like Selena Gomez, Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Idina Menzel.

Soprano: A higher-register traditional female voice ranging from C4–C6, like Julie Andrews, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, and Laura Osnes.

Tips for finding your singing voice

Singer in the booth

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Finding your own sound is an exploration that involves discovering and accepting the true nature of your singing voice, which is no small feat. Beyond identifying your vocal range manually, using an app, or with a voice coach, try these tips for finding your singing voice.

1. Don’t force it. Most people grow up emulating their favorite singers—with many manipulating and pushing their voices until in their heads it sounds just like their idols. Unfortunately, to everyone else it doesn’t. It’s not a healthy sound, and it’s not their sound. If you try to sound like someone else for too long without exploring your singing voice, you’ll be nothing more than a parrot. Worse, you will remain one throughout your singing career—only to realize at a certain point that you have no idea how to sing as your true self with your own sound. It can be terrifying and paralyzing.

When you force your voice to produce another person’s sound, you do it because you like that sound—and because you assume that’s what you need to sound like to be successful. The problem is that when you’re making someone else’s sound, you’re usually singing in a way that is not organic to your instrument. This can create a whole lot of bad habits and prevent you from actually finding the natural singing voice that will bring you the success you so desire.

2. Be flexible. The process of uncovering your true sound is a mind and body endeavor. You must develop a technique you trust enough to allow you to let go of everything else. It also involves being open-minded and willing to see things in a different way than you have before, perhaps even going in an entirely different direction. The key thing to remember is that the music you like might not always be the music that likes you. Just because you love listening to a certain type of music doesn’t mean that your voice was built to sing it.

3. Strive for self-awareness. You may love pop music but find that opera, not pop, is the music that loves you. It can take a long time and an entire career detour to accept that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t sing pop music. It just means that you have the awareness to know where your natural singing voice shines the most effortlessly. It’s usually when you’re in that lane that you’re the most successful.

4. Rely on your intuition. How do you figure out what kind of music loves you and your singing voice? It’s the music that feels the most intuitive to sing. When you sing in that style, your technique hooks in effortlessly. It’s fitting a square peg into a square hole. There’s no manipulation needed and very little thinking involved. It just works. Why force your voice to fit a sound you like that doesn’t like you?

5. Surrender to the music. The path to finding your own sound is through surrender. Let go of what you think your singing voice is supposed to sound like. Explore the kind of vocals you make when you aren’t trying so hard to sound like your perceived notion of a “good” voice. Stop singing only the type of music you usually listen to, and start exploring how it feels to sing new kinds of music—until you find what likes you.

6. Remain open-minded. Most people have a lot of unexamined, self-imposed limitations around their singing. The path to finding your singing voice is one of discovering and then surrendering your self-imposed limitations. This is a deep dive.

Whatever path you take, approach your discovery process with gentle curiosity and an open mind. From that spirit, you’ll uncover what’s true for you—and in that space, you’ll come to find your true sound.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Arden Kaywin
Arden Kaywin is voice teacher, vocal coach, and vocal producer in Los Angeles with over 10 years experience working with developing singers and nearly 20 years as a professional singer herself. She holds a master’s degree in music and vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music in NYC, where she studied classical voice and opera.
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