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I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just A Little (Vocally) Unwell

I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just A Little (Vocally) Unwell

By Diana Yampolsky

vocal cartoon - two singers"I'm not Crazy, I'm Just a Little Impaired," sings Rob Thomas (Grammy Nominated Singer and Songwriter) of Matchbox Twenty in his song "Unwell". This song certainly contains a universal truth. I often think of this song when somebody who wants to become a singer enrolls into one of my introductory sessions (or, to take it even further, takes part in the Canadian Idol auditions). Some people are literally looking and sounding insane while trying to resemble some kind of a sound. However, when you get to know these people you realize that not all of them are necessarily crazy, they are just a little "vocally" unwell.

Recently I met a singer who thought that he was pretty much "It". He thought he was ready to record. I had a problem keeping a straight face while listening to him. He sounded nasal, throaty, and unnaturally feminine.? Obviously, he had no check with reality. I suppose with the high tech equipment in many of today's studios, his performances could have been artificially enhanced to a degree. However, he would never be able to resemble it live. Moreover, he looked and acted quite "crazy". After addressing all of his problems and getting a better understanding of who he was as a person, I saw my client in a different light. When he stopped singing and started listening, he actually appeared to be a nice and intelligent person. After he left I found myself feeling a bit puzzled. I said hello to a "crazy person" and said goodbye to a well-adjusted, sensible and smart guy. The magic happened within an hour. Not knowing how to use his voice, my client brought out the worst from within himself. Using a little bit of proper instruction, the "ugly frog" turned into a "beautiful prince". Your voice is an identification of who you are and a reflection of the state of your being. Incorrect or bad technique misrepresents who you are and often makes you sound like a less well adjusted person than you really are. In the same way that you are what you eat, you are how you project your voice. Ideally, as a singer your look, your voice, your song, and your actual performance will correspond with each other. Then the puzzle will be complete. If one component is missing or incongruent, your performance will appear to be quite "unwell".

Over the years I have also had people coming to me in their 30's and 40's and wanting to sing "Oops, I Did It Again" and other teen songs. Some of them were even male clients. I have also had heavy set clients trying to sing very light dance songs. It looked and sounded ridiculous. Young, skinny, petite girls with light soprano voices were insisting that they wanted to sing "Un-break My Heart" by Toni Braxton. This type of off kilter pairing happened many times on the American Idol and Canadian Idol television shows. Nobody forgets the guy who "performed" a very "unwell" interpretation of Madonna's Like a Virgin, but nobody remembers him for the reasons that any singer would hope for.

Vocal Fashion

I truly believe that the song should fit the singer like a dress or a suit. For example, being on the more mature side myself, I would never buy myself a little slinky dress designed for a young person. Given my age and status, I am sure that it would look somewhat strange on me. The same applies to songs. Being the President of Royans Universe Records, I often choose the original songs for my roster of artists. I do take into consideration their age, size, look and their overall style. I have run into cases where an older artist would want to sing a very good song that did not fit their age, voice or image. It is sometimes very hard convincing artists that certain material is not right for either them or their voice, but, ultimately, their performances are always better in the end once they agree to choose songs that are suitable for them.

Many aspiring performers often ask me what it takes to become a star. My response is always something along the lines that a star is a Total Performer - someone who has all of the elements in place and these elements complement each other perfectly. I believe the total performance is complete when the assembly of all the parts will be perfect ? the technique, the style, the talent, the song and, finally, the look. Regardless of whether or not Celine Dion is your cup of tea, no one can deny that she has talent, great technique, material and a style that all complement each other. If you don't want to appear "unwell", take all of the above into consideration and then the world might discover another hot artist who will be quite sound and definitely vocally well.