Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Crossover Concerns and Techniques for the Classical Singer

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Crossover Concerns and Techniques for the Classical Singer

Article excerpt

THIS ARTICLE IS WRITTEN as a follow-up to the article written by Associate Editor, Karen Hall, in the last issue (March/April 2016) of the Journal of Singing, "World Voice Day 2016: 'Explore Your Voice'." My purpose is to provide additional insight on what to expect in a crossover voice session, and to further answer the question she proposed: "Should you consider working with a crossover coach and teacher?" In addition, I hope to shed more light on my approach to teaching voice in general, and to elaborate, in more detail, on my use of the "cry" voice technique as it pertains to my crossover training work with all levels of students from beginners to Grammy Award winning artists.

Yes, I feel that every singer can greatly benefit from working with a crossover coach, and the reasons are many. Sometimes the distinction between genres is somewhat artificial, and there also can be overlap between genres. Singers do not always see where there is common ground until they understand the commonalities and distinctions. Additionally, there is a magic that happens when performers temporarily detach from their conventional methods and default approaches to singing. The pressure to be perfect or polished is suddenly lifted. The singer is challenged with a new set of rules in a game they know little or nothing about. They must fully surrender and follow every direction of the teacher or coach if they want to be successful with stylistic crossover. Although awkward at first, this new experience will lead to many new discoveries for singers regarding the singing voice and their creative and personal identity.

If singers are aware of current trends, they will want to be more flexible with singing other musical styles. According to soprano Renée Fleming, in her book, The Inner Voice, the Making of a Singer, crossover is not new, and she says it is "definitely finding an audience and an enormous audience at that." She further writes,

Once sound came to the movies, singers were everywhere. Grace Moore, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and Mario Lanza all could be considered crossover artists, as they were well trained performers who brought popular songs and light and core classics to a larger audience. And even though Deanna Durbin never had an opera career, she managed to sing (and sing well) at least one aria in each of the twenty-two musical films she made before retiring at the age of thirty. During the height of her fame in the 1930s and 1940s, she became the highest paid woman in America, and in some years the biggest selling female box office star. All while singing arias! Today, "crossover" has become the golden word of the age.1


To have the ability to switch from genre to genre and do it well, the singer, ideally, will need to do intensive work with all the vocal modes-natural, cry, belt, and the "electric edge," as I fondly call it. What determines each vocal mode is the amount of air the singer uses, and the physical effort involved to generate the vocal sound and expressive effects. The body will be in various states of relaxation using easy and natural support up to optimum support depending on the mode. The modes range from very relaxed voice (natural), to the longing, moaning, or whiny voice (cry), to the exited shout or yelling voice (belt), and finally the amped or revved "trumpeting up-and-over-the-heads-of-the-audience" voice (electric). Singers must listen to and study several great artists in each genre, and hone easy and tasteful "vocal licks" appropriate for each style. Vocal licks are very short ornamentations that include grace notes, mordents, trills, bluesy riffs, and longer melismatic patterns, like the ones popularized by Mariah Carey. The crossover singer must have an effortless transition through middle voice with a "sky is the limit" kind of vocal range, and this is where the cry voice technique will come in handy. Placement of the voice must be in line with commercial standards, and must have become second nature for the singer. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.