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A good voice moves the singer and the audience with emotion. That’s all. However, I would add: a great voice also stands the test of time. I don’t care if I love the way a voice sounds; if the singer suffers because of how they are singing, I would rather they retrain, so they can continue to sing for years to come. In other words, a great voice is a healthy voice.
The range of healthy sounds is wider than most people expect. Many educated listeners hear a gritty voice like Stephen Tyler’s or Tina Turner’s, and assume there is vocal damage. However, Stephen Tyler and Tina Turner both sang well night after night, for decades, even under harsh touring conditions. No one can perform so well if they are constantly damaging their voice.
Certainly, a voice with grit can feel effortful, and can put strain on the vocal cords. However, many singers make these sounds with ease. On the flip side, a clear voice can be efficient and free, but can also cause plenty of tension in the tongue or throat.
In order to judge if a voice is healthy, a listener must train their ears to listen functionally, rather than aesthetically. Nuanced differences exist between effortful and easy sounds. These differences vary from style to style and from singer to singer. An effortless heavy metal voice will sound very different from an effortless crooner’s. Singing teachers who specialize in particular styles usually have the best ears for that style. Of course, no one knows more about the sensations of singing than the singer.
Singers always have the best idea of what their voices feel like, and how easy they are to use. The more physical awareness and vocal technique a singer develops, the easier it is for them to achieve vocal ease, versatility and freedom.
© 2018 Joanna Chapman-Smith
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