I’ve been adding a range of skills to what my voice can do for a while now, some are really good, others need work, but having seen Bobby McFerrin perform live in concert this past weekend I realise I have quite a few more to add.
Here’s what I can do
- Operatic quality (but my sound is more light Baroque than Wagnerian)
- Belt quality (Chest voice combined with nasal quality)
- Sob quality
- Simple switches between head and chest voice (not too fast)
- A growl (but not at will, sometimes it happens when I want it to, other times not)
- An imperfect imitation of some singers (Ella Fitzgerald, Julie Andrews and when I have laryngitis I can do a mean Suze DeMarchi)
- And I have a three octave range that’s comfortable (E below middle C to E above top C)
Here’s what I’d like to add to the list
- Tuvalu throat singing
- Effortless switches between head and chest voice
- Effortless trills (I find this really challenging)
- A more ‘brilliant’ operatic quality with better control over pianissimo (I’m too loud in the high notes, in fact too loud as a singer in general — don’t put me in your choir!)
- A greater scat vocabulary (other than doo-be, swee, bap, doo ya and ba-dat-n-day)
- Whistle-singing (that thing Mariah Carey does with her voice up really high)
- And this two tone thing that Bobby McFerrin does — I think it’s a cross between a growl and throat singing with the tongue as a resonator (I’ve been trying to puzzle it out all day). Check it out below…. (Did I mention he’s my vocal hero?)
To be treated like an instrumentalist instead of ‘just a singer’ is an ultimate goal of mine, and something I want the singers in my classroom to aspire to.
When I sing I am trying to ‘think’ with the muscles in my throat and abdomen and feel what another singer has demonstrated to me. If I can’t visualise what it feels like, I have a really hard time doing it, and I guess that’s the challenge with listening to someone like Bobby- I have no concept of what it feels like to sing the way he does. (On a side note, when people are scream-singing their throats raw, it’s like I feel their pain and I have to stop listening.)
Update: Above is my very weird experiment in trying to make harmonics with my voice(read: singing two notes or more at once). I warn you it is a little bizarre.