What makes a singer great?

Patterns and Defaults

By Guest Contributor Michael Marescafairygodmothermeme


Often times, we think of great singers being born the way they are. That perhaps, they were just granted this amazing ability to sing with such ease and strength. With this new language of defining and categorizing the human voice that has been established and discovered thanks to all the people of One Voice, we now can see that all the amazing things we once thought were impossible to do if you weren’t born with them – are now possible. For example, think of Sutton Foster, Gavin Creel, Kelli O’Hara, Beyonce’, Freddie Mercury, or Pavarotti. Regardless of what you think about them as artists, these vocalists truly have some form of mastery over their voices that the “average Joe” might not. Until now, we have seen these singers as the “special” or “gifted” ones. Utilizing this new language we gain new perspective for how the human voice functions, and how these A-list singers actually do what they do.

Great singing is nothing more than sets of brain patterned defaults that great singers don’t have to think about any more.

Great singing is nothing more than sets of brain patterned defaults that great singers don’t have to think about any more. Just like a big time basketball player who gets so used to dribbling a basketball that he or she doesn’t even have to think about it. It becomes “natural”, or perhaps a better way of saying this is that it becomes unconsciously habitual. Vibrato is a great example that most people are taught comes “naturally”. If this were true, don’t you think we would speak with a vibrato? Or when a baby is born, wouldn’t it have a vibrato? This is something we’ve picked up in the popular music society as “good”. So we either learn how to do or mimic it from a young age, until finally, it becomes “natural” or said in a nerdy way – a patterned default; something I no longer have to think about. 

Here are several defaults you want to make sure you have mastered on your way to becoming a great singer:

  1. Pitch – this is something that we all take for granted. Most people who believe they can sing are often very lazy with their pitch accuracy. If you’re going to play at the top, you must ensure that your ability to match and sustain pitch is solid.
  2. Volume – another often skimmed over facet of singing. Our ability to control our volume brings a beauty that you don’t get from the “tone” or “sound” of someone’s voice. Its the beauty of control. 
  3. Weight – this is the second theory of the One Voice theories for how the voice functions. Obtaining mastery over this part of your voice will allow you to change sound quality mid phrase. Or better said, allow you the choice to belt a pop song, or sing a classical (or legit) song.  

Most of these things are often overlooked because singers can do them in some fashion. But we’re not talking about being “good” singers, we’re talking about being “great”. If you think you’re really good at these three things, I’d challenge you to revisit them. In my experience, many singers who think they’re really great, tend to have mediocre control over these aspects of singing. 

In my experience, many singers who think they’re really great, tend to have mediocre control over these aspects of singing.

One final note. There is often an assumption that hitting a “high” note means that you are a “great” singer. I’d like to suggest that a great singer means you have a certain level of mastery over how you play the instrument you currently have. As you build different coordinations in your voice, your range will grow, but if you are lackluster in these other areas, you’ll never play with the heavy hitters. 

Good luck. Singing is not a quick fix or about finding tricks. Focus on your goal and don’t back down when you are faced with opposition or hard work. Go. Fight. Win. 

Michael Maresca is the head of Musical Theatre Voice at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He is also the founder and president of MMOV Studios and creator of the One Voice technique. He has taught thousands of singers, changing both how they understand their voice and how they use it. He serves on the faculty of the Performing Arts Project and the Broadway Theatre Project. Performance credits include the Broadway national tour of Mamma Mia and the national tour of Saturday Night Fever.

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