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Vocal Technique That Works

760x271VocalTechShe had every reason to stop singing – but she refused to give up.

Cathrine Sadolin is among the leading voice researchers in the world.

Her writing and master classes have now developed into a vocal Institute with a team of trained associates who work all over the globe.

We thought it would be interesting to ask Cathrine to tell us about her personal journey with vocal technique.

You’ve taught singing technique to thousands of singers, but when did you first ‘bump into’ the need for vocal technique in your own singing?
When I opened my mouth I had every issue imaginable! You see, I was not your typical singer. I originally began singing to help my asthma. Of course I fell in love with music and performance, but was plagued by difficulties: I was constantly hoarse, had lots of air in my voice, a restricted range and no volume.I was constantly hoarse

How did you deal with these issues?
At first I didn’t. My voice teachers didn’t have much experience dealing with these problems with their students. They were great with their suggestions of how to fine tune technique and harness the power of imagination, but none of this helped me. I needed more basic help and this didn’t seem available.

At this time you were beginning to perform – how did you cope?
I relied on my acting and interpretive abilities to pull me through; however, I was struggling very seriously. I tried different vocal teachers, but I was getting nodules and knew I just couldn’t keep going on.

Tell us about your turning point.
I decided to lock myself in a room with the latest books on anatomy and physiological research on the voice. I was determined not to emerge until I solved these problems for myself!

Was there a central insight on technique that unlocked the door to your vocal issues?
Yes. The vocal folds provide the vibrations necessary to make sound, but the tone of your sound is created in the vocal tract above the vocal cords. This means that, with proper support, it is possible to make any sound you want – in any genre you want – without hurting the vocal cords.

Click here for more on how Cathrine applied these insights.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to share what you were learning with other singers?
This happened naturally. I had many friends who were rock singers; they were coming to me complaining about hoarseness. Even though I hadn’t yet explored their unique sounds in my own singing, I was able to share with them the basic physiology about how sound is produced and we began to apply this to making the kinds of sounds they wanted to make.

Are you saying that classical and contemporary singing technique are the same?
I was actually told that if I wanted to sing classical I should never dream about singing another style – for example, rock. I knew that couldn’t be true. Just think about your hand: it can do different things though it is the same hand. So, too, is this true with the voice.

Does this mean that there is one vocal technique?
Certainly there are different techniques that one would employ above the vocal folds to make different sounds you wish to make – I discuss this in great detail in my book. But there is one set of methods to properly support these techniques so that your vocal cords are free to do their work without any negative impact.

Your book on technique has been widely used by contemporary singers – is this because you do not feel that classical training covers all of the bases?
It’s not written for mostly contemporary singers in mind; it is written for all singers. It’s funny that there has been a traditional divide between two types of singing: classical and non-classical. I disagree with this – classical music is just one style out of thousands of styles. Because of its distinguished history it is regarded as a “basic” style – which actually isn’t true because folk singing is earlier.It's possible to make any sound you want

This brings us back to your basic insight about the physiology of singing.
Yes. Basic healthy technique is neither classical nor contemporary. What you achieve after you have developed healthy support for your voice is an individual choice – a darker “color” may be classical and a lighter “color” may be involved in certain jazz interpretations. Thus my book doesn’t aim at just one genre, but all genres of singing.

Cathrine Sadolin

Cathrine Sadolin is a voice researcher, vocal instructor, vocal coach, producer, author, singer, composer and instrumentalist. She is the author of Complete Vocal Technique and the founder of the Complete Vocal Institute (CVI) with branches across the world. Her research across all vocal styles, combined with her own experiences as a professional singer, has inspired innovative thinking across the field.

Interviewed by Greg Barker. You can see more of Greg’s work here.

  • Kathylynn

    This is very interesting and I couldn’t agree more.  I can’t wait to read some of the material she has written!

  • Kathy

    I can’t wait to buy her book.

  • I like this “Basic healthy technique is neither classical nor contemporary.” I took lessons once from an opera-trained instructor and it was helpful to learn that stuff, but I’ve had to learn how to apply some of the technique to pop/rock music. I’m interested in checking out the book!

  • Embrothistlesingers

    My first voice teacher was a nun with a sharpened pointer and her first words to me were that I could not breathe.  Over the years I learned much about breathing, support and posture and all that constitutes production of consistent sound.  We can never have enough training and reminders of correct use of our instrument.  Because it is a voice and it came with our human package, we can dismiss that importance so much more quickly.  Thanks to Cathrine and others who spend time and effort making that information accessible.  

  • Anthony

    If this is all necessary……..How come Susan Boyle did not need any of it?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Anthony, It’s a good question.   Having been reading VoiceCouncil for some time (I am a layperson!) here’s what I think: I expect that all of this is necessary and that Susan Boyle was actually doing this unconsciously – or had some very good choir training along the way. Some singers don’t have these problems because they rather naturally don’t put strain on their larynx but let other parts of their vocal tract, face and body play a part in creating their sound.

  • Mimmiea

    She probably grew up listening to singing that was technically very good, for example classic musical theatre stuff (think Julie Andrews). So to re-create those sounds she simply had to develop good technique whether she was conscious of it or not.

  • Mo Millar (voice professional)

    We are all very different in our way of functioning, relating to our bodies and we all have a different degree of physical intelligence. 

    So some people go natural, others don’t (for I-don’t-know-how-many reasons). For example, my husband has never had a drum lesson in his entire live and ended up being a professional (he’s had percussion training, but that’s a different instrument). Same story for me (before I got involved in CVT, back in 2006).

    Btw, I suspect some ‘out of sight’ things happened when Susan sang on Britain’s Got Talent. You may have heard one can manipulate lots of things during live shows these days …

  • As a singing teacher working across many styles I really can’t wait to get hold of this book. My personal philosophy is that there is good basic functional singing technique and then there are stylistic and interpretive choices we make in how to apply that technique. Great to see such a comprehensive book produced on the topic.
    Thanks Voice Council you’re a great read!

  • I have always found that there are certain times when singing that a particularly connected level of emotion kicks in and you suddenly hear your voice doing things you either could not have “just made happen normally” or even imagined that you even could do. It seems to me that this “vocal empowerment” it is linked inextricably to do with the depth of your mental involvement and how the “emotion of what you are singing” affects you.

    Maybe there are ways of physically controlling your vocal folds and throat and chest muscles and diaphragm one can learn so as to try and achieve the same thing. To me that is a bit like having to keep on going to daily Zumba or fitness classes, something that interferes with time management for other things……sadly.

    I think everyone should investigate the link between “mental involvement and voice production” far more.

    Maybe I should publish a manual on how to get into the mental groove for best voice production?.

    What with having to keep drinking the right concoctions to obviate hoarseness or throat problems, voice exercises, physical exercise, music studies, instrument practice, endless hours on the DAW etc etc. I’m beginning to feel like a young Arnie Schwarzenegger in training for the Mr Atlas body building competition!

    When really…..it’s all in the mind!

    OR IS IT ??????
    Hmmmmm… might make me more money than writing music !

  • Jan Draaijer

    I have done a year of CVT technique and i must say it helped me tremendously. It is like being given a toolbox with the right tools to make any sound you want. Choose the sound you want to make , than apply the “rules ”
    depending on the mode you want to use, the effect you want to add, with the right support. I extended my vocal reach, have the courage to apply effects while following the rules. I’m still growing more and more in applying the CVT technique. i think it is great. It is an eye opener.