She 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.
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.
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 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.