Not particularly. In fact, you’re probably far more familiar with a good tenor or Baroque alto than an oboe or soprano. But there is the opportunity—to be fair, it is almost always the case—to get a good tenor if you spend a few hours with an actor and their teacher.
An excellent tenor can sound just like an excellent oboe or soprano. If you pay attention in a training class, many tenors at the conservatoire and the other fine schools will be able to play the low notes in a “perfect” tone, without even touching the tenor’s upper register. That makes them very easy to play and teach.
An actor is also able to play the tenor’s “high notes”—which tend to be at tenor’s “high point”—but in that voice. It’s also possible to hear tenor players at various conservatons and schools with a lower note than what’s normally found in their standard voice.
Are there specific instruments most popular in Broadway?
The oboe is very popular, but with great consequence, because it has such a great ability to give great depth to a work. Another example is the baritone. The tenor is almost as popular on Broadway thanks to his ability to sing an upper register that’s slightly more prominent than the low, and because singers will come to listen for some of it in a tenor.
How do you balance the importance of vocal technique and emotional range?
If you’re working on a Broadway show, you get really close to the point where you have to be able to sing in both voices. With most tenor vocalists, this can be done with some patience and some training with singers who can do things in both.
For those who love the vocal range, but find it difficult to work with singers who can do the same thing, the option to work with a great tenor for a few hours every day, even on a rainy day, can be very valuable. Many professional singers are willing to do this on a very short-term (five to twenty-four hour period,) just to give you a chance to see what you have and make up your mind. You don’t have to invest too much time into any individual singer, but you do have to be open to the possibility that he or she might have a different vocal technique that you don’t.
The goal of vocal training should be to
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