Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Ep. 36 "Aspects of Musical Theatre" - Voice Lessons To The World

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Hi everybody!

My name is Justin Stoney and I'm the founder of

New York Vocal Coaching here in New York City.

Welcome to episode 36 of Voice Lessons To The World.

The show where we want to help you guys as singers

by answering your questions from all over the world.

And I'll give you a chance to ask questions later but our question

for this week comes from Thomas J. in Athens, Greece.

And Thomas writes, "Dear Justin, I love your episode on

pop versus classical singing.

I'm wondering, what are some characteristics of musical theatre singing?

Can you help?"

That's a great question, Thomas.

Because I know that a lot of our viewers are more pop rock

or maybe classical singers but there's also a lot of

Broadway singers out there as well.

So we want to talk today about aspects of musical theatre singing.

Now the first element that you're going to need to know

about musical theatre singing versus all other singing

is its conversational style.

So with Broadway musicals and with musical theatre songs

the songs are almost always trying to drive the story.

They're trying to tell what's happening in the story

what's happening with the characters,

maybe what the character wants,

maybe tell about the action of the story.

But to do that, to be both actors and singers,

the conversational quality of musical theatre singing is

far beyond any of the other styles.

Let me show you what I mean by that in a song called

"Purpose" from the musical Avenue Q.

If I just sing the first part of it and I'm not very conversational,

here's kind of what would happen...


It's that little flame

That lights a fire under your ass


It keeps you going strong

Like a car with a full tank of gas

Everything else has a purpose

So what's mine

And that's not quite conversational.

It's fairly smooth and legato but it's not conversational.

If I add my musical theatre conversational style into it...


It's that little flame

That lights a fire under your ass


It keeps you going strong

Like a car with a full tank of gas

Everything else has a purpose

So what's mine

And you here that it becomes a little bit more talky

and a little bit more bringing out of the message

and the action of the story that's being told.

Now another thing about Broadway musicals,

especially these days, is the stylistic diversity.

Broadway is an amalgamation of so many different styles of music.

Some traditional and even classical, some pop, rock, R&B, country even.

Especially these days we're hearing a lot more of the

contemporary sounds in Broadway.

And then you have Broadway singing just straight up as it's always been.

Classic Broadway tunes, show tunes, and then also jazz music

is a very big part of musical theatre.

So you really have almost every style of music

in the musical theatre repertoire.

Because of this we need to have our neutral larynx coordinations,

as we've talked about in the past,

as one of our key elements.

In other words,

I need to be able to sound like myself, right?

If I am using my neutral larynx I sound the most like myself.

So if I take, "I've Never Been In Love Before"

from Guys and Dolls, and I use my neutral larynx

something like this would happen...

I've never been in love before

Now all at once it's you

It's you forevermore

And I sound like myself.

So it really is accessible for my broadway-style communication.

Now since Broadway has a little bit more of those rock elements

I might have to do a little more high or rock larynx in certain situations.

What if I took "One Song Glory" from Rent.

Which is more of a rock musical.

Find one song

One last refrain

Before the sun sets

One song to redeem this empty life

Time dies

Time dies

And I get a little bit more into my rock belt in that scenario.

Now of course, like I say, musical theatre also has some of

the more low larynx or traditional styles present.

Right after I might have gone to see Rent I might actually

go and see something like South Pacific, and I have "Some Enchanted Evening".

And I get a more low larynx coordination.

Some enchanted evening

You may see a stranger

You may see a stranger

Across a crowded room

And you can hear that that's a little bit more deep,

and also has more vibrato.

Now on the topic of the different sounds that you hear,

it's not that we always need to sound good in musical theatre.

And that's something that gives musical theatre

often a very bad rap.

Is that people think that Broadway voices are sometimes really

nasal and twangy and you get that sort of Broadway kind of sound

that is very stereotypical.

Now of course that's not always true.

But part of the reason that it gets that bad rap is

there are moments where we do want to welcome into the equation

character sounds and character singing.

So these are sounds that are purposefully not beautiful sounds,

that are sometimes an element that's necessary in musical theatre.

If I have Ado Annie from Oklahoma and I'm singing it

without a character voice...

I'm just a girl who can't say no

I'm in a terrible fix

That sounds actually a little strange when we're used to...

I'm just a girl who can't say no

I'm in a terrible fix

I always say come on let's go

Just when I oughta say nix

It sounds a lot better actually when I sound worse.

Because what I'm trying to do is create a comic character

that is very memorable.

So that's the reason why we'll sometimes hear this sort of

Broadway or twangy character voice.

There's not just the twangy character, there's many characters.

But that's the reason why, is sometimes in Broadway singing

we do need to add character to the voice.

Now finally vibrato is an element of a lot of Broadway singing.

Pop and rock do not use as much vibrato as say classical

but musical theatre will use more than pop rock

and a little bit less than classical.

So it's definitely very present in a lot of musical theatre songs.

Especially the more traditional, or as they call it, legit musicals.

Les Mis being a little bit more of a legit musical.

We have the song "Stars" and you can hear I'm gonna add

some vibrato to it and take it away too.

You can hear that Les Mis would be an example of a

Broadway show that uses a little bit more vibrato.

Stars in your multitudes

Scarce to be counted

Filling the darkness

With order and light

You are the sentinels

Silent and sure

Keeping watch in the night

Doesn't sound quite right...

Keeping watch in the night

I have to add a little bit of vibrato to make it a legit

or more traditional musical theatre sound.

So that's another aspect of musical theatre singing.

Is it's just a little bit more vibrato than a lot of

the contemporary sounds would have.

Now finally, I just want to tell you guys with Broadway singing,

acting is number one.

Okay now obviously we want to have a great voice.

But here at New York Vocal Coaching we've had you know plenty of

Broadway singers before they made it to Broadway.

Plenty of Broadway singers that are currently on Broadway

that come to us to refine their vocal technique

or work on some audition that's coming up

or work on a role that they're doing.

And what I want to tell you guys,

of all the Broadway actors or up-and-coming Broadway actors

that I have worked with and that our staff has worked with,

is acting is the number one.

In New York and and in the Broadway world you have to

make sure that you're telling the story first.

I know tons and tons of good singers, great singers actually,

that just don't get cast as much as those that bring the acting

to the equation with their Broadway singing.

You could actually have a less than perfect voice and be a spectacular actor

and get cast far more than somebody with a pristine voice

that doesn't know how to act.

So with musical theatre you really want to make sure

that no matter what you do, with whatever you're focused on

with your musical theatre Broadway sound,

you're making acting- storytelling, having objectives,

knowing who you're talking to, knowing what you want,

knowing what the scene is about,

put that as your number one and your Broadway singing

is going to go to the next level.

Because it's always gonna be your number one.

So Thomas and all, I hope that's been helpful

for you guys today as singers.

If you have questions that you'd like to see us answer on the show [ ♪ ]

you can send an email to: [ ♪ ]

And we just encourage you not to lose that joy, don't lose that passion. [♪]

If you guys are doing Broadway singing we just encourage you [♪]

to get out there do some auditions, get in a lot of shows, [♪]

expand your repertoire, get with a great voice teacher in your area. [♪]

And if you guys are in New York City [♪]

you can check us out at [♪]

And if you like these videos you can visit [♪] [♪]

I'm Justin Stoney. [♪]

We'll see you next time. [♪]

The Description of Ep. 36 "Aspects of Musical Theatre" - Voice Lessons To The World