There are many components that come together to produce a developed and refined vocalist. Thankfully, we can simplify the basics into 5 main tools that every developed vocalist should have in their tool-belt. Think of this tool- belt as containing knowledge and individual skills that are crucial to have at your disposal when creating a developed sound.
A Strong Breath Support
One of the most important tools every vocalist should be able to access is a strong and developed diaphragmatic breath. I stressed this in Your Voice As An Instrument, where I discuss how crucial it is for vocalists to have an understanding of the different pieces of their instrument. Developed vocalists can identify when they are engaging with strong breath support and can apply it to produce a full, sustainable, and supported sound.
Vocal Range Awareness
Another imperative tool we must have is a knowledge of our vocal range. A developed vocalist knows their voice. They understand the lowest and highest note they can confidently hit and where they wish to improve. They understand where their break is when switching from chest to head voice, as well as how to work towards a smooth transition between the two.
This tool is crucial in a worship setting because it aids in key selection. Even though you may have an extensive range, it is always more important to think of the people you are leading first, as their vocal range will often be more limited.
A Good Tone
Tone is most often understood as the color or timbre of a person’s singing voice, also described as the character or quality of a voice. Some people are born with beautiful tone, whereas others have to work to develop this skill. For example, is the tone hoarse or smooth, hard or soft, light or heavy, and so on. A developed vocalist can identify specific tone and choose to sing one or the other.
In a worship setting, the desired tone would be described as full, clear, and blendable. A clear, pure tone has less modulation and is able to blend with others easily. As a result, it is more replicable for an audience and easier for people to follow.
The ability to know what sound you want to produce and accurately execute that particular sound is vocal control. There are different techniques that vocalists can use to control and create a certain desired sound. An example of this is the proper proportions a singer can choose to mix their head and chest voice. Vocal control is also applied to the accuracy of a singer in pitch recognition, as well as creating a full or breathy sound.
A Fundamental Understanding of Harmony
A harmony line adds a complementary vocal part to the melody of a song. A developed vocalist can easily hear or quickly discover a harmony to sing in addition to compliment the lead vocals. Harmony is more often a learned skill, that through practice, can be developed. Vocalists can engage in ear training exercises to develop and ultimately master harmony!
These tools, in my opinion, are key components to a refined and polished sound. Your ability as a vocalist to develop a strong understanding and practice of these concepts, will drastically grow your vocal technique. Thus sending you well on your way to being the best vocalist you can be!