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Popular singers with good technique?

In our Vocal Health Unit, a student asked for examples of currently popular singers who use good singing technique (and my examples were admittedly outdated...).  Who makes your list for popular singers with good technique?  And on the flip side, who tops your list for doing potential damage to their voice with poor technique?
Jean Enyeart
Menomonie Middle School
on January 15, 2014 4:08am
I can't answer the question directly,- looking forward to hearing from others - but this seems like a great opportunity to teach the students what healthy vocalism sounds like from their favorite singers.  After discussion of what constitutes healthy technique, you might have them bring in favorite recordings, and you all assess the production during class.  Keep in mind they don't want to be told their fave has "bad technique,"  - I think most pop singers take risks in the name of expression from time to time.  Just bear in mind that they take those risks with lots of electronic help: microphones, mixers, AutoTune (and hopefully at low sub-glottic pressure).
best, Paul
on January 15, 2014 8:42am
Hi, Jean.
You're opening a huge can of worms here, since to many, "good technique" is synonymous with a sound that they like.  To me, "good technique" in the most general terms, involves a tone that is vocally healthy -- one that can be used for a long period of time without doing damage to the voice.  This would involve good breath support (which may or may not include every aspect of good breathing technique we learned in vocal pedagogy), a tone production that is free (or at least mostly free) of tension, and the ability to shift easily between registers, if indeed the singer uses a range that would require a shift between registers.  Within these parameters (and I'm sure not everyone would agree with those parameters), there can be a vast difference of sounds that one can produce.  And therein lies the controversy -- some sounds that may be "vocally healthy" may also be very unpleasant to some ears, and will thereby be labeled as having "bad technique."  So good luck compliling your list.
As one who has at times been very discouraged by the huge popularity of some pop vocalists that I consider to have very bad technique, I must say that I have been very encouraged by one thing.  On some of these vocal talent shows (such as American Idol, the Voice and the X Factor) where the public gets to vote on who advances in the competition, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that the public has often chosen to advance those who I consider to have the better technique. While I realize that most of these voters have no idea what constitutes good technique, it may be that they can recognize it when they hear it.  Or it may be that, because of the singer's better technique, the voice is freer to express the meaning and emotion of the song, and that expression comes through more strongly.  Whatever the case, this gives me a glimmer of hope in the musical tastes of the current pop culture.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 15, 2014 3:56pm
Look up Pentatonix. They won The Sing Off tv show, grew up in choir in Texas, and are fantastic!!!
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 15, 2014 9:00pm
Good Technique:
  • Jewel
  • Whitney Houston
  • Garth Brooks
  • Christina Agulara on some things
  • The lead singer of U2
Bad Technique:
  • Steven Tyler
  • Britney Spears
  • Ashley Simpson
  • Metalica
  • Avenged 7fold
  • Bob Dylan
  • Adele (sounds good, but not very healthy)
  • Most others. ;)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 21, 2014 5:13pm
Josh Groban! :)
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