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Imitating, trying to find one's own voice, etc. 
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Post Imitating, trying to find one's own voice, etc.
Dear Musicals.Net Posters,

I've been a vocal imitator since I was about 4, or 5, or so. Back then, I'd sing "Snow White" songs, trying to imitate Adrianna Casalotti's voice, right down to the most minute detail; I'd even imitate Snow White's hand poses for photos, etc. Later, I'd try to imitate Betty Buckley, or whomever it was who sang "Memory" (from "CATS"). That trend has continued to this day, so that I've been singing Liz Calloway's "Journey to the Past", Kaho's "On My Own", etc.

The truly disgusting fact is that I literally can't seem to find my own voice. I mean, I'll add extra notes to songs, draw some other notes out, etc., in order to make oft-sung songs "my own", but, really, the only way that I can seem to stop feeling a compulsion to be the perfect mimic of whomever is if I'm given a song that I've never heard before.

I once went to a family reunion, and I sang the karaoke versions of half of the songs from "Grease", fervently believing that if I DIDN'T try to mimic Olivia Newton-John, everybody would hate me! Well, they disliked me BECAUSE I tried to fake an Australian accent for half an hour, believing that I sounded like ONJ, the ONLY Sandy whom ANYBODY could possibly WANT to hear!

I'm so afraid that at this upcoming audition, the casting director is gonna shake his head at me, and say, "Listen, lady, if we wanted a combination of Frances Rufelle and the Japanese Eponine, we'd have brought THEM in today! I truly hope that I've been able to make Eponine's song my own! Half of the time, I'm SO busy imitating every nuance of somebody's voice that the character could be singing "Screw this, and screw that!", and I wouldn't have a CLUE as to what the lyrics even meant to me!

I suppose that the deep, dark fear that lurks inside of each singer is the fear that nobody will like THEIR voice, and that they'd best put on airs, so that they might sound like somebody whom people ALREADY LIKE! I also guess that people like Britney Spears would've failed if THEY'D followed that line of reasoning; we'd never REALLY heard Britney's voice before she made an album, and if she'd kept telling herself that nobody would ever want to hear HER voice, she'd have backed away from even making an album in the first place, fer shurr.

Something that annoys me is the over-the-top nature of some singers, because I have always tried to imitate such singers, while becoming angry about the artificial way by which they sang the songs that they sang. Some examples of songs that are sung too dramatically are "In His Eyes" (Jekyll & Hyde), the title song from "Phantom", the pop song "At the Beginning" ("Anastasia"), etc.

The women who sang these songs tend to sound way too dramatic, sexy, and intense. I mean, they sound as though they're trying to seduce someone during every single blasted minute of their song; they make the climactic moment of their song sound nearly orgasmic (symbolically, of course, or they'd sound like Britney Spears for real), and it's tough to try to imitate, and to out-perform (or...out-slut, in some cases), their ultra flourishy, overly dramatic voices; I'm one for dramatics, but I'm also one who becomes frustrated when I believe that in order to sing a dramatic Broadway song, you have to sound as though you're rolling about on a bed, begging some dude to sleep with you!

"In His Eyes": Both Emma AND Lucy sound as though they're just getting horny and begging for sex. They don't HAVE to talk about sex in the lyrics of the song, because their voices symbolically scream "Take me here, and take me NOW, Henry Jekyll, before I..." Somebody needed an ice bath, fer shurr! Of course, it's not as though I wouldn't want Doctor Jekyll to take ME now...and here...and...whatever, provided that he actually seemed to be a REAL DOCTOR! (I'd have to believe that he could actually inject a needle into me without doing so awkwardly...)

"Phantom": Sarah Brightman, and every other singer who followed her, tended to make the entire song sound like sex, and they all made the ending of the song sound melodically orgasmic, so that if I ever sang the role of Christine, I'd feel totally obligated to sound 100% MORE turned on than everybody else who'd ever played the role of Christine.

"At the Beginning": When I first heard the song during 1997, I was annoyed, and I dubbed the song "The Breathless Biker Song", because, I mean, REALLY! Does the dude not sound breathless, and does the woman not sound like the very stereotype of the blonde, air-headed, breathless biker babe, who's been riding a bike too hard, for too long, in preparation for too much fun with her male biking partner (Don't tell me that the singer is really African American, because I realized that quite awhile ago)? ACK! What a disaster of a song, a song that could have actually sounded rather cool!

If you wish to tell me that I'm overanalyzing everything, at least bring the ghosts of Freud and Kinsey with you.

Thanks in advance for your replies.
:idea:

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Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:49 am
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Post Re: Imitating, trying to find one's own voice, etc.
I'm not a vocal or acting coach (or even a singer or actor with much experience), but I think one solution may be to either go really in-depth or very shallow when learning a song and trying to make it your own -- either try to look at a really wide variety of renditions by different singers so that you're not borrowing too much from any one version (YouTube can certainly be helpful there), or avoid hearing it sung at all if you can and just try to learn the song via the sheet music, printed lyrics, instrumental tracks, or whatever else you can use that doesn't involve hearing someone else singing it. In the case of songs from musicals, it also helps to get an idea of who the character is and what his/her journey is. Where is s/he emotionally and psychologically during the song? What are the words being sung, and what meaning does the song have for you personally? Voice lessons can also be helpful; a good teacher will use them not just for improving your range and technique, but also for helping you find your voice, rather than imitating others.

Perhaps it's a difference in how we've been interpreting these songs, but I've never thought of "In His Eyes" or the POTO title song as being extremely seductive (or seductive at all, really, even though I'm a mostly straight male theater fan) -- I mean, yeah, a lot of the women who've sung those songs are gorgeous and have great voices, but those songs in particular didn't really seem that way to me. For something like "Bring On The Men" or "Point of No Return," yeah, I can definitely get a "sexy" vibe from the song itself and how it's sung if the singer is performing it properly. I'm not sure if you're reading too much into those songs (possibly getting more into the minutiae of the performances rather than looking at the context of the song itself), or if you've heard a bunch of renditions far more overtly sexy than any I've encountered... but just as Freud once said that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," I might say that sometimes vibrato on a high C is just vibrato on a high C. ;)

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Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:14 pm
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Post Re: Imitating, trying to find one's own voice, etc.
Dear Toru771,

Thank you for the good advice. I believe that I've been analyzing the qualities of the voices of the singers. If somebody sings a line of a song in a "sexy" way (Ie: Amping up the volume gradually, whining, sighing, etc.), I AUTOMATICALLY think of sex, because whenever someone sounds to ME as though they want sex...the song MUST be one that's supposed to be sung as though someone wants sex.

Of course, I also have an imagination that sometimes runs away with me. Certain types of voices (or pronunciations of words, or the vocal qualities used for various lines from songs) can literally produce images of vanilla ice cream, or chocolate bars, or whipped cream, or whatever OTHER type of food, or color, or whatever that comes into my mind. Certain words have always reminded me of certain foods, or colors, etc. Rich male voices ALWAYS remind me of chocolate, while a woman who suddenly spreads her vowels while singing sort of sounds to me to have an "orange" voice.

Sooo...if I analyzed singing voices for a living, I'd be dreaming of colors...AND of FOOD...during every solitary day of my life, fer SHURR! LOL! Oh, wait. I'm not KIDDING!

Thanks in advance for your reply.
8-)

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The Duchess of Mint
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OPINION: Mitt Romney is "that wicked plastic man!"


Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:12 am
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