Quincy Jones referred to this as ‘ear candy’.
Vocal contrast is about creating different shades of colour with a voice and teaching this is a lot of fun for both the singer and myself as a vocal coach. A good way of teaching this is to have a singer study different styles of music and different vocalists to get a feel for how singers play around with their vocal tone to create nuances, this is also a great way to improve your voice and develop stylistic ways of bringing a song to life.
Vocal nuances are the effects or the colours that a voice is capable of creating. Singers should explore these ‘vocal effects’ to understand how they can make those sounds with their voices. Once the singer has grasped a few of these ideas & tones, the process of implementing these nuances into a song with the appropriate emotive intention is the next stage & should be based on subjective preference (what the artist is trying to achieve or communicate).
Vocal nuances should always come from a place of intention; they should be used to convey various emotions and feelings in the song’s story rather than simply used for their own sake or to show off. However, I think that it really depends on what the singer is trying to achieve. A sense of fun and vocal flair also has its place – younger singers tend to approach songs in this way. I believe in allowing younger vocalists to express this because it’s part of their musical journey.
This should, however, always be balanced with an emotional connection to the song. That should be achieved in an intelligent way and with the right emotive intention utilizing vocal colours such as riffs and runs, breathy qualities, nasal qualities, growl, vocal fry, vocal flips, whistle register, falsetto, belt, vibrato etc, the list is endless. Please note that these nuances should always be founded on good healthy vocal technique so as not to damage your voice.
It has been said that ‘smiling’ your sound, or singing with nasal tones or falsetto is not the correct way to sing. THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY TRUE. From a technical point of view, yes it’s always good to execute a balanced vocal production. But guys and girls when it comes to style, singing nasal as a matter of choice can be very entertaining, interesting and appropriate to a songs meaning and can be instrumental in improving your voice and its tonal colours & shades.
Singing in falsetto can also produce a quality and a mood that is appropriate for relaying a specific emotive state. The key is for singers to be able to have the choice to do whatever they like with their voices in an easy, safe and healthy way.
This idea of creating contrast is such a powerful and creative tool for singers to explore. It means that I, as a vocal coach could potentially hear 10 singers in a room (as I did when working on The Voice UK) and hear 10 different & unique interpretations of the same song and still enjoy 10 different experiences of listening to that song.
Explore what colours and vocal nuances your voice can manage & perhaps start with trying out some of those nuances mentioned in this article. Record yourself and listen back to your efforts and see what you liked and didn’t like. Start with the sounds you liked and turn them into vocal features in the delivery of your songs and see what responses you evoke in your listeners. Simply experiment with them and explore what your voice can do!