Not a lot of singers aim to make a career out of classical singing, although the trend of classical singing has seen a slight comeback in recent years. The problem with most singers is that most of them do lack the necessary skills which they need to sing classically, and mastering some of these skills could take years.
To sing classically you will need to practice classical singing techniques in addition to breathing techniques which are for classical singing. The most important classical singing techniques are melismatic singing, legato, and coloratura. Although these are considered fairly advanced singing techniques they are vital for anybody who wants to learn how to sing classically.
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Classical singing is making a slow come back to the spotlight, although it would probably take another couple of decades till it is as popular as it was only 100 years ago unless some other popular music genre steals the spotlight. In the past couple of years, I have seen an ever-increasing number of singers who want to sing classically. The problem is that while a lot of beginner singers want to learn how to sing classically they do not actually enjoy classical music and they only want to learn because it makes them stand out of the ever-increasing crowd of singers.
Although there are plenty of singers who do not like the music genre which they are singing, and some of them even managed to be very successful with it. I am a big fan of people teaching themselves to sing, as oftentimes these singers are fairly malleable and you might get surprised by how far they can go with just a few adjustments to their voices. However, I know a lot of singers who teach themselves how to sing having a difficult time singing classically.
The main problem seems to be a lack of direction, there is not a lot of information about singing classically and the ones who do offer some advice often are personal opinions of the vocal coach. If you know some vocal coaches you probably noticed that each and every one of them have their own opinion about classical singing and most of them do contradict each other, no wonder there is so much confusion around singing classically.
If you as a singer want to learn how to sing classically only because you think that this will be your big break, then sorry to say so but it will probably never happen. Classical singing like opera singing is a very niche singing genre, the barrier of entry is extremely high and the payout is mediocre at best, if you want to know what exactly takes to be an opera singer and how much they earn on average then check out my recent article How to become a professional opera singer? ( In 10 Easy Steps ).
Listen to classical music before starting to sing classically
There are a lot of beginner singers who do not actually listen to classical music but they still want to be classical singers. The problem with this is that it will be extremely hard for them to learn how to sing classically if they are not listening to this genre of music. Although I am not saying that you should love listening to classical music, what I am saying is that if you want to learn then you will have to learn from the best, and by far one of the easiest ways it listens to the classical singers sing.
Believe it or not, but once you start searching for different kinds of classical music you will be amazed that there is a classical singing genre almost fit for anybody. My personal recommendation is to also listen to some instrumental classical songs as this way you will get to feel the music. The big difference between classical music and contemporary music is that contemporary music has a couple of seconds of music which basically loops till the end of the song with minor differences, you will not find these short few second music loops in classical music. My recommendation is to learn some easy classical songs to sing in English, this way you will have at least a grasp of what is classical music actually like.
Sing classically by learning Italian
Most classical music is in Italian or even in some cases in Latin, this is true classical singing. However, there are plenty of English and other language classical singers who do just fine. But if you want to be a true classical singer then you will need to sing classical songs which are in Italian. While I am not saying that you should take Italian language lessons, although it might be a good idea, what I am saying is to learn at least the correct pronunciation of the words in Italian.
If you have ever heard an Italian speaking then you know that the intonations in the words are fairly excessive, and this is what it makes great for singing. If you do not have the budget for an Italian language teacher then try to hang around Italian people who actually speak Italian. The problem is that Italy has a lot of regions and almost all of them do have their own regional language, which doesn’t even sound like it is Italian.
Classical singing technique
The classical singing technique is fairly strict and this is why so many beginner singers do struggle with it. You will have to learn to sing with an open throat and to know which words to put emphasis on. As I have previously mentioned the correct pronunciations of the words are also extremely important. Singing with an open throat and with long words which most Italian classic songs do have will be a challenge for even advanced singers.
One of the main problems which prevent a lot of singers to sing classically is the way you will have to learn to mix your classical singing technique and your classical singing style. The classical singing style is basically your own style which you use while you sing. The problem is that most singers have a background in pop music and the style which they learned while singing pop music which will be fairly useless for classical singing.
Classical singing breathing technique
Breathing is extremely important no matter what kind of music you are singing, the truth s that breathing is even more important for classical singing. If you are singing Italian classical songs then you will find that the words are fairly long and you will have to put emphasis on some words, which will take a lot of effort if you do not have enough air in your chest. You will have to take breathing techniques very seriously and with plenty of practice, you will be able to sing classically. If you want to know more about classical singing breathing techniques then check out my recent article Proper breathing technique for singing ( Top 12 Techniques ).
Classical singing exercises
If you want to know how to sing operatically or classically you will have to use classical singing exercises. Most of these are focused on breathing while singing as classical singing needs a lot of air, especially if you are singing in Italian. If you are singing classically in English then you are lucky as the words are not so long and you probably already know how to pronounce the words correctly. By far one of the best classical singing exercises is to do lip rolls, I won’t go in-depth about how to do it as the above-mentioned article has all the info that you will need.
Go to the opera to learn how to sing classically
If you are serious about singing classically then you must watch the best classical singers perform, and the best place for this is the opera. There is a set specific period when you can go to opera plays if I remember correctly the operatic season is from September till May. If you are on a tight budget then try to go to the opera in September or October, as once the holiday season comes the ticket price will skyrocket.
On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to live next to a conservatory then you basically have free access to opera plays during the seasons. Most opera houses do make plays with their students and usually, the seats are free, in case the seats are not free they are still a lot cheaper than going to the opera itself.
Melismatic singing is vital for singing classically
Melismatic singing is basically the ability of a singer to sing different notes in quick succession. The problem is that not a lot of singers know how to use melismatic singing as it is fairly hard. Generally speaking, you could become a successful singer and never need to use melismatic singing. Although not everybody will recommend you to learn melismatic singing if you want to sing classically, the truth is that if you learn melismatic singing then singing classically will be a lot easier.
If you have ever listened to classical singers perform, no matter if they are singing in English or Italian, then you have probably noticed that they are extremely fast in switching notes, oftentimes in quick succession. In my opinion, by far one of the best traits of a classical singer is to be able to sing melismatically, without it you are just an average classical singer. One of the main problems of people learning melismatic singing is that their voice tends to crack up fairly often if this is true also for you then check out my recent article Voice cracks when singing high notes? ( How to fix it? ).
Read sheet music for classical singing
Yup, there it is by far this is the main barrier for a lot of singers which stops them from becoming classical singers. The truth is that not a lot of singers actually know to read sheet music, even some singers who have gone through conservatory tend to stop reading sheet music once they get their degree. The problem is that if you are signing contemporary music is that you will not be needed to read sheet music, like ever.
On the other hand, if you do not know how to read sheet music and you want to become a classical singer then your odds of success are slim to none. If you have ever been to a singing audition then you already know that the main quality what they are looking for is a good personality and voice. Although these are the same things in a classical singing audition people look for, but in addition to this they will test you if you can read sheet music.
No matter how good of a singer you might think you are, for classical singing if you do not know how to read sheet music then you are basically considered unworkable with by many people. Now do not get discouraged, if you do not know how to read sheet music, the truth is that it isn’t as difficult to learn as you might think. There are plenty of online tutorials from which you can learn, and if you fail at becoming a classical singer then you will have at least an edge over the other pop singers who generally speaking do not know how to read sheet music.
Practice singing classically
As you have probably noticed, singing classically is not that easy. You will have to learn some new stuff and to practice as much as you can. Now you might think that the classical singing scene is a fairly small one and the competition between singers shouldn’t be that high. The truth is that yes the classical singing scene is fairly small compared to other singing genres, the problem is that the competition is trough the roof and you will find that the quality of your voice is just one small aspect of your ability to become a classical singer.
There are a couple of steps and new things you need to learn if you want to sing classically. The truth is that classical singing isn’t meant for anybody, but if you are determined then my recommendation is to start learning the new stuff and slowly to incorporate them into your singing technique.