American Idol 2009 is over and the winner is Kris Allen. We all know that, but I’d like you to vote again.
Yes, I’d like you to compare their voices simply from one technical point of view, and then vote with your own conclusion based on that one point.
Now, bear with me, a technical point of view doesn’t mean that the viewpoint has to be boring. In fact, the opposite is true. Anyone who wants to know more about singing – that’s YOU – discovers all sorts of exciting things about techniques along the way.
For instance, I’d like to talk about vocal projection, which simply means sending your voice on a journey, a journey to a distant place, past all boundaries and obstacles. After you explore this journey of vocal projection with me, I’ll get back to Kris and Adam, so take a deep breath and let it out slowly (see, I’ve already given you something to do to help your voice).
Where is this distant place where you are going to send your voice? Think of it as a spot on top of a mountain, way over there – somewhere out in front of you. You can see the mountain but you aren’t near it. You’re on top of a different mountain and there is a canyon in between. You can see the highest point, but you can’t get there from where you are.
All of a sudden, you see someone whom you haven’t seen in years standing on the top of the mountain. Someone you care about and love with everything in your being. But you are on this side of the canyon and he is on the other side of the canyon. He does not know you are there and so does not see you.
What to do?
You yell loudly, but the wind is blowing through the trees and the sound is bigger than your voice. The canyon and wind form a boundary line, a barrier for you. So, you yell louder, but the only result is a sore throat and a cracking sound in your voice.
Next, you try jumping up and down and waving your arms, but you are too far away and it doesn’t do the trick.
You consider lighting a fire. That will get attention, but probably only from the fire and police departments. Besides, the fire would just chase your loved one away.
So, now what?
You think back to something your singing teacher (yes, you have a singing teacher, it’s me!) told you about projecting your voice, something you did not fully understand at the time. Quickly, you try to recall what she said and then envision seeing her cup her hands around her lips and calling out to someone. You remember her telling you to do the same, imagining that you have to get your voice through a tiny hole in the corner of the room where the ceiling meets the two walls. Her voice sounded really loud when she did it, almost like yelling, but it didn’t seem like she hurt her throat.
“Do it,” you call out through the wind. “Get over yourself and do it!”
You cup your hands, placing them around your lips, then remembering that she told you to let go of the tension in your hands, your neck, your jaw and your belly, you plant your feet and call out “Hello,” stretching out the vowel “o,” like she did.
The sound doesn’t get very far and it bugs you because it doesn’t sound good enough to go anywhere, let alone over to the other mountain. You look down and kick the dirt, berating yourself. When you look up again, you see your loved one starting to walk away, not because you don’t sound good, but because he can’t hear you. Frantically, you try again.
“Hellooooooooo,” you call out through the wind, “hellooooooo, heloooooo,” with more urgency and higher pitched now, “heloooooooooooo.”
Something connects inside of you. Your whole body feels alive for the first time in years, almost like every cell is tingling, vibrating with power and joy. You realize that you aren’t just calling out anymore, but you are singing and your voice is strong, so you keep singing out across the canyon. You begin to hear your voice reverberate against the huge granite boulders and it gets louder and louder as you let it go, not caring how it sounds anymore. You are totally focused on making sure your beloved hears you.
Suddenly, you see him turn his head in your direction and now you can tell that he sees you. He calls back to you and BOOM, there’s an earthquake, and all the boulders fall down around you and you never see your loved one again!
No, seriously, when being heard is so important to you that you don’t care about anything else, you will let go of all your tension and unleash the natural power of your voice. That’s what it means to project your voice.
Now, back to Kris and Adam. From a strictly technical point of view, who do you think sent his voice on the furthest projection journey?
For my money, it was Adam all the way. His projection technique was much more developed than Kris’s. By the way, when Kris responded to winning, even he seemed to know it….”it should have been Adam….”
I won’t talk about the differences in their energy or pitch control in this article, but there’s no question that Adam knew more about projecting his voice than Kris, although I have to say that every once in a while, Kris did effectively project and break through his own boundaries.
But if you watch the American Idol videos again and compare the two of them simply on the basis of what I’ve written about sending your voice on a projection journey, which one do you think wins?