What is Tone?
As we've talked about in our lessons together, remember that the goal is always, "best tone ever." Tone is how you chose to do a note. Were you breathy, overdriven, nasally, gritty, ringy? These are examples of tone. You have the ability to do multiple complex tonal frequencies. Tone is not: pitch, rhythm, lyric, melody or a note.
Okay let's get into somethings that could be controversial...
There are qualities that make your voice unique, you have to embrace those qualities otherwise when you harmonize or sing with another singer it will highlight tonal weaknesses. Much like two guitarists playing at the same time, you quickly can identify if someone is playing a guitar that actually has harsh frequencies.
I'm not bagging on people, I just want to stress that it's important it is that you embrace your instrument and not focus on what you do (e.g. showing off range) but rather how you do it. To be even clearer, if you're a biological male doing a duet with a full-voiced female, if you cut out frequencies in your voice in order to sing higher, she will eat you for breakfast (unless she also cuts out frequencies, which is a whole other discussion.) The same is true for two singers with similar voices. Imagine your sound is like the tip of a spear. You both can't be the cutting forefront sound. You have to make a choice together to decide who is taking the lead and who is supporting. (Have Will show you an example if this is confusing).
Why did you say, biological males?
Because anatomy makes a difference. *deep breath* Men and women have different voices. This has nothing to do with sexuality. This is your anatomy. Women have shorter vocal folds versus men. This allows females to sing higher than men more naturally. In the same way, most men can sing lower with much less ease because their vocal folds (vocal cords) are thicker and longer [check it]. A good example of this would be playing a ukelele versus a guitar. Though both can play the same notes, the tone will be very different.
Training will allow you to push the extremities of the instrument but make no mistake, this is an instrument we're talking about. Your gender plays a role in your instrument. If you choose to not embrace the qualities of your natural voice, it will make a sound a restricted sound. Perhaps the audience won't know the exact words. but they can definitely tell that this is not a comfortable area to sing in. It's like playing one drum on a drum set. Trained ears can sense if there's more to a voice than what is being shown.
What if I'm part of the LGBTQ community and I'm looking to sing differently for my art?
Trust me, I get your stance. I also understand that music is subjective because it's art. I submit to you though to look at voices like Freddie Mercury, Elton John, or David Bowie. They are masters at their craft because they embraced the qualities in their voice that made them unique. You can still be sensual, sexual, out-there-and-proud, but you owe it to your music to use the full scope of your instrument.
But what about when someone sings in falsetto?
Falsetto has been popularized in trends more and more in the pop genre (as you can see here). Though it IS impressive when someone sings in falsetto, this is a false voice. Think of falsetto as coloring of the note. It's a tonal way of doing the note, it is not the only way you have to do the note. You always have choices. For example, you can choose to support a falsetto note (e.g. Steve Perry from Journey) or you can choose to sing it without much support (e.g. Justin Timberlake). Remember from our lessons that pitches are distances. How you choose to go to this distance is a tonal choice. If we stay in that falsetto area (e.g. The Bee Gees) we run the risk of people never really hearing our instrument. Is this important? Well, I'll ask you, did the Bee Bees make your list of your favorite singers ever?
I'm gonna guess they didn't. However, maybe you loved their songs or their infectious beats. Sometimes a song can be great despite what the singer is doing. But our goal is to identify tones of singers (not bands/genres) that you identify with the singer's voice. Really think, who is a voice to you that stands out regardless of genre?
Falsetto is like head voice, right?
Afraid not good buddy. Most of the time it's not something that you'll really notice the difference between, but voice teachers can. Have your instructor demonstrate for you the difference. A good indicator if it's falsetto or head voice is that females don't normally use their falsetto. Only males do. Wuuuuttt? Males require using a false voice to achieve a higher pitch at a certain point in their register. Women generally don't have to because (as mentioned before) you have shorter vocal folds meaning you can hit the notes. There is however a point for women called a "whistle voice" A good example of this would be Mariah Carey. The important thing to remember right now is to realize that you have options with how you hit your notes through tone.
In this example, look at Simon Le Bon, this is his song. When you hear him sing the first verse, it sounds great. Very accurate for his voice and how he did it on the record. But when Luciano Pavarotti is placed against him in the next section, Le Bon sounds incredibly small in comparison.
This is an example of two very good singers but it's clearly obvious thank P!nk is in a very comfortable area of her range. Though he can hit those notes well, it causes a sonic contrast. When he's on his own, it's great. Every time she sings at the same time as he does, she highlights a "whinier pushed sound."
Another example of someone embracing qualities in their voice and someone getting trampled on.
Now this is how you work with another singer. Embrace the qualities in your voice and they'll do the same.
This example isn't as much a good example of a duet where the two singers sing as one but this is a good example of not crossing frequencies. As a result we can hear both of their voices for most of the time.
Rad. Notice that both singers are concious of each other's instruments and they don't trample on one another. Both voices can stand on their own or together. Don't stifle your instrument, embrace it!
As you can see, it doesn't just have to be male and female duets where open voices shine. Don't stifle your instrument to make it fit, embrace the differences!