Another week and another round of singers eliminated from the hit TV show, “The Voice”. In the Battle Rounds, singers go “head to head” and the winners are selected by their coaches.
In some cases the judges’ selections seemed kind of shocking and clearly they were a result of what the coaches have seen of each singer behind the scenes (that we aren’t privy to) … as opposed to how they performed on the actual song.
In other cases it was crystal clear who won, and in only a couple it was a virtual tie … these resulted in steals; swapping singers from one coaches team to another. The “Steal of the Week” that I am going to focus on is the steal that landed Jake Barker on Team Adam’s team. The reason I am calling it the steal of the week is not so much because he was the top singer stolen (that honor goes to Britnee Camelle in my opinion) but rather that he happened to land with the PERFECT coach to fix what seems to be his most glaring issue vocally.
By adding both of these singers Team Adam looks strong moving forward. Let’s learn what we can from the technical issues that caused Jake Barker to be available for the steal in the first place.
If you listen to Jake in the video above you will hear that he has a breathy, silky-smooth delivery that reminds me somewhat of Justin Timberlake … high praise. Jake utilizes some fluid work with his runs (what is referred to as “coloratura” singing in classical technique). There are a few times where he looks a little strained in incorporating his runs into the differing style of this particular song and this resulted in him falling behind the beat a tiny bit in one spot. That, however, was extremely minor and could simply be written off as stylistic license … maybe he WANTED to play with the rhythm a bit (often referred to as “rubato” in musical circles).
What troubles me about Jake’s voice as a listener, and why I am excited about him working with Adam Levine to see how Adam tackles this issue, is his falsetto singing … or rather, his lack of a supported head voice. Since he relies on such a breathy sound the way that he achieves his high notes is by flipping into a falsetto voice (as you can hear more of in his audition below). He uses this to great effect with his runs, but at times he tends to get “pitchy” … in other words, he does not sing every note accurately on pitch.
The reason for this is what I am going to call un-supported singing. In flipping from chest voice to falsetto, and basically bypassing any head voice, Jake creates a challenge for himself in terms of supporting his sound “on the breath”. Basically, as singers, you want your sound to primarily be supported by your breath (i.e. allowing your natural breath to vibrate your relaxed vocal cords, as opposed to “muscling” the support and forcing breath through tightened vocal cords). You can see at various points in Jake’s singing that he is clearly “muscling” things by his facial expressions and strained neck muscles.
There is a time and place for everything … but a singer should be using things like straight tone (achieved by “muscling” the sound), falsetto, or other vocal affectations (even true with vibrato for certain song styles) as one of the many skills on their palate to vocally paint with. When a singer uses one of these affectations as their primary way of singing, they can run into problems.
For instance, I have been trained to sing opera and thus sing from a relaxed voice that has vibrato present all the time when I am singing in an opera. When I go to sing karaoke and select a rock song, if I were to try and sing with the exact same type of support it not only would sound ridiculous but it could actually be painful … it doesn’t FIT that song choice. So I choose a different style of support that matches the song that I am singing and support my voice in that manner … a “rock sound” is achieved with more muscling and straight tone involved. So I incorporate that style into my technique for affect … I am still coming from the core base of my usual vocal technique however. I am not “muscling” every single note of the song … if I were to do so I would be straining and missing notes (i.e. “getting pitchy”). I pick and choose where I am going to incorporate this style for effect and thus produce a rock sound that still is supported from my core technique of “on the breath singing”.
Enter Adam Levine. Listen to his hit song “Moves Like Jagger” and note how when he goes into the chorus his high notes have a stronger quality.
This is a perfect example of a seamlessly blended head voice as Adam goes up the scale on his “Mo-o-o-o-oves like Jagger” run … he does not go into a full falsetto but rather uses a head voice and falsetto mix. Adam probably could sing the high note full voiced, but he uses the mixed head voice as a stylistic expression that is part of his style and what has made him a star. He doesn’t sing like this ALL the time … he uses it as an effect. This blended head voice also allows him easier access to his full head voice and chest voice … it’s not such a drastic “flip” to and from different registers. That flip in between registers is what is very apparent to me in Jake Barker’s singing.
If Jake Barker can learn breath support from Adam, and how to blend his registers together … he could go a VERY long way in this competition, and possibly win it all. He has a lot of learning to do, however, before the proverbial horse gets in front of THAT apple cart.
Best of luck though, Jake … I truly wish you the best and hope you are able to learn all you can from the very skilled technician who is your coach!
If you would like to learn how to blend your registers, so that there is not a noticeable “break” between your registers, give me a call and we’ll set up a one-on-one voice lesson.
Christopher Anderson-West is a conservatory trained operatic tenor and voice teacher currently living in Southern Orange County, California. Christopher is pleased to be working with Raise The Barre dance studio as a Vocal Instructor and teacher of a weekly class on Musicianship For Singers.
Christopher studied both voice and composition for five years at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has had the honor of performing in England, France, Italy, China, and around the United States.
As a voice teacher, Christopher’s method is primarily based on the operatic bel canto technique; meaning “beautiful singing”. This technique is currently employed in not only opera, but virtually every form of singing from Pop, to R&B, to Broadway and more … the principles can be carried over as a basis for just about any style of singing.
Christopher’s goal is to impart a healthy vocal technique that will allow you or your child to progress confidently into whatever field of music you or they enjoy.