ask jenny > Switching fach

Dear Jennifer,

First of all, a resounding thank-you for all your work on your blog. It has been so helpful for me and I'm sure also for other young singers.

My question is about changing fach, and in particular, switching from mezzo to sop and back: did you find there were any difficulties adjusting to a new sense of voice and/or any external restrictions ?

I know that one's voice is one's voice is one's voice, and fachs are largely artificial constructs anyway, but I'm finding 'switching' from sop to mezzo (finally! after many suspicions, but being too shy to challenge the status quo i.e. challenge my voice teacher at the time) is simultaneously a huge relief and something posing its own new set of challenges.

Were there any new challenges that you found upon making the switch, either in terms of how you think about singing, or how others perceived your voice and possibilities?

Specific questions I've been thinking about include: 'What kind of repertoire am I 'allowed' to sing/is there any protocol for when to steal higher or lower pieces [specifically in Handel or other early music]?', and 'where will they put me in choirs, and which voice part should I ask to sing [beyond avoiding choirs entirely]?' and also 'how to navigate that tricky middle voice area (before it dips into chest voice) that sometimes goes breathy and tiring but which shouldn't do that because I am, after all, a mezzo, and it should be heard clearly...'

Congratulations on your baby, and all best wishes! I really hope to hear you perform live sometime :)

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterazalais

Hi there!

Well, it's hard to give someone advice when I've never heard them. I can tell you that when I switched from soprano to mezzo in grad school, I had been singing things like O Luce di quest' Anima, and everyone thought I was crazy. But it all worked out fine. :) The reason I was personally able to make the switch was that my new teacher had me finding the space in my soft palette (you can do this easily by reaching your thumb in there and touching it - it will reflexively raise, then sing a note and feel that space). I personally had been previously singing very forward, which didn't reveal all the sounds I had. But the thing about voice classification is that we are all just singers, and if your voice sounds more meaty in the middle, and you are drawn to that repertoire, you can go for it. In terms of "stealing" other rep - I think you can sing anything that feels comfortable and doesn't sound or feel like you are straining. However, when it comes to auditioning for young artist programs and such, you kind of have to stick to more specific mezzo repertoire or they find it confusing. In choir, I would always choose to sing Alto because it's better for you as a musician to sing harmony and it's way easier on your voice to sing a lower line in a choir. And the tricky middle voice - that's just a matter of practice and probably a matter of keeping it lined up on the breath at all times. Just being aware of it is the first step towards making it better! I wish you the best of luck - and don't be afraid to sing any baroque repertoire that tickles your fancy - they didn't even classify in those days, so you shouldn't have to either!

June 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterJenny

Thank you so much! congratulations again, and I hope your stay in Colorado (my home state) goes well!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterazalais