The Benefits of Cross Training

#pedagogy Apr 26, 2023

The Benefits of Cross Training. My definition of cross training has to do with training vocal function, rather than vocal genre (head voice, chest voice, mixed voice, agility, etc.) to be used in whatever styles my students want to sing. In my opinion, this makes for a more balanced and versatile singer. It is a total voice workout. If you were planning your body workouts, you wouldn’t do leg day every day, right? You would train and strengthen all your body parts. I try not to put traditional labels on the sound and instead use functional labels because, in case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of bias out there between the genres. For example, many mix/belt singers are afraid to train head voice for fear they will sound like an opera singer and many classical sopranos are afraid to train chest voice for fear they will lose their head voice.

 When I began taking lessons, I leapt joyfully into exclusively classical singing and its attendant languages. I became quite the classical snob buying in to the hubristic hierarchy of classical music being the best and shying away from musical theater opportunities. So stupid. I trained my head voice exclusively. My teachers demanded this, for the most part, which turned out to be problematic because I still needed a mix to make my lower register work…which means that my lower register didn’t work.

 All of this wayward thinking came to an abrupt halt during my first week of teaching lessons in 2000. Almost all of my students expected a teacher who was cross trained. They wanted to sing a classical song, a music theater song and a contemporary music song, etc. Fairly quickly I found myself taking mix/belt lessons. Additionally, I have sought out many courses in teaching mix/belt, the most influential of which were at the CCM Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory. I highly recommend this training! 

 Of course, cross training is essential for a pedagogue. I personally don’t know any independent studio teachers who exclusively teach classical singing and make enough money. You will be greatly handicapped as a teacher if you can’t cross train and coach multiple styles. Best of all, in my opinion, is to train the whole instrument and style the sounds based on the genres in which your students wish to sing.