Are vocal lessons a necessity to a performer’s training?
A useful tool and investment for any actor wishing to enter the entertainment industry, or rather an added extra cost that seems perhaps less ‘vital’ than crucial other expenditures when beginning one’s career. Is vocal training truly necessary to succeed as a performer, and more importantly is it worth it?!
As a drama school graduate myself I found vocal training dominated a great deal of my classes and time during the 3 year learning process. Supporting one’s breathe, projecting to the back of a space, using select techniques in which to keep the voice healthy, but is this something people need to spend money on? Hopefully this article will give you some options to weigh up and provide you with a clearer opinion as a result.
Let’s first start with the positives of having a firm vocal training, most commonly utilised in drama schools, but also seen to be used across many social based platforms in recent years. Platforms such as motivational speaking, singing, presenting and even as a way of building ones confidence via the way they control and monitor their voice. Our instrument requires a great deal of TLC to function at its fullest capacity and when entering a large London based theatre, or rather auditorium, you will need to project and strike your voice across a vast amount of space. To do this requires technique, but I suppose again the question remains does this kind of training need to be the pinnacle of 3 years of study? Funnily enough my course was sponsored and supported by well known Hollywood star Kevin Spacey, a man who visited a fair few occasions to offer his guidance on student monologues and help advise us on the difficult rise to becoming an actor.
As a course we were invited to see his one man performance at The Old Vic Theatre, to which he was artistic director for many years, and attend an after show discussion with him to ask some brewing questions we had. One student mentioned the role of vocal training and its MANY areas of focus, querying whether the voice needed such attention and if Mr Spacey himself readily practiced or attempted to ground and/or support his voice on or before coming on set. Spacey’s response was a tad unexpected, ‘in my opinion you have only got one voice so use it, sometimes I scream to the back of a space and care little about support. If you want to convey emotion with the voice go for it and screw technique, don’t hold back!’ At this point all our vocal coaches turned away in slight despair (as you can imagine) whilst our minds were sent spinning after a radical speech brought all the work our coaches had passed on to us into question. Not everyone works in the same way and although Kevin Spacey is a respected actor and director his way of working will differ I’m sure tremendously from others. Still doesn’t hurt to question the norm.
Moving on deeper into the expenditure of a vocal coach may prove surprisingly costly when compared to the added extras within a set drama course. Private attention and training costs and it is up to the individual whether they consider this to be the more worthwhile option, or if the money should be spent on something more beneficial. Such as spotlight (casting sites), travel expenses to auditions, creating showreels, etc. Actors have a lot to invest in and in the grand scheme of things is vocal training just slowing down and wasting away the already limited budget many people don’t have to waste. I suppose if you are successful in the future, or the company hiring you believes a little vocal attention is necessary then a situation like that has a great deal more positives, but if you are a recent graduate with a debt the size of Mount Everest over you then…well you be the judge. Then does all that 3 year vocal training at drama school disappear without practice or a guiding hand to take you any further?
Questions, varying prospectives and no answers, but like many things in the arts industry you never reach a definite end, but rather the end of a chapter in the knowledge of starting a brand new one shortly after. Vocal training can be costly, but whether this cost becomes an investment is up to the individual to decide.
Article written by Luke Redhead.