Special Sounds

Controversial Voices part 2

Boukje van Gelder

Boukje van Gelder

Vocal Teacher

In this blog Boukje looks at unique voice colours. There is not one voice the most beautiful in the world and some voices are hated by some and loved by more.

Last blog we looked at how important it is to sing in tune to be allowed to sing. We discovered that singing out of tune isn’t a reason to stay silent at all costs. This blog I will speak about another reason for people to stop singing: the colour of the voice.

Because we’re all different, we also all sound different, natural and cultural factors contribute to that. Naturally, our vocal folds and vocal tract are shaped in slightly different ways, this makes that your voice sounds different from others and that, for example, male voices are generally lower than women’s voices. Culturally we speak different languages and are for example used to speak in a lower or higher range. So many factors contribute to how your voice sounds and that makes it unique.

Besides that, the voice is also a versatile instrument that can make so many different sound colours that we will never get bored. Whether a voice is perceived as beautiful or not is also culturally determined.

Peculiar Colours of the Voice

Unique voice

A voice can give your friend the creeps or move you

This part of the blog is dedicated to singers that are known for their unique voice colour. Here I will give some examples of these kinds of voices. Again: if it’s your favourite artist, don’t be insulted. If you absolutely hate one voice, don’t be bothered, that’s also normal. 

1. Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong- What a wonderful world:

To start with a well known example of a special singer, I give you Louis Armstrong. With a father that plays the trumpet, Sunday afternoons could be filled with Louis Armstrong playing and singing. The voice gives me comfort. Trying to sing like him doesn’t give me comfort and the sound that comes out of my throat is… hmm… dying frog. And my teachers would send me home telling me to take go to bed and drink a lot of ginger tea. But what a wonderful world <3

2. Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom - Sapokanikan

One of my Facebook-friends suggested Joanna Newsom to me. She said this about her own experience with her voice: “At first I hated her voice and I could hardly listen to it. That later changed in great appreciation. Saw her live two times and she’s gooood and very original.” My friend is not the only one with this journey through Joanna Newsom’s singing. I have to confess that I’m still in the first phase of listening to her. But whether you like it or not, she creates her very own sound.

Men singing high

The next two singers are in the same voice category, but in a completely different genre: men singing high. 

3. James Blunt

James Blunt - Goodbye my lover

The first singer, an old-time favourite, is James Blunt.


He constantly sings high with a little bit of rawness in the sound. That makes him unique and he got famous with it. The voice of an angel? I’m not so sure.

4. Jakub Józef Orliński

Jakub Józef Orliński - Vedro con mio diletto (Vivaldi)

Special Sound

The second singer is countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński. If you let a classically trained countertenor sing to an audience that never heard something like him before, they’ll probably laugh. Not everybody is used to men singing like women. But it’s a normal part of the male voice and gives a very specific sound. This sound is not appreciated by everyone.

My voice creeps

5. Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette - Hand in My Pocket

My personal controversial voice is the one of Alanis Morissette. I don’t think she’s a bad singer and I like the music, but there is something in her voice that just starts annoying me after some time. Then I want to put her off.

Special Sound

Voices around the world

What we think is beautiful isn’t necessarily considered the ideal in other cultures. Like we’re not used to their sound. Listen for example to Chinese opera, Mongolian throat singing and also the contrast in sound. They’re almost opposites from what you can do with the voice,

6. Chinese Opera

7. Mongolian throat Singing

The few examples I gave in these two blogs just gave a melted drop of the tip of the iceberg of voice types and colours. What’s so cool, is that all these sounds, whether you hate or love them, are produced by the human voice. And it’s so great that when we sing, we can add a new sound to this collection.

So apart from being afraid of singing out of tune, also don’t be afraid for your own sound. You’re always welcome to try int in a vocal lesson!

A ps.

Ok, also this blog gets a ps: three more special voices: one computer voice, the last castrato and a woman with a very versatile voice! 

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