Have you ever listened to a song on a Broadway cast recording and thought, “This singing sounds almost TOO perfect”? That is because, in many cases, it is. Just as nearly all commercial pop songs today are heavily edited, mixed, compressed, equalized, etc. before release, so too are the songs on the vast majority of Broadway recordings. That may seem like a common sense statement, but the implications are wide-reaching for us as performers and teachers. Matt Edwards, Professor of Voice and Musical Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory and Artistic Director of The CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute, explains further:
“I find that young singers often attempt to sound like the recording, which is usually the reason they get hurt. Young singers need to realize that studio recordings are processed. They use compression, reverb, delay, equalization, and sometimes auto-tune. They have to. The modern microphones and the clarity of digital sound make every little imperfection of the NATURAL voice pop right out at you. In order to help smooth things out, engineers use these tools. So what you hear on the recording is not what the singers actually sound like. Most of the time, they are actually singing much quieter than the volume level we listen at when hearing a song through a stereo and especially through headphones.”
Matt even compiled a video reel to demonstrate what certain Broadway singer-actors sound like on and off microphone. As you’ll hear below, these performers often sound much softer live than they do on cast recordings, but they also aren’t ‘pushing’ or straining to produce particular sounds (which is a very good thing). Young singer-actors today may listen to Broadway cast recordings and think they basically have to yell to sound anything like these performers. As you’ll hear in this video, that is not the case. Most directors would much rather watch/listen to a performer who is focused on storytelling rather than someone who just sings as loudly as they can for no particular reason. Technology can be used to make up for volume deficiencies later on.