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Do I have the voice to be a successful opera singer?

I'm an 18-year-old soprano, and have taken voice lessons for 1 year. Please note this is not a question of "can I get better?" but rather, "based on the natural qualities of my voice, how likely is it that in 10 years, I'd be singing at an A-level opera house?" 

On a scale from 0 (0= terrible voice, no chance) to 10 would be helpful, as well as which number you'd assign an average Joe. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. I do realize that becoming an opera singer takes more work than talent, however, the difference between having an amazing voice and working, versus having a bad voice and working, could be between singing at A-level houses, and not getting jobs at all. I'm at a crossroads of whether to keep singing, or to mostly stop and concentrate on my studies so I can go to medical school instead.

I'm singing Tu Lo Sai. If the sketchy intonation and rhythm make it too difficult for you to observe my voice, I can re-record, but otherwise I'm aware of my musical problems, and can fix them when the song is less new. I really need feedback on my natural voice quality.

Please be honest! Thanks.



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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359
    edited January 2015


    I would probably assign and average Joe about a 3 with little chance of making it in Opera.

    I would assign you about a 6 from where you are now.  That means you have a bit of natural range, but as you pointed out, there are intonation issues and also support issues.  From your post, it's evident that you are aware that great singers ARE made from YEARS of training. Natural Ability is a big plus, but won't cut it without the solid years of training.

    Your tone is good.

    Opera as a profession is very competitive and requires years of intense training.  Those years of intense training would bring about a lot of improvement for you, but that's not what you asked about.

    I think your natural voice is trainable to become much better, but you would be competing with others who also have natural abilities and are aggressively training and are possibly years ahead of you on this training.  That is something for you to consider.  A-Level Opera Houses are going to be looking for A-Level Opera Singers.  So I'm not so sure you should leave studies that would give you a more certain income for the rest of your life, in order to take a chance on a field that is much smaller and more fiercely competitive.  You can still move forward with the medical career and continue to train your voice for use in theater, public performance, and other opportunities, upon which your livelihood would not depend. 

    Part of deciding to go for a full-time career in music is a drive that leaves no option for other choices.  That said, most musicians, even many of the stars we may all admire, had to have "day jobs" in order to position themselves to be in the right place at the right time to get their Big Break.  Others that we do not know about have done the same thing and never got the Big Break.  We have to have a plan "B" in case the A-Level house does not hire us after all our hard work.  Depending on where you live, you may have to relocate simply to be in the right place to get the right breaks and train with instructors who have connections to the A-Level houses.

    Certainly the A-Level House will never call you if you don't do the work that it takes to get there.  But you may do the work and someone else may get the role.  Be practical and realistic about this. 

    Make good decisions about your future that you will be able to live with. 

    Good luck with your singing and your choices.


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    toscatosca Member Posts: 3
    Thank you so much for your detailed advice, Bob. It's really helpful to me. 

    As far as drive - my family discourages me from singing because I don't have a really special voice, and actually the reason why they got me lessons to start with was to improve my terrible speaking voice, not be an opera singer. No one, including my numerous voice teachers, has actively encouraged me to go into a singing career. I'm good at math and was a national scholarship person in high school, etc. etc. so it seems I'm simply better at school than at singing. I don't want to be mediocre. My best skill is identifying metaphor, and thinking, and all my thinking actually holds me back in singing (I overthink it and it doesn't sound natural.) This constitutes my rationale for not singing full-time.

    I don't have rationale for continuing to sing. I suppose I came here to see if there is any. If you'd put me at roughly a 6, would you guess most top-tier opera singers would have been 8-10 when at my level? 

    I keep singing whenever I'm alone because I can't let go of something - maybe music, probably the idea of being an opera singer. I play other instruments, but I don't want to be a full time violinist. Opera feels meaningful to me because it allows me to live so many different lives through the stories and music, and that's part of why I don't want to give it up. I don't want to only live my own life; I want to experience other people's.

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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359
    edited January 2015


    Yes, I do think it would take at least an "8" on the scale to have a good chance at success at an A-Level house.  It might even take a "9".  That is because of what you demonstrated on your recording, which included intonation issues.

    An important thing you mention is that Opera feels meaningful to you, and that it's hard to give up.  Many vocal students do overthink their singing.  That's why you really have to immerse yourself in it, to make it more of an instinctive thing after your training begins to kick in.  That's where the beauty comes from when you can let go and become a part of the music and the stories. 

    You should look for some kind of balance in your life that is acceptable to you where you can have both financial security and inner fulfillment. I can't tell you what that is going to be, but it may mean that your singing may have to be a semi-pro bono while making a good living supporting yourself with some of your other talents. 

    If it's all-or-nothing operatic musical success or medical career, then you have to sort that out.  A compromise could work out to be a source of both income AND fulfillment.

    I don't know what I ever would have done without music in my life.  I've always performed, since I was a teenager.  That's all I wanted to do, and that's all I did for a while, until that derailed.  Then I had to implement Plan "B".   My Plan "B" was that I had to earn a living.  But I couldn't leave music.  So I did both.  Work and Play.  That takes a lot of effort, to be successful at two different forms of earning money.  But I've always had performances to look forward to, to prepare for, and to lose myself in. 

    The fact that I've been paid quite often for something that I love to do is a privilege, and it's also a nice little financial plus.  The day jobs that I've worked have usually been fairly highly-paid, and yet I've boosted that income by a reasonable percentage through regular musical employment... and all that time I spent working for "the man" I paid into retirement funds.  Not bad for Rock and Roll.

    I think you may be able to come up with the right solution for yourself, one that allows you to take care of your heart, while keeping a nice roof over your head and looking out for yourself.

    Give it some time and see if the answer comes to you.

    All the Best.


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    toscatosca Member Posts: 3
    Thank you so much. I tend to see all-or-nothing, but you inspire me to do both what I need or want, so thank you!
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    wrokonwrokon Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 21
    edited January 2015

    I'm not even sure where to begin. I had an idea I knew what was coming when I opened that mp3...

    Bob played the role of the objective professional and he answered the questions that you actually asked. I'll play the role of the virtual brother and I'm going to fill in some blanks.

    First, please allow me to give you a virtual slap in the face. *SMACK*

    Wake up!!

    Do you love singing or not? Do you love opera or not? YOU ARE EIGHTEEN. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO. TWICE. MAYBE EVEN THREE TIMES. And I thought I was self-critical! Do you know how many people on this forum would KILL to be able to go back to when they were eighteen and start singing???

    You asked:

    "based on the natural qualities of my voice, how likely is it that in 10 years, I'd be singing at an A-level opera house?" 

    I have no idea, but I will guarantee that you will be singing better than 99.99% of the population. Not very many people can reach the top. You may or may not be able to; you won't know until you try. But will reaching (or failing to reach) the top have any effect on your happiness?

    You said:

    "As far as drive - my family discourages me from singing because I don't have a really special voice"

    I'm going to repeat myself: there's so many things wrong with this sentence, I don't even know where to begin. How many years have you been working on your self-stated strong skill of identifying metaphor and thinking? And how many years have you been singing? Ok.

    There is danger in an overbearing family. You may lose yourself. You may keep doing things just because you are good at them or because your parents want you to and lose touch with what it is that you actually love to do.

    You said:

    "I don't have rationale for continuing to sing. I suppose I came here to see if there is any."

    This feels surreal. Did you actually write that? And Bob, did you read that??

    What kind of rationale were you expecting? YES YOU SOUND LIKE THE NEXT <insert famous soprano here>!! Rationale?? This is not a test. This is your life. If you enjoy singing, then sing!


    PS your progress after one year is exactly 9.871 light years ahead of my progress after one year
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