The Singer Not The Song

What defines an unforgettable voice, and is a great voice born or made? In this series we will not only hear and analyse some of the best voices across the last century, but also inform about music and the context in which they are singing.


01The Jazz Voice2007010920070723

A great performer must be able to sing in the moment, improvise on demand and take liberties with the phrasing, timing and lyrical content of a song. Singer Jacqui Dankworth and trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton consider just who are the best when it comes to singing jazz.

02The Folk Voice2007011620070724

We consider the qualities essential to sing traditional English folk songs.

In a genre where storytelling ability is paramount, is having a beautiful voice a burden or a blessing?

If it were not for the work of a handful of collectors in the early part of the 20th Century travelling around the country, painstakingly recording the music of the working class, many of the songs which had been orally handed down from generation to generation for hundred of years would have been lost.

Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy, who have been leading figures in the folk revival since the 1960s, discuss the artistry of the folk singer.

03The Blues Voice2007012320070725

We can all quote the lonesome wail of the singer who woke up to find the blues all around his bed; it can be about anything - a woman, a mean boss, the devil himself. But it's not just a sad song, sung slow.

The blues singer has to be the master of the quick emotional change, possess a voice that can knock down houses, and unless he has a story to tell he won't have much of a future. The Blues grew from the experiences of the Afro American, but does the blues singer have to be poor and black?

04The Rock Voice2007013020070726

There are those voices that can easily be denied a place in the Jazz or Blues hall of fame, but you'll rarely hear of a singer who is excluded from the genre of rock music. It's perhaps the most diverse and inclusive genre of music, but is there any common ground that might define what we mean by rock?

The vocalist plays the key role in the band - characterised by swagger, confidence and the ability to dominate the stage. But what kind of vocal talent and range do we expect from a rock singer?

05 LASTThe Tenor Voice2007020620070727

Peter Auty, one of Britain's leading tenors, joins singing teacher Peter Wilson in trying to unravel the mystery of the tenor. The operatic tenor is an extremely rare talent. It's the highest male vocal range and one of the most prized, the most difficult to maintain and the most in demand.

The tenor must possess the heart of a lion if he's to perform the high wire vocal acrobatics that can make an audience's, and his own, heart stop. Training the tenor voice presents teachers of singing with a series of problems not encountered with any other voice type.