One of the classes I tried and did all right in was a voice class. A very small group of perhaps fifteen students.
I have a very unusual soprano voice. It's not loud. I've never been able to project it much, and I tried everything. I remember the professor in that class always hounding me to "sing louder!" But when I did, my voice quality went down the tubes. The break between my chest voice and head voice(ie the voice you speak with vs the "girly" voice you might slip into to talk to a baby or a pet) was still a pretty big gap when I was 18. I've since gained better control of that gap, but that is beside the point.
The dynamic range for volume goes from triple piano(as quiet as you can sing) to triple forte(the loudest you can sing.) I think my triple forte is somewhere around the forte range. Loud, but without a microphone I'd be drowned right out by the music around me. If I want to have an audible crescendo(growing of the sound), I have to drop my voice to triple piano and grow from there, or you won't notice it. I can get to triple forte if I sing in my chest voice, however my range is more limited.
When I joined my church choir in 2001, I showed that I can learn music pretty fast if I'm allowed to sit and listen to it over and over again. The harder and crazier the music is, the more likely I'll memorize it. Once I know a song, I'll pretty much get 99% of the notes right all the time. Once in awhile I might sing too sharp or flat or hold a note too long, but everyone does that!
The director of that choir was Hayden. I didn't think he could hear me singing at all, but I was wrong. He started calling me one of his best sopranos when he'd introduce me to people. I was intrigued and it felt GOOD to be complimented, but I asked him why he thought I was one of his best sopranos. I expected him to say that I sing the right notes when I'm supposed to, but he shocked me.
"Cyndi, you have such a unique voice. It's so light and clear. Most sopranos can't sing the notes you can sing as quietly as you and have it still sound beautiful. There are sopranos who would love to have a voice like yours. You have a true angel's voice. Don't ever change it."
That was the first time anyone ever said "angel's voice" to me, but it wasn't the last. I hear that from people who happen to be standing in front of me when I'm at a Mass where the choir isn't singing.
The thing is, there was a time when my bully-scarred self couldn't accept the compliment. I used to think my voice was broken because I couldn't sing very loud with it. Now I know it's my voice and it is beautiful in its own right. I can sing songs in ways other sopranos can't. That doesn't make me the best singer in the world. I just happen to have a voice that is unusual.
My current choir director, John, taught me and my choir a new way to look at the dynamic range. He said not to imagine singing to triple forte as getting louder, but rather to imagine the sound getting bigger like a big balloon expanding around you. He said don't push the sound, but instead to get your muscles in the right place and let the sound happen. Basically, instead of thinking I'm sitting in the roller coaster car being chugged up the hill, I should imagine myself already at the top when the magnets release, throw my arms up in the air and enjoy the ride!
I've noticed a difference in how I sing now. I don't think I sing any louder than I used to, but I feel bigger. I feel like I'm creating more sound.
A supportive environment and people encouraging you to use what you have in a way that works for YOU does wonders for a person's self-esteem! In the twelve years I've been with my church choir, I've come to really love my voice and what I can do with it.
And I am still hoping to conquer my stage fright by someday singing a solo in front of my church. To me, that will be my greatest personal achievement.