Picking Songs That “Fit Your Voice” Is Terrible Advice

February 27, 2020

When I was a young singer I heard more than once that I should pick songs that “fit” my voice. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant (what size was my voice, anyway?) but because it was common advice, I took it to be something I should do.

There are a number of scenarios that cause this command to be used. The first one really does a disservice to singers because it reinforces something that isn’t true:  

 I’ve had so many voice clients tell me stories of voice teachers telling them “you have a folk voice,” or a jazz voice, or a classical voice, etc. Then comes the almighty statement that you should “only sing songs that fit your voice.”

 They usually mean “stay in your lane,” whatever the genre is that they’ve chosen for you.

And, mysteriously, that genre is usually the same one that voice teacher feels the most comfortable teaching. Hmmm….

 What’s true is that you can sing any and all genres you want. Period!

Wait, what? Can that really be right? Yes. It’s about knowing how to sound stylistically authentic in whatever style/genre your song lives. This involves vowel color (bright for bluegrass vs. dark for classical), vowel pronunciation, intensity (more for rock vs. less for easy listening), etc.

 Don’t buy into narrowing the field of what’s possible for you to sing. Pick songs you love and explore how to make them sound authentic.


Another related scenario that causes the “fit your voice” command to pop up is if your first run- through of a song doesn’t sound great. The high notes might be too high or the low notes too low. You might have to “belt” in the song and you’ve been told (or told yourself) that you don’t have that kind of voice.

“Belting” is singing higher notes with power. It’s not a kind of voice; it’s a way of using your voice that everyone has access to.

You just may not know how to do it yet. It can be one of the scariest things to learn at first, but with adult supervision (voice coaching) you can do it.

So what may seem like a “bad fit” could simply be the result of a functional skill that you haven’t learned yet.

Or, you could be singing in the wrong key. “But it’s the same key as the recording–that’s the right key!” Not necessarily!

The right key for the singer on the recording may be the wrong key for you.


See my blog entitled What’s Your Key and Do I Have Just One? for more info.


The last scenario that comes into play is singing a song you don’t have an emotional connection to. Even if someone else (a relative, a friend, a voice coach, a choir director, etc.) thinks a song fits your voice, if you don’t like it–don’t sing it!


There are enough fish in the sea that you don’t have to sing a song you don’t want to (unless someone hires you to sing it, and you want to make them happy.)


Ultimately, the term “fits your voice” simply means songs you’d love to sing. If at first one of these songs doesn’t seem right, explore improving a skill that you need to sing it, change the key, or change the feel/arrangement of the song so that you own it.


Mark Bosnian

Mark is an award-winning songwriter and professional voice coach with 30+ years of experience teaching people how to take center stage. He has toured nationally with the 80's hit band Nu Shooz and coached Grammy award nominees, American Idol semifinalists, and singers on The Tonight Show.