Acting in Plays, Singing/Singing


Hi Sean

so i'm gonna be honest.. i can't sing.. and my voice is rough..

but can a person do anything to have a "nice voice"

can you acquire that? or it is something you either have or you don't?
i know you teach people how to sing.. but do they need to already have a good easy on the ears voice? ..

Thank You

Hi, Fouad --

Thank you for the question. The best way for me to answer it is to briefly describe my job and my concerns as a singing teacher / vocal coach. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable.

As a singing teacher, I must first determine your vocal category, i.e., tenor, baritone, bass, etc. Sometimes it’s obvious, but not always -- especially with very young singers. But once that happens, then the training begins. It’s about maximizing and strengthening your vocal range -- again, according to your category and no matter what kind of music you want to sing.

I trained as a baritone for a career in opera. That meant I had to acquire all the vocal and musical skills that every career-oriented operatic baritone must have in order to compete against every other operatic baritone wanting the same job or competing for the same scholarship or cash prize. It’s all very demanding and very precise. In many ways, it’s no different than being an instrumentalist in a professional orchestra. You have to first master your instrument, know the repertoire written for it, and then audition for the job or the position available at the time.

When I was a student, I was very fortunate to have worked with several outstanding teachers who had themselves sustained long-term professional singing careers and could recognize what I needed to add or to adjust in my overall singing technique.

By contrast, a professional vocal coach generally works with singers who are already trained and have been hired for a specific job. For example, a specific role in an opera or Broadway musical. The coach helps prepare the singer musically and dramatically according to the needs of the production and before they begin working with the Conductor.

Since I do both, much of my work is about preparing singers of all ages and types for all sorts of auditions. I’ve been doing that for over thirty years. Along the way, I have had many clients who do not have career ambitions, do not want to compete for anything, and seldom or never sing in public. For these folks, singing is the best therapy in the world. And they are comfortable doing it in front of me. But, it’s still about the vocal category. In other words, high tenors don’t sing the same roles as a baritone and basses will never own a marketable High C.

Your concerns may not be as complex as what I have just outlined.

For the witness, the audience -- a voice that is “easy on the ears” is better than one that’s not. Right?

Not everyone who wants to sing better is driven to pursue a career. But here are some points to consider in order to gradually improve the sound of your voice -- as in, the way you deliver a song -- from what it is right now:

1.  You have to sing on pitch. Your tones must be in harmony with the instrumentalists who accompany you or with other singers who might surround you.

2.  Your lyrics and message must be understood. If we’re wondering what you just said or can’t figure out what the song is about, then it doesn’t matter how pretty your voice might be.

3.  Record yourself. Sing what you love. Don't be afraid to listen to your own voice. Recognize and describe the things you want or need to improve.

Having a pleasing voice is about all of the above and a whole lot more.
Like anything else, you have to be willing to work at it to make it better.

I work with singers and actors in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Check out my website, –
I'm also a music critic for –
When you get to San Francisco and want to make an appointment, contact me at: I am also available for sessions on Skype.

Below are links to my recent articles and interviews:

Program 3 at San Francisco Ballet – Heartaches by the number

A Conversation with Organist Paul Jacobs - This Week at Davies Hall

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg Introduces ‘Rita’ by Donizetti

GISELLE – Now at San Francisco Ballet through Sunday, February 2nd

Zuill Bailey Triumphs in New Recording of Benjamin Britten’s Cello Symphony and Sonata

Launching the Dicterow-DeMaine-Biegel Piano Trio: Old School Genius in the 21st Century

SY SMITH – Just the Thought of You

JEANETTE MacDONALD and The Great American Songbook, Pt. 1 — Close encounters with “Dinah” and “Some of These Days”

Mezzo-Soprano Sasha Cooke: Unmasked at SF Symphony's Masquerade Ball

New on CD: ‘As Long As There Are Songs’, by Stephanie Blythe

A Conversation with Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band

A Conversation with Lucas Meachem - San Francisco Opera’s Barber of Seville

Composer Jake Runestad’s ‘Dreams of the Fallen’ - A Veteran’s Day Happening at the National WWII Museum

Joshua Gersen conducts the San Francisco Symphony in screenings of Hitchcock Classics, 10/30--11/2

Organist Todd Wilson plays ‘The Lodger’ (1927) at Davies Symphony Hall, Halloween Night

GREG FEDDERLY – A Comprimario Tenor Extraordinaire

Olivier Latry – Organist at Notre Dame de Paris, at Davies Hall, 10/12

A Conversation with Soprano Alexandra Silber – This week at Feinstein’s, 10/11-12

SF Jazz Center Goes Baroque - A Conversation with Countertenor David Daniels

Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne—A Daring World Premiere at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Opens 2013 Season with Boito’s “Mephistopheles”

Introducing Cheyenne Jackson and Alexandra Silber as San Francisco Symphony’s Tony & Maria in “West Side Story”

THE GERSHWINS AND ME – A Conversation with Michael Feinstein

A Conversation with Ted Neeley, Hollywood’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

Lawrence Brownlee—On ‘Carmina Burana’, with the SFSymphony—Tuesday, July 30th

On “The Joyless Street” at the Silent Film Festival—An Interview with Matti Bye

Nathan Gunn Is ‘Yeshua’ in San Francisco Opera’s “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene”

Natalie Dessay on ‘Becoming Traviata’—French Soprano bids ‘Adieu’ to opera stage

‘A Grand Romance’—A Spectacular CD from pianist Jeffrey Biegel

Philippe Sly Debuts In 'Cosi fan tutte' at San Francisco Opera

Nicole Henry redefines the '70s with her latest CD, 'So Good, So Right'

Best regards,
Sean Martinfield

Acting in Plays, Singing

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Sean Martinfield


I am a professional vocal coach in San Francisco. I have published over 3300 responses related to vocal training - particularly as it relates to Musical Theatre, Pop/Standard, and Opera. I have 30 years of experience as a personal trainer to working singers and actors in the San Francisco Bay Area. I sang professionally for 20 years and know what it means to live the life of a musician. I can determine your voice category, i.e., Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Alto, Alto Belter, etc., and how to broaden and strengthen your range. Need an audition song for a Broadway Musical? I can assist you with your song selections and help you build an audition portfolio that demonstrates your vocal category and meets the requirements specified in the audition notice. I have created a vocal methodology, "The Belter`s Method". It will enable those in Cabaret and Musical Theatre to practice more efficiently because it focuses on the vocal demands of professional performers and will keep you performance-ready. If what you want is a better voice and more control over your career moves and choices, contact me at: I am also a music and cultural critic for and I interview internationally recognized musicians, singers, dancers, and recording artists -- particularly those who are now appearing or scheduled to perform in San Francisco.


As a vocal coach, I work primarily with singers and actors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. My students range from absolute beginners to working professionals, from kids to senior citizens. The vast majority of my clients come to me through recommendation. I know how to identify any singer's vocal category, i.e., soprano, tenor, alto, baritone, etc. I know how to muscle-up every singer's vocal range and to expand it beyond conventional definitions. I have developed a vocal methodology for those who want to know how to belt, THE BELTER'S METHOD. There are a number of major components to my work as a vocal coach. The first is to identify the client's vocal category and to strengthen and maximize the vocal range accordingly. Then it's about teaching a reliable vocal workout that will enable the client to gain better control of their musicianship. That includes scale work to expand the vocal range and to improve placement, breath control, and diction. Then we work on material for the audition portfolio, the immediate job or assignment, a recording session, etc. My task to is to better equip singers and actors who are hoping to or relying upon their performance skills and vocal endurance to maintain a career in the Performing Arts. My clients regularly appear in cabarets and musical productions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Some have worked in New York and gone on National Tours. For more information, Contact me at:


San Francisco State University – BA in Theatre Arts; graduate work in Theatre, Philosophy, and Comparative Reiligion. Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley – Graduate work in Ethics

©2016 All rights reserved.