Ready for Broadway: Types of musical theater singing

The Lion King is the highest-grossing Broadway production in history, and a host of performers compete for a chance to appear in this show. But only those who’ve been practicing their musical theater singing religiously and have the voice to prove it will make it.

With the growing popularity of musical theater, there has been much speculation about what kind of voice is required to be successful.

By learning to sing in all the different styles of Broadway music, you can become an indispensable performer on the stage. Read on for the types of singing performed on Broadway, so you can practice them for yourself.

Legit Musical Theater Singing

Legit musical theater singing is the style of singing that most people are accustomed to hearing when they think of Broadway or Hollywood musicals.

Legit style takes advantage of classical vocal training techniques. They require very strong breath support, as well as good diction. You must understand how your voice works in order to sing this way since you’ll be expected to hold notes for a long time while projecting them over an orchestra or band.

Traditional Musical Theater Singing

Traditional musical theater singing is the style of singing primarily used on Broadway. You’ll see it in revivals of older shows, but there are also modern shows that feature a traditional sound, such as Once, The Band’s Visit, or The Phantom of the Opera which draws to a close after 35 years as Broadway’s longest-running production in February 2023.

This vocal genre requires a good understanding of the lyrics because you must deliver them crisply with quick changes in pitch. Some examples of musicals that predominantly feature this vocal genre include Cabaret, City of Angels, and even The Producers.

Contemporary Musical Theater Singing

Contemporary musical theater singing requires a different type of voice than traditional musical theater. It’s very speech-driven, so the vocalist will need clear speech and be able to connect with an audience. Because of this, it frequently requires higher belting than traditional musical theater singing does.

Vibrato is also used extensively in contemporary music—more so than other genres of singing. Runs are more common in contemporary music as well.

Given the complexity and vocal requirements of this style, singing lessons are a must for anyone who wants to be a successful contemporary singer.

Pop Musical Theater Singing

Pop musical theater singing is the combination of pop and rock music with musical theater. You can see this style in shows like Wicked, which have songs that are written to include a wide vocal range.

Pop singers are often more focused on presenting the song than on telling a story, as you would see in traditional musicals. In this genre, men and women will often sing in similar ranges because they don’t need to sound “masculine” or “feminine” like other musicals require.

Improve Your Performance No Matter Your Style

The first step to improving your vocal health and technique is to find a coach who can train you in musical theater singing. As a performer, it’s difficult to know what is going on with your voice when you’re in front of an audience. A coach can give feedback that is more objective than what you may hear from friends or family members.

Finding good teachers isn’t always easy, so we’ve rounded up some stars you can learn from in our blog posts. Read them while you’re searching for your next coach. You can imitate the work of those artists to learn about technique and use it as a basis for your own voice training.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: