More than ever, seiyuu have been active in the music industry be it as solo artists, frontmen for bands, or even joining 2D music projects. But how is it that almost all voice actors sing well?
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If you’re a long-time fan of seiyuu and their music endeavors, this article may not bring many new things to the table however, if you’re a newcomer, you may be looking for an answer to this question. To which I can say that this article will provide you with that.
“How is it that almost all voice actors can sing?” That’s as broad a question as you can get.
Theoretically, everyone can sing. That’s what anyone will tell you. Even without proper training, everyone can sing.
But sing well? Being genuinely technical singers? Knowing what they are doing on the vocal end and how to control their singing voice?
Now, that’s tough. But that’s what separates “seiyuu that sing” from those that “sing well and are genuinely good”.
And it’s in this scope that I’ll be answering this question: “How is it that almost all voice actors can sing well?”
Do know that “singing well” is subjective.
For a vocal coach, “singing well” may be something completely different from what you and I think is “singing well”.
For me, that is all about technique and emotions, showing complete control over their singing, and sounding comfortable while performing.
You can catch the extended version of this article in the episode of our podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE. Check the video below for the video version or check your podcast streaming platform of choice and look for SEIYUU LOUNGE.
Well, off to the first reason I believe is behind why almost all voice actors can sing well: Japanese culture.
Japanese culture values art
Simply put, Japanese culture values music a whole lot. There are fans and musicians of all genres of music in Japan.
Many Japanese know how to play instruments – be it piano, drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, or even violin – and a lot of Japanese people take karaoke really seriously, with national rankings serving as a motivation for people to hone their skills as singers.
Japanese people are perfectionists at everything they do.
I can assure you that some of the kids I saw with soft guitar cases on their backs when I visited Tokyo in 2019, will be on an insanely high level of playing when they reach high school should they continue to practice regularly.
With that being said, right from the start, there’s a high chance a seiyuu comes from a music background, loves music, had a band when they were kids or even regularly enjoyed going to karaoke and performing their favorite songs.
Does this fully explain why almost all seiyuu can sing well? No, but it’s an awesome start.
Some seiyuu were in bands or were solo artists
If you check the background of most of the highest-profile solo artists among seiyuu, you’ll notice that most were in bands or part of groups.
On the off chance, some were even solo artists when they were younger, for example, Shouta Aoi (as SHOWTA.).
And many even had experience writing and composing their own songs, which is quite impressive. Good examples of that are Soma Saito (who composed and wrote songs for his band in high school) and Kent Ito (who was a vocaloid producer).
Of course, this doesn’t fully explain why almost all seiyuu can sing well. But the practice that seiyuu got from composing, writing, and performing their songs served as a fantastic experience for them.
And if they kept doing so up until getting an opportunity to sing for 2D music projects, character songs, their own bands, or for their solo careers, then you can say this is a good reason as to why seiyuu can sing well.
Some seiyuu originally intended to become singers, not voice actors
There are a couple of seiyuu that have mentioned in interviews that their aim with moving into Tokyo had not been to become a voice actor but to try to kick off their solo careers or join a band.
Shugo Nakamura is a good example of that. He went from his hometown in Okinawa to Tokyo dreaming of becoming a solo artist.
He was already more than ready to impress in an audition but ended up joining the seiyuu industry, later on being chosen as the face and voice of the IDOLMASTER SideM franchise.
In 2019, Lantis signed him to a solo artist deal and he finally made his dream come true.
Another good example is Daiki Yamashita. Becoming a voice actor was just a result of his curiosity while he was attending Muse Academy of Music in Japan.
He would eventually major in music and it seems like, if voice acting hadn’t sparked an interest in him, by now he would either be a singing teacher or even an opera singer.
Seiyuu that were initially aiming to become singers arrived with all their skills vastly developed, standing out from everyone else.
Talent agencies require singing auditions
Trainees at voice acting schools have to learn how to sing, of course, not on an insanely good level, but on a passable level.
However, to join talent agencies, the stakes are higher and some talent agencies require seiyuu hopefuls to pass a singing audition in order to join their company.
This happens because, since 2010, seiyuu joining 2D music projects has been a thing, more so in the last 6 years in which there was a boom of 2D idol, rap, and rock music projects.
Many 2D music projects have shot to fame pretty quickly and have maintained that status for years, others took some time but eventually shot to fame. Seiyuu see joining such projects as a perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on them.
At the same time, talent agencies require singing auditions because there may appear some opportunities for seiyuu to dub movies and if one of those movies happens to be a musical, they have to know how to sing.
Also, given how becoming a solo artist has been something most seiyuu have aspired to become in the past 6 years, requiring a singing audition to join a talent agency feels right.
It is said by media outlets such as CUT magazine, that seiyuu are now the most versatile entertainers in Japan. And they are honestly not wrong.
If seiyuu can act but not sing, they are putting aside a bunch of opportunities to make themselves known.
So, it has been noticeable in the past couple of years that more and more rookie seiyuu appear with already pretty awesome singing skills, clearly showing that they are aiming to get a role in a 2D music project by any means necessary.
Seiyuu take singing lessons
While most seiyuu don’t admit it, some take singing lessons to improve their skills, especially if they struggle with their control or have a really unique singing tone and want to make the best out of it.
One thing is for certain when seiyuu join voice acting schools, they have to take singing lessons, basic ones but still singing lessons, and are graded for their performances.
Some talent agencies even provide extra singing lessons to their talents should they want to upgrade their skills (seiyuu will still have to pay for those).
Seiyuu pratice a whole lot
Toshiki Masuda said in a couple of interviews in 2020 and 2021, that he practiced his singing a whole lot because he believes he’s not a good singer.
While not directly admitting it, Soma Saito has only recently – as of writing this article – developed his vibrato, a technique that only with training can be developed, especially when, in Saito’s case, he didn’t have a natural vibrato, to begin with.
Yuma Uchida used to sing karaoke all the time with his sister Maaya Uchida and his grandparents.
That provided him with plenty of practice and the whole competitive nature of his karaoke sessions made him, unknowingly, turn into a versatile singer.
Shunichi Toki used to sing with his father at jazz clubs. That fueled his passion for the 60s, 70s, and 80s music, making most of his solo career so far about exploring the nostalgic sounds from those decades.
His singing is full of life given his background in performing jazz music.
Takuya Sato is a massive fan of QUEEN (and Freddy Mercury as a solo artist) as well as The Gospellers (Japanese acappella group), groups that helped shape his smooth delivery with a lot of emotion underneath.
Practice goes a long way toward making someone improve, find their weaknesses, hone their strengths, and just be naturally comfortable on the microphone.
Don’t ever think that seiyuu are naturally good singers. Yes, there may be some that actually have natural skills, but to make the best out of their god-given voices and being able to fully control their assets, and learn new techniques requires a lot of practice.
Practice to no end.
Being critical of themselves
This ties up with Japanese people being known for their perfectionism.
If you are your biggest fan as well as your biggest critic, you can spot things you’re not doing right and want to perfect those.
Toshiki Masuda is known among male seiyuu for being insanely critical of himself, never fully satisfied with his performances. And every time he points out any mistakes he’s made, in the next performance he arrives sounding even better.
Like him, most seiyuu are quite critical of their performances, something that helps them continue to improve as singers.
Want to stand out
With hundreds and hundreds of newcomers joining the voice acting industry in Japan every year, seiyuu want to be able to stand out from the crop.
Some will stand out for their naturally good acting skills, others for their comedic sense perfect for variety show hosting, others are good speakers and love to do so alone so they are ready for radio work, others are good dancers and start standing out for 2.5D music projects.
Then others are already on a really high level as singers because they want to stand out even more than everyone else.
Using the seiyuu industry as a stepping ladder to joining the music industry
Some seiyuu use their status as voice actors to jump into the music industry.
This is something that has been showing quite a lot in the last couple of years with seiyuu barely 1 or 2 years in the seiyuu industry announcing solo debuts. In some odd cases, seiyuu with barely any work to their name have announced solo debuts under major music labels.
The focus is clearly on using their position as voice actors and leveraging it to get a chance at debuting solo. There are some veteran seiyuu that have mentioned that they’ve noticed this happening, which worries them.
Hiro Shimono was, a couple of years ago – for a variety/talk show – quite vocal about not understanding why rookie seiyuu were so focused on becoming singers. He worried that the seiyuu industry would be watered down due to rookie seiyuu only caring about looks and singing skills rather than acting skills.
Being a voice actor is to be a voice master
One thing that most people tend to forget is that voice actors are masters at using their voices to convey emotions that will click with the listener (in the case of drama CDs, for example) or the viewer (in the case of anime, dubbing, or narration).
They know the boundaries of their voice. They can control it to their will. They can scream without damaging their voice. They know what they are doing with their voice, at least most seiyuu do.
Of course, singing is something completely different from acting, and being a good voice actor is not synonymous with being a good singer. Some fans like to get both concepts mixed up but truth is, not all good voice actors are good singers.
Yes, there are cases in which seiyuu are both great voice actors and singers, but those cases are rare (the unicorns in the seiyuu industry are few).
Most “good voice actors” are not necessarily “good singers”. Some of those are even tone-deaf when it comes to singing.
Some may even dislike singing. A good example of that is Hiroshi Kamiya that has candidly said that on a Japanese TV show. He openly said that he dislikes singing; he only does so because his fans love it.
So while being a good voice actor with a lot of control already gives them the basics to become a good singer, once again it’s through practice or by taking lessons that seiyuu can actually become good singers or even great singers – in case they weren’t when they joined the voice acting industry.
Although some of the reasons and motivations I’ve mentioned in this article may not apply to all seiyuu, most, if not all seiyuu that sing genuinely well have never stopped practicing that.
Fans may not see that, but seiyuu spend hours and hours practicing outside of anime recordings or any other type of work they may have as voice actors.
Pratice is key for them to be as good as they are. The opposite can also be said: lack of practice, no passion or lack of interest in singing explains how some seiyuu don’t sound that great as singers even if they have solo careers, for example.
So to answer the question “How is it that almost all voice actors can sing well?”, I’ll say it’s a mixture of their passions, influences, and ambitions.
Their background helps a whole lot but in the end, what sets them apart from everyone else is their passion for singing, constantly practicing to become the best at what they do.
That’s what, ultimately, sets them apart from everyone else.
Catch this episode as well on Spotify.