I want to sing contemporary genres, like rock. Will studying classical technique enable me to sing in the style that I prefer, or will it make me sound like an opera singer?
Despite what many contemporary singing teachers will try to tell you, studying voice through a classical technique (as opposed to a classical style) will not make you sound like an opera singer. (I don't, and I studied Bel Canto technique for nearly nine years.) Even though a classical technique instructor will teach you about the effectiveness of using "pure vowel" sounds, (whereas contemporary teachers may not be at all concerned with how you pronounce your vowels), you still won't sound like an opera singer unless you choose to. And you won't be expected to clasp your hands in front of you and wear horns on your head, either - unless, of course, you choose to.
Classical styles of teaching not only have the benefit of having centuries of success backing them up, but they have transitioned with the times, as well, having been modified periodically over the years as more knowledge about vocal science and the body comes to light, and as more styles and genres of singing have become popularized. Furthermore, classical technique training does not seek to alter a singer’s natural sound, which is a goal of opera training for which specialized techniques are used to help a singer develop a highly classical, characteristically operatic vocal quality. (Contemporary vocal teachers often fail to distinguish between opera training and classical technique training.)
If anything, classical technique training - (again, I'm not talking about going to an opera teacher who will expect you to sing arias in Italian and will indeed mould you into someone who looks and sounds like a traditional opera singer) - will give you the necessary skills to be able to apply them flawlessly to your own singing, in whatever style or genre that is. You will learn about the mechanism of diaphragmatic breathing and how to "support your breath" with your accessory muscles, and you will develop good overall tone and effective resonance, as well as increase your stamina, control, vocal agility, volume and range. Classical technique encourages proper and safe vocal development. Having complete control over your voice, breath and tone will enable you, as a singer, to have more flexibility and versatility, not less.
Some contemporary teachers believe that classical technique instructors place too much emphasis on developing a strong high end and ignore the development of a singer's low end. However, classical technique, when taught well, endeavours to increase range and improve tone on both the upper and lower ends, and to develop blending of the natural (chest) voice and the head voice in the middle of the range. (It is generally easier to add notes to the top of our range, though.)
There is a universal set of basic singing skills that every singer should develop, whether through contemporary or classical training. Many contemporary approaches to singing focus on developing the same basic singing skills as classical technique training does, only through slightly difference vocal exercises and philosophies. (Many have originated from classical techniques, unbeknownst to their teachers.) Some of these contemporary techniques are developed with good knowledge of vocal science in mind, and are successful in training singers to sing properly and safely, while others are not.
Don’t be dissuaded from studying voice with a classical technique instructor simply because you have been given false information about the types of voices that classical technique training produces. (Again, classical technique instructors are not the same as opera teachers.) All singers should have the same basic goals – to sing well and correctly – and classical techniques are very successful at helping students, especially those who sing contemporary genres, achieve their goals.