Acute listening

human earThe major skill of a voice teacher is listening. The teacher listens, discerns what is good and what needs help to get better, and then prescribes an exercise to train for improvement. Acute listening and problem-solving skills determine the bulk of the voice teacher’s value to their students.

Empirical methods of improving singing served for centuries. A lifetime of listening and trying exercises, built on principles handed down through the generations, have taken many thousands of singers from beginner to artist. We cannot discount the amazing ears of successful teachers of the past. The best of them were obviously extremely skilled.

How can we teach teachers how to listen? They have to clock many hours of general listening, of course, and they can benefit by observing other teachers’ processes, but what of the listening skills themselves? How might listening itself be taught? Might we have classes where we listen to a live singer and discuss what we are hearing, and what might be a good next step to help the singer? How to solve many kinds of vocal problems, and also further habilitate a highly-functioning voice?

Peter Harrison has tried such a thing in Europe. It bears repeating and development in other places. I think about this a lot. What would a deep listening class look like? Are there such classes and workshops out there that we should know about? Feel free to add a comment below.

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2 Replies to “Acute listening”

  1. Great post. I believe the matter is quite simple, even if it’s execution is complex.

    One begins with first rate examples, both live and recorded, then proceeds to develop a common language to describe what is being heard.

    It is at this juncture that we discover the meaning of terms and phrases used by old school teachers, such as open throat and placement, chiaroscuro and on the breath, fior di labbra and attack, guttural and nasal production, singing through the teeth, etc, etc.

    Learning what these terms and phrases mean and the physiological processes involved is an education in itself.

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