How, not what

In the online forums I’m seeing many discussions about voice science – Explanations of “open throat”. Descriptions of sound profiles of ideal (so they claim) vocal attributes. Assumptions about desirable vocal timbre. Incessant chatter about formants. Research papers and books and websites and buzz, buzz, buzz about all the visuals and measurables. The author of one of the currently popular voice science books has a master class on Youtube where he projects the real-time spectrogram of the singer on a huge screen for the entire duration of the class.

It has all gotten so weird.

The voice scientists have become so influential that many people equate voice pedagogy with voice science. They cannot grasp that pedagogy means “how to teach”, not “how to analyze and describe”. There are very few articles and presentations about the diagnosis of vocal faults by acute listening, and then teaching related exercises. Why? Because it’s hard to put high level listening and diagnosis skills into words, or even a video, compared to blasting the audience with anatomy, acoustics, and measurements. But we really need to try.

This issue is not new. There are several books from early in the 20th century that describe the same abandonment of common sense in voice teaching. It seems to have started in the late 1800s. One of my favorite pleas for reason right now is “Singing” by Herbert Witherspoon (1925). He is so clear about the goals of a teacher and the necessity of doing exercises that are relevant, and he has a significant section of the book devoted to exercises and how to do them. It truly is a pedagogy book, and it’s a treasure.

We have large numbers of “pedagogues” now whose teaching skills lag behind their research skills. We have confused the science of voice with the science of voice teaching. Voice pedagogy is the latter, not the former. You can’t sing science. You can’t express anatomy. How did we get here?

2 Replies to “How, not what”

  1. Brian, once again, I just want to hug you! This was a clear and firm reminder that even though I strive for knowledge about voice science, at the end of the day, I need to TEACH. To give the gift of new information in a fascinating way, that invites the student to explore and create. THANK YOU!

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