Let’s argue about registers

In a discussion group recently, a colleague posted a video of a singer’s performance and asked for comments. The singer was singing in a very flexible, decorated pop style. It was a very good performance. I participated briefly in the civil discussion that emerged about the video. The comments that were asked for, and that ensued, were about what is happening technically. Terms like chest, head, falsetto, M1, and M2 were all used. People’s pet points emerged about the definitions of these things, and how certain combinations of attributes are possible or not, which is ever a wonder to me. Teachers are very creative, even when they are trying to “do science”.

I’m reminded of the poem by Rumi that starts with:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

The singer in question was a professional-level singer with an extremely high level of vocal ability. On a mechanical level, he was dancing with all of the various muscles and tissues of the vocal tract in an agile manner, to make a very expressive and beautiful performance. He does not need to “know what he’s doing” at a detailed mechanical level. If he comes to the studio with concerns about being able to do what he wants to do, or to deal with a vocal health issue, it is the teacher’s job to give him help in a way that makes sense for his voice and life. Someone singing at a very high level is usually extremely in tune with their own voice, and the assistance a coach provides should also be in tune with that particular singer’s understanding of himself.

The elite singer should not need to give a damn about whether you think they are “in m1 or m2”. If they are looking for assistance, they need options for how to work with their voices in ways that allow freedom. Analyzing it into “the science”, (whatever the heck that is) is going to go into their ears and die, until you first give them something useful to help the actual creative, organic, human act of singing.

If the singer asks for why something works on a mechanical/ physiological/ scientific level, then go to town with your research and theories! However, most help for human performance requires a human solution as the central component. The excellent teacher does that.

2 Replies to “Let’s argue about registers”

  1. Thank you! As an independent Teacher of Voice, who works with middle and high school students, I often feel that I’m not an adequate teacher because I don’t use ‘scientific’ terms with these young singers, like m1, m2. However, I think it’s extremely important to give my students the tools they need so that they sing with their authentic voice and do so in a healthy manner. Do I use terms that they can understand? Are they showing signs of progresd? Absolutely!

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