In my singing there have been many times where I made progress on an issue and had the thought “oh THAT’S what they meant”. Does that sound familiar? Observers recognized the need for me to do something differently than before, and some gave advice, but sometimes the problem persisted. Then there is a breakthrough, and many of the old comments and advice start to make sense. Then I have to try not to dwell on the thought, “Why didn’t someone say something to me in a way I could understand?”
It is for this reason that I think we need to try to exercise patience with people whose vocabulary about singing is different from ours. Can we possibly try to understand what they are getting at when they are trying to get a voice to “spin” or when they want us to “make more sound but not get louder” or “sing with a more pure vowel”? Although the expressions may not make sense to us, there is usually some kind of validity to their underlying observation, as well as to their advice.
I have had to eat some humble pie many times in voice lessons, coachings, and in receiving comments from colleagues. What seemed like an outlandish or silly comment or suggestion ends up making a lot of sense later, when I have had the time to experiment and try things out, or simply after I have gained more skill. As a student of singing, my knowledge about the voice has always outpaced my actual ability to sing. I think this is a characteristic of many voice teachers. Great ears, an inquisitive and resourceful mind, patience and people skills can make a great voice teacher, but not necessarily a great singer. So I keep studying and coaching, while people study and coach with me, constantly reminded that knowing and doing are not the same, but they should be as connected to each other as possible.
In my teaching, it is sobering to realize that what I think is crystal clear instruction is not so for every student. It is too easy to forget this if we teachers do not continue to study and receive feedback about our own singing.