Teaching voice by intuition

Like many bloggers, I am often motivated to post something new by discussions that arise in my professional life. Twice in the last year, the words “intuition” and “magic” have come up in regards to teaching. Below is part of my response to a discussion of using “clairsentience” in teaching voice in a teachers’ forum last year.

[beginning of response]

I am not anti-intuition, but I think some ascribe too much “magic” and not enough skill to what [the guru of the group] does. I think it is very easy for a teacher who has not taught many hundreds of hours and heard many hundreds of voices to say “I am going to trust my intuition” if they don’t have a full tool set of functional listening. It’s too easy to bail on difficult problems that way. Intuitive statements CAN (not saying they always DO) make the lesson about the teacher, obviate objective listening, keep the student mystified and under the spell of a perceived magician, and generally obfuscate the extremely long and difficult process of developing functional listening skills.

Learning to hear function is HARD. The fine tuning of the skill is endless. Since functional listening has been a huge weakness of both imagistic and scientific approaches to teaching voice, it would be nice if we could stay focused on that [functional listening skills] more, since it is a strength of this approach [the branded “method” that was under discussion]. I am especially concerned if a teacher is jumping to an intuitive mode in order to save face (perhaps unconsciously?) and avoid saying “I don’t know (yet)” when asked how to solve a vocal problem. I would like to caution everyone that a teacher with several decades of solid successful experience is in a very different position to incorporate intuition than someone who is young, or someone who has had weak teaching skills all along.

[end of original response]

The profession of voice teaching is full of practitioners embracing the poles of “voice scientist” and “magical healers”. Specialists in either are going to miss a lot of opportunities to help a lot of working singers. Or maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot by seeking a middle way, a way based on empiricism, functional listening, logic, and human caring?

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