The tedious "voice science debates"

Let this be the second in a series called “vocal pedagogy annoyances”. When people wax rhapsodic about the wonders of modern technology helping us to “understand how the voice works”, I always want to say something, and sometimes do. It is great to understand the acoustic and muscular phenomena that contribute to good singing, but there are so many things overlooked. The first, as J. LoVetri and others have pointed out is, who are the scientists looking at? The elite singers of our time have not consented to being measured in the lab, and I am reluctant to hold up the research subjects who have been selected so far as ideal models of how the voice should work.

Nonetheless, let’s pretend that the voice scientists knew for sure what every voice needs to do technically. How do you get people to do it? We cannot consciously place all the parts where they need to be to sing well. We only have the indirect controls of pitch, vowel, and volume patterns, within a rhythmic framework. And once we have figured out which patterns will move the voice toward better function, how do we evaluate to know whether we are moving toward the goal? We must listen. We must have developed ears. Functional listening seems to me to be the lost art of the voice teachers. All the science will not help the teacher teach, unless the teacher also has the skills of functional listening and the ability to prescribe remedial exercises on the spot.

One Reply to “The tedious "voice science debates"”

  1. What a great post, Brian! I haven't seen you in such a long time, but was delighted to read this and see that you're right on target. I like your wording on "pitch, vowel, and volume patterns, within a rhythmic framework". Wait, I have to write that down …!

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