The vocal environment – musical elements

In this fifth and last post of my “vocal environment” series, I’m circling back to the music itself. This includes the pitch, vowel, and volume that are the building blocks for stimulating the voice at a reflexive level, as in the work of Cornelius Reid. Other elements involved in singing include lyrical requirements (diction), pulse, duration, and timbre. It’s always good to circle back and remember-discern-discover what the music is asking of us, wherever we are in the spiral learning of growing as singers.

The point of this series is to address a more complete constellation of environmental factors than I was taught in my voice lessons years ago. I feel that we must include tangible and non-tangible, audible, and non-audible parts of the environment, since a whole biological organism inhabited with consciousness is involved. I understand that we may reduce things to get at certain understandings, but running a half hour of Black Box exercises based on pitch, vowel, and volume as “all that is needed” is not addressing huge swaths of the environment in which an improved reflexive response is being summoned.

I do see an argument for concentrating on the bare building blocks of pitch, vowel, and volume. These three elements are easy to change, and they can change the result a lot. The studio space, the mental state the singer brings, the song a singer is hired to sing, and the singer’s body are less malleable in the moment and less controllable by the teacher. Given what the singer brings today, and the space in which we are working, I often do start with the low-hanging fruit of seeing how things work with these three basics and expand from there. But it’s only a start.

As Jeanie LoVetri says “Everything affects everything.” It seems that each teacher will have a preference for where to start (which part of the vocal environment to address first). Students have preferences, too, and if these are reconciled with the teacher’s, progress can happen faster, or at least more kindly.

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