Voice Training and Language

Edward Lear [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Edward Lear [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This is a topic for a long book, but I’ll practice my conciseness skills.

If you are teaching voice (or any other subject) and you use terminology such that “chair” is no longer a piece of furniture on which you can sit, then you had better explain in the most minute detail what the new meaning of “chair” is. A student who has grown up knowing what “chair” means will not understand your completely different use of the word until you explain. Radical idea?

Again and again I see discussions among voice teachers where a non-literal term is used and it becomes apparent quickly that there is no agreed-on definition. It is insanity – babble. And when I ask what aspect of singing the new definition of “chair” is meant to address, I get crickets. Obtaining “good chair”* is an end to itself. There are workshops on it, exercises for it, and the endless pursuit of it, all without truly relating it to the thing it is supposed to help – singing.

The words matter. Everyone does not agree on the colorful terms based on imagery and bodily sensations that use common words in arcane ways. Voice teaching needs a lingua franca desperately, and Functional Voice Teaching could theoretically address this issue, but many of those that profess to have a functional orientation are still teaching hazy visualizations and bizarre terminology. People tend to cling to whatever they were taught, fanatically, blindly. They attend courses or workshops where something very different is introduced and they smile and say “You are validating what I already do!”. The exoskeleton of received tradition is rarely breached. Insanity.

* Substitute any of these for “chair”: support, [favorite adjective] breath, engagement, spin, space, [forward] placement, breath management, lifted palate, ad infinitum.

If you enjoy this blog, consider grabbing a copy of Sane Singing: A Guide to Vocal Progress, available in print and ebook!

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