Lots of people now know and understand what goes on in the throat and body when we sing. Lots of folks have read the scientific literature and understand vocal production and acoustics. Many of them have written books and articles and are teaching. And many of them can’t sing well.

Tenors with no high notes. Baritones with constriction. Sopranos with big wobbles. Mezzos with massive vibratos.

What good is the science if it doesn’t help you sing better?

Who cares if you “know” the larynx must remain “low” when you are a tenor and you cannot easily sing high. That makes you a baritone by default but without the heft. Who cares if you “understand” that there should be a “singer’s formant cluster” at 3000 hz or so if you cannot yourself make tones that carry without sounding like a goose? Who cares if you “realize” that our Western ears like vibrato rates of 5.5 to 6.5 cps and an extent of about 1/4 pitch above and below the fundamental frequency if you sound like Bert Lahr in “The Wizard of Oz”.

What good is the science if it doesn’t help you sing better YOURSELF? How can you presume to teach someone to do something you yourself have not mastered and cannot accomplish? What kind of hubris is that anyway?

The idea of being a good teacher is finding out HOW TO APPLY the exercise to the person who needs it. It’s not enough to explain it and demonstrate it, it’s not enough to talk about why it is doing what it is doing (you hope), it is not enough to wait for the person to figure it out…… have to observe the student and if you don’t get results in a relatively short period of time, you must assume YOU are missing something. You must change what you ask for, because that is what the student is paying you to be able to do. If you get stuck and blame the student, you are dead in the water and so is the student.

The secret to good teaching is finding out (usually by asking) what the student is making of what you have asked her to do. If you have problems you have to say WHY the exercise isn’t working. You have to ASK what the student doesn’t understand. You have to adjust the thing you are asking for and the way you are asking for it. You have to modify your expectations about what it will do. You have to be present, open, non-judgemental but also aware, willing and creative in the process of using exercises to stimulate vocal change.

It is in the application of the exercises that we are either master teachers or not. Knowing something is only great if you use it. Otherwise what you have is simply information not wisdom.

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