Are We Still in the 18th Century?

I’d like to ask you, are we still in the 18th century? Singing techniques that were cultivated to help singers learn to do opera and art songs being written in decades and centuries before the mid-1950s had a different world to master than do the singers of today — classical and CCM both.

If I ask you, “Are we still in the 18th century?” and you say, “no!” then how is 18th century training useful in the 21st century?

Yet, in all the colleges and in many private studios the idea that “classical training” (which no one can describe consistently) and, even odder, classical repertoire, is a requisite for all vocal training. This is based on what, exactly? How many heavy-duty successful CCM singers were classically trained and are using that training, exactly as it was given, in their CCM repertoire? Has “classical training and repertoire” ever been proven by anyone to be “the only method” for singers no matter what they sing? Absolutely, positively NOT.

Have you ever left a voice lesson confused? It’s not you!

What, then, is the alternative if you don’t want to sing only classical music? Teach yourself, mostly. Plod on with classical training or don’t study, or adapt your classical training (once you give up singing Italian art songs) and bend it to suit your needs. If you study with a variety of teachers, running the gamut from conservative to radical, you could have all sorts of ideas to choose from: “support from the diaphragm”, “resonate your masque”, “give the sound more ping”, “make it spin more”, “release the breath over the top and allow for more flow”, “sing as if you have no jaw” (I love that one!), “keep the sound out of your throat” (where should I keep it, in my left knee? Last time I checked my vocal folds were in my larynx in my throat). There’s also: “Let the sound buzz”, “Don’t let the sound buzz”, “articulate the consonants more”, “don’t make the consonants so prominent”. Whee. Lots of fun.

Of course, whomsoever says these things will fight you to the death if you say you don’t understand or, worse, or don’t agree with them. If you ask your classical singing teacher how singing “Sebben Crudele” will help you sing “Out Tonight” from Rent, expect an icy stare. Of course, if you seek out a “CCM Specialist” you might be told to yell, shout, scream, grunt or squeeze your aryepiglottic sphincter (as if you could find it) or put your larynx in a “forward lean”, or that everything we sing is just some form of speech (not). La la la di daaaaa da!

Really, are we still in the 18th century or not? If not, we have to have a 21st century pedagogy. May I suggest you look at Somatic Voicework™, my method, and, please compare it to anything else out there. We don’t constrict on purpose, we don’t sing foreign language art songs to learn correct vocal production, we know the difference between the sound made in classical music and the one needed for gospel, rock or jazz, and we know how the physiology reacts differently in each. We honor each CCM style as being valid and important in its own right, without comparison with classical anything, but we also honor classical music (many of us still sing classically publicly, including me at age 65), and we invite nationally recognized laryngologists as our medical lecturers and Broadway conductors to give us “real world” market info.  It is a 21st century vocal pedagogy, based on science and market validity that does not use one single word of made-up terminology. We speak in plain English.

Join us at the upcoming Level I training at City College. Go to the courses link for the info.

Are we still in the 18th Century? I think not. Remember, it’s 2015, and we aren’t going to go back to the values of a hundred years ago any time soon. It’s not ever going to be the 18th  or 19th century again. Stop studying Scarlatti if you want to sing like the people on American Idol.


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