The Many Who Are Clueless

Many people who deal with singing professionally are clueless about it. The latest “Master Class” video by Christina Aguilera is a classic example of someone who sings very well (and has since childhood) but who has exactly zero idea about how we make vocal sound. Her ideas are as convoluted as some of the old “vibrate your forehead” methods and just as useless. Still, because of who she is, I’m sure she is selling like gangbusters.

At the courses I teach, I encounter (occasionally) people who truly know absolutely nothing about singing other than they like it. I just encountered a 24-year-old who couldn’t sing a five-note scale on pitch or take a decent breath who has set himself up as a singing teacher, and he thinks that’s just fine. Can’t stop him. Let the buyer beware.

When you have international celebrities laboring under the idea that squeezing structures in your throat is a good idea, things are bad.  When you have teachers in highly respected universities saying that moving structures your throat you aren’t even supposed to feel  while you sing is good, then you have a profession that is in trouble.

One really popular idea is that you must MUST keep your head from moving and you must deliberately keep your larynx “down” while singing classically . That is, simply, wrong. Your throat should be comfortable. It should be able to respond and move in a fluid manner without you thinking at all about moving things in it directly. The idea that things inside should move is a very old, well-respected premise of classical vocal pedagogy. To throw it out because someone (anyone) wrote a book that says you should is silly, but I run into this idea all the time.

The larynx is a joint. No joint in your body does better when it can’t move. The movement of the muscular within the throat allows it to be highly responsive and react to the subtle impulses caused by emotion and feeling. Screaming your way through metal music might indeed cause some constriction but the idea is that training should mitigate that, not cause it deliberately.

When people who do not sing well set themselves up to teach, and when people who study voice science but can’t apply what they know to their own voices in order to sound wonderful, also start to teach, when the profession tolerates all manner of confusion under the guise of “open mindedness” — you do not have a profession that knows in what direction it needs to move in order to go forward intelligently. You have a profession that is in trouble.

Young people who graduate with a degree, particularly a doctorate of some kind, think they know everything because they have a piece of paper. They will argue to the death with someone who has more experience teaching than they have years on this earth because what they learned is school is unassailable. It is incredibly arrogant for a person who is working on a degree to argue with someone who has had the same degree for decades longer and who has written several highly respected books, to criticize her, but I know that this has happened. (It’s not me he is criticizing. I don’t have a college degree).

Beware those who know nothing and do not know they do not know. They are to be avoided at all costs. Accept no one’s word for , particularly if they teach — anything. Read. Question. Investigate. Explore and experiment. Then, you will know whom to trust and why. There is no substitute.


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