Functional Versus Classical Training

A lot of the argument about what constitutes “good” vocal training would be eliminated if singing teachers could distinguish between functional training and classical training (remember, that has been the only vocal music training for the last 200 years).

Good classical training is functional training, if it is geared towards training the voice to function efficiently in classical repertoire. It might also be good functional training for other styles as well, but that would be possible only if the training included activities that were “multi-task” oriented. If the training were geared to helping the voice function in a number of different ways, under different circumstances, and produced improved vocal response in those specific ways and circumstances but not in any or all vocal behaviors, it would be functional but limited.

Conversely, when training is geared toward making only one CCM style, that is not optimal training either. For instance, singing training geared exclusively to rock singing might be effective, but functionally it is limited and limiting. Such training is not universal or holistic vocal development. Singing training that leaves out working with the speaking voice is also not fully functional, although it may still be useful and even effective, within certain boundaries.

“Total” training of the voice does not yet exist. Working on speech in all its myriad forms, and working with vocal production, posture, breathing and application to material regardless of whether the material is spoken or not, classical or CCM, cannot be had in just one person, place or approach. Somatic Voicework® does address all of these vocal responses, but it focuses primarily on the singing voice and CCM styles (not speech or classical), mostly for practical purposes. There just isn’t time in the summer course to dwell on all of these ways of making voiced sound and doing justice to them. I have studied all three, but I was constrained to reduce the course itself down to absolute essentials for teachers addressing CCM.

When we can train the voice to be robust, flexible, variable, consistent, powerful, free, controlled and spontaneous, no matter what the application, then we would have what would be called “universal, functional” vocal training. Sooner or later, I hope we get there, I hope.

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