I Don’t Know About Wine — I Just Know What I Like

The best way to understand something is to do it yourself. Learning about it is different than learning it, no?

Anyone who has done an activity that requires a high level of physical skill and coordination understands that it takes a long time to develop mastery over that activity. It could be anything…..painting, sculpting, building handmade furniture, creating interesting food, doing a sport, learning to dance, act or sing…..but it is something that involves using the body in any way, it just takes time for it to be done well. To some extent the amount of time given to the activity daily matters, and the level of ability the individual brings to the activity at the outset matters, and the quality of instruction matters (but sometimes no instruction is available, so that may or may not be a factor).

And it matters what the expectations of the world are in regard to any of these activities. If you are trying to be an Olympic athlete, there are stringent and exact requirements, mostly measured by objective means. If you are trying to be a violinist who wants to play in the NY Philharmonic, you have your work cut out for you. If you wish to have your work shown at the Whitney or the Museum of Modern Art, ditto. And, if you are going to be at the Metropolitan Opera, or on Broadway, the criteria are very high, too.

The people who determine these things are those who are within any given discipline. The individuals in modern art don’t decide how someone should sing when auditioning for the Met Opera. The people building furniture don’t determine what should happen with Wimbledon tennis players. The folks who choose the winners on “Top Chef” don’t have any say in who gets to dance at the New York City Ballet. So, even though there will always be disagreement between experts in any field, there must be some kind of consensus in each one, else everything would be chaos all the time in everything. Nothing would have any boundaries or structure.

So, if singers have to live up to certain kinds of criteria, it is important for singers themselves to know what those criteria are. It is also important for those who deal with singers to know them as well. If someone is going to sing country western music and the person evaluating their singing is from opera, how would they know whether or not the singing was any good? If all singing is so similar that it has no distinguishing characteristics, why would we have different voice categories and different styles in the first place? That’s like saying anyone who swims well can also play excellent baseball. Doesn’t happen that way.

The way to truly understand what is involved is to learn to do it yourself. You cannot become a good golfer by hanging around golfers, reading about golf and golfers, or buying equipment that sits in your garage. You have to pick up the clubs and play. You can’t learn about singing that way, either, and you can’t learn to change stylistic parameters without knowing what they are in the first place.

I know we’ve been over this before……it’s just that there are so many people who still don’t seem to have it clear that this is the truth. If only they weren’t out there teaching singing, or teaching anything!

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One thought on “I Don’t Know About Wine — I Just Know What I Like”

  1. I could use your advice. I’ve been singing since 1971 and since 1981 have also been holding down a corporate job. Since American Idol came on the scene my life has been hell. The entire staff discusses the show for at least two days out of the week. When challenged most of the staff will say, “I’m not a musician, but I know what I like and what sounds good.” If there are specific problems with a performance (i.e. poor intonation, missed lyrics, poor choice of altered/improvised melody, etc.) shouldn’t these things count for the reasons I didn’t find the performance very good. At this point, I am afraid to voice my own opinions because everyone seems to feel they know better than I. Should I just keep my mouth shut (even when asked my opinion)?
    HELP!!! What would you say to them?
    I sadly believe that some people can hear and some cannot. That young fellow who didn’t win (David Archuletta) was just wonderful (I thought).

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