Nothing New Under The Sun

Human beings produce a range of sounds based on our size. None of us are going to have a throat as long as a giraffe’s or as small as a bird’s. The range of formants human beings create when they make vocal sound is limited. Also, since we sing with a “bent pipe” and that, too, is limited by anatomy, even the biggest  (8 feet tall or so) or the smallest adult (about 2 foot or so) is still not going to be a giraffe or a bird. Big, long throats with long thick vocal folds make low sounds, like the big pipes on an organ. There may be exceptions to that, but they are exceptions.

So, no matter what kind of sound a person makes, it is highly likely that someone else, somewhere, has also made that sound. If you look on YouTube you can find all sorts of “extreme” vocal examples, both musical and not. There are strange sounds in various languages and oddball effects that people can create through the voice.

If you look at teachers of singing, however, you will find a high number of them who believe they have “discovered” some sound no one has ever made before and who feel compelled to name it or label it as their own. It’s a bit like going to a remote beach and deciding that you are the first person to be there and giving it a name when, in fact, it already has one, it’s just that you don’t know what it is. “Screlting” is a new word people want to use to describe high screamy belting. Doesn’t work for me. I would say high screamy belting. There are other terms like “weightless belt”, “super belt”, “voice lean”, “position 2”, “larynx tilt”, etc. that float around and mean something to the person who came up with the term but nothing to anyone else (except their own students).

If teachers of singing were willing to deal with the fact that sounds are basically organized by pitch (and range) and vocal quality (from clear to breathy, nasal to swallowed, and noisy) and that we mostly sustain vowels, the way we describe vocal sounds to each other would get a lot simpler and we could actually get somewhere in conversing about them. These folks should realize there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to human sounds. Thinking otherwise is just a form of ego. To quote the song, “let it go”.

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