Occam’s Razor In Singing

From Wikipedia:

Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor, and lex parsimoniae in Latin, which means law of parsimony) is a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham(c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle can be interpreted as stating Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

Occam’s Razor In Singing?

There are very complicated methods of learning to sing. They have multiple  requirements, they are complex and elusive and, perhaps, challenging. They are convoluted, obtuse and when the participants uncover all the hidden secrets, they are part of a special, privileged group that knows more than all the others. They have their own special code terminology and phrases and they do certain maneuvers that others cannot do. A secret society. Cool, to those who are in it. Strange to those who are not.

There is nothing “Occam’s Razor” about that kind of training for singing. 

Oh dear.

No, actually, the simplest, most direct way is always the best way until an even simpler way is discovered. This principle operates in all of science. A straight line is the shortest route between two points.

Somatic Voicework™ has few principles: locating three distinct vocal qualities or textures (chest, mix and head), singing undistorted vowels (IPA /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/ /ae/) and standing erect with minimal effort so that the inhalation can be deep and full in a quiet chest (rib cage) and the exhalation can coordinate the movements of the ribs with those of the contracting abs. We gain control over exhalation pressure (managing volume) and varying between breathiness and nasality (or brightness) for tone quality in various vowel configurations. That’s it.

Learning to work with these principles can be a slow process, because, if done well, these few simple principles can encompass all of what singing is in any style. It allows the natural voice to emerge over time and the singer to discover what it is about his or her voice that is unique and special but also to explore what style or styles of music appeals most. It also allows someone to take the voice far past where it goes on its own but without hurting either the vocal folds or the muscles of vocal production overall and without singing in a way that feels imposed from outside. These principles are tied to honest vocal expression, musical expressivity, and personal satisfaction. They help to eliminate struggle, efforting, and discomfort and promote vocal health.

Somatic Voicework™ never, ever asks for anyone to move any structure within the throat on purpose. It does not assign any special terms or words to the sounds people make, other than those mentioned above. It does not ask for the throat to remain in an immobile position nor does it advocate that all sounds are some version of speech. Countertenors are not singing in a speaking voice quality but they are almost always  singing freely and well. How is that done? Over time. It honors all other methods that respect the knowledge of the past, when singing was passed from one individual to another without science to help us understand what we were doing, and incorporates present moment respect for what we have learned in recent decades from science about vocal production and health.

If you are a student of singing or a teacher and someone tries to convince you to tilt your thyroid cartilage, or constrict your aryepiglottic sphincter or retract your false folds, or anchor your body in order to breathe, or to put your larynx up or down, or lift your soft palate as if it were your pinky finger………ask yourself, “Why would anyone want to bother with that?” Who could have sung better than Leontyne Price or Rosa Ponselle, who could have given us all a better impression of longevity in singing than Ella Fitzgerald in the past or Barbara Cook or Tony Bennett right now? Do you suppose any of them deliberately constrict anything or retract anything in their throats? Do you think they would understand a request to do something like that?

Just because people can look inside the throat (with a fiberoptic tube) when they sing doesn’t mean that what they see is good. If the person looking has a  squeezed, tight, forced or swallowed sound, but thinks that that is a good thing, and decides to turn what they see into a method of teaching singing, does that mean it’s a terrific  idea? Think, dear readers, of simplicity and comfort, of conditioning and freedom, of joy and sharing. That is the easiest way to go.

And remember that what we feel when we sing may be very different from one individual to another, even if the actual physiological behavior is exactly the same. And we might feel things in the same way when the vocal behavior is different one person from another. There are many muscles involved in making vocal sound and they can combine in multitudinous ways to produce a similar acoustic result. Why would you want to try to imitate the physical behavior of someone else’s throat? Why?

What about your ears? What if your singing is just unpleasant? Should that be ignored because you have gained control over your larynx directly? I think not.

The body likes to move. It likes ease of movement. It likes activity. It likes being strong. Strength is acquired through resistance but resistance is not any kind of deliberate squeezing or restriction of natural movement.

Occam’s Razor In Singing?

Always follow Occam’s Razor and take the simplest, easiest road to your goal. Your heart is the starting place and your throat is the destination.

Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method — the Occam’s Razor way to learn to sing!


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4 thoughts on “Occam’s Razor In Singing”

  1. Thank you for this article, Jeanie. I’m reminded of two quotes from two great artists, both from separate artistic fields:

    Maria Callas: “I am a simplifier…I was born simple; born to simplify….Some people complicate, in order to veil.”

    Walt Whitman: “The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.”

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