Parlor Tricks

Parlor Tricks  — that’s all they are.

I have encountered the phenomenon of “moving the structures inside the throat deliberately” many times in the past.

No method, no matter whose it is, should be teaching anyone who wants to sing well to move any structure within the throat  or deliberately stop those structures from moving. Read that sentence again.

Go back to Garcia, to Lamperti, take a look at Vennard, Reid, and Richard Miller. Read Oren Brown, or Meribeth Bunch Dayme, or Daniel R. Boone. Read medical literature, speech pathology literature. Every single reputable, reliable, well-accepted source has said the same thing for over 150 years — leave the throat alone! 

Once people could see inside via fiberoptic examination, they could observe what was happening during singing. If you were a lousy singer, and your throat was constricted when you sang, you would see that constriction. But, if you didn’t think you were a lousy singer but instead thought you were great, you might decide that what you saw was also great and that everyone should do what you do. In fact, that exact scenario has happened more than once. If you were such a person, it follows that you might then say you had done “scientific research” to support the fact that others should sing just like you. Then you could sell that idea all over the world. All you had to do was make a nice package and away you go, teaching all over the world.

Other people who sing, and who wanted to learn how to sing in a new or different manner, wouldn’t know the difference one way or another, making them easy marks. They could easily be duped, buying whatever was told to them by the “scientific research” person, ignoring the fact that his or her sound might be horrific. It is no surprise that people will go along with anything if they can be convinced that it is “correct”.  Caveat Emptor.

Let me say very emphatically. It is NEVER EVER good to deliberately move the structures in the throat for their own sake. Yes, you can learn to constrict the muscles inside, you can learn to lift the soft palate, you can push down on the tongue to hold the larynx low or somehow hold on inside the throat itself. These maneuvers are parlor tricks, perhaps useful for parties, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with free, authentic singing.

Singing is a heightened form of human expression meant to carry emotional truth to the listener. It is meant to be harnessed to full and free inhalation and exhalation which is controlled by coordinating the sound with the airflow. Exercises that maneuver the muscles of the throat so that people can deliberately control or restrict the muscles of the throat are pointless. Exercises that allow singers to learn to let go, sing freely and develop personal musical expression are vital. There is a huge difference between them.

Be aware that there are a lot of methods out there. There are a lot of ideas about how to sing rock, pop, gospel, jazz and other styles (including classical styles) and many of them are simply bad news. They cause tension, restriction, limitation, forcing, holding, squeezing, distortion, and imitation. They  produce “instant” results that do not hold up over time. They stand in the way of emotional truth in music and they serve only to inhibit natural behavior in the throat and body. Nothing in the physical body does well when the body is deliberately restricted and cannot move or when it is forced to make movements it has no business making.

Some people are terrified when they sing and they want to be taught to hold onto something in their throats so they feel secure. There are many methods that will cater to those desires. Somatic Voicework™ will have nothing to do with that. We leave the throat alone and allow it do move and ride on that movement. Vocal exercises exist in a musical universe, not someplace where people get up and sing exercises for an audience. If you want to see how that works, go to www.somaticvoicework.com and click on the sidebar and listen to me sing.

Exercises exist to help singers be musical, accurate, and expressive. The next time you go to a cocktail party and someone offers to “move her soft palate” in order to entertain you, or says she can “retract her false folds” to impress you, or offers to pull her larynx down, or put it up into position #1″, excuse yourself, walk away, and get a breath of fresh air. You will need it.

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