Science

Did you know that most voice science research is conducted on college students and sometimes college faculty? Did you know that most of these people are classically trained, or are getting classical training? Did you also know that most of the work in the world for singers is NOT classical? Did you know that most vocalists out there in the world who are singing CCM styles did NOT get training for those styles? Some have no training of any kind.

Did you realize that some of the most respected voice scientists, those that consider themselves singers, are lousy singers and that the information they look at, look for and analyze passes through a mind that has a skewed experience of what it means to sing in the first place? Did you know that many of the published studies are conducted by graduate students, doctoral students and post-doctoral students who need to publish in order to graduate or get tenure? Did you know that much of the research on singing is NOT accompanied by an audio example of what the researchers were hearing? And did you know that if it was possible to hear the audio examples, many of the scientists wouldn’t know if the singing was good or bad.

Did you also know that the conclusions about “what singers do” is based on all the above? Did you know that you might be reading research about how we change registers, how we breathe, how we adjust acoustics, as if it were solid, concrete information, when in point of fact the researcher was young and inexperienced, the subjects were also young and inexperienced and the teacher supervising the study might have been great at statistical analysis, physics and acoustical science but not very good at all at what professional singers, out there in the world, sound like and how they get themselves to sing.

Did you realize that most of the money for voice research is devoted to studying sickness and injury? That the research is done at universities that have hospitals and that there is little money to study the behavior of world-class vocalists of any style. There has been no large, long term study of people who sing leads on Broadway, or who make millions of dollars in rock, pop, gospel, folk, country, or any other CCM style. There isn’t even a study such as this on classical singers. No one really knows what an elite vocalist does because hardly any of them have been looked at in any way. Did you know this?

Yet, if you go to a singing conference, you will hear about “what singers do” and about “voice science” as if it were absolute. Yes, many things are known now that were not known even 15 years ago. Yes, there are some things about which we can be pretty definite and clear. Yes, most of the general information is accurate and makes sense. And no, you cannot extrapolate anything from the data about a “professional” singer (who might be getting paid to sing at church) who has “training” (maybe a master’s degree in vocal performance) and who sounds pretty squeezed most of the time (sings with “focus”), that would actually apply to other styles or even to other people who are real, experienced vocal professionals in the world at large with careers that everyone would recognize as being “significant”.

If you did not know, now you do. Don’t forget.

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