“Scooping”, Pitch-Matching and Accuracy

“Scooping”. Terrible habit. Bad news. Students have to learn to stop this, unless, of course, they sing some “popular” styles in which case maybe some of this is “allowed”.

Oh, please.

So much nonsense in voice teacher world about this “interesting topic”. Think of “coming down” onto the pitch from “above”. (That’s a good, standard idea.) Think of doing a stronger legato, using the vowels accurately and then add the consonants. (Really!) Better breath support and different placement (always a suggestion). Hello? People!

Pitch is controlled by the length and tension of the vocal folds and the amount of air moving across them while making sound. The pitch accuracy, however, is also controlled by the shape made in the vocal tract. You tune the tube to the pitch and the volume. It’s a flexible tube and the register response at the level of the folds, coupled with the frequency, affects what we hear as “the note”. Intonation accuracy, whether gradual or abrupt, arrives on its own when the overall skill level of a vocalist increases.

In most students who have little skill, sliding into pitches is to be expected. When other parameters are stronger, the scooping will go away by itself when it is necessary for it to go away (in music such as Bach, Handel and Mozart). However, in case you haven’t listened recently, in order to be stylistically correct, bel canto and verismo repertoire both require controlled sliding from note to note, albeit with only very slight adjustments so as not to be conspicuous or obvious. If an artist is singing jazz, rock, pop, R&B, gospel or other CCM styles, “scooping” is the order of the day. It’s called STYLE.

If you don’t know how it is that we get accurate pitch response (and it seems that many singing teachers do not know) then how are you going to “correct” the behavior without dragging in other things that have nothing to do with the “problem”? And, if you have a student who sings any CCM material at all, sliding into pitches from both above and below is often necessary.

It is quite possible to learn to be very pitch accurate at rapid speeds and be able to slide a lot or a little, as desired, but only after you have acquired a range of vocal and physical skills. Breathing and “placement” or “resonance strategies” are not the “answer”. They might (or might not) be helpful tools along the way, but bringing in your classical mindset, chastising young students who “scoop” into pitches, belies ignorance of vocal function on the part of not the student but the teacher.

 

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