The Philosophy of Function

Until very recently, we did not understand vocal function. Training for singing was based upon observations by people who lived as long ago as a few hundred years and on each individual singing teacher’s personal subjective opinion. This situation is, thankfully, going away, but it is far from gone.

Recent issues of Classical Singer magazine have had 2 articles discussing vocal pedagogy that try to combine singing training with voice science. Both articles contain misconceptions and mistakes. Apparently, Classical Singer does not run the articles past actual voice scientists to see if they are accurate. They wouldn’t be able to get away with this if the general populace of singers and singing teachers absolutely knew vocal function. The average reader, sadly, probably has no idea that the material contains errors. This same thing happened last year when Opera News published an article about belting that was so ridiculous that it set the CCM world back an entire generation. (Oh well, it’s just about belting, so who cares, really).

I’ve encountered more than a few singing teachers who have read a couple of articles, taken a couple of courses, and then simply teach what they THINK they understand, without actually running it past an expert. Some of what goes on in the production of vocal sound isn’t easy to grasp, especially as hard science, and it can take a while for someone to fully digest charts and graphs unless they are inclined to like them. Writing to incorporate something new into something you already know can be dangerous. Those who write should think and think again before allowing themselves to submit something that, once published, will demonstrate exactly how confused, not how knowledgeable, the writer is.

It really is true that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Seems like, in some ways, we had less to worry about when people were talking about the “pink mist in the back of your throat” or “drinking a glass of water” to “make the sound more creamy”, as at least then we knew the information we were being given was pretty much from Mars. Now we get something that sounds like it is REAL except somewhere in there we are still being told that we need a masque in order to sing opera…..so how come the Lone Ranger wasn’t singing at the Met?

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