The Surface Is Just The Surface

If you think of the body as just a bunch of parts that happen to somehow randomly have gotten together, or if you think the way to deal with the body is strictly through Western science, you cannot understand the holistic point of view that says everything is connected. The body is far more than we understand. You can relegate it to being a bunch of muscles, bone, nerves, and a brain, or you can think that everything about it can always be greater than the some of its parts. That’s a big difference.

If you look at the surface, one set of vocal exercises is the same as another. One way of working on singing is just as good as another –as long as the person singing thinks it’s good. If you just look at the output of the sound and think that all roads lead to Rome, it really doesn’t and shouldn’t matter whether you study with teacher A or teacher B. This method says you have to breathe like this and someone else’s method says you should only breathe like that, but in the end, if you figure out a way that works, whatever it may be, that should suffice. If you think it’s good to squeeze your throat so you can sound more like a rock singer and you learn to do that successfully, then you wouldn’t look further unless you got into a problem. You might never know that there was a better way because you accepted the surface answer as being enough.

The teachers who regard the body and the throat as just a bunch of muscles, some bones and nerves, and who believe the best way to train a singer is to get to the result in whatever way you can are numerous and popular. They are not really looking at the singer or the voice in a way that includes authenticity, nor comfort, nor subjective satisfaction in the act of singing. Conversely, the people who say, “just feel the music and the sound will follow” discount the appropriate and reasonable limits of human beings who live in bodies that have boundaries which, when crossed, are harmful.

Without discrimination, you will not know the difference between either of these situations, and everything will end up being pretty much the same. Take a few exercises from this teacher and add a few more from that teacher and mix it in with your philosophy that the body behaves the way it does and you have a nice package. Unfortunately, this is only a surface examination. It will never investigate what needs to happen to liberate any individual’s body and voice and how that instrument behaves when the person singing finds an honest, simple and direct way to use that sound in whatever music he or she longs to sing.

The art of teaching singing is the in application of science and pedagogy to the individual one moment at a time. You cannot find that in a book, even a really good book, and you cannot find that by looking at music alone. You have to be able to see deeply below the surface to the depth of both body and mind.

You might have a really fancy car but if someone put an old used engine in it and you didn’t know to look under the hood, or you looked and couldn’t tell the difference, you might be very happy with your purchase because the car is, after all, pretty fancy. If you knew better, you might be happier to have one that looked plain and simple, but that had a really amazing, fabulous engine that would never give you any problems.

Look below the surface. Don’t buy the package by how it’s marketed. The only way to delve deeper is to dig a little bit.

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2 thoughts on “The Surface Is Just The Surface”

  1. T’ai chi has been of great help in teaching me about my body, in grounding me and balancing me. I have been doing it daily for a year. I am finding it more and more invaluable in helping me to understand my voice lessons. Each day, when I practice t’ai chi, my body teaches me something new. Each day when I practice singing, my voice teaches me something (well, some days, more that just one thing!). And more and more, the two practices are becoming two aspects of the same thing.T’ai chi has been of great help in teaching me about my body, in grounding me and balancing me. I have been doing it daily for a year. I am finding it more and more invaluable in helping me to understand my voice lessons. Each day, when I practice t’ai chi, my body teaches me something new. Each day when I practice singing, my voice teaches me something (well, some days, more that just one thing!). And more and more, the two practices are becoming two aspects of the same thing.

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