The Terminology Police

“Open it up in the back, dear. Spread the bones in the back of your head.”

“Spin the tone down from the top. Don’t grip your jaw.”

“Let the sound release into your eyebrows more. Lift it into the forehead.”

“Support the tone from the groin. Go down in order to go up.”

“Keep the laryxn down.”

“Stop swallowing the tone.”

“Place the center of the pitch into the tone before you sing it.”

“Don’t drag so much weight into the top.”

“Activate the diaphragm on the inhalation.”

“Open the tone into the cranium as you go higher.”

“Sing as if the sound were wider than your cheekbones.”

“Don’t let the support go at any time. Be sure to keep the same amount of support on the soft high notes.”

“Keep the tone forward but stay out of your nose.”

“Make the tone brighter but don’t make it harsh.”

“Sound sadder.”
How do you do any of these things? What can they possibly mean in terms of execution?
Translated, they more or less boil down to:

Allow yourself to smile broadly and easily as you inhale, and let your face stay that way while you sing.

Come in as softly as you can on that note and let both your jaw and your tongue relax as much as possible when you enter.

Think of a happy feeling that lets your face muscles move up and out, and keeping that feeling, sing as comfortably as you can while maintaining it.

Use your lower abs more vigorously as you continue to hold the note and go higher. Let the jaw hang freely.

Think of a soft, cooing tone, relax your jaw and tongue, come in gently and allow yourself to sing gently on these low pitches. Think of being really relaxed and comfortable in your throat and mouth.

Let your tongue relax forward and out, smile, take some pressure off your throat, and exhale gently while you sing. Try to make the sound “nasty” without pushing anything.

Listen to the note before you come in and relax as you start the tone easily.

Take all pressure off your throat, allow the tongue to move, change your face, leave your mouth open only a moderate amount and back off as you go higher.

Allow your belly muscles to move out and forward as you inhale.

Keep your vowel sound as simple and undistorted as possible, allow the tongue, all the way to the back of the throat, to sit comfortably so everything feels easy.

Smile while you sing that vowel.

Keep your ribs stable during the exhalation and go up as softly as you can while staying comfortable.

Allow yourself to sing in a nasty sound but without squeezing in your throat or pushing for volume.

Keep the sound clear and smile a little bit while you sing. Keep your throat comfortable while you sing. Avoid squeezing anything.

Think of something that makes you feel sad. Sing, thinking about how you feel.
If I were the terminology police, I would give out tickets to any teacher who uses the first phrases (in quotes) in a lesson.

We live in a profession that makes up words every day. Each teacher creates his or her own vocabulary. The words make sense to that teacher and (hopefully) to his or her students but not to another soul. We allow people to teach using jargon that makes no sense to the outside world. We do not have any punishment for those who charge a great deal of money and don’t really know what happens when something is wrong with a vocal sound. They can’t explain things accurately even when they do know because they do not have objective vocabularity to do so.

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One thought on “The Terminology Police”

  1. It was quite early on in my vocal studies (in college) when I looked around and said, “somebody needs to write a book!”

    It just seemed as though my HS choir director, my college choir director and my college voice professor all were saying the same things, but with different words. How confusing is that??

    Jeff Costello

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