The Voice Is Reflexive

Most people teach “the ends” as if it was “the means”.

Most people do not understand that what is a result cannot also be a cause.

This comes from the very old (and more or less correct) idea that you “should never feel your throat”. This old idea arose because it was understood that direct manipulation in the throat is never going to produce a free sound.

The conclusion, then, was that finding a different result would automatically mean that you had also caused a good new way to produce that result. This evolved into the idea that “getting different resonance” or “placement” automatically meant that you had come up with a viable vocal production mode to get it. But that conclusion could absolutely be wrong. The problem is that
“resonance” is a by-product of producing sound, not a cause. If you teach the by-product as if it were cause, you have the process backward.

There are lots of problems here. One is that it forces the singer to deal with “vibratory feedback” as the key ingredient in tracking vocal production. That might be fine if you have a big voice or if you can generate a lot of sound without too much strain. It’s my experience, however, that such voices are truly rare. Most people have ordinary voices with ordinary volume and they do not “feel” vibration until they have been studying for a long time. And, if you sing jazz or folk music, you might not ever feel enough “vibration” to track it in a useful manner.

Further, if you do figure out how to make a sound that vibrates a certain spot in your head (pick one: masque, eyebrows, forehead, top of the head, back of the head, sinuses, back of the nose, hard palate, front teeth, cheekbones, etc.), that may or may not be helpful. You can do that unfortunately by squeezing, forcing and pushing your throat to do things that it should not be doing. Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that you have “discovered” the “right” place or the “right” way to sing if you get the targeted “vibration”. It doesn’t mean anything. Whether or not you “vibrate” any of these “places”, by the way, has NOTHING to do with how you use your breathing mechanism.

And, if you are busy “tracking” vibration so you can “remember” it, you will never be fully able to sing by concentrating on the meaning of the words, as we really do not do two deliberate things well if we do them simultaneously. When a behavior becomes habitual, and you can forget about it, you can do it “effortlessly”, then, and only then, will a person be able to do something else at the same time. I have a great example of this:

I attended a wedding at which the bride was (deliberately) 45 minutes late. No one seemed surprised by this (except me) and the full church sat contentedly waiting as the organist played hymn after hymn. While she did so, she had a continuous and animated conversation with the woman sitting next to her, laughing and chatting away, although she never missed a note, song after song. If your singing becomes that ingrained, you can really focus on what you are singing about. You do not ever have to “remember” any “place” that “vibrates”.

What a singer should desire is to have the voice automatically respond to pitch, vowel and volume, and intention, period. In order to get the vocal production to change you have to have a stimulus (vocal exercise) to provoke that change. If you have any kind of tension (or imbalance) the throat will not respond freely. Training should correct those imbalances. If it does not, it isn’t doing you any good. If your sound does not get easier, nicer, better, more under your control and freer (at the same time), you are not learning anything. If you keep doing the squeezing, pushing, forcing or whatever, you will some day have to unlearn all of that in order to sing well…..if you can.

Your voice is reflexive. You can’t change that. You have to understand this in order to train it and to sing well. If you do not understand this, you must learn what it means. Your body is like all other bodies. The fact that you sing does not make it different than others who are not singers. No matter who your teacher is, no matter what his or her methods are, if they do not make functional sense and help you make functional changes, they are not working (at least for you) and if they do not teach you to make the sounds that you want to use while you sing — WHILE YOU SING — you should ask yourself why that is the case.

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