Those Who Can, Can and Those Who Can’t — ?

Why are there so many folks who teach who sound lousy themselves? What’s up with that? Shouldn’t a teacher of singing have found a way to sound good?

I guess not. There are plenty of people who can present a good argument that you don’t have to sing yourself to teach others to sound good. I guess I can go along with that. What I find hard to accept is to think that someone who has never felt how different it can be to sing in various different vocal qualities can teach another person to learn how to create those different qualities entirely from their discernment of outside feedback.
Many singers are taught to sing “by feel”. In fact, it is the predominant method used by most teachers of singing. “Feel the resonance in your forehead”, they say. Feel the sound in your eyes, your cheekbones, your sinuses, your facebones. Feel the breath moving. Feel. Go by the feeling.
So, how do you get someone to feel a sound that doesn’t do “classical resonance” if that’s all you know and you don’t, yourself, know what it feels like to make a belt sound or even a mixy sound correctly, since they don’t depend upon “resonance” very much. Please explain to me how you can get the feeling right if you have never had that feeling yourself.
That leaves listening. Listening is mostly forbidden. You are not supposed to listen, lest you be lead astray by the distortion of having the sound be audible from your ears and also, to a lesser extent, from your bone conduction of the sound. But, how much do we hear through bone conduction? We don’t know. I don’t think it has been studied, because, how would you study it? You can’t get inside someone’s head. You are not supposed to listen lest you, God forbid, fall in love with your own voice. Tsk Tsk.
There’s always how you look. Some teachers of singing insist that the mouth must never open. You must learn to sing with your mouth mostly closed. Other teachers are busy telling you to drop the jaw and open the mouth. Which is better? When is one preferred? The profession can’t say, as no one has studied that either.
So, if you can’t sing but you can teach others to sing, my question would be, why haven’t you tried to teach yourself what you are teaching these other people? Don’t you like singing? Don’t you want to sing? And, if you have tried to teach yourself and you still don’t sing well, how do you justify to yourself what you are doing with your students? What is the rationale?
This is not an argument that can be settled. There is no answer. It’s just one of the many things about singing that will remain a point of discussion.
Those who can’t, teach. Is this true? What do you think?
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One thought on “Those Who Can, Can and Those Who Can’t — ?”

  1. This is something we’ve talked about before and something I often think about. In some cases perhaps the teacher can exhibit free healthy function but the instrument just isn’t that great. Sometimes “sounding good” is a matter of taste. I’d be interested to know how it works in other areas: are there great tennis coaches who weren’t great players? I can always count on your blogs to keep me thinking. Thanks.

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