Used to be we talked about “placing the tone” somewhere “in the mask”. We talked about “vibrating the bones in the face” and “sending the sound forward”. We talked about “diaphragmatic breath support”.
Now, however, people talk about lining up the first formant with the first harmonic and maybe the second formant with the second harmonic or the first harmonic, depending. People talk about using various “resonance strategies”.
Know what? It’s still the same silliness, just dressed up in 21st century clothing.
When Angela Lansbury sang “Gypsy” on Broadway, she just opened her mouth and sang. She didn’t have any lessons. She didn’t study. Neither did Merman or Streisand. How about countless other singers who wouldn’t have known a formant from a harmonic from a hole in the ground like Rosa Ponselle? Think she was busy thinking of resonance when she sang with her sister as a young woman in Connecticut and was heard by Caruso?
Understand, folks, I am a big supporter of voice science (hygiene, research, medicine) and what it teaches us. Discovering something and explaining it after the fact is a vital part of science. We NEED that information. We need to know why things do what they do. But confusing the what with the how is just dumb. Just because you know which ingredients are in your stew doesn’t mean that I will get the same stew if I put those ingredients together in one of my own, but maybe in random order, or in the wrong proportions. Knowing the what won’t help you much with the how. You need a definite recipe.
Science is only useful to us as intellectual information. It cannot substitute for physical coordination and skill. It cannot substitute for excellent ears and eyes. It cannot give us emotional freedom. It isn’t ever going to make us more creative artists. When science becomes the end instead of the means it gets in the way. As I have said here many times, if voice science were the only answer, every one of the people teaching voice science would sing like an angel and that is absolutely not the case. Some of them don’t sing at all or sing very badly.
Beware the people who throw voice science in your face to impress you with what they know. They are hiding behind information, not skill. Beware the people who talk the talk but do not walk the walk. If you can sing and make the audience cry, then it doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t know formants and harmonics and how to “tune them”. It you can command an audience and bring them to their feet, you have something to say and people “get” your communication. If you are very good at bringing the second harmonic to meet the second formant, well, that’s nice. That, and $2.50, will get you on the New York City subway.