What’s On The Page

It can be very easy to be seduced by words. People are every day and look at our world!

Currently, the buzz words in the voice profession are changing. We are talking about functional training now. It’s suddenly cool.

There is as well a great deal of talk about reflux and about harmonic to formant tuning/ratio. Also very cool.

Still, what do these words actually mean? If you read this blog you know I am always only interested in APPLICATION. It’s the practical application of the information that is useful. Practical application. Without it, information is just words, and we have a lot of them already.

I just came back from a voice conference in which the topic of “cross-training” for singers was presented. The  cross-training was in belt, classical and mix. I was thrilled to see the paper in the program. Sadly, when it was given, the audio examples of “belt” were not belt. The researchers, based on their own limited experiences, assumed that the singers they had access to were belters because they were working (at theme parks, in small venues). Those of us in attendance at the conference who work in London, New York and even in the medical community, did not think the belt examples were actually representative of what the market would call belting. Therefore, almost everything they presented in the paper, which was based on the premise that they were comparing belt to mix to classical, was skewed. Who there knew that? Only the singing teachers working in the music industry (probably less than 5 people out of about 125 attendees), or medical professionals who treated high level working singers.

There are no guidelines in voice research regarding acoustic vocal behavior in terms of baseline acceptability. You could set up research equipment in your house, decide that you know what belting is, compare it to some other sound you say is “not belting” and then evaluate your data. If you were intelligent, familiar with writing scientific papers and could present a reasonable argument, you might find that your paper gets published, WITHOUT PEER REVIEW OF THE ACTUAL SOUNDS. Only the stats would be reviewed. This has always struck me as being amazing. But it is the way it is.

Then, after your research got published, you could present it, and yourself, as an expert on “comparative methods” of vocal production and those who were new to the topic or naive about it might read your paper and think it wonderful. Even though what you actually sang in any of your examples would never have gotten you a job in the music industry anywhere.

This is not, sadly, fiction. It has been happening every day since voice research started and now, since contemporary commercial music is accepted more every day as a viable topic for scientific investigation, and since there is increasing interest in “non-classical” singing production, the amount of information coming down the pike is increasing every day. Without hearing what is being researched and without having the auditory quality of the research sounds evaluated by those who work in the music marketplace as to the authenticity of the examples, however, there is absolutely no way to determine if the sounds being investigated are professionally valid.

BE CAREFUL. Do not read voice research papers and accept what you see on the page. You have to HEAR the sounds and you have to know in your mind what the music industry wants to hear at a high professional level when you evaluate them. In opera, in music theater, or in rock, you have to know what the sounds need to be before you say, “yes, these sounds are representative of the real world, and they should be studied, so we can learn about them”. If you don’t understand this, (and many people do not) you don’t. If you do, and you believe that this is a valid argument, I would like to hear from you.

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