Why Is It So Hard?

Why is it so hard for singing teachers to decide anything concrete? WHY????????

They can’t decide that you have to know even one single factual piece of information. The argument for this is that people have done very well learning to sing by knowing nothing and teaching only flowery images for technical training. Great. For all the people that find this useful, GREAT! The rest of us, however, would probably do better with someone who actually knew that we had a larynx.

Plus, even though knowing vocal function doesn’t mean you can teach or that you can sing well, not knowing vocal function pretty much guarantees that you are going to make things up. Why this is tolerated in the profession is because people are TERRIFIED to admit they just don’t know what they don’t know and they aren’t about to go find out while they hold jobs. They can’t admit they don’t know so they want a “standard” where no one has to know. It certainly works to protect the guilty.

I for one think this is truly astoundingly stupid. If you want to talk about pearls on a string or elephant’s trunks or sending the sound across the road, go ahead, but in the back of your own mind have a clear idea of what it is you’re trying to get the student’s throat to do. If you want to say that the sinus’ create lots of resonance, no one will stop you, but it would behoove you to read that NO voice science has ever found the sinus cavities to contribute in any way to “resonance” or to acoustic behavior in the vocal tract. If you want to tell someone to create a “watermelon sized space in your throat”, well speak up, but understand that your throat couldn’t ever open that much. We couldn’t even get a tangerine in there, although it might fit inside someone’s mouth if it were big enough. If you have some wacky idea about what people need to do when they are singing, and if you have not run that idea in front of someone who should know, like a voice scientist or a skilled Speech Language Pathologist, but you teach it as if it were “real” because you think it is, no one is going to pound on your door and lock you up, but I certainly wish there were some voice police who would!

Yes, being functionally trained does not make you a communicative artist. It does not help you share what you know with passion, but it does make it possible for you to do so without hurting yourself and it allows you to know how to change gears if you want to, and emotion alone won’t do that, no matter how crazy you get when you sing. Being functionally trained isn’t the same as being unique in what you have to say through your singing but not being functionally trained sets you up for more vocal health problems, limits your artistic choices and leaves you helpless if something technical goes wrong.

Why, then, would there be any sane reason for teachers of singing to undermine the goal of having every person who teaches singing know about how we make sound as human beings?????

Because teachers of singing are ……… figure it out yourself! Argh!!!!

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4 thoughts on “Why Is It So Hard?”

  1. This is one of your best blogs yet! Yes, I will use anything I think might help a singer sing freely, but I believe it is crucial for me to understand the function. You and Jerry were on intersecting wave lengths. Being present and singing freely. No better feeling, it is like flying!

  2. I had a student this morning wondering many of these things about her former teachers – why they seemed not to know much about the function of the vocal instrument. We are making progress as we work along with the staff at Dr. Sataloff’s office.

  3. Maybe in order to move the profession forward, we need to “grandfather” in teachers who have a certain number of years of teaching under their belts (10? 20?). It might help to get more people on board if we start asking the newer/younger teachers to know some of the science and function and let the more experienced ones continue on. Just a thought to get some movement.

  4. We cannot expect to change the attitudes of veteran teachers who have spent their careers using imagery and imitation to teach technique, remaining completely in the dark about anatomy and physiology. But neither should we condone it. Only a very small percentage of their students whose instruments are already fairly free and flexible and who respond well to this teaching style achieve mastery under their guidance while the rest end up unfairly squandering their youth, talent, and tuition trying to apply a pedagogy that will never work for them and thinking it’s their own fault that they aren’t making progress.

    We expect doctors to remain on the cutting edge of new methods and technologies and would never let one just “continue on” using methods that were state-of-the-art when they earned their MD 30 years ago. Why an academic would keep their head in the sand rather than remaining highly enthusiastic about advances in their field is a mystery to me. Much of my joy in teaching stems from opportunities to deepen my understanding and broaden my skill set in any way I can.

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