You Were Confused?

A few days ago I wrote a piece from the “opposition” point of view. I thought it was telling that some readers didn’t know if I was serious or not. I wasn’t. I couldn’t possibly have the beliefs I espoused in that piece. I was trying, obviously with limited success, to point out what the time-honored assumptions of my profession have been and to a large degree still are, which are to me, at least, no longer valid when applied to any style of CCM.

In questioning beliefs (about anything, not just singing) that have been around for a long time, and which are considered to be “the truth” for many of the believers, one is bound to cause both upset and confusion. Counting on the ability of individuals to use common sense and apply a “trial and error” attitude toward any ideas or philosophy is a crucial element in the hope for change. The attitudes I have toward singing and the teaching thereof are NOT based upon “believe it because I (the authority) say it is so” but upon the notion that one should accept as beliefs only those which have been confirmed by personal experience and experimentation. The other core assumption I put forth is that it is possible to be in touch with one’s own body at a profound level and that such awareness calls forth wisdom which is deep and irrefutable, and not necessary explanable in a rational intellectual manner, but is valid, perhaps required, nonetheless.

Singing is a part of human vocal expression, albeit a unique part. We, as sound makers, have limits to what we hear and can execute, but within those limits an enormous amount is possible, and possible for most people under most circumstances (even if that does not seem to be evident). Various types of singing have been organized according to assorted criteria, sometimes in a deliberate manner, but mostly by happenstance and accident. Value judgements about what these organized criteria are or should be are made by those involved and by those outside. I don’t have any idea why rock, country, rap, R&B, folk or other styles were created, or why the artists singing in these styles have a certain acceptability within each style, but I do know that these labels for each style exist and that people claim to recognize the various styles as being individuated musical expressions, even if the boundaries are constantly in flux. In other words, a self-proclaimed country, rock, pop, or folk artist knows that he or she is one because they say so and others agree.

If we don’t recognize that each style exists within its own world, and that there is no such thing as universal vocal training, we are going to remain confused and teach from a state of confusion. Applying the values of verismo to Mozart will get you in trouble. Applying classical vocal qualities to rock music will do the same. Taking the values of “good singing” that apply to classical training and applying them wholesale to other styles is a sure way to go nowhere. We must understand what the individual artist needs and what is required of the material that is being sung and guide the training accordingly.

Therefore, question everything anyone says, including me, until and unless you prove to yourself that it is worth holding as a tenet.

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