I have been, since 1978, a strong advocate for voice science research. It’s application to vocal pedagogy has been a very strong ingredient in helping us all understand how the voice works and what the mechanism does when it is functioning optimally. My own work rests on knowledge of voice science, vocal health and medicine and vocal use in healthy singing.
Sadly, voice science has utterly failed to make sure that voice science concepts are applied in a viable manner to actual singing and training for singing. This is profoundly disturbing, especially since there is no resolution to this issue.
I am aware, keenly aware, that there are people who teach singing who went into a lab and “researched” themselves, wrote the research up, had it published, and went on to use it as a tool to market their brand. Think about that. Read that sentence again. One would hope that these teachers sang well, that they had long life experience singing a certain way in the music marketplace. One would hope that the premises of the person originating the method had been examined by those who were NOT part of his or her own studio. These would all be false assumptions.
At no time did anyone who vetted this research examine whether or not the person who did the self-research was a good vocalist in any style, and none of what was studied by anyone was compared to accepted vocal pedagogy by singing experts. Please tell me what good it does if crazy people have the money and time to go into a voice lab, stick a scope into their own throats and make terrible sounds, call them singing, and write about it afterwards. Explain to me how it is that these same people should then go into the world and say, “My method is proven by scientific research.” How is this different from the soda companies hiring researchers to “prove” that sugar isn’t so bad for you after all. There are many examples of “scientists for hire” who have been paid to prove that a certain thing was true, even if it wasn’t. Singing methods have not been immune to this kind of pseudo science. It has been around for decades and continues to the present moment.
I recently saw a very long pitch on PBS that touted a way of getting the brain to improve its function. Research was cited to back up this claim (selling books, CDs, courses, etc.). My husband, a research chemist for 41 years, immediately looked online to read the research only to discover that mainstream science has not in any way determined that there is validity to this one doctor’s crusade for his own studies. There are, as yet, no accepted ways to avoid any kind of brain dysfunction, as he claimed, but there it was on PBS! PBS did not vet this man’s work in any way. Let the buyer beware!
There are at least two very successful methods of singing teaching used internationally that are based on very faulty concepts. They are faulty because they violate the body’s hard-wired need to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide freely and easily. Squeezing, holding, pushing, pulling, retracting, constricting and all other manner of direct manipulation of the inside of the throat while making sound violates the freedom of the larynx as a joint and will never, ever be useful in any kind of vocal production even though people can make these gestures and still manage to squawk out a sound anyway.
It is wrong, yes, wrong, for voice science to continue its deliberate refusal to hold responsible those who do “research” with a personal ax to grind. That’s NOT research. Further, the profession of teaching singing is a contributor to this lack of responsibility because it has steadfastly and with vehemence been unwilling to license singing teachers or even provide a modicum of guidance about acceptable professional parameters for teachers.
I ask again and again what good is research if it gives credence to people whose singing is horrid, whose idea of being a singer is severely skewed and who have no clue about whether what they do works with or against the body over time? If all you scrutinize is statistics (and that is all that is scrutinized) how can this contribute to vocal well-being? It cannot!! This is how you end up with books that say you can teach someone to belt by looking for a certain formula of formants to harmonics. Nonsense!
In the end, no one cares. If you purchase a course that tells you the best way to sing is to constrict your aryepiglottic sphincter or retract your false folds or curb your larynx or add edge to your vocal folds, and you think this is just fine, they you are a victim of PT Barnum’s phrase: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” It’s your tough luck that you end up sounding like someone is crushing your foot while you sing. If you end up with nodules, oh well.
Singing, after all, is no big deal. Any kind of singing is OK as long as you become a star and make a lot of money. All the methods, particularly for CCM styles, are the same, right? The best ones are the ones that use voice research as a selling tool. What kind of science? Who cares?
If you happen to be that unusual person who doesn’t want to go along with all this hooey, and you are also someone who might like to think about something a bit deeper when it comes to singing, if you are interested in singing training and performance that is more authentic and grounded in the real world of making voiced sound, you might want to investigate what else is available in the field of vocal pedagogy.