I thought it would be useful today to write a bit about how I approach and talk about vocal technique, in the hope that by putting these ideas out there, you can pick and choose some of them that make sense to you, and that you will hopefully find useful.
As a starting point for this, I am inspired to recall an idea I read in Cornelius Reid's book, 'Voice - Psyche and Soma'. I cannot remember the exact quote, but the gist of it is that the mind and the body are acting together to produce the singing voice. I think this means for vocal technique that singing is simultaneously psychological and physical.
A survey of books written on singing over the last 200 years shows that every teacher has a different approach to working with singers, a different mix of the psychological and physical. Some favor emphasis of the physical aspects, and talk about doing things with body parts, muscle groups, tendons, nasal cavities, lower jaw, the tongue, etc. Others emphasize the sensations of the singer, i.e., 'sing so that you feel such and such a sensation in such and such location in your body'. Still others rely on metaphors and imagery, i.e., 'sing out the top of your head', or 'imagine that you are projecting the tone toward a target on the wall', or 'think of a happy memory'.
I don't do any of these alone. Perhaps better stated, I do them all, cherry-picking ideas and approaches from these authors that have these characteristics:
1) are based on anatomical fact, acoustical principles, and physiologically healthy bodily action.
2) are easily expressed and understood using in common language
3) can be practiced beneficially by the student without the teacher's constant supervision
4) help the singer build their ability to sing what they desire to sing - whatever genre or style that is.
When it comes to teaching, I am also an optimist. :-) I believe that most people, with very few exceptions, can learn to sing for their own & others' enjoyment if they approach it with patience.
In my next posts, I will be writing about the basics of how the voice works - 'what happens where' in the mind and body to produce healthy vocal tone. Along the way, I will address some common misconceptions I've encountered, and clarify some terms that are often used by singers and teachers, but not well understood.
I have no illusions that the way I approach this is the only way, or even the best way. I am very interested to hear other ways of doing it as well, as that is how I learn myself.
If you have a particular area you'd like to discuss, send me an e-mail or comment to my blog, and I will pull that text forward in a response.