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Training vs. Teaching

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So what does a student need? They need to be able to do all of the physical tasks that constitute the singing activity required by their goals. This requires training, even if no trainer is available. In addition, their goals will require them to develop the musicianship and experience to handle styles, inflection, and ornamentation appropriate for the music they want to do. This requires learning, even if no teacher is available.

In school and at home, we were told many times to "Think about what you are doing!" That approach is almost completely counter-productive for musicians and high wire walkers. Imagine the effect of yelling "Think about what you're doing!" to a person walking a wire across the Grand Canyon.

The free-flow execution of skills is managed by a part of the brain that is totally different from the part of the brain where knowledge and understanding are applied to currently executing skills. Once a performer starts thinking about what they are doing, the analytical part of the brain begins to interfere with the free-flow part of the brain. If you as a teacher explain everything, you are implying that singing skills can be managed by the intellect, which is actually impossible beyond a beginner level.

I'm not saying that teaching about the subject of singing technique has no value. A voice teacher needs to really know and understand the subject. However, I am suggesting that you carefully consider how much and when to teach a student "about" singing technique.

My friend, Robert Lunte, says that singers need to train as "vocal athletes," and I totally agree. The great athletes don't become great by approaching their skills analytically. Their trainers focus on the physical and mental demands of specific skills, and they train the muscles to do the job. The great trainers also train the athlete's mind to concentrate in ways that don't interfere with the fluency of their physical skills.

Princeton says that "training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies."

I like that definition, but I would boil it down a bit and say that personal voice training is leading someone through exercises and experiences that develop the skills to achieve specific goals and acquire the knowledge required to execute those skills in the required styles.

For more information about The Performing Mind, go to http://www.pfco.com.

Michael Kysar

The Performing Mind



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