The voice teacher between science and art
The inspiration for this article came to me while I was recalling something hilarious that happened several years ago, that I won’t tell you in detail to avoid confusing words, situations and characters. But you must know that that was one of those periods of greatest crisis for me as a student and singer, because I could no longer understand what to do when using my voice. The singing teacher told me that my tone came from the contraction of a muscle with a complicated and strange name, and this triggered in me the belief that since my teacher used "big words", then she must be able to understand so much about singing and voices.
At that time, I was lucky enough to meet a teacher (not a singer) of great experience, with whom I was able to discuss singing lessons, mentioning some of the various "scientific" explanations I was "learning". The teacher was puzzled, also because from his classroom in the conservatory, he could hear the work of the opera teachers, who were not there to talk about science but they were teaching the exercises. He said: “Theirs is a craft work, made of practice, not theory. I hear them vocalize ... those people do very little talking”.
THE VOICE TEACHER: ARTISAN OF THE VOICE
Well, amen to that!!! The singing lessons are, or should be, a workshop made for practice, practice, practice and then exercises, exercises, exercises. But like in all things, the truth is never on one side only. Because if it is true that the singing lessons must consist of exercises of a practical nature, it is also true that the singing teacher must have that scientific knowledge of the voice which allows him to create appropriate vocalises taylored to the needs of the individual. There are no exercises suitable for everyone. Some exercises work better than others on one voice rather than another.
How can a singing teacher expect to direct a voice towards technical growth, with ever greater skills, if he does not know the voice on an anatomical and functional level? Obviously we are not here to say that the singing teacher should become a scientist. But without a doubt, having to deal with a complicated instrument such as the voice, he must take a specific course of study in order to know enough to “get his hands" on the voice of others.
THE VOICE TEACHER: THE SCIENCE OF THE VOICE AS A TOOL TO BUILD
But here too, a clarification must be made. The singing teacher must not accumulate anatomical or scientific notions about the voice for the sake of it. Knowing how the voice works in itself does not enable the teacher to know how to manage it. To give an example: I can also perfectly know the definition of appoggio and support for breath, and not know how to help the student manage it. I can have a sharp ear that hears all the faults of the voice and make an accurate diagnosis, but not have the tools to correct those defects. The singing teacher must therefore know how the voice works, but above all he must know the tools that can influence it. These tools are the exercises, those that for decades have been used in the Italian opera singing method and that have always worked, and we call them vocalises.
LEARN TO SING WITH SIMPLE VOCALISES
The exercises or vocalises I assign to my students are personalized and not given at random. They are based on the cause & effect formula. Instead of giving useless scientific explanations, of which in all probability the student will not understand the meaning, I try to explain in simple words why the student's voice has a given problem (e.g. why he cannot reach the high notes, why is he lacking power, why he tends to go into falsetto, etc.) and solve it by creating a vocalise (Cause) that produces a vocal sensation and therefore the desired result (Effect).
At this point you will say “But the art?” Well, art is in the student!!! As a singing teacher I deal with the basic drawing, that is the technique, but the singer will choose the colors. My job is to provide the vocalist with that vocal ease, which gives him free and full access to any dynamic, on any note in his vocal range, without breaks and without quality changes in the timbre, without getting tired and without damaging the voice. The mix method offers this: vocal freedom, giving the singer the opportunity to express his art as he pleases. The student can choose to sing in whatever style he wants, unleashing his own interpretation, performing in the unique and unmistakable way in which he can: his own!!!
All you have to do is try one of my singing lessons. Book one immediately, in person or via Skype, and feel the progress with your voice, lesson after lesson!!!