When Being Technical Is Too Much
Have you ever heard of formants? Maybe cricothyroid? How about the quadratus lumborum?
If you are into singing and have picked up any good book on singing (Including the Throga: 7 Dimensions of Singing Book), you may know that all those terms have some relationship with each other, and it all comes down to the art of singing.
Now, please don’t be scared. You don’t need any of these to actually be a good singer, but your teacher does, and they need to use their pedagogical skills to help you improve your vocal skills without confusing you.
You might wonder why technique would confuse you. You see, it’s very hard to explain and teach something that you can’t see, touch or entirely feel (you can’t feel your vocal folds, but you can feel the vibrations caused by them within your body). Thus, vocal pedagogues, which is a fancy term for voice teachers, train themselves to learn more about the voice, in terms of anatomy (parts of the body), physiology (how those parts work), acoustics (the science of sounds), Phonetics (the science of speech), performance (how to sing on stage), Vocal Health (care of the voice) Vocal Rehabilitation (therapy of the voice) and other fields that in one way or another can impact their clients.
Because singing pedagogy doesn’t have a unified consensus, nor does it have some type of global jurisdiction that dictates parameters, rules or regulations, teaching singing can pretty much be done by anyone in any way. While that has some advantages, because every single singer is unique, it also allows for little control of how exactly singers are being taught. Furthermore it complicates things when a student decides to go to a different teacher, since terminology, methods, exercises and more, can be vastly different, even though the goal is the same.
The fact of the matter is, that every singer wants to sing better. Whether it is higher notes, lower notes, middle notes, brighter tone, darker tone, etc. There is always some type of improvement the students want to see. In order to accomplish this, the teacher needs to use terminology, imagery, personalized exercises, and samples from their own voice. Not only that, but there should also be a good explanation of the why and how of voice production.
This is where things can get complicated. You see, sometimes teachers, especially those who have spent months or years just reading books, can get very technical. There is nothing wrong with that, because they are indeed very knowledgeable. But teaching is also a craft, it requires experience and is not something that is based on books or videos from YouTube. How you explain something to one student may have to be different to another student even if they are the same level and the topic is the same. Different people learn in different ways, and the truth of the matter is, most students don’t want to waste their time with long and too technical stuff.
Do you really need to know all the muscles around the neck? The constrictors? The ones that raise and lower the larynx? If you are confused by now, you know the answer: no.
While some basic understanding of how the voice works is a must for every serious singer, anything beyond that can turn into a confusing chaos very quickly, especially if we go back to the part of, “not a unified consensus”. There are many techniques and methods that don’t agree on things, and this can quickly cause a mental conflict to the student which eventually will lead to poor results and a lot of money and time wasted.
The simpler things are kept, the easier they will be to remember, practice and master. Also, most singers don’t want to waste their time in the lessons trying to understand what “formants” are and learn the names of the five layers of the vocal folds. Of course, there are some students that love this type of talk and the science behind it, but in my experience, it’s the minority and many of them end up teaching voice, so it’s almost like a predisposition. Most singers don’t want to pay to get confusion out of a class, they just want to be taken from point A to point B as easy, safely and fast as possible.
Therefore, for those singers who are afraid to take lessons because they believe things get too complicated with so much terminology, and for those singers who think it is a must to know all these components to master your voice: too much “technical” doesn’t always help and you can still improve without knowing and memorizing every single muscle of the larynx.
There are plenty of teachers that can make pedagogy easy to follow and fun to practice. Don’t be scared to search around!