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Academic Arrogance – Vocal Instruction

In another article, I debunk the myth that somehow, inherent to the style of music, classical or operatic teaching somehow brings about a better technical ability for the student. This idea typically stems from the insecurity and arrogance of many of those in higher education – WITH or WITHOUT said individuals actually having the education.

I will occasionally receive rebuttals from University voice teachers (or even worse, the students of University voice teachers) who want to get into it with me on some of my posts. I choose not to engage those rebuttals in this forum, nor do I even allow the comments if they are not open to discussion that is helpful to the vast majority of people wanting to become better singers, though I will often speak with them “offline”.

Some might say that I am afraid of debate or to be questioned. Not at all! Actually, I have a ridiculous love of the subject of vocal technique and could talk for hours about the intricacies of vocal balances, the mechanics of singing, vibrato, etc., down to the most minute detail. However… that will rarely help anyone sing better!

My purpose in this blog is, for the most part, to teach the practical. I want to discuss topics in a way that is helpful to 95%+ of readers. They just want to sing better! That is why I assume folks are here. That is how I teach and that is how I write. Theory and detailed academic discussion of singing and the voice is fine, and has its place, but not here.

Teaching someone to sing with more ease, freedom, control, and more range is like teaching someone to drive. All that the vast majority of us need to know about a car is to keep the oil changed, keep the fluid levels high, put gas in it, and be sure the tires have enough air. Beyond that, it’s just learning to drive the car and the rules of the road.

The vast majority of singers don’t need to know much of the impractical stuff, just as a driver doesn’t need to know how the engine is put together or how it runs. They just want to turn the key and go!

I have students come to me all the time who have studied with these insecure (cocky) teachers who felt that they needed to teach in such an “accurate” way that it is no longer even useful! They can tell you all the theory of how the voice works and the names of every muscle and muscular process involved in singing, but they can’t even sing well themselves! In fact, one of the worst singers I have ever heard was a person who had his doctorate degree in vocal performance from a big 10 school. It was painful to listen to.

Listen, I can speak in the fancy-schmancy terms as well, and I do at times. Yes, know the processes, and in fact, I have an almost sick enjoyment discussing such detailed minutia, but that doesn’t necessarily help someone sing better. I admit that teachers need to know a bit of this stuff. Of course they do! But I try not to get so bogged down in the details when teaching that it doesn’t help someone sing better.

I shall dismount my high horse, and get back to teaching folks how to sing better, which is what I love to do!! I finished this post just in time for my next lesson in 2 minutes…

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner
BecomeAVoiceTeacher.com
SingWithPower.com

 



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Can I directly control the vocal cords for an easier, clearer voice? Yes! (and no)

ImageThe following is an article I wrote in response to several bloggers arguing that the vocal cords CANNOT be manually or consciously pulled together, and that it is only the Bernoulli effect that pulls the back of the vocal cords together. Respectfully, I submit that they are wrong. 

“The Bernoulli effect is absolutely what is involved in the production of tone at the vocal cord (or vocal fold) level. In fact, it is the cause of the sound of our speaking and singing voices (also known as phonation). As the air flows (from the lungs) across the cords, the vocal cords are pulled together, then the little bit of pressure built up is released, and the process starts over again.

This releases sound waves (up to hundred of times per second) which we use when speaking or singing.

However, this effect CANNOT happen without the back of the cords FIRST being pulled close together (adduction) so that the cords are close enough to each other for the airflow to “suck” the cords together, beginning the vibration. The Bernoulli effect will not take effect until and unless the back of the cords are somewhat approximated (brought close together via adduction), otherwise we would phonate (make a sound at the vocal cord level such as in speech or singing) EVERY TIME WE ASPIRATE, breathing in or out. We have to bring them together to ALLOW the Bernoulli effect to take effect, creating sound. Usually, we do this without thinking because we do it so often.
Many will say that one cannot consciously or mechanically bring the back of the cords together. They are wrong. We first “stumble” into it immediately after birth when we start screaming, but we can also consciously activate the cords pulling together. Of course, without proper airflow, bringing the cords together does nothing to produce any usable sound.
One such way to pull the vocal cords together in the back is to make a vocal “fry” or creaky or scratchy sound. When making these sounds, however, the airflow across the cords is somewhat constricted because there is typically TOO MUCHpulling of the back of the cords together, and TOO LITTLE air release across the cords, causing the fry or scratchy sound. This technique is typically used when a singer is releasing too much air across the cords, generally caused because the cords are NOT being approximated and then stabilized by the muscles at the cord level.
These sounds are only meant to help a singer get a feel for controlling adduction while singing. When balanced properly, we don’t have to think about it, such as in the case of speech. The problem? We typically start to intrusively upset the balance of air and vocal chord adduction when using our singing voices because we try to make tones our ears like, instead of tones that are natural to our instruments. For instance, we don’t typically try to control the tone quality of our speaking voices. When speaking, we don’t really give it a thought, but when we sing we’ll often try to produce specific tone qualities that aren’t necessarily natural to our own “instruments”.
Bottom line? Yes, the back of the cords can be manually adducted, but this shouldn’t be something we HAVE to think about unless we are doing something funky to mess with the vocal process that we already experience from our speech voices.
There’s much more on this topic that I could address (to the absolute boredom of most, though quite interesting to those of us sharing a sick fascination with such things), but I’ll bore you no further! 🙂

Happy Singing!!

Eric Bruner
BecomeAVoiceTeacher.com
SingWithPower.com



Live chat button

Want to talk to me about voice lessons, the Voice Teacher Certification Program, or my self-study vocal training products? Click the “Live Chat” button now to talk to myself or my assistant.

I want to hear your ideas on vocal and singing topics for future posts and articles! Leave ideas in the reply box below…