Voice Science F.A.Q.

How about teachers who say they teach the „scientific“ method of singing?

Many teachers in recent history have fallen victim to what has been erroneously termed „voice science“. You see, any time you associate something with the word „science“, it automatically assumes an aura of truth. That's very attractive to both teachers and students, who are anxious to grab onto anything that offers them hope of understanding what has unfortunately become a very confusing subject.

Of course your voice works, as does everything else, according to scientific principles. But those principles can be abused by those who aren't able to apply them. Prominent voice „scientists“ have attempted for years to translate scientific findings into a usable vocal technique. They have made some remarkable observations as to what happens to voices during the process of singing. But that's all they are – observations.

Science, however, is not only knowledge derived from observation, but the skill resulting from that knowledge. In singing, that skill can only be developed through special exercises which balance your vocal coordination so that speech-level tone production is possible. The foremost vocal „scientist“ I ever knew couldn't even sing in his head voice, and the part of his range where he did sing always sounded „dark“, „throaty“, and „wooden“.

Then how does the „scientific“ method work?

There are many variations. However, all have in common the manipulation of the muscles in and around the larynx by telling students to „open your throat“ and „lower your tongue“, etc. Some even go so far as to manually force the larynx into position, which is extremely dangerous, because permanent physical damage can result.

Shouldn't singers sing with an open throat, and a lowered tongue?

Yes, but that type of vocal posture is a result of good technique, not the cause of it. Imposing any kind of posture on a voice creates tension that can hinder the freedom of cord vibration, disrupt the balance of tone and make speaking words sound unnatural as well – even if what the teacher asks for sounds like a way to „free“ the voice.

But I've heard a few singers who studied with teachers who use those methods. Why did they sound good?

It's very hard to know whether or not a singer already had a natural affinity for good vocal technique before his/her study with a teacher. Many voice teachers build their reputations around the successful singing of one or two students. Other people then go to that teacher because of the way those students sound, without knowing that those students would have sounded good without that teacher.