Sunday, June 21, 2015

What is Vocal Technique Anyway?

happy Fathers Day!

First and foremost,  you aren't going to learn to sing from this blog post.  You aren't going to get any 'vocal tricks'  (because they don't exist!) but I hope I can give you some solid information and clear some things up.

Lately there has been so much misinformation,   pseudo-information,  kinda true kinda not information,  being thrown around via blogs, or websites, or YouTube videos.  The age of immediate information via the Internet is always a double-edged sword as you still have to wade through it to find what is real,  who is offered the knowledge and does it make sense.

There was a blog post that was being talked about that dismissed "classical style".  Two words that have no meaning unless they are connected to something.  The young man making these statements has since made his blog "private" which is probably a very good thing,  and sadly doesn't realize what he doesn't know.  I am not linking anything of it here. 

Many singers and teachers are not clear enough about what technique is and how it layers fully.

To dismiss a style or genre just because you don't do it, or understand it,  has no validity. 

When asked if I "teach opera"  or "teach music theatre"  or "teach pop or jazz",  I respond with:
"I teach the singers who sing in these genres."

There IS a distinction.  To teach or sing a certain style or genre ASSUMES you already have access to your instrument fully enough to wear that style.

THIS is technique.

Technique is the true access to the behavior of the instrument in order to work with it fully with ease and clarity in order to move into the genre you say you do.

Great technique develops as behavior.  Physical behavior that is developed over time,  and honed and crafted in subtle ways as one grows and develops in one's craft.

Great technique is not a quick fix.

Great technique is not SEEN - but allows a style,  a genre,  a character to have a place to revealed fully.

Great technique is going to allow you access more of your physicality in order to do what you say you do or what you say you want to do.  It should lengthen your singing life,  not exhaust it.

We often call great technique,  be it voice, acting or dance,  "classical".   Why?  Simply because we are working for a balanced neutral to fully access the FORM of what we do.

The form of what we do always begins and ends with the athleticism of the body,  the breath and the alignment.  Its function is to find a balance of resonance in the vibration of the tone we produce.  Its function is to find a full elasticity of register,  of range, of dynamic;  to develop a physical and buoyant legato as well as an ease and finesse of movement.

Notice, NONE of these things have ANYTHING to do with style.  Style then informs that form.

Vocal behavior must come first.  It must be what we go back to in order to discover without value judgement, what our instrument does and what it needs.

What do great dancers do no matter the style they are dancing?  They go back to the barre.  Back to neutral.  Back to the basics.

If you are an opera singer then you can develop further operatic technique,  and stylistic technique depending on the genre and the composer.

If you are a theatre singer,  then you can further develop specificity to traditional legit technique, or contemporary legit technique,  or belt technique.

If you are a jazz singer,  then you can further develop specificity to register technique, mic technique, use of language technique.

And on it goes...

So often we put the cart before the horse.  We try to develop stylistic technique into the physicality before that physicality has had time to develop,  to understand and to create a place to reside.

This is when we often have to "redo" our technique.  Discovering physical behavior is a constant in our lives as singers.

Asking WHY we work the voice the way we do is crucial in developing the physical knowledge of what it allows for.  If we don't know WHY we cannot make it behavior.

A teacher's job is to find the singer where they are - physically, emotionally, intellectually - and where they are in their physical behavior technically and how they process.  It's work!

As  a teacher,  I am going to demand as much from myself to find you as I do from you to ask the questions to find you too!

So let's consider calling vocal technique what it really is:  an athletic physical behavior that develops the body and the vocal mechanism to allow full access to the instrument in order to begin to develop authenticity in the styles and genres we want to sing in.

Let us not confuse the term "classical" with anything but developing FORM.

Is your voice building or isn't it?

Can you access what you say you do?

Do you have the physicality to access the stylistic techniques in order to be authentic in that style?

Find your instrument first.  THAT is alpha and omega of vocal technique.  It doesn't have a value judgement.  It doesn't have a style or genre.  It's just about you.  What YOUR instrument does when it finds its truest form and can access itself fully there.

You aren't going to know what your voice can do until you actually create a place for it to reside!

So,  drop the wrapping of the style for a moment,  as scary as that may be,  and dare to find what what is REALLY underneath....


  1. Thank you for this wonderful wonderful blog. You have preserved what I feel is the HUMANITY behind singing, free of connection to any ONE way of doing it. BRAVO.

    1. thanks for taking the time to post Justin! It is most appreciated!