Constantly searching for a radically new technical approach? Some “magic bullet” to deliver instant technical perfection? What a waste of time and energy! To do so is not unlike searching for the exotic (even expensive!) diet that will shed those omnipresent 20+ extra pounds, while the latest research shows that simple monitoring of caloric intake is the best approach for weight control…not great news for authors of diet books.
Good singing is not unreasonably complicated, not “rocket science.” Singing is a skill (actually a group of skills), and has much more to do with coordination than intellect, more with imagination than knowledge of physiology and acoustics. Continuing growth can be a way of life, if a few essential techniques are consistently made new. As with common tasks (driving a car, e.g.), virtuosity is gained through discovery of how to apply and adapt relatively few technical intentions. Other than “low larynx, high palate” (the essential open throat), low/efficient support and a pliable system of resonators and articulators, what other technical fundamentals can there be? Yes, the overarching principle of poise and balance, instead of tension and over-pressure, is vital. The essentials are relatively few, though, as agreed on by most good and reputable teachers.
My disclaimer for the above paragraph is that most of us can certainly benefit from reading, listening, and studying voice pedagogy and related disciplines. However, much is to be gained in simply maintaining a fresh commitment and openness to newly comprehend those Bel Canto fundamentals that are our tradition. [There is a distinct difference between comprehensive, systematic “technique” and “technique” as particular, individual tasks. A future post may further explore how new and insightful ideas/approaches can honor and support the essential, comprehensive technique that has been with us for centuries.]
Rediscovery (to newly comprehend) is much more than simply reheating yesterday’s tuna casserole. It may be sparked by varying the tried and trusty old recipe. Growth and progress often result from reexamining the lessons and truths learned yesterday. In the same way that a performer recreates the truth of music and text with each performance, we seek far more than dull repetition.
Young singers must not allow themselves to become confused by words or teaching approaches that seem unduly complex and mysterious. The fact is that not all teachers are good communicators. On the other hand, I have long suspected that some teachers are intentionally vague — “stringing along” the worshipful student who is in a disassembled technical state, at the mercy of the master with the wisdom to put the voice back together and set the student on a path to stardom!
In developing a comprehensive vocal technique, it is important to understand the motivation for calling on a particular technical concept or vocalise, not to sing mindlessly. The mind of the singer, though, is not only found in the left brain, it is (to quote an earlier blog entry) to “think with the body.” As the person and the body change somewhat each day, fundamental techniques must be reinterpreted and rediscovered. There can be no substitute for consistent, centered, observant and inspired practice.