A new year with new perspectives!

It has been rather a long time since I posted something I’m afraid but life has been busy with singing, teaching, new grandchildren and becoming President of European Voice Teachers Association EVTA. I am also writing an article based on PhD research into perceptions of vocal timbre and it has been a really useful exercise to revisit what I  wrote and researched ten years ago. I have been challenged to explore Vocal and Linguistic Anthropology, a new discipline for me, but it is teaching me new perspectives on the same conundrum- how can we talk about timbre in the singing voice.

I reviewed an excellent performance of the Creation last Saturday – the soloists were good but there were times when I felt there was more in the voice than they were releasing. They were singing carefully and generally accurately but not really using the acoustic space to their advantage. I know I have been in that place myself and it is so hard to take the risk and free the voice so the timbre is fully heard and appreciated. It is difficult because our internal feedback is not the same as the external sound and so we have to rely on instincts and scary things like that.

Intuition is not always reliable but technique is what helps to build up a firm understanding of the kinaesthetic and somatosensory experience of singing in performance. How do we teach that? Well if there was an easy answer someone would have made a fortune by now and there are not many wealthy singing teachers. The problem is that each singer is unique and the teacher has to respond to that person in unique ways. It can’t  be a predictable method, yes there are the disciplines we teach so that breath management, resonance, musicianship and clarity of tone can be secure but the internal/external feedback is subtle and sometimes ignored altogether by students and teachers. I believe it is that shared understanding that ultimately helps a good singer become outstanding.

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