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Singing Techniques and Voice Building Techniques

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A technique is simply a typical (repeatable) way of performing an activity. If I mow the lawn of my house in an arbitrary fashion—that is, by pushing the lawn mower at random speeds and with arbitrary movements, then I am not employing a technique of lawn mowing. But if I have a usual way of mowing my lawn, perhaps moving the lawn mower at a uniformly slow speed, following a consistent pattern, and then mowing over the very same area again, but this time at a slightly faster, but uniformly faster, speed, and a different but uniformly different pattern, then I am using a real technique of lawn mowing. Should we apply the same strategy to singing and argue that developing a singing technique should be a principal goal for singers? Clearly, the answer is yes. Singing, no less than lawn mowing, is carried out best when a consistent method is developed and followed. That being said, is it possible that there could be a method of singing that applies to ALL singers? From the perspective of artistic singing, this answer must be a resounding no. Here are a number of reasons to support this position:

  1. Different genres of singing have different requirements with respect to tonal quality, power, range, and over all use of the vocal instrument. Screaming out full-voice and at the top of a singers range the lyrics and melody lines of a song can be acceptable and even desirable practices in rock music, for instance but would be totally unacceptable in operatic singing where finely controlled vocal expression is paramount.

  2. A genuine singer brings to his art not only his sheer physical vocal ability, but also a world of understanding and experience that reflects the individual’s personal, one of a kind, journey through life. It is this particular union from which a singer’s individualized technique (and style) begins to take shape and ultimately becomes fully realized.

  3. Each voice represents a unique case of particular vocal strengths and weaknesses, as well as natural and acquired abilities; a vocal technique necessarily reflects this exclusive mix of vocal qualities and capacities.

  4. Authentic art, by its very nature, transcends uniformity and instead offers a very personal point-of-view.

It’s for these very reasons that a uniform—standardized—technique of singing is a contradiction in terms. Many articulate defenders of this perspective, however, have not considered or failed to confront a fundamental question: What does a singer require in order to develop a personal singing technique in the first place? Voice experts haven’t raised this question because of a critical oversight: they never differentiated between singing techniques on the one hand, and voice teaching—I would say voice building—techniques on the other. It has been the failure to make this vital distinction that has led to centuries-long artistic chaos and misunderstanding in the world of singing instruction.

Image source: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

Gary Catona, photo by Issam Zejly



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