The Importance of REALLY Listening

Teaching Tip of the Week – 9/12/11

Perhaps the most important quality a voice teacher can have is the ability to really listen.  A voice teacher must first, understand what they are listening for and then second, understand what needs to change to get the voice where it needs to be.

It is very important that the voice teacher have a very definite sense of what a voice sounds like when the singer is in the right place; when they are “in the mix”. The teacher needs to be able to hear the “split resonance” that is the identifying feature of someone singing in a mix. They need to know with perfect clarity when a voice is exclusively in chest, or exclusively in head. If a teacher cannot tell when a voice is in the correct place, how can they help the singer get into the right place?

The teacher must also have a good grasp of what is acceptable in “playing with the mix” to fit different styles of contemporary singing. They must hear the split resonance of the mix so well that they can tell if someone is singing in a heavier or lighter mix or if they are really just “pulling up” chest or “letting go” into total head voice.

Once the teacher really knows what “sound” (actually vocal fold coordination) they are looking for, they must then learn how to help the singer make the adjustments necessary to get into the right place. They must understand how consonants, vowels, different exercises and the range of those exercises affect the sound. A good teacher can gently alter the sound by helping the singer find the proper coordination by simply using a different consonant or vowel or by changing the pitch.

Now, don’t panic if you don’t feel you are to this point yet. It is a process for the teacher just as it is for the singer. As long as you are really listening and constantly fine tuning your ear and your understanding of how the different variables affect this coordination you are headed in the right direction. You will continue to get faster at getting your singers into the right place by choosing the best exercises at the right time.

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