If You Can Explain it, you Understand it

Weekly Teaching Tip – Dec. 7, 2015
by Jay Lemon

Jay’s Tip…

I really have a hard time with these “tips”…it’s hard to think of things that haven’t already occurred to all of you, particularly those of you I’ve taken lessons from! But, as I’ve progressed, perhaps I’ve made pearls of some kind of wisdom…or kidney stones.

Anyway, there is something that we do here at SPC that may be effective for many of you…we force (I mean force, as in bad grade) students to articulate the particulars of the approach we take to voice, encompassing function and application. I’ve found that if you can ‘splain it, you understand it (sorta).

1st and 2nd semester students are asked in jury “what’s a vocal bridge?” “What is resonance?” “What are the key muscle groups that are at work, and how do they function?” …other questions as well. 3rd and 4th semester students are simply asked to explain our approach to voice…like you would to yer mom or the average drunk fan at the bar. In that explanation they have to hit and define the key areas of knowledge: balance, bridge, muscle groups, resonance, formants, vowels, connected sound etc…in doing so we can get a pretty good idea if they comprehend the basics. (Of course, our hope is they can sing as well…that’s a plus).

Should we do this to students? As with all things, individual students with individual needs and desires… I recognize it’s also different when students are “customers” as opposed to students passing a jury for academic measures. I’ve found through the years that being able to explain this stuff (and I HAVE to be able to…and it’s evolving as all of you know) has really deepened the understanding and motivation of serious students. It also turns out that it’s just as fascinating to them as it is to us! John Henny’s work on this, the videos produced in Vocalize U, Dr. Noe’s Flow Phonation work…all new, but all quite comprehensible.

So, what’s the tip here? Hell if I know, but don’t be afraid to have a student explain in their own words what’s happening in their own voices…kids like knowing stuff that makes them feel smart, and I like knowing stuff that makes me feel dumb! Wait…never mind, just try it. The more I explain it to students, the better I seem to get it. THAT’S THE TIP.

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