Snake Oil

July 25, 2013

I recently had a Facebook conversion with one of those teachers with a wide following, fancy website, and studios in various cities. I know, always a bad idea.

Well, she put up one of those postings saying (roughly), “If your teacher says the diaphragm is in your stomach, run away!”  I generally ignore those, but in the comments she said something about the “pelvic diaphragm” saying it is a very important part of the support mechanism.  New one on me.

Now, the pelvic diaphragm, or pelvic floor, is a bit of muscle, etc., that keeps the bottom of your viscera in place. The only use I can see for it in singing is to keep you from peeing as you support!

I thought, however, that this could be a useful image for some students, so I asked for clarification. She said she wouldn’t give away her life’s work on Facebook, and promptly unfriended me.  Whatever.

I bring this up because there are a lot of teachers out there peddling snake oil:  “Use this bit of anatomy that you’ve never heard of, can’t feel, can’t control!”  “Vocalize while inhaling!”  “The left side of your throat is underdeveloped!”  And on, and on.

There is no special sauce in vocal technique, or teaching voice.  For technique:  basics, basics, basics!  For teaching, it takes full knowledge of the workings of the vocal apparatus, the ability to hear a voice and tell what’s up (“I hear that the back of your tongue is tight, which is closing off the resonance.  Here’s how to fix it.”), and the ability to communicate all this to a student in a positive way.

Anything else may be mystique, or merchandizing, or whatever, but it isn’t good teaching.


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