Vocal pedagogy? A. Broadly, the term “pedagogy



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Daniel Knowles, M.A.

Progressive Vocal Techniques

FAQ

Q. What is vocal pedagogy?



A. Broadly, the term “pedagogy” means the study, research, and practice of the art and science of teaching. In singing, “vocal pedagogy” means the study, research, and practice of the art and science of teaching voice beyond speech as it applies to singing and singing techniques. Modern vocal pedagogy and techniques which includes common classical (opera and art songs) and non-classical (the many popular styles of singing that do not fall into the classical genre) styles and techniques.

Modern vocal pedagogy and techniques includes, but is not limited to, these following areas of study:



  • Vocal anatomy (the anatomical “body” part) and physiology (how an anatomical “body” part functions or works on its own and in conjunction with other anatomical structures in speech and singing.

  • Posture.

  • Breathing for rest, breathing for speech, and breathing for singing.

  • Phonation for speech and phonation for singing.

  • Resonation for speech and resonation for singing.

  • Vocal registrations and transitions between registrations (passaggios, bridges etc.).

  • Diagnosis and correction of vocal faults. Vocal faults fall into two basic categories; health, and style:

  1. Vocal health risk.

  2. Singing in a wrong style of singing for a specific genre.

  • Vocal health.

  • Vocal techniques and styles. Teaching the different vocal techniques and applying these techniques to singing (the voice teacher is trained in vocal pedagogy and vocal coaching).

  • CQ (vocal folds closed quotient).

  • Science of sound (to include the fundamental pitch and overtones, and how to manipulate them when speaking and singing).

  • Different vocal styles and vocal textures such as falsetto, mixed, belting, opera, pop, rock, mask, and loft to name just a few.

  • Technology for the training of voice such as spectrogram, electroglottograph, and microphone/PA system.

  • Musical and stylistic tools such as: vibrato, straight tone, staccato, legato, phrase length, dynamics (quiet to loud), timbre, phrasing, agility,

  • Diction for singers (American, English, Italian, German, and French are the most common taught).

  • Gender differences in the speaking and singing vocal anatomy and physiology.

  • Some other major differences besides gender are: Age, experience, style, voice type, voice size (small/ light, medium, large/powerful), range, vocal potential and musical abilities.

  • Music education and the psychology of music.

  • History and future of vocal pedagogy.

Problems you might encounter:

Be aware that even many degree holding voice teachers have little to no actual quality modern vocal pedagogy training.

Unfortunately, very few colleges and universities teach, or allow, the voice students to learn vocal pedagogy that includes vocal technology equipment for voice teaching, and non-classical techniques. The teachers are basically trained in opera performance, not in modern vocal pedagogy. This model is slowly changing as younger, more technologically and stylistically advanced, forward-thinking students enter the university system.

Schools that specialize only in non-classical music (contemporary commercial music) often ignore modern vocal pedagogy altogether, which is worse than the classical-only training found in the universities that teach classical only (at least these teachers have training in vocal pedagogy). It is not unusual to find teachers that teach in contemporary commercial music only schools that have little or no actual college-level training at all, and consequently no degrees in vocal music. It is not unusual for music teachers and students from other disciplines such as guitar, piano, composition etc. as well as plenty of talented singers, to find many of these voice teachers and some fellow voice students an embarrassment.

Be aware that many will call themselves a “voice teacher” or “singing teacher”, but are not anywhere near this level (see below).

Q. What is the difference between a voice teacher and a voice coach?

A. Voice Teacher: More and more we are clarifying the line between a voice teacher and a voice coach. Basically, the voice teacher (also called a singing teacher) is the one that has the highest level of training in modern vocal pedagogy (see above for definition), vocal techniques and vocal coaching.

The voice teacher is higher than the vocal coach, as the voice teacher is also a trained vocal coach. It is not unusual for a voice teacher to be lesser of a pianist than a high quality voice coach who is more of an accompanist then a singing teacher.

The voice teacher is also a voice coach, if you can have only one, a voice teacher what you try to find.



Voice Coach: Voice coaches can be placed in three basic categories from highest to lowest levels. The reason they should divided is because there are exceptional voice coaches and there are horrible individuals that call themselves “singing teachers” or “voice coaches.”

The highest level of a voice coach is a piano accompanist that has the extra ability to coach you on musicianship and is familiar with the songs (often diction help). They are without advanced training in singing techniques and vocal pedagogy (or they would be a voice teacher). In fact, a good vocal coach will not try to pass as a voice teacher and will not give vocal technique advice.

A middle level of voice coach might be a gifted piano accompanist that will give only musical and musicianship advice only. Also some might be a fine pianist with some good vocal coaching ability. The problem here is that at this level, you will often find a person that calls themselves a voice or singing teacher, when in fact, they are a mediocre vocal coach at best.

The lowest level vocal coach is what many will find that pass themselves off as a voice teacher, singing teacher, and even a voice coach. They often have very little quality vocal training. They might tell you that they studied a method by a certain teacher, that they are a great singer “been singing since I was 6.” They basically are trying to capitalize on very little high quality vocal study (although they might have studied for years), and a failed attempt at getting a singing career. They are uneducated in voice and vocal pedagogy, and do not know whether or not their previous training was of any value. They see that a profit can be made from their lack of education, especially in heavily populated areas. Some might have degrees in music other than voice, often piano, and try to pass this off as being qualified to teach voice. Some will pay fees to be a part of calling themselves as a “certified” teacher in a certain method. Not all vocal method certification programs are bad and it is not meant here that anyone who is only trained in a vocal method certification is at this level.

This is the lowest level, and has the most people trying to pass themselves off as voice teachers and voice coaches, especially in highly populated areas.



Q. What is an accompanist?

A. An accompanist is a piano player that plays the piano along with a singer and/or other instruments. For singers, they play the piano music while the singer sings. They do not give any advice on vocal technique or style.
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