Logic for Voice Teachers: Burden of Proof


A troubling thing about the state of teaching and vocal pedagogy are various declarative assertions made by voice teachers as statements of FACT. These same teachers also become prickly and defensive when their claims are challenged, and they respond in a way that violates rules of logic.

If you are a teacher and you make a claim which is unsupported by any evidence, based on your OWN personal experience, it is NOT upon the person challenging your claim to prove that you are wrong. YOU are the one making such a claim, and therefore YOU have the burden of proof. YOU must prove that your claim is true within a reasonable doubt.

For example, if you make an assertion such as “The throat needs to be open so that you don’t get double harmonics,” –  this is a claim of PHYSIOLOGY and ACOUSTICS. If you are challenged in your assertion, these are wrong ways to respond:

        “Twenty years of teaching has proven this to be true.”

“My research proves I’m right.” 

“You can’t prove that I’m wrong.”

“I can say whatever I want.”

All these responses shift the burden of proof AWAY from the person making the claim, and back on the person challenging the claim. This is not how logic works.

Here’s another example:

“I have one million dollars in my closet.” (That is an ASSERTION).

You might say, “I don’t believe that you have one million dollars in your closet.” (A CHALLENGE to the ASSERTION).

Since I am the one with the burden of proof, (I’m making the claim) it rests upon me to PROVE that I have a million dollars in my closet. It is not upon YOU, the challenger, to prove that I DON’T.

You do not have to PROVE A NEGATIVE. You do NOT have the burden of proof.

If you are going to make an outlandish claim, (or one that rests outside general accepted understanding of the voice and favors your personal, subjective experience) then the burden of proof rests upon YOU, dear teacher, to prove your assertion as TRUE.

Extraordinary CLAIMS require extraordinary EVIDENCE.

Bring your footnotes, please.

2 thoughts on “Logic for Voice Teachers: Burden of Proof

  1. Thank you for your wonderful posts which describes well how you are passionated (like me) about vocal pedagogy. I totally agree with your post.

    I would just add that the vocal pedagogy and the research in general goes in both sides :
    – from the theory (the research on the anatomy, the physiology, the acoustic) toward the experience and the act of singing (rationalism)
    – from the act of singing through the theroy (empiricism). For example we discover new things about the voice because people in the planet can sing some sounds that the theory could not explain or did not thought it was possible before.

    So yes I agree that people who make assertions unsupported by any evidence have the burden of proof. But if they manage to do the thing they pretend to do even if it is not yet proved by the science therefore the science should have to question itself. By doing so, the research go deeper and authorize itself to new discoveries, new paradigms.

    (Sorry for my english as i am French and maybe my thoughts are not clear)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! Yes! In most cases I’m referring to those that make claims to pedagogy that lie outside the bounds of accepted bodies of thought. THANK YOU for emailing!

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