Questions Voice Teachers Should Ponder

What is “voice,” and what influences are at work in determining quality? Is quality attributable to cause and effect? Is tone the product of a voluntary or an involuntary muscular system? If involuntary, how can these muscles be stimulated?

Does the tone production always yield a smooth scale, and are there “breaks” or transition points? If so, what is the underlying cause of these breaks in the legato line? Is there a discrepancy in quality and intensity between tones on one side of the break and its opposite? Is a noticeable difference in resonance characteristics to be discerned between them? Can these differences in quality and intensity, if they exist, be attributable to different kinds of mechanical action within the throat parts? If so, what muscular systems could be involved to account for these differences? Is an even scale desirable under all circumstances, or do “breaks” sometimes reflect a higher or more healthy technical status? Are these associated with any specific arrangements of pitch, intensity and vowel?

Does the larynx rise when singing in the chest voice or in the head voice? Does it depress? Which of these adjustments is more correct, or are they sometimes correct and other times incorrect? Why?

Does the tonal texture remain the same when different vowels are sung at the same level of pitch and intensity? If so, why? If not, why not?

Is a wider mouth opening associated with loud singing or soft singing, or neither? Is the vowel dependent upon any particular mouth position, or is it independent? In either case, why? Does the vowel quality modify when swelling from soft to loud? Is there any association between singing loudly with the mouth wide open and chest register response? If true, need this always be true? Are there textural differences in tone quality to be noted between loud and soft singing? If so, what is the cause?

Does one method of breathing or the practice of breath control possess special advantages over other breathing methods? Do these free or stiffen the mechanism? Does a special technique of breathing regulate and control function, or does function (precise muscular coordination within the throat parts) control the expenditure of breath? Does a controlled method of breathing improve the resonance, range, flexibility and tone quality? Does it reduce the fatigue element? Is relaxation of the tongue and jaw immediately reflected in an improvement in tone quality or freedom? Is it permanent? Is tongue and jaw tension a cause or an effect?

When looking at photographs of the vocal folds, could it be said that their physical dimensions can be established or improved by means of tonal “placement” or breath control, or are the adjustments they assume working at cross purposes with normal respiration? If so, and if breathing techniques are important, must they necessarily be abnormal or unnatural? Is singing itself “natural”?

Is it true or false that a fixed cavity such as the nasal pharynx can resonate a wide range of pitches, or is a fixed cavity restricted to the resonation of a fixed frequency? If a fixed cavity can only resonate a fixed band of frequencies, what other cavities are available to provide a more efficient resonating system?

When a tone is said to be “too far back” or “caught in the throat,” is this literally true, or does it only appear to be so? Is an “open” tone desirable? If it is, then under what conditions is a tone “too open”? Do these qualities have anything to do with “registers”? Why are some vowels thought to be “forward” and others “back”? Can they true be said to answer this description? If so, how does this relate to pharyngeal resonance? How is “placement” affected by different tonal patterns? Does it affect those patterns at all? Does it affect them negatively? Is it possible to “place” the voice?

Finally, do the theories subscribed to, regardless of source, square with the accepted laws of physics, acoustics, physiology and common sense?


Taken from Reid, Cornelius L. A dictionary of vocal terminology: An analysis. Joseph Patelson Music House, 1983.

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