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Journal of Voice

Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 195-205

© 1993 Raven Press, Ltd., New York

That Golden Voice Talent or Training?

Harry Hollien

Institute of Advanced Study of the Communication Processes and Linguistics, University o f Florida,
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A.

Summary: This article is an updating and expansion of a lecture presented at

the Thirteenth Symposium on the Care of the Professional Voice, New York,
June 1984; a somewhat limited version of the manuscript was published in the
Transcripts of that symposium. Basically, an attempt will be made by an ob-
server from another field to lay the groundwork for the better understanding of
the "voice teacher." Accordingly, some of the dialogue to follow may be a
little informal; it certainly is interpretive. The latter portion of the discussion
will involve suggestions/illustrations that may be useful in further enhancing
this somewhat underrated field and bonding it to others. While the comments
found below reflect only the opinions of the author, it is fair to state that most
of them have been articulated by others. Key Words: Voice--Voice training.

The essay to follow will explore the function of and the performer, i.e., the artist, the singer, and
the singing coach or voice teacher from the point of the actor. Note that the focus for all of the profes-
view of an individual who has observed, and inter- sionals portrayed in the figure can be depicted in its
acted with, this type of professional for over a quar- top third, i.e., the performer and their perfor-
ter of a century. As justification, it is argued that mances. Note also the centrality of the voice
sometimes it is possible to provide fresh perspec- teacher to this model and, in turn, with the many
tives about a profession if the observer is not totally other types of specialists who interact with them.
immersed in it. Of course, it must be conceded that, Incidentally, it must be remembered that many of
while insights such as those to follow can be accu- these other professionals are, in and of themselves,
rate and helpful, other times they can be incorrect "performers." Indeed, the scientists, the physi-
or misguided. It is hoped that the second is not the cians, the composers, and the conductors each en-
case here. In any event, it is suggested that these joy areas of expertise within which they become the
reflections should provide information as to how "principal." However, it must be stressed that--in
the cited professionals are viewed by individuals relation to the model seen in Fig. 1 and the issues to
from related disciplines especially since virtually be discussed below all of these other individuals
every observation to follow has been made by oth- constitute "service personnel," i.e., they support
ers (as well as the author). the activities of the voice teacher and his or her
For the purposes of this article, the several types efforts on behalf of the performer. Hence, they are
of practitioner groups who engage in voice training placed in a position that is, at once, basic to and
will be combined into a single entity and referred to supportive of the voice teacher.
as "voice teachers." Figure 1 provides insight into
some of the relationships between the voice teacher THE QUESTION
The following question may be asked: Is that
Accepted October 22, 1991. "golden voice"--that breathtaking quality heard in
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. H.
Hollien at IASCP, 50 Dauer Hall, University of Florida, Gaines- the voice of the premier singer or the award-
ville, FL 32611-2005, U.S.A. winning actor--primarily the product of the artist's

196 H. H O L L I E N

strengths relative to the task to be undertaken. Ac-

I cordingly, the relationships discussed and the opin-
\ \ t / / f I ions ventured are offered in the light of the follow-
PERFORMERS 1 ing personal p e r s p e c t i v e s ; they are p a r a p h r a s e d
from the original lecture.
"-., \ t / f "First, I must confess that, no matter how much I
might or might not want to be one, I am not now and
l VOICE never have been an accomplished singer; however, I
TEACHER have listened to many singers, both professionally
Conductors and
and critically as well as for pleasure. Second, I have
Composers spent some years now working with, supporting, and
studying the voice teacher. In this regard, I have read
many of their books and observed both demonstra-
Pedagogists tions (master classes) as welt as real life instruction
and Teachers
of student singers and actors. Third, and perhaps
most important, I have been privileged to carry out
Artists and Engineers and
research in collaboration with over a half-dozen tal-
Humanists Acousticians ented voice teachers and, happily, we have been able
to jointly publish a number of these studies (1-9).
Fourth, as with the voice teachers, I have spent a
Dentis~ Speech substantial portion of my life developing talent. In
many ways, budding scientists are much like student
singers or young actors. Finally, I do indeed carry
Physicians Nonmexiical out research on voice (including that on the singing
Practitioners voice) so I am not naive about the issues involved
and many of the processes to be discussed. Thus,
while not a voice teacher or performer, I submit that
Scientists a view from 'my side of the room' may be useful---or
even helpful---to the voice teacher."
FIG. 1. The relationship of voice teachers to the performer and
to the specialists who support/assist in his or her work.
native talents and motivations or is it due to the As might be expected, p e r f o r m e r s exhibit m a n y
efforts of the voice teacher? Naturally, both posi- and varied attitudes about their teachers. S o m e suc-
tions can be argued. F o r example, s o m e individuals cessful artists simply idolize their voice teachers,
have been known to contend that e v e n top-flight occasionally to excess. Other p e r f o r m e r s are quite
talent only rarely (perhaps very rarely) will be real- grateful for the help provided by their teacher or
ized without the all-encompassing efforts of that ad- teachers, and are both vocal and intelligent in their
v i s o r - m e n t o r - t u t o r - f r i e n d : the voice teacher. Yet, statements about them. Performers in this (the most
the other e x t r e m e also can be postulated, i.e., that c o m m o n group) seem to maintain that it is a balance
about the only function that can be assigned to the b e t w e e n talent and training that leads to the very
voice teacher is that of t e m p o r a r y guide, that they best results. A m u c h smaller subgroup a p p e a r s to
do little to aid the p e r f o r m e r b e y o n d aiming them in include individuals who are not particularly grateful
the proper direction. Is one of these positions cor- to their teachers and, finally, a few p e r f o r m e r s are
rect or does the truth lie s o m e w h e r e in between? In quite negative about their teacher or teachers. T h e y
short, what is or are the role or roles of voice teach- often deny that these individuals m a d e any relevant
ers, and h o w important are their efforts? contribution to their success. Positions such as
these do not a p p e a r to be particularly helpful in
PERSPECTIVES understanding the effectiveness of teachers a s some
students will respond positively to a teacher, and
It is not really fair for a person who is not a b o n a others negatively, no matter h o w effective they are.
fide m e m b e r of a profession to c o m m e n t on it and Nonetheless, these opinions are real and m u s t be
its practitioners without revealing something about dealt with by voice teachers.
himself or herself. Most important, the o b s e r v e r Statements m a d e by yet a second group also must
must be willing to e x p o s e his or her w e a k n e s s e s and be considered. F a i l e d p e r f o r m e r s or " n o n a r t i s t s "

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993


can be most critical of their teachers. It appears that trating observation he made was implied rather than
while many such individuals realize the true source stated. It was that these individuals by and large
of their lack of success is a deficiency of talent, the had not been systematically prepared for their
best many others are willing to say about their (teaching) profession, but, rather, had often been
teachers is that they "sometimes" were of aid, at trained for another (that of performer). This issue
least initially, by useful introductions or advice. At will be addressed again.
worst, the teacher is accused of frustrating (and However, how much closer does a review of
even blocking) talent and is said (by the student) to "good press" or "bad press" bring us to answering
have "ruined" a great voice or a great acting ca- the question articulated in the title of this essay. In
reer. Obviously, statements by individuals who reality, the positions and relationships discussed
have not achieved a reasonable measure of success above do have a bearing on why there is not an easy
must be given little credence. However, they can- answer to this inquiry.
not be totally ignored, i.e., while the opinions of
failed performers obviously are expressions of an- THE FUNCTION OF A VOICE TEACHER
ger/frustration, they also can provide hints about
certain important issues. Perhaps it will be possible to comprehend the rel-
evant relationships better if an attempt is made to
THE TEACHERS SPEAK understand the functions of a voice teacher and/or
the skills/talents this type of professional must pos-
It is not members of other professions who are sess. Is it actually true that all a voice teacher needs
most critical of voice teachers. Rather, it is the to be is a kindly person who supports the student
voice teachers themselves. Of course, certain mem- with words of encouragement or, perhaps, is but a
bers of other disciplines appear not to understand motivator or disciplinarian? Support of these types
the nature of this field or, at least, some of the ap- certainly is appreciated by most budding perform-
proaches and/or terminology employed. However, ers. However, if it is true that the voice teacher is
it would seem that most of the negative attitudes naught but a kind of adjunct to the student or per-
exhibited by others actually result from blocks in former, the talent/training question must be an-
communication, limited interest, or simple igno- swered on the side of "talent."
rance. In any event, it appears that the severest On the other hand, is it possible that there are
critic of a voice teacher is another voice teacher. skills and gifts (beyond those suggested above) that
While the problem tends to be intensified by the must be exhibited by the voice teacher? If so, what
keen competition among these professionals, how might they be? Consider the relationships outlined
can one apply this simple explanation to the state- in Fig. 2; perhaps, they are more to the point. A
ment made at the 1983 Symposium on The Care of brief review of these attributes would appear to be
the Professional Voice by a voice teacher (who, in- in order. Incidentally, if this array is somewhat in-
cidentally will not by cited by name)? She said (in timidating, consider how long and complex the list
effect) that she was weary of endlessly apologizing would be if the professional being described was a
for the "many incompetent voice teachers who ex- phonetician, or an otolaryngologist?
ist within my field." As another example, in 1981, a However, back to the primary issue: First, of
voice teacher (who also will remain anonymous) as- course, the voice teacher must be a friend to the
sured a large audience of voice teachers (at a sem- student or performer. Talent is a fragile entity and
inar) that they were at the workshop he was ad- must be nurtured into maturity by the ministrations
dressing only because they were all "failures"! He of individuals who are knowledgeable about, and
went on to say that he could make this statement dedicated to, the task. Thus, it is important that the
confidently because they " a l l " had wanted to voice teacher be the student's mentor. Second, to
achieve recognition as performers but, failing in function in this role (and to be a competent instruc-
that ambition, had settled for the role of teacher. tor), the voice teacher must be a reasonably good
Undoubtedly, this panelist was correct about some practicing psychologist with both technical knowl-
of the members attending that seminar, but cer- edge about personality and insightful perspectives
tainly not about all of them! Some had always been relative to the elements that underlie specific be-
teachers; others had enjoyed prior careers as suc- haviors. Indeed, it is not enough to be well meaning
cessful artists. Ironically, however, the most pene- in this regard as behavior modification is not always

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993


enough to convey the meaning/processes intended

L to individuals who can vary greatly in their abilities
',,, t / ,/.../ to synthesize such data. On the somewhat negative
P~.,ERFORMERS side, however, those seemingly special or extraor-
dinary gifts exhibited by certain voice teachers
sometimes have led to what can be identified as
cultism. How often does the outsider hear: "Oh,
the Cleetfluster methods is the only one that can
TEACHER I r insure you will become a great singer." "Certainly,
Gnarly Fugwump's approach is infinitely superior
to anyone else's." "You can't expect to be a great
singer (actor) unless you submit to rolfing" (only
the names have been changed)? Such cultism ap-
Tempe.... I t/ \\~ [ Scores/Compositions
] pears to be counterproductive as it is well known
that there is no single way--no "perfect" way--to
do anything. While it is important to learn from oth-
a~ ( ~ ~ ~ ~ KaLC'a~guedage~
f ] ers, elevation of any individual to the rank of
"guru" does both the teacher and the field a disser-
vice. The worst case scenario is where the "guru"
Physiologist l Acoustics / attempts to communicate his or her "methods" in
/ printed form. Descriptions of techniques that can-
Possesses Exceptional not be operationally defined or that are based more
on personal magnetism than on tangible processes
can lead to little better than confusion. Indeed,
tobeone) ]
(Ability some of the books associated with vocal music ex-
hibit inadequacies of this type.
FIG. 2. The characteristicsnecessaryfor effectivevoiceteach- The voice teacher must be an accomplished mu-
ing. sician. To be less subverts the entire profession.
Nor is the training and talent necessary to become a
a positive and maturing force; it can be dangerous if skillful practitioner of this type trivial. The scores
mishandled. Thus, the voice teacher must have spe- and compositions, the types-kinds-styles of music,
cific training in applied psychology; it also is helpful about which the voice teacher needs to develop
to be intuitive and insightful about personality, knowledge and competency are extensive enough
learning, and deviant behavior. Some illustrative to impress virtually any outsider. Moreover, the
examples will be found in one of the following para- voice teacher must be able to sing (or speak) rea-
graphs. sonably well and (usually) play other instruments
The third skill necessary is that of education spe- (especially the piano). Perhaps most important, it is
cialist. The voice teacher must have an enthusiam required that he or she develop critical/evaluative
for, as well as specific training in, teaching. Indeed, skills of substantial proportions, those that permit
he or she must be well grounded in sound teaching the all-important (but excruciatingly fine) student
techniques. Any individual who drifts into this pro- examinations to be carried out. Talent/training in
fession without obtaining formal training in teaching one or more foreign languages plus an extensive
does his or her students a distinct disservice. understanding of the theater and theatre lore also
Fourth, voice teachers must possess specialized are required of the voice teacher. Certainly, a few
teaching techniques (such as "imagery") that may of these skills can be acquired by experience but
not be among the usual complement enjoyed by or- most demand intensive formal study.
dinary educators. They must possess the talent to To teach, to mold, to motivate the aspiring singer
travel beyond the traditional; they must possess the or actor is basic. Yet to function effectively, the
facility to draw out those gifts so often hidden voice teacher must have a good working knowledge
within the student. As is well known, all students do of acoustics (including room acoustics, theater
not process information in the same manner. The acoustics, and acoustics of the vocal tract) plus an
voice teacher, then, requires a repertoire extensive intimate knowledge of human physiology (including

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993


respiratory, laryngeal, and vocal tract physiology). to the criteria used in the selection of new voice
Lack of fundamental understanding about physiol- teachers and in the organization of training pro-
ogy and acoustics can lead to an abuse of the "sys- grams designed to provide them with appropriate
tem" by the performer. No voice teacher wants to skills. This problem will be addressed again below.
"ruin" a voice. One of the best ways to avoid this
danger is to apply knowledge about human physi-
ology and the internal/external acoustics associated TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
with singing and speaking in ways that will help the
student escape stressful use of their mechanism. It now should be obvious that the preceding dia-
Just as important is knowledge about how these ar- logue bears directly upon the talent/training ques-
eas interface with each other. Indeed, it is pointless tion, i.e., if voice teachers play only a minimal role
to attempt to elicit a phonatory production of some in the development of successful performers, why
particular type or level if the singer simply cannot do they have to exhibit such an extensive array of
perform in the manner desired. These concepts are talents and proficiencies themselves? Of course,
critical as it is just as important to understand an those characteristics (motivation and talent) neces-
individual's limitations as it is to be aware of his/her sary for the beginner to evolve into an accom-
potential. plished performer must be present in the student.
A parallel issue concerns the student's health. However, the realization of these gifts probably
Not only must the voice teacher be a fair "country" cannot occur unless they are released, nurtured,
diagnostician with respect to the technical problems and developed by an effective teacher. Just as the
related to singing, but he or she also must possess premier singer or top-flight actor must have talent
"antenna" sensitive enough to detect a student's sufficient for accomplishment, so must the voice
potential medical and/or psychological problems. teacher effectively apply his or her substantial tal-
Of course, humans do not come equipped with very ents if the performer is to be successful. In short, it
much of this type of sensitivity; rather, it must be is possible that the question of talent or training can
learned. Nevertheless, recognition of the early be answered by the single word: " b o t h . "
warning signs of voice disorders (for example) or Are you still not convinced? Consider the many
any medical problem is necessary if the voice other proofs that serve to support the position just
teacher is to meet his or her responsibilities appro- articulated. The fact that an incredible number of
priately. music/acting conservatories, schools, studios and
Finally, the question must be asked: how can a programs exist throughout the world--and have for
voice teacher possibly be successful if he or she hundreds of years--would appear to suggest a need
does not possess exceptionally good, and highly for the field; i.e., if "talent will out," why the ne-
trained, hearing? The teacher must be able to hear cessity for so many and so varied programs, for
subtle differences among various phonations/ such an extensive literature and for so many voice
utterances, and must be able to perceive, store, pro- teachers? Another proof lies in the interface of the
cess, and match complex acoustic signals. While teacher with the many related professions seen in
little formal training is available in basic neurosen- the figures. This centrality suggests both the com-
sory function, extraordinary auditory capability, plexity of talent development and the key role the
nonetheless, constitutes the capstone for effective teacher plays in the process. Even when the per-
functioning as a voice teacher. former is attended to (directly) by one of the cited
To summarize, the talents and learned skills that specialists, the teacher probably was the person
must be exhibited by even an average voice teacher who identified the problem and/or made the refer-
are remarkable in their scope and complexity (see, ral. In addition, what an extensive array of special-
again, Fig. 2); undoubtedly, the list is even longer as ists there are with whom the voice teacher must
a number of items surely have been omitted. While interact. The singer does not (and probably should
it is doubtful that the majority of the voice teachers not) have an unmonitored interface with these indi-
are consciously aware of the magnitude of this list, viduals. Rather, the voice teacher must be the per-
most of the effective ones possess this impressive son who mediates these processes, buffers the
set of skills and talents! On the other hand, it also performer, and transfers (sometimes) the required
must be pointed out that many do not. Perhaps the information to them. This is a substantial responsi-
situation would be helped if more attention was paid bility.

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993

200 H. H O L L I E N

UPGRADING THE PROFESSION refer? Is a "singer's format" actually an entity? If

so, where is it; should all singers use it (and under
It now should be clear that talent alone is not all conditions), and can it be taught? This concept--
enough and, if a singer's or actors gifts are to be and its consequences--may s e e m simple, yet the
realized, the efforts of a competent voice teacher number of questions that can be asked about it are
also are needed. However, are all teachers compe- substantial. Even more to the point is that many
tent? Probably, they are not. Can the overall quality teachers naively accept the existence of a "singer's
of voice training be modernized and upgraded? Of format" and attempt to train students to produce it
course it can. Even the more eminent and success- without a very good understanding of its nature.
ful of teachers have struggled long and hard to ac- For one thing, the controversy about whether or
cumulate the knowledge and skills they must pos- not "ring" exists in the first place has been raging
sess and apply. Indeed, it is the most senior, suc- for years. It now appears to have been settled in the
cessful, and prominent among them who most affirmative. A corpus of relevant information about
keenly realize the benefit of a continual upgrading it is slowly being built as a result of observations/
of their intellectual repertoire. Yet, there are some research carried out by phoneticians, voice scien-
problems that impede this process. A few examples tists, engineers, and physicians--and the voice
should serve to illustrate these difficulties and, per- teachers themselves. What is emerging is that sing-
haps, suggest approaches that can be useful in mit- er's format is quite a complex entity. Indeed, it is
igating them. While these problems/challenges can difficult to read any of Sundberg's (10-13) or Ven-
take many forms, four among them are prominent; nard's (14,15) writings and, yet, continue to main,
they include those of (a) oversimplification, (b) as- tain that it is a simple, single event of an uncompli-
similation of new data, (c) missing information, and cated and uncomplex nature. To understand the ex-
(d) education. tent of this problem, please refer to Fig. 3. It
provides information about the presence and extent
The oversimplification issue of a singer's format when several different classes
Voice teachers sometimes are forced to deal with of women produced a variety of phonations (3,16);
a complex problem in an inappropriately simple the patterns for men are similar. It can be seen,
manner. The cause of these difficulties may be from examination of Fig. 3, that accomplished sing-
rooted in (a) the training they receive, (b) the un- ers exhibit somewhat more ring (i.e., energy in the
availability of appropriate data, or (c) the legacies of frequency region around 3,000 Hz) than do student
"tradition." The result is that the teacher finds him- singers, and that both of those groups exhibit a
self or herself approaching the issue as though it more obvious format than do nonsinger profes-
were a single entity with but a simple solution. Yet, sional musicians and just ordinary people. How-
the teacher sometimes experiences an uneasiness ever, these data also demonstrate that when vocal
about the problem even if this feeling does not reach intensity increases, so does the presence of ring.
a conscious level. One solution would be to chal- Moreover, when frequency (not intensity) is the
lenge each and every concept held. However, what critical variable, the singers and nonsingers are dra-
a tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient proce- matically separated, with the two singer groups ex-
dure that would be. Perhaps a better approach hibiting much greater evidence of a singer's format
would be to question other professionals competent (see Fig. 4). Additionally, the presence of ring in-
in that area of concern and/or to scan continually creases sharply for the singers as a function of in-
the literature for references to those issues that creasing frequency; it does not change much for the
cause any felt discomfort or confusion. nonsinger musicians, or at all for the controls.
The following example may serve to illustrate just Thus, the actual characteristics of the singer's for-
how the oversimplification of a complex issue can mat are seen to be multidimensional: (a) it may or
result in difficulties for the teacher: Consider the may not be present (even in exceptional singers),
issue of good "projection" or " f o c u s " by a per- (b) there is some disagreement as to its actual fre-
former; to be (appropriately) heard is of first impor- quency domain (10,13-17), and (c) it appears to
tance to the singer or actor. In turn, it would appear vary with training and sex as well as with the fre-
that the presence of a singer's format :.(or "ring") quencies/intensities sung.
will contribute materially to "projection" or "fo- Are these data of any relevance to the teaching of
cus." However, what format is this to which we singing and/or acting? Of course they are! How can

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993





found that authors disagree about a subject of inter-
est. Which of them provide data to back their re-
spective positions? Are they clear in their argu-
ments; do they carefully and logically build their
constructs; are the points presented consistent with
those relationships that are known to be valid? In
any case, it is possible to make enlightened deci-

&----.A NON-SiNGERS/
2:,.72;2s / sions of this type, and they can be rewarding. How-
ever, success here depends upon a willingness by
El the professional to examine critically many of the
18- old, simple, and easy traditions indigenous to voice
tO teaching.
,','1 16-
...i 14- Accepting new data
u.I Voice teachers sometimes are faced with chang-
LU 12- ing concepts, ones that challenge even their strong-
est and best developed beliefs. The new data or
10 MT
postulates can appear to contradict traditional ones
8- and/or institutions that are among their most be-
loved; the new concepts can disrupt those about
6- ~'" ..~
which the teacher is not at all uneasy or concerned.
~ ,,... Is it possible to deal with challenges of this type? Of
4- ,. ,.'"
course it is.
2- Vocal registers provide an almost ideal illustra-
,A" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A t ' " ' " "
tion of problems that surround the acceptance of
i I I new concepts. For examplel while some authors
Low Medium High (even some scientists) claim that vocal registers
INTENSITY LEVEL simply do not exist (17), nearly all concede that they
FIG. 3. Relative energy within the 2,700--3,400 Hz band, as a do and, more importantly, the proofs that they exist
function of vocal intensity, for four groups of females. MN is the are now well established (13,14,18--24). Indeed, the
m e a n for the control groups; MT is the m e a n for all values.
debate that has raged for over 300 years and the
thousands of publications that have appeared
one teach a behavior without a fundamental under- (about registers) probably are proof enough. On the
standing of its nature or function? Consider the other hand, it took many years of inquiry and re-
present case. Here, the understanding of the com- search before even the most basic principles about
plexity of singers format involves comprehension of voice registers began to take shape. It only now is
a substantial number of relationships (even before possible to state that they (a) exist, and that they do
the teacher attempts to explain them to a student). so in virtually all physiologically normal human be-
Obviously, a voice teacher has first to bring an ings (19,25); (b) may be identified quite easily in the
awareness of the problem to his or her conscious voices of nonsingers (19,26); (c) can be extensively
level. Then, he or she must find, interpret, and ap- modified or manipulated, i.e., their effects can be
ply data about the issue. In order to do so, a func- mitigated, reduced, or (even) removed from a sing-
tional appreciation of the relevant scholarly and/or er's phonatory productions (14,18,27); and (d) are
scientific processes involved is necessary. Indeed, not "lost" to the performer--that singers usually
those voice teachers who reject such information can produce them if asked to do so (5,6).
out of hand probably would not be able to locate it Further insights are being developed about the
in the first place--much less understand and inter- actual physiological/acoustical attributes of voice
pret it. registers--about what they sound like, how they
However, how can the voice teacher make rea- can be modified, and the relative contributions (to a
sonable decisions about an issue when controversy register) made by such elements as fundamental fre-
exists? There are many effective approaches. For quency, spectral energy, and temporal patterning.
example, a variety of tests can be applied if it is One might even think that enough is known about

Journal of Voice, Vol, 7, No. 3, 1993

202 H. H O L L I E N

30' such as the Symposium for the Care of the Profes-

MALES sional Voice constitute a good starting point, as do
publications by the Voice Foundation.
Legend A related illustration appears useful at this junc-
ture; it involves the confusions that can result from
24 the misuse of jargon and/or labels. The names ap-
0--.. , - 0 MUSICIANS
22 ~ " •" " ' " I t NON- SINGERS plied to voice registers are a case in point. For ex-
ample, the terms " c h e s t " and " h e a d " have a long
20 history here; it is well known that they are based
upon singers' "sensations." However, is the use of
"o 18, these particular labels helpful in clarifying the na-
Ln 16; ture of vocal registers? No, it is not. Vocal registers
n,. occur in the larynx, not in the chest or head. It is
14' just a coincidence that the lower frequencies of the
U.I modal register vibrate in the large cavity of the
> 12 Mr
chest and the higher tones of the upper register in
10J the smaller cavities of the head or " m a s k . " It is not
argued that the singer's sensations are invalid. It is
8J .4, just that, in this instance, they have nothing to do
with vocal registers. Thus, by their very nature, the
A- ........ ~.'::~'-"~" .......
.-. -.
MN terms " c h e s t " and " h e a d " are not just inappropri-
Q~' "...,..
ate; they actually are misleading. In short, voice
teachers must keep current with new information
and upgraded concepts. They must be willing to
i i i
| accept new relationships as they become available;
Low Medium High indeed, they should seek them out. While uncritical
adherence to tradition may seem the easiest path-
way, it often is counterproductive.
FIG. 4. Relative energy around 3 kHz, as a function of fre-
quency, for four groups of males. The MN and MT reference
levels are the same as those for Fig. 3. The missing concepts problem
The voice teacher has to deal with yet another
them that unanimity would exist among voice species of problem--one where no information is
teachers relative to their nature and extent, as well available to provide guidance. Omissions of this
as about effective modification techniques. Such is type can be particularly serious as the teacher may
not the case; rather, extensive controversy still ap- not be aware that they exist at all. Such is the
pears to be swirling around these phenomena and "missing information" class of problems; two illus-
the labels used to identify them. trations follow.
Of course, it must be conceded that there is yet First, consider the concept of "belting." There
much to be learned about voice registers. How can be little doubt but that this type of singing ex-
many are there? Are speaker's and singer's regis- ists; certainly, it can lead to laryngeal problems in
ters different? Do singers have a "middle" register? some singers (28). However, what is belting, can it
Are all registers intimately related to phonatory ac- be defined, can it be properly taught, and is its use
tivity or some sort of a laryngeal event? Does the universally harmful to singers? How difficult it must
extensive use of the register breaks associated with be for the voice teacher to deal with a form of sing-
certain styles of singing damage the voice? The an- ing that is just now being defined and described
swers to some of these questions already can be (29). How confusing it must be to face an entity
found in the literature. Yet, it is misleading to say about which so little is known that no one is rea-
that the teacher has "but to look." Many of the sonably sure that a majority of singers and singing
more relevant sources are not immediately avail- teachers can recognize it when they hear it, or un-
able (to the teacher) and effective decoding of the derstand it well enough to produce it or teach it. In
information they contain is not always possible (it a case such as this, there appear to be no immediate
often is difficult even for other scientists). Sources remedies. The teacher can do little other than fol-

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993


low what is published about this type of singing and ing of those mechanisms that underlie "transfer-
encourage researchers to address the issue in their ence" should assist voice teachers in stabilizing
investigations. their own relationships/behaviors and in reducing
The second "missing concepts" illustration is an those devastating swings in emotion sometimes ex-
even more complex one--but one about which the perienced by their students. In any event, the trans-
teacher can learn and take action. It involves the ference process is reasonably well understood and
personal interface between teachers and their stu- can be dealt with effectively by the knowledgeable
dents. It must be recognized that voice teachers teacher.
have a more intimate relationship with their stu-
dents than do coaches with their athletes, drill ser- Educating the teacher
geants with their recruits, or professors with their The final issue to be discussed in this essay con-
graduate assistants. The relationship in this case cerns the problem of training the voice teacher to be
probably more closely parallels that of psychiatrists just that--in contrast to training him or her to be a
and their patients. As has been stated, a voice performer. For example, how many teachers, in-
teacher's students often exhibit very positive be- cluding the most prominent, have completed struc-
haviors toward them--included are expressions of tured courses on acoustics, physiology, psychol-
gratitude, admiration, respect, friendship, and even ogy, neurophysiology, voice disorders, and educa-
love. These responses can take other forms also; for tional techniques as a regular part of their university
example, the student can be quite demanding and or conservatory training? Indeed, when a number of
exhibit behaviors such as dependency, jealously, training programs were assessed (H. Hollien and B.
suspiciousness, and so on. The intensity of the re- Dobelle, unpublished manuscript), it was found that
lationship (whatever it may be) can wax and wane the focus was almost exclusively on the training of
from a normal, healthy one to extremes that can be performers or public school teachers/coaches. Ac-
rather suffocating to the teacher. Suffice it to say cordingly, the ranks of voice teachers appear to be
that voice teachers and their student performers of- populated almost exclusively by former performers
ten do not have a typical (somewhat dispassionate) (singers, actors), or by school teachers who have
instructor-pupil relationship but rather one that can expanded their practice. Knowledge about the
be much more intense. physical, biological, behavioral, and medical issues
Changes in a normal, healthy relationship, if and so important to teaching appears to result primarily
when they do occur, can be gradual or abrupt. They from casual discussions or from attendance in
may be signaled by a great or small success--or workshops often taught by other voice teachers.
failure--by the student. Furthermore, they may Admittedly, the public school teachers receive sys-
take any number of forms. The student may in- tematic training in the educational process but they
crease his dependency to unsustainable levels; the still lack many of the other "basics." An upgrading
demands on the teacher may increase to a point of this situation would appear timely.
where they produce discomfort. In some instances, The above critique should not be misinterpreted.
the demands may be negative, and the student may It is not being suggested that performers should be
accuse the teacher of neglect, incompetency, or av- educated in the great number of concepts and areas
arice. As a result, the voice teacher may experience so necessary to the teacher. It is enough that they
feelings of confusion, remorse, or even guilt. They be instructed in musicology (or acting), languages,
may hope that relationships of this extreme type composition, theater lore, voice, and the many
will not reoccur. Yet often they do. When they do, other skills so necessary for them to become suc-
it is because mechanisms are at work that may not cessful singers or actors. As a matter of fact, it
be well understood by the voice teacher (i.e., would appear that the university/conservatory pro-
"missing concepts"). Yet, the processes described grams now in existence provide students with ade-
above can be explained. Ask any psychiatrist about quate-to-excellent experiences of these types. It is
them. They are called positive transference (in the the voice teacher who is being neglected and cur-
first case) and negative transference (in the second). rent educational programs should be modified and
Just knowing about transference, about the " h o w s " upgraded to accommodate them. For example, pro-
and " w h y s " of its operation, should be useful in grams for school teachers should include those ba-
and of itself. However, the simple reduction of dis- sic courses in acoustics, physiology, phonetics, and
comfort is not enough. A more formal understand- psychology that are so necessary if these individu-

Journal of Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1993

204 H. H O L L I E N

als are to become yet more effective teachers. Fur- the Professional Voice, New York, June 1984. It is an
thermore, the cited topics, plus others focused on updating and expansion of the related manuscript, which
was published in the transcripts of that symposium, New
teaching techniques, should be provided the former York, The Voice Foundation, 1984;1:279-89.
artist who changes careers and now wishes to be-
come a voice teacher. These changes could be ef-
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