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What is Vocal Science?    


To understand this term we must look at the previous ‘template’ that was used for most forms of singing for hundreds of years and into the present. This style of singing is called Belle Canto, roughly meaning beautiful tone or pleasing sound. The teachers of this style of singing had very little education as to the functioning of the human body let alone the vocal tract itself and so it was, that they based their teaching techniques on the sound(the result) as opposed to how one could most safely and consistently produce this sound(the technique). Thus through out the years many singers flourished w/ the “guess work” of their teachers as to the exact physiological nature of their sound.

Unfortunately many singers didn’t flourish. Attempts to push more and more air by tightening the belly and the buttocks to achieve high or loud notes often gave short term results w/ long term damage. Attempts by many teachers to force the jaw open to produce a fuller sound rather than acknowledging that in its relaxed state the jaw is opened already caused terrible problems including T.M.J.D. for many singers. This list of damage by well meaning but unknowing pedagogues goes on and on.

Fortunately in the late 1960’s a very well known vocal surgeon named (the late)Dr. Wilbur James Gould began studying and publishing the results of different  studies on the voice as well as the singers body and how it was actually functioning in general. In time Gould founded THE VOICE FOUNDATION. This was the first scientific institute created specifically for the  scientific study of the singers voice. Throughout the years following, Gould lead a number of well known scientists w/ different specialties ranging from biology to physics to engineering to software development  began studying the singer from every angle. From breath flow formulas to the acoustics of the skull and body and all the muscles involved in singing (as well as discovering  ones that weren’t previously thought to be involved at all). What these studies did and continue to do is give us all a better understanding of the singer and his/her instrument and its functioning.

Today the qualified voice teacher works in conjunction w/ the surgeon, speech language pathologist and even sometimes the psychologist to help understand  and better help the singer through the snares of voice development, vocal hygene, preparation for performance as well as performance itself, etc. This ongoing series of studies and research are often referred to as” vocal science”. Dr. Ingo Titze(Univ . of Iowa), Dr. Robert Satoloff(the voice foundation homebase in Phili), and Johann Sunberg(Swedish researcher) are just three in a long line of 21st century “Vocal Scientist” Surgeons. Others, such as Gwen Korovin and Peak Woo also lead the field with cutting edge(pardon the pun) advances in surgery. It seems to me that we are using our voices to express a variety of emotions in a very advanced way. Perhaps our spirits are so far ahead of our bodies that we can’t sing too well without a solid technique. Thank God for the teachers and researchers who care for the vocal scientist..

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