Yuri Sabatini Singing Teacher

Yuri Sabatini Singing Teacher
Voice coach in London

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Trusting and nourishing the singer's inner wisdom... and having the courage to affirm it

What the mind conceives, the body delivers. We could put it this other way: what the musical ear conceives, the voice delivers.
Powerful and true reality. A simple, undeniable fact.

We would do better to analyse the implications of it, from a singer's point of view.

In my career as singing teacher, I came to realize how most of the times the faults that keep persisting in a singer's voice are there for a reason, and one in particular, often not mentioned: the singer is not aware of them! It may sound too simplistic, but.. think about it: if he has not the awareness of something not being right or only vaguely so, he will not be able to do anything about it. If the idea, the concept of the sound is not cured (healed, cleared up, sorted), the common scenario is that one goes by sewing patches on the fabric of his technique... which makes the resulting voice look like a mix and match of colors which nothing did to sort the problem but actually add to it. In this setting, often comes in the teacher that tries to fix the problem with very little understanding of it and by means of one or two tips based on wrong preconceptions about how to confront the issue of... whatever the problem may be. This is another big problem altogether, which I touched in previous posts and on which I will not linger in this occasion, but let's concentrate on a more relevant argument.

The Awareness of The Singer.
This awareness should be nurtured by the responsible student (I here mean that you are a student throughout your career, in singing) and by a competent, trusted teacher. In many cases, it is not so...: The average student relies totally on his teacher, trusting that the teacher alone, knows what the voice should sound like, and giving away all the power of one's inner instinct and intuition - ultimately what really tells us what's right or wrong.
This give-away of one's inner guidance is at the source of the persistence of most - if not all- the troubles a singer encounters. Shame, really, 'cause it shouldn't be the case...

Every so often one can witness this mechanism at play: the teacher who is surrounded by a mystical aura sees there are faults and hears the troubles in the voice.. but he/she doesn't know exactly where these faults originate, why those troubles are there: instead of precise knowledge, this teacher is armed only of a somewhat good career as his background, and imprecise information. Out of good intentions, this teacher thinks of passing on the advice which worked for his/her case (even if the problem was a completely different one!) and the instructions don't bring any positive, consistent improvement...
Well, let's stop a second and focus the perspective on the student instead of this improvised teacher, because it is here that lies the real problem, the one factor that allows this sad reality to come to life. This singer/student in analysis - the common case - is in the first place projecting expectations on the teacher. Consequently, the student is giving all the responsibility to this teacher. In this setting, the singer will not likely voice his concern even if he can feel that a)something is wrong, that b)it's clear that the teacher is not really spotting the problem and that c)the advice doesn't really work - or if it does, it does so at the expenses of one's inner intuition because it asks too much effort and causes a feeling of discomfort and not of calm and mastery.
Two are the possible likelihoods of how this situation will evolve.
If the contact with one's inner wisdom is totally removed, this student is likely to continue seeing this teacher (or others) and eventually will believe that the sound made it's just his sound. There is no much chance that any future comment on his incorrect way of singing will "wake him up", and actually the chances are even less likely for nobody will have the courage or bother to approach someone whose awareness is so far from what he is actually doing, unless specifically asked to express a professional opinion - which may be well be rejected, for the same above reasons!
If this person listen to his inner feelings, he will quit taking lesson, disappearing from this studio giving no feedback, and either embark on the difficult journey of finding a knowledgeable teacher who is able to help him or cease studying voice for good (too bad, and too frequent).
A third option would be very unlikely, but would be the only one which could really prevent other damage: the student voices his concerns directly, therefore bringing the teacher to question himself about his being qualified to teach. (if humble and honest enough, he will start to look for more knowledge on which grounding his profession).

Now let's look at things by taking a step back and see the bigger picture.

As one can see, the power shouldn't be given out completely to someone else, not even if the teacher is a very good and knowledgeable one. Ultimately, it is always up to you. It is up to your commitment, to your connection with your self. Yes, it is up to your talent too, but mostly, the bottom line is: it is up to your commitment.

A singer should always be responsible for his own growth and development. Part of this responsibility is to observe, to listen, to be an active researcher of his own and other's voice. Critical to one's success is the curiousity, the ability to compare different coordinations resulting in as many diverse sounds, and the power of justly appreciate the connection between cause and effect. (This is what the good pedagogue has done himself: without this process, the singer who becomes teacher is bound to generate random results.. and too many casualties)

P.S. : With this attitude, the singer is capable of developing his own discernment and his own "palette", his "vocabulary". With this approach he is to award himself of the very tools of the singing trade.... tools that can help him above anyone else decide what does constitute a good sound and what doesn't, tools that will allow him to conceive the tonal concept that will shape his voice production. And here we are, back to the starting point: what the musical ear conceives, the body delivers...
Cultivate your knowledge then. Don't be lazy: listen, observe. Commit to learning and growth.
Your tonal concept will improve, and your voice will follow!

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