How do you know that what you are learning is worth learning?

Sometimes we think we know all the facts and are certain that those facts are indeed facts because in order to gain access to those ‘facts’ we have had to jump over hurdles, negotiate selection processes, and pay lots of money to an institution or organisation.

Does this mean that the information you are furnished with is any more valid? Any more reliable than something that someone is offering you for free?

Recently I was working with a young performer who has just left post-graduate training. After working together for about half an hour the performer said “this goes against everything I thought I knew and I spent fifteen grand on that information!”.

In technological spheres, free software and sharing of knowledge is celebrated. It’s positively encouraged and seen as a means of progressing the field due to an increase and augmentation of the received understanding about specific or general modes or methods of working. This assists those whose lives are made better by said technology as well as those who take inspiration from the discovery and sling-shot off into a whole new realm.

The research conducted over the last few decades associated with the field of voice has provided some remarkable and ‘game changing’ evidence about the function of healthy voices.  This new information has generally been embraced by most of the scientific community as well as the vast majority of forward thinking clinicians. The scientific community is willing to read new research and due to the proven veracity and academic rigour of said research, change their opinion from a previously strongly held ‘understanding’. This change in opinion or understanding is not based on emotion, it is based on fact. Sometimes there are emotions involved (of course there are!) but this is most often allied to either competition; a colleague ‘gets there first’, or to a sudden realisation that one was ‘looking in the wrong direction the whole time’. No one is immune to the effects of frustration!

The creative industries are far slower to adopt a new point of view; there is a huge amount of emotion involved in performance. The disassociation between what we do as professional performers, and who we are as people is a very complex thing to achieve. We feel as though the work that we create is us, and when it is dissected and critiqued it is we who are being laid bare and shredded into strips. We hold the information we had from our training (however recent that may be) to be gospel. We imbue this information (often also talked about as technique) with huge sentimentality. This is not just true for those who currently perform, but also those who used to perform and now coach the next generation. What if; like the young performer mentioned earlier, this information wasn’t entirely accurate? What if the person providing you with the information doesn’t actually know…? What would it be like if you were able to accept that the information you had wasn’t entirely correct and just move on to the next piece of information thought to be true.

What if we all still thought the world was flat? What would it be like if you were able to accept that to be true, and then move on to discover that the world were spherical? Incidentally, do have a read of this if you want to think on this more: Flat Earth Society Homepage, Flat Earth Society Wiki.

The idea of continuing professional development is essential in every job, however there are some areas of performance coaching that often go unchallenged. Singing and voice coaching are two of those areas in which people train and often are taught using arcane ideologies and methodologies. It is the equivalent of using a quill and ink to scribe a note on papyrus rather than using a computer or smart-device to fire off an email. You just wouldn’t do it.

Working with a huge range of voice users as we do, ranging from undergraduate performance students to CEOs of multinational companies, people often mention how they used to have singing lessons. When we probe a little deeper, we often ask the following question:

  • What did you learn about you voice in your singing lesson?

Often this is greeted with a blank expression, or a negatively framed answer: “I was told not to…(insert an number of things)”.

Both Gemma and I believe that it is an essential part of our work as coaches, teachers, educators, performers, and directors to keep our knowledge and work at the forefront of new information in all related contexts and especially regarding the understanding of the vocal mechanism (larynx), its fuel source (breath) and the relationship between those areas in the production of sound.

Then comes the exciting bit: how we manipulate the sound into words, phrases, melody, inflection, and intonation. How do we effectively and efficiently articulate the thoughts being generated inside our head? How do we perform a speech, a song, a poem? How do we overcome or just manage the flight/fight/freeze instinct when standing in front of an assembled group?

If you are interested in attending a workshop or would like some 121 coaching, please contact us via our website: www.tempervox.co.uk or sign up to the newsletter.

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About Leon Trayman

Company Director of TemperVox Ltd - Making Professional Voices Heard. Vocal Coaches for professional people, we work with anyone who uses their voice as part of their job. This includes Teachers, Lawyers, Actors as well as Business People and Politicians.
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