Thursday, September 12, 2013

Problems Inherent in “Method” Teaching

I have talked previously on this blog about the advent of "method" teaching, where teachers instruct their students in "breathing exercises" and "vocalizations" and other tasks set upon the overphysicalization of singing. The first and most obvious effect that such “method” had upon students of singing was to outright rob them of the natural synchronicity and balance that they would need to express their art. They were taught to separately “watch” their breathing, their tones and their pitches all at the same time.

Now, I ask you to consider what would happen to you if you tried to watch your feet each time you took a step to walk. You would fall right on your face as soon as you got up out of your chair, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t get anywhere, and in fact all that you would be accomplishing would be to teach yourself to be anxious about something that you never before considered to be a worry.

The second deleterious effect of the “method” teaching was to mislead aspiring young singers towards the false conclusion that singing was a primarily physical activity that could only be done properly after being trained with strengthening exercises like an athlete, or even like an animal. The fact of being a whole person was removed entirely from the concept of singing.

The “maestros” invented “vocal callisthenics” which really only taught their students to imitate sounds and tones and to imitate the voices of others, as well as to embellish the sound of their own voices in unnatural and awkward ways. But the exercises were intended to “build them up” as singers. Only a person with a well-developed physique (as relates to “singing muscles” and “breathing muscles”) was believed to be able to sing well– singing “correctly” meant being strong enough to follow a precise set of physical movements to produce a specific sound.

If the “maestro method” were an effective path to proper singing, then the best singer in the world would be a computer or a robot, not a human artist.

The “maestro method” cheapened the art of singing by (1) reducing singing to the level of a “product” that could be mechanically churned out of the body and (2) reducing the singer himself to a collection of “pieces and parts.”

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