Vocal Teacher Terminology

- an international survey on the terminology used by vocal teachers in conservatories of music

by Bebiane Bøje, ass. professor, Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus
Anders Ørsager, ass. professor, Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Copenhagen
Julian McGlashan, ENT, Medical University Hospital, Nottingham

Vocal pedagogy is used in the teaching of singing and assists in defining what singing is, how singing works, and how proper singing technique is accomplished. Not all vocal teachers share the same opinions within every topic of study which may lead to variations in pedagogical approaches and vocal technique. With this study we aimed to investigate the diversity of the terminology used by vocal teachers to describe, identify and classify the technical and artistic aspects of singing. To do so we implemented a survey directed at vocal teachers in Europe and USA. The questionnaire consisted of eleven brief excerpts from recordings, representing a variety of musical genres sung by a variety of distinct vocal artists with very personal singing styles. The respondents were asked to characterize the singing in their own words and terms, indicating when and how the voice changed. The questionnaire was sent to 171 universities and conservatories potentially addressing as many as 530 professional vocal teachers. The results showed that vocal teachers use a huge variety of terms to describe the singing voice. Many of these terms are not clearly defined and open to different interpretations which may be of particular concern with regard to the anatomical and physiological nomenclature. Furthermore, vocal teachers use different terms for the same sounds with only 28 percent of the respondents agreeing on a shared terminology. The huge diversity in vocal teachers’ terminology may potentially lead to communicational problems between teachers and their students and could negatively affect cooperation and sharing of knowledge between vocal teachers.

See Bebiane’s poster here