When I started this blog, it was to share information with you: the voice user, whether you are a singer, actor, comedian, teacher, lawyer, or doctor. I also intend to address those who were trained in the use of the voice, but who may not have had background in vocal pedagogy. Of course I am also addressing the vocal pedagogist, who may not have had a background in vocal science, or who may have had it at one time, but hasn’t kept up with the latest work of the past thirty years. Maybe you are a Speech Language Pathologist who doesn’t usually work with voice and is looking for a simpler explanation of things before jumping off into more technical explanations. If any of these categories apply to you, this blog is for you.
I will usually give you evidence based information not speculations. It is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment, or training. I will let you know if there is information available on a particular subject or usage that occurs to me. At times I will actually post what is my opinion. This will hopefully be an opinion based on some evidence, but that is mostly based on my experience as a teacher and voice therapist. This experience may be different from the average teacher of singing or vocologist for several reasons.
1) We all have some bias. Yes indeed! Here is a simple test to measure whether a scientist, reporter, or average Joe has a bias—check to see if they have a pulse. If the pulse is there ,so is a bias. Hopefully it will be recognized by that individual stating the information, unfortunately it isn’t always.
2) Most vocalists of any stripe, be they a singer, an actor, a teacher, an orator, or a customer service representative, is most familiar with their own experience. This will color how data is translated to that person. Sometimes it makes total sense to that person, for example: Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world—Mauna Kea is. When you measure it from the base of the mountain Mauna Kea is over 32,000 fee. Mount Everest starts pretty high up already, so measuring from the base, it is somewhere between 11,980 and 15,260 feet. This makes sense to me. I have known friends and relatives claim that this is “cheating.”
Sometimes data do not jibe with our experience. For example, sugar has been disproved to activate ADHD in children, however, that never stopped me from believing that I get “hyper” after a large dosage of sugar. Of course I argue, I am not a child. I do recognize this is an unfounded claim.
Sometimes our experience does belie an overall trend, simply because despite DNA that is 99.9 percent identical from human to human, there is a wide range of a “typical” human being. So sometimes there are outliers to trends. A personal example is that my feet are significantly smaller than would be expected of a woman my height. If I had taken my own experience of shoe size versus height as the rule, most of the folks around me have strangely large feet. The truth is, I don’t fit into the rule of feet size and height, and I have strangely small feet. My studies have helped to detach myself from using my own experience as the rule. However, since I have a pulse, I do not claim to be perfect.
3) Where one practices your profession can color your perception of reality. I have had the good fortune to live and work on three “continents” if you count Oceania (the large collection of islands scattered throughout the Pacific.) Each place has provided distinct populations with different demands. It is easy to get caught up within that population and assume that what happens in that area, is what happens everywhere. Here in Hawaii, the influence of Hawaiian Pidgin can make many speakers use a falling intonation in questions. Standard American English questions use a rising intonation. I have actually witnessed traveling speech language pathologists try to “fix” this problem in a child under their care, since within the SLP’s experience, it is a problem.
So, I hope this explains the purpose of this blog as well as the expectations you should have on this blog. I encourage questions and would love to know where your interest lies. There is no question too silly, or too obvious to ask. I will let you know if I know, or where you might turn to get the answer, or whether anyone has an answer. Comments are also encouraged. Since it is my blog, I hold the right to moderate and insist that comments be respectful to all peoples, including humans. I sign off with these words: keep hydrated through the heat, breathe deep, and remember to vocalize easily and with a vibration in your head!
Trissa DiBenedetto WAlter
Is a singer, voice teacher, speech language pathologist, and certified vocologist