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“Placement”

Many students of singing have encountered teachers who ask them to “place” the vocalized tone (meaning direct the vocal resonance to some specific area of the body). Some teachers require that the voice be placed “well forward in the masque,” “between the eyeballs,” “floating above the back of the tongue like a ball on a fountain of water” and so forth. The problem I find with the entire concept of vocal placement is not that singers should never experience resonance vibrating in different parts of the body; the problem is that asking a singer to place the voice is requesting that the student produce an effect, rather than the teacher giving a causative exercise. In other words, a teacher who asks for the voice to be felt in a certain area of the singer’s body is assuming that the student already knows how to achieve the experience of sympathetic vocal resonance vibrating in what that teacher deems to be desirable places in the vocal tract. If a student were able to adjust vocal resonance at will, their need for voice lessons would be highly diminished and they quite possibly wouldn’t find the need to be coming to the teacher in the first place. By asking a student to place the tone, the teacher is in effect resting the burden of responsibility for the training of the voice on the student, when that should be the teacher’s responsibility.

Instead of wasting precious lesson time asking for something a student is not capable of giving me, I prefer instead to prescribe exercises for the student which will give immediate results. Once the results have been experienced by the student, they then have their own visceral experience of the so-called “proper placement” in the vocal tract so they are subsequently able to reproduce the experience on their own. All this can be achieved without ever even broaching the subject of placement. Thus the burden of teaching has been placed squarely on my (the teacher’s) shoulders where it belongs. If a student is not displaying the proper resonance, cord resistance, registration, vowel formation or any other necessary element to good vocalization, it is 100 % the teacher’s responsibility to give the correct remedy to address the situation in order to achieve the desired result. It is not the responsibility of the student to already understand how to produce the effect the teacher is requesting. Thus, asking a student for tonal placement is, in my opinion, a big time waster that can result in a lot of frustration on the parts of both the student and the teacher.

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