Vocalist.org archive

From:  Michael Gordon <chosdad@y...>
Date:  Thu Oct 24, 2002  12:53 am
Subject:  Falsetto Pedagogy vs SLS, was Re: Head to Chest transition

Dear List:

First, a brief reintroduction. I have been a list
participant and lurker on and off for many years. I am
an engineer in my 40s - a former motor control
theorist in the area of human movement, and have many
years of choral singing experience and private vocal
study. My singing teachers have all been mostly
classically oriented, included a member of Chanticleer
and several bona-fide opera singers. I myself have a
very light voice and no desire to sing opera, and had
a year-long stint in a miked jazz vocal ensemble. I'm
not especially talented as a vocalist, but I like to
think that every now and then I have something useful
to say about my own struggles trying to improve my

I would add that it would be helpful as well as polite
if new posters would briefly introduce themselves to
the list.

Nick Scholl has recently made several postings
concerning the writings of Cornelius Reid. I have
some opinions about these writings which I would
briefly share - I am trying hard to be fair in my

While I believe that there is probably a good deal of
useful information in Reid's writings, I also believe
there is the opportunity to either come away with the
wrong ideas, or to mis-interpret Reid.

Reid does not usefully distinguish between what are
casual analogies and physical reality. There may be a
neural basis perhaps for the idea of "two registers"
as a kind of hard-wired, "out-of-the box" set of motor
strategies. I have young children, and they naturally
employ one of two types of vocal coordination
strategies which arguably could be called chest and

However, as I have argued, the whole terminology of
register "mixing", for example, is a fiction. Muscles
can be coordinated, and different motor strategies
employed, but nothing is getting "mixed" except
perhaps our perception of the end result. The idea of
"falsetto" as a mechanism to be "joined" with "chest
voice" is another fiction. Imagine "mixing" backhand
and forehand in tennis - you are either doing one or
the other - they don't mix.

Nick Scholl parrots Reid's pedagogy, writing:

"Essentially, you will need to separate, isolate, and
build independently your student's two
registers...When both registers a strong and clear on
their own [this could take months or
years], then they can be joined to balance each other
in a integrated sound..."

In response, Randy Buescher wrote,
"Every student I've had come through my studio that
was trained that way has not been able to bridge the
two registers together. From my experience this
pedagogy encourages permanent register separation and
offers little benefit."

I must express enthusiastic support for Randy's view -
not as a teacher, but as a student who attempted to
develop his voice from extensive falsetto practice.

That said, I do believe that:

falsetto is useful as a way to get a feel for a light
easy production

the kind of falsetto I produce involved a high larynx
position and was inherently a strained production

excessive practice of falsetto can be bad - blowing a
lot of air over the vocal folds in a relaxed state can
lead to bowing of the folds

On a related but somewhat different topic, I am
becoming interested in SLS after watching some of the
videos of masterclasses (with Seth Riggs and with Dave
Stroud - two separate 3 hour videos) at the Dave
Stroud site and am in the process of contacting a
local SLS teacher. At one point in the Riggs
masterclass, Riggs (a baritone, and apparently in his
early 70s), sings somewhat in imitation of a
counter-tenor, and it was quite interesting for me to
hear his light yet connected production up to the G a
fifth above the tenor high C. Exactly whether his
production above a certain point is "falsetto" or not
seems debatable to me, but there were no glitches or
switches, especially going up from the chest voice.

The SLS approach, as I observed, contrasts markedly
with how I interpreted Reid - there is an emphasis
right from the start on vocalizing over a fairly wide
range and without any vocal discontinuity into a
different production. Of course there is a need to
develop a light production with the vocal folds
lengthened and less vibrating mass, but here is a
pedagogy that does so without resorting to switches
and glitches and which emphasizes continuity.

In contrast, the falsetto pedagogy as identified by
Scholl, and as I attempted to practice it, involved
making a "switch" to a falsetto register and trying to
"strengthen" the falsetto until it could "join" the
lower register. I very strongly believe such a
pedagogy to be incorrect.


Michael Gordon

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  Replies Name/Email Yahoo! ID Date  
20666 Re: Falsetto Pedagogy vs SLS, was Re: Head to Chest transitionLloyd W. Hanson lwh1 Thu  10/24/2002