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“Vocal Advantage: Placement” by Dina Else

VOCAL ADVANTAGE: PLACEMENT, by Dina Else (no. 29 in a series)
Singing is sensation.  A lot of people feel very strongly about the fact that talking about placement is bad because it isn’t scientifically or anatomically correct.  My students have a strong anatomy base.  When I talk about placement, and the sensations involved, they know how it relates back to what’s actually happening.  There needs to be a combination of both approaches.
Once you have identified your specific sensations as a singer, (every person’s sensations will be a bit different) they have something they can hang onto on a stage or in a hall.  They begin to relate to how they feel, what their sensation is, or, indeed, what they should have in their mind as a goal for sensation.  They don’t have to try to listen for feedback.
It’s important to have students feel rather than listen to themselves.  Acoustics differ with varying performance space.  You can sound one way in your teachers studio, another way in the choral classroom, yet, and yet another way in a, 3000 seat auditorium.  Sensations give the singer a frame of reference to know whether they are on target or not.
I talk about the masque, I don’t see anything wrong with talking about the mask since that’s where you feel the pressure of the air when you sing.  I actually have a beautiful masquerade masque sitting on piano as a visual aid.
Beginning students aren’t aware of much in regard to the sensations involved in singing, therefore I start this dialogue right away in their first ‘sample’ lesson with me.  At first I get a lot of “I don’t know’” and “I’m not sure” but once they realize that I’m not necessarily looking for a specific answer or response they begin to enjoy the self discovery.
I also look to see that the singer appears as natural as possible, without excessive tension and grimaces, and has a congruent expression for the song.
Another one of Richard Miller’s favorite things to say is, “Singers are responsible for three things; what singing feels like, what singing looks like, and lastly, what singing sounds like.  I use this a lot.  Most of my students really dislike looking in the mirror, especially my gals.  I give them no choice.  I have them face the mirror and I say, “Meet your other voice teacher!”