When Technique Lacks Technique….

Over the years I have found myself using the term “technique” less and less. When I was a younger man and starting out to learn about how singing was done, I was obsessed with “technique”. Often, as a result I was vocally ineffective, and I was boring. Older now, and hopefully a little wiser, I find myself a tad disillusioned with the term.

The Greek origin of the word technique actually means Art. The art of doing a thing.

However, technique has come to mean something more like mechanics, another word of Greek origin, meaning the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces and manipulations. And certainly, a bare minimum of mechanical capacity must be present to engage in many endeavors. After all, though it may not be the finest vessel, you simply can’t properly learn to sail with gaping holes in the boat.

But to me these days, technique (meaning Art) is really more about prioritizing. Too often I witness or hear young singers whose minds are on mechanics but often at the expense of pitch, text, and content. And frankly -far more often than many realize- it is a technical flaw, a failure to artistically prioritize, that creates mechanical flaws:  If you are willing to be cavalier about pitch, what other odd sounds might you allow from yourself? If you are willing to sacrifice intelligible text, what becomes of your internal acoustic structure to channel sound? If you’re willing to ignore the content of the story you’re supposed to be telling…….what are you even doing there?

And so, in contrast to what some might say, you might present to me a singer who had managed to figure out how to very efficiently produce a sound, even an exciting or beautiful sound. And yet, if they were too frequently inattentive to intonation, put the beauty of their own voice over clarity of text, or try to let the story sing itself while they focus on tone production….. Well, I suppose I would argue that they might indeed have some reasonable sense of mechanics… but rather poor technique.
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