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Tongue Position

Posted: 13 Jan 2016, 16:13
by pagliaccio
Hey there.

Are you aware of the one voice teacher, who has a facebook profile under the name "Jeremy Silver Voice Maestro", who is relentlessly "fighting" against some apparently very common teachings pertaining to the position of the tongue for singing, taught, among others, by known voice teacher David Jones?
For months now he is collecting video clips which show some highly regarded singers of the past retracting their tongue, i.e. the opposite of having it touch the teeth (but not so much as to press on the larynx, he says). Well. At least in one instance each... I don't know how much that's saying.
J. Silver argues that stretching the arched tongue to touch the front teeth causes problems and is one of the reasons why singers sound, shall I say, rather unimpressive compared to the greats of 50 years and more ago.
(there is no structured text giving an overview of his ideas that I'm aware of, one has to dig through the blog posts to get details)
He says his teaching is based on that from Tommaso LoMonaco.

What do you think of this?

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 13 Jan 2016, 21:47
by Aureliano
If one wants to learn about the tongue in relation to vocal technique the best solution is to seek the counsel of your trusted teachers, and/or the counsel of trusted and successful professional singers. Absent this, probably the last thing one should do is take what some person writes on facebook (or other internet) blogs as anything more than curious "noise". This is especially true if said person/blogger is known for fighting publicly and without honor with other teachers and singers online. It is a tremendous signal to the likely veracity of the message if the messenger has to resort to tremendous insult and unpleasantry to get the message out. Furthermore, watching video or photography of the front aperture of a singer's mouth is really a great folly when trying to ascertain what is happening within the singer.

Thankfully, we really don't have to worry about whether or not some blogger is correct or not on the issue of tongue action when singing. We have still living amongst us some of the great singers of all time. Yes, they are becoming fewer and fewer but this information is not some great secret. There are still some golden age singers alive (take Gedda, Zeani and LoForese for examples) who indeed are still teaching students, and there are great multitudes of singers, teachers, and conductors still alive who worked/studied directly with some of the greatest singers and teachers from the golden age. If you want to know what these singers did, we needn't freeze-frame a youtube video. We can just ask them. I have done so with quite a number of such individuals and I can affirm with great confidence that what this particular blogger you mention says is complete and utter nonsense.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 14 Jan 2016, 06:51
by Jimlejim
What Aureliano said.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 25 Jan 2016, 02:16
by pagliaccio
Yeah, I've seen him come off as unfriendly. He also seems to easily jump to conclusions from few data.

But I'm not sure I can dismiss all of it so easily by you assuring it's nonsense, though, as he seems to have a point that hits hard: Are there any Jones students who actually sing well? Vs. his own.

Listen to e.g. the 2 most recent of his (mrcafiero) youtube vids. I can't say much about the female student as I have not looked at female voices from a technical angle all that much, and the room acoustics are not so good.
But his half baked 20 year old baritone student already sounds better than D.Jones himself, which might be telling. At least on the 2-CD set with excercises that I have.

I haven't heard Silver himself sing, though.
It seems a part of his unfriendliness at least towards D.Jones stems from his belief that Jones ruined Jerry Hadley's voice. He claims before that, Hadley was a student of Silver's now deceased mentor, LoMonaco (who himself also sounded quite impressive, like some old world tenor).
I can't confirm any of the claims, but I agree that Hadley's technique seemed a lot better before the 1990's.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 25 Jan 2016, 19:38
by a57se
Oh goodness, this old debate is still going on???
Geez, people were arguing about this on Grandi Tenori many moons ago...

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 26 Jan 2016, 22:57
by pagliaccio
Maybe, and although I was also on granditenori, it was not that much or regularly, and if there was a more detailed debate, I missed it.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 27 Jan 2016, 07:24
by a57se
The debate was so ridiculous people actually got banned because of it...
I was a regular back then and the whole topic was divisive.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 31 Jan 2016, 20:53
by Aureliano
I caution about creating a false dichotomy. Proper singing technique is not a question of choosing between Hack Teacher A -v- Teacher B. There are a universe of other options available. I would forget the false choice you have created.

Are their good students of Jones? Well, I can't speak to the entire history of his studio, but I can say this from actual observation. I have known many poor singers who worked a lot with Jones, and I have known a fairly decent number of really fantastic singers who have studied with him. Can we fairly attribute the poor ones or indeed the good ones to Jones? Who knows. The are many factors involved. Singers develop their skills in multiple ways. I have studied with many teachers and coaches around the world. Including Nicola Martinucci, for example. But can I say that he is responsible for the way I sing? Of course not. He is but one of many influences. Maybe you can take one or two components and credit (or discredit) him. I would imagine a teacher like Jones who works a lot with established high level singers is much the same. A lot of his studio have been developed by multiple technical sources. He offers input that may improve them, or may do the opposite. It is, I will conclude, a rather foolish thing to judge the merits of these individuals based off internet noise.

I don't want to comment too greatly on that youtube cafiero person you mention, other than to say that myself and all other people I know in the opera industry who have heard his videos and read his materials find him to be a complete laughing stock. There is, in truth, nobody outside of his own small studio who pays any respect or attention to him. I would warn in a general sense against wasting time and energy with any such people who are held in these levels of low esteem by everybody in the industry, regardless of how attracted you may be to his sales pitch.

Jerry Hadley was a very close friend of multiple colleagues of mine. I can't speak that profoundly on his choices, but the claim that Hadley worked with Jones and subsequently lost his voice is not a truthful claim. There are many aspects and complexities to Jerry's career. It's a nuanced story for another day. Certainly absolutely none of it has anything to do with the topic of "Tongue Position".

If you are truly interested in singing technique and wish to explore issues such as tongue posture, then I recommend over and above forums and blogs, to seek the opinions of some of the many (by this I mean thousands) of people out there in the industry who would be only too happy to converse. Email your favorite singers. Seek some advice from some of the many other teachers and coaches that can easily be reached out to. I would just really strongly recommend avoiding the "bubble" of internet self-proclaimed gurus and maestros who fight amongst themselves like they are the pillars of the industry but in reality could not be more outlying.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 04 Feb 2016, 02:17
by pagliaccio
thanks for your thoughts. Interesting that you know those kind of people, is singing your profession?

As for Hadley, well tongue position is not the only thing that's criticized about that particular school.

I generally agree with being cautions of internet gurus.
What intrigued me of that particular character was that some clips of his alleged students have nice voices with nice amounts of squillo, for one thing. I don't hear that a lot these days. He says he is about bringing excitement back into opera voices, something that I, too, miss.
Anyway, clips with evidence of what people manage to do is worth a lot more than thousand opinions.
Email your favorite singers.
There's the first problem, they're all dead ;-)
I can't say I really like any of the big names of today that I'm aware of, maybe there are some again meanwhile, but I stopped to even care to look some years ago.
just really strongly recommend avoiding the "bubble" of internet self-proclaimed gurus and maestros who fight amongst themselves like they are the pillars of the industry but in reality could not be more outlying.
While this sounds reasonable, it seems I'm actually looking for something outlying, as IMO opera singing today is pretty underwhelming. All those incredibly praised singers, and when I hear them I feel between "meh..." and "ugh!" They all seem rather underdeveloped, as if they were in a big hurry to hit the stage.

Re: Tongue Position

Posted: 05 Feb 2016, 19:17
by Aureliano
pagliaccio wrote:Aureliano,
thanks for your thoughts. Interesting that you know those kind of people, is singing your profession?

While this sounds reasonable, it seems I'm actually looking for something outlying, as IMO opera singing today is pretty underwhelming. All those incredibly praised singers, and when I hear them I feel between "meh..." and "ugh!" They all seem rather underdeveloped, as if they were in a big hurry to hit the stage.
Yes. I pay my mortgage from singing opera, and have studied with some singers of renown, although more important is they are great human beings with wisdom and compassion, their renown only adding to the credibility, I suppose.

If you are looking to be an outsider, and are cynical of the current music world, and opera world in particular, I can only send to you my deepest commiserations. It is not a fun nor rewarding place to find oneself. Alas, you must be honest with yourself, and if this is honestly your feelings on the industry than so be it. Just know that you will likely find yourself excruciatingly frustrated and disappointed and disheartened, and will have an almost impossible time to make it in the industry from that vantage point. I wish it were not the case, but alas it is. Trust me, if there is something else you can do for a living to provide comfort and happiness in your life and in the life of the people you care about (now or in the future) then please heed my advice and pursue that career. Opera is so difficult to succeed in. The odds are massively stacked against you. If you add onto these barriers, the additional barrier of cynicism at the current opera world and the desire to revolutionize it with outside forces (such as a return to a golden age standard of aesthetic) than I suspect you are creating too impossible a burden to overcome.

Look at what just happened with NYCO-R. They banked on people really wanting at heart to see old-school sets and costumes, pre-war approaches to staging, and minimal to zero innovation, and what resulted was a very stale and boring Tosca that people just did not like, even though some of the singing was superb. It's a new world my friend, and change is the kind of thing that can never happen if you never get a chance to work within the industry. I am not saying you should sell out your principles. Not at all. I applaud that you set high standards of vocal art, and desire to obtain golden-age vocalism. But my advice is to try to achieve these goals through associations with respected people. There are great singers who still sing and teach. How do you feel about Mariella Devia, for example? How do you feel about Nicola Martinucci? Richard Leech takes students now. There are numerous conductors and coaches all over the world that worked with some of the greatest singers ever. They exist, and are approachable. Richard Bonynge is approachable, for example. You should listen to a recent podcast he did. You may love his ideas on young singers. I don't want to continue to list names, but you get my point. If truly there exists no singer or former singer alive that you feel represents anything approximating proper singing then I fear you may simply be too exclusionary to ever enjoy a career in this artform.

Stay positive, surround yourself with people who are endlessly positive and optimistic, and be a *part* of the opera world with all the joy you can muster. With this joy, you may just be able to make the changes to the vocal aesthetics you want the industry to stand for.