Why Voice Terms Suck So Bad

Learning vocal techniques can be incredibly confusing and frustrating for beginners. There are so many complex terms used to describe the mechanics and acoustics of voice production. It's easy to get overwhelmed by fancy jargon and abstract concepts. Where do you even start?

The goal of this guide is to cut through the complex language and make vocal technique accessible and actionable. We'll discuss the topic of why voice terms suck so bad, and the different lenses used to view voice, clarify why sensory experience matters most, and provide tips to avoid common beginner mistakes.

With a clearer understanding of key voice concepts, you'll be able to navigate resources and accelerate your progress. Terminology won't be a barrier, but rather a tool to enhance your vocal journey.


The Problem with Voice Terminology

Let's start by looking at why voice terminology is so problematic for beginners. The main issue is the sheer number of technical terms used and the fancy, specialized language.

Some examples: are phonation, oscillation, laryngeal articulation, spectral slope, formant frequencies, and alveolar ridges. The list goes on and on.

For an untrained ear and mind, these terms can seem like an unintelligible sea of jargon. They do little to provide an intuitive grasp of the main ideas or tangible direction for what to do.

All this terminology might make sense for an experienced vocal coach or scientist studying acoustics. But for a beginner, it's often mystifying rather than clarifying.

This linguistic fog hides the most essential vocal knowledge behind a barrier of abstract concepts. Without plain explanations of key ideas, improvement seems utterly confusing.


Three Perspectives on Voice

To cut through the complex language, let's examine the different lenses we can use to view vocal elements. Think of each term as a multifaceted crystal - turning it shifts your perspective.

We'll focus on three angles:

  1. Sensory Experience - How something sounds and feels
  2. Acoustic Description - Objective measurements
  3. Biomechanical Process - Underlying physical mechanisms

At first glance, these may seem interchangeable. But in fact, they provide quite different vantage points. Each lens has its own language and level of abstraction.

The sensory experience uses the most intuitive, direct terminology. Acoustics relies on precise technical measurements. Biomechanics describes complex physiological processes.

Let's explore an example - the vocal quality of pitch.

Pitch is the sensory experience of high vs low sounds. The acoustic description is frequency, measured in hertz. The biomechanical process involves vocal fold oscillation rates, laryngeal muscles, and intricate physics.

Note how the perspective shifts. While related, these terms have distinct meanings. Conflating them causes confusion.


Why the Sensory Experience Matters Most

For beginners, focusing on sensory experience provides the most actionable method to improve voice. Here's why it works:

  • Intuitive - Easily grasped descriptions of sound and sensation
  • Accessible - No equipment or technical knowledge required
  • Flexible - Adapts to the individual vocal mechanism
  • Direct - Controls voice through firsthand experience
  • Holistic - Considers the voice as a unified whole

In contrast, acoustic and biomechanical terms are more abstract. They require tools to measure and scientific knowledge to decode.

Relying too heavily on these technical perspectives can impede progress. The intuitive sensory approach allows rapid trial and error and integrates the voice as a single instrument.


Clarifying Key Vocal Components

Let's examine some fundamental vocal components and how the terminology shifts depending on the lens:

  • Pitch - Sensory experience of high/low. Acoustic frequency. Biomechanical vocal fold oscillation rate.
  • Weight - Sensory experience of heavy/light. Acoustic spectral slope. Biomechanical proxy of vocal fold mass.
  • Resonance - Sensory experience of size. Acoustic formants. Biomechanical vocal tract dimensions.

See the pattern? For each quality, the sensory perspective provides an intuitive handle. Acoustics quantifies with measurements. Biomechanics explains the underlying mechanism.

Which terms offer the most traction for a beginner? The sensory angle for pitch, weight, resonance, and most other qualities. Start there before the technical details.


Optimizing Your Vocal Journey

Now we can apply these insights to streamline your learning process:

  • Focus on listening and experimentation - Train your ear first, worry about terminology later. Isolate pleasing sounds and recreate them through trial and error.
  • Lead from the sensory experience - Describe what you hear and feel. Seek direct concrete cues, not abstract theory. Be wary of excessive biomechanical or acoustic explanations.
  • Expand knowledge gradually - Master sound first, then add layers of technical knowledge. Seek terms that enlighten your sensory experience. Avoid drowning in abstractions.
  • Remember your fundamentals - You learned voice control as a toddler by listening and mimicking. Build on those foundations using your ear as a guide. Terminology supports but doesn't substitute for this natural process.

With these principles, vocal training becomes intuitive, not intimidating. The purpose of terms is to enhance your sensory understanding. Use language as a tool to open up your potential, not restrict it behind barriers.

Stay focused on the sound and sensation of your voice. The technical details will come in time. For now, keep it simple, trust your ear, and let the music within you shine through.