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Demystifying vocology for singing teachers - Emma Wilson

While vocology may be a relatively young specialisation within the voice field (it turned 30 in 2020!), it has become an essential area of both research and clinical practice for anyone working with professional voice users and singers to be aware of.

Background to vocology

The term was first published in a 1990 paper by Dr Ingo Titze [1], and although very connected, the Academic (AKA Research), and Professional (AKA Clinical) definitions of vocology vary slightly [2].

Vocology (Academic) = The study of vocalisation

Vocology (Professional) = The science and practice of voice habilitation

What it’s about

In my experience, vocology is fundamentally about the intersection of a variety of professions within voice, including Speech-Language Pathology, Laryngology, Singing Voice & Spoken Voice/Acting Training, Voice Science, and Research. The benefit of this collaboration is that research is not constrained within the borders of each profession, but instead can cross fluidly into difference disciplines.

How vocology can relate to singing

One popular example of vocology research that has made its way into the singing world is the straw phonation phenomenon. Many singing teachers now use straw or tube phonation in their teaching, and we have vocologists to thank for the research telling us why this works so well, and what variables affect the outcomes for our students.

Key benefit of vocology for singers

A huge benefit of vocology is that voice users and singers receive the best possible training and/or treatment for their needs, with a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. Central to the practice of vocology is the idea of Voice Habilitation. That is, “building and strengthening the voice to meet specific needs” [3].

The role of a vocologist

A vocologist identifies the vocal demands of a client’s work and lifestyle, and enables them to meet those demands, through a deep understanding of the science underpinning voice function (yep, vocologists need to know their physics!), voice therapy techniques, motor learning principles, and singing voice technique. The vocologist is also a liaison between the different members of the singing voice team (see figure 1), and must be familiar with the language used across the medically driven professions, as well as the more aesthetically driven professions.