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Demystifying vocology for singing teachers - Emma Wilson

Updated: Apr 28

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.

Figure 1: The vocologist bridges the gaps between the more medically driven and more aesthetically driven professionals within the voice team.

Although vocology is currently a somewhat unregulated industry, PAVA is in the final stages of developing a ‘PAVA-Recognised Vocologist’ pathway, which will involve a stringent application and testing process [4]. I received my vocology training at the Summer Vocology Institute, an eight-week intensive run by NCVS in Utah - founded by Dr Ingo Titze. There are a few other dedicated training institutions throughout America and Europe, and I’m very hopeful that one day soon there will be similar opportunities in Australia as well!

References & Further Reading:

[1] Titze, I. R. (1990). Vocology. The NATS Journal, 46(3), 21-22.

[2] Hoch, M. (2019). Historical Landmarks in Singing Voice Pedagogy. Voice and Speech Review, 13(1), 43–60.

[3] Titze, I. R., & Verdolini Abbott, K. (2012). Vocology: The science and practice of voice habilitation. National Centre for Voice and Speech.

[4] Hersey, A., Scearce, L., & Johnson, A. M. (2019). Pan American Vocology association’s “Recognized Vocologist” designation: The road to creating professional standards in Vocology. Voice and Speech Review, 14(2), 227-239.

About the author

Emma Wilson is a voice teacher, performer, and vocologist based in Brisbane. She works with contemporary singers from beginners to professionals in her private voice studio in South Brisbane, and is a Lecturer in Voice and Music at JMC Academy. Emma holds a Masters of Music Studies (Vocal Pedagogy) and a Certificate in Vocology from the National Centre for Voice and Speech (NCVS), and she serves as the National Membership Secretary, QLD Chapter President, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (ANATS).

Instagram: @emmakatewilsonvoice

ANATS is the peak professional association for singing teachers in Australia. We help teachers of any style of singing to be the best they can be, by provide professional development, advocacy and community for singing teachers and other voice professionals across Australia.

We welcome members from all musical cultures, vocal styles and singing or teaching environments.

We are committed to building an inclusive culture that encourages, supports, and celebrates the diverse voices of our industry.


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