THE EFFECTS OF FELDENKRAIS WORK ON THE SINGER’S
VOICE AS DOCUMENTED BY SPECTOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS:
A PRELIMINARY STUDY
Elizabeth Blades-Zeller, DMA
Nazareth College Music Department
Rochester, New York, 14620
Dan Ihasz, co-author
Samuel Nelson, Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
“While in principle it is possible to use the spectrum analyzer for feedback
in the training of the singing voice, the cost of the equipment and the required
expertise to use it effectively make it unlikely that it will soon have widespread
use in vocal pedagogy.”
Miller, Donald G. and Schutte, Harm K.
Feedback from spectrum analysis applied to the singing voice. Journal of Voice 1990;4:329-334
Ah, how far we’ve come in 14 years! Thanks to affordable and downloadable computer programs such as “GRAM” and “VOCE VISTA”, and the training available to the neophyte acoustic researcher through texts such as Garyth Nair’s very accessible manual, Voice: Tradition and Technology,” (Singular Press, 1998) the once unattainable spectrum analyzer is within grasp of any vocal pedagogue and student. This development is particularly exciting to any voice teacher who values the body-mind work so essential to vocal production, but here-to-for has not been able document such work in scientifically measurable results.
With this in mind, my colleague, Dr Samuel Nelson (Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner) and I initiated a pilot study to measure the effects of the Feldenkrais Method on the singer’s voice through spectral analysis. Preliminary results have been encouraging and intriguing. Benefits of such mind-body work, which have previously been dependent upon anecdotal and qualitative evidence can now be measured and supported by the quantitative visual display available through spectographic analysis.
The Feldenkrais Method is fundamentally a learning system which incorporates self-discovery using movement. In applying the Feldenkrais Method, individuals are led through movement sequences designed to introduce or clarify a function. Thus, they are led to “discover” a better way to perform this function, a way to do it that involves more of themselves than what is habitual. This discovery involves that part of the nervous system that controls movement - the proprioceptive, “sub-concious self” as opposed to the analytical, “thinking” consciousness. As a result, changes tend to be retained and amplified.
In this preliminary section, eleven singers (all voice types) in private individual appointments were asked to arrive vocally warmed up and ready to sing a portion of an art song or aria while real-time spectographic analysis displayed visual documentation of vowel formants, resonance intensity, amplitude (loudness), and consonant execution (clarity). Each singer was then led through a portion of a Feldenkrais “Awareness Through Movement” lesson of approximately 10 minutes duration (each singer was led through the same ATM lesson). The singer then sang exactly the same excerpt while spectographic analysis documented the results.
The results were intriguing as the visual display registered changes either in frequency and/or intensity, increased vibrancy, enhanced vowel formants, resonance and clarity in consonant execution. At the same time, ten singers reported changes ranging from an increase in vocal ease and freedom, improved breath function, articulatory efficiency and a feeling of more “ring” or “bloom” in the voice with less effort. None of the singers were shown the visual display before or after each singing episode; in this study, the spectral analyzer was employed to scientifically document the changes which occurred with Feldenkrais work.
Future research will examine the differences measured by spectographic analysis when singers receive a lesson chosen to specifically address “issues” particular to that singer’s needs, as opposed to all receiving the same generic ATM Feldenkrais lesson.
While this research is still in the preliminary stage, it holds exciting implications for expanded exploration. The availability and relative ease in using spectral analysis to quantitatively measure changes in vocal production provides support for anecdotal qualitative reports. The Feldenkrais Method has proven to effect positive kinesthetic changes which impart improvements in vocal production; these changes are now visually and scientifically measurable through use of spectral analysis.
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