Sep 25, 2017
Ever wonder if voice science takes the artistry and joy out of
music? Tune in to hear about this from Dr. Titze, who a big part of
the foundation of modern voice science. I think of him as our
Albert Einstein. He is the director of the National Center
for Voice and Speech (NCVS) and President of the Pan American
Vocology Assoiation. He has tenured professorship at the Univ. of
Iowa, where he is teaching this semester, and teaches at the
University of Utah.
Dr. Titze says his passion is to cover the whole territory of
voice. But the field has gotten so big that it is difficult for him
to do; music, theater voice, laryngology, speech pathology, and so
on. Now one has to make some choices. The field now includes
biologists, physiologist, engineers, and physicists. They try to
serve the physicians. Also the field of neurology is exploding.
NCVS works with Rachelle and Renee Fleming with what goes on in the
airway for production of various different styles of sing.
Dr. Titze started down this road over 40 years ago, after
starting a career at Boeing in engineering. He was studying singing
and performing in the chorus of the Seattle Opera. In searching for
a way to learn more about the science of singing, and following his
passion for singing, he found that very little work had been done.
There was very little knowledge of how the voice works. He sought
out Harvey Fletcher, acoustician, at BYU in Provo, UT, who
developed stereophonic sound for Bell Laboratories. He also worked
with Bill Strong at BYU.
We took a side-trip to the story of his father, who was a
German soldier in WWII. It is a touching story of his father who
had to fire in the direction of Russian soldiers but was proud that
he didn't think he ever shot anyone. Dr. Titze's father enjoyed
talking about the community that soldiers from opposite sides of
the war would occasionally have the opportunity to make. He was
miraculously rescued after being shot. After the war the family was
very poor and moved to the US in 1955 for a new chance.
Back on topic, if a person wants to get into voice science,
they need to be willing to devote their focus to it as an engineer,
or if not an engineer then to humbly jump in with a program like
the NCVS Summer Vocology Institute, and learn as much science as
they can in order to serve a team. Behavior sciences and
neurosciences are also welcome. He says to, "keep in mind that we
are all neophytes in something."
NCVS started in Denver as a bigger group than it is now. It
has gotten smaller because of grants. A big part of their focus is
education. They are largely funded by the National Institute of
Dr. Titze gave a definition of the word Vocology. 1. The study
of vocalization of any type and any animal. 2. The science and
practice of voice habilitation. The Pan American Vocology (PAVA) is
discussing creating credentials for a PAVA recognized
In the area of the aging voice, Dr. Titze had a lot of advice
for older singers (everyone post-midlife). The voice is always
changing throughout life, and after midlife it requires more upkeep
for various reasons such as atrophy, slow reflexes, tremors,
hydration, arthritis, and stamina. He recommends that older singers
sing frequently but not for very long, perhaps 15 min. at a time.
In a choral rehearsal, singers often only need to sing for 15 min.
here and 15 min. there, with breaks between.
He highly recommends semi-occluded vocal track exercises.
Singing through a straw and doing slides and sirens. Learn more
about the exercises from this video by Dr. Titze.
the site for all NCVS videos.
Human voices are generally at their prime for singing around
ages 45 - 50 when the cartilage has reached more calcification but
the vocal ligament is still very flexible.
The vocal ligament is the cord part of the old term Vocal
Cord. We now call them Vocal Folds to consider the skin on the
outside, the lamina propria, ligament, and muscle. He likes to call
the vocal folds a Fiber-Gel model. They are good at withstanding
the thousands of collisions we have each minute while making sound.
High pitches are controlled by the ligament, so keeping it healthy
is important for a good voice in later years.
Regarding hydration, know the environment you are going to
sing in. If you change environments (altitude or dryness) allow at
least two days to sense the change. Drinking extra water during a
climate adjustment doesn't really help that much because you pass
it out quickly. It takes time to adjust.
He is not a big fan of personal steamers and such, because the
effects only last 20 min. or so. He is a fan of Mucinex and
expectorants to create mucus. The "object is to
Dr. Titze encourages engineers who have a passion for music to
make room for it in their lives and pursue letting emotions go with
singing. Dr. Titze greatly admired tenor, Fitz Wundelich but has
found that opera singing doesn't work well with his voice. "At some
point you have to stop putting your voice in a song and start
putting the song in your voice."
Samples of Dr. Titze's singing are at NCVS.org under his
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