This is part 5 of a series on singing expertise. I think you can read this one first and then go back and read the others later without being totally lost. Nevertheless, here they are: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.
Based on the system of expertise expressed in this series, where should we place the various experts on singing? My belief is that there is no such thing as a single “singing expert”. Instead, there are eight primary categories of singing specialist with further subdivisions.
My Beta1 List of Singing Experts
I’m proposing this list of broad singing expert categories:
- Expert Listeners and Researchers (expert fans, reviewers and music journalists, music historians, radio hosts, etc.)
- Singing-related business experts (agents, managers)
- Singing-related technicians (sound engineers, stage managers, costume and makeup artists for singers)
- Performing musicians (coaches, conductors, music historians, accompanists, concert masters, other instrumentalists)
- Singing performers (with many subdivisions based on repertoire)
- Singing teachers (subdivided with rep and special knowledge on certain voice types)
- Medical doctors with singing emphasis (ENTs, and voice therapists who specialize in treating singers)
- Voice scientists (with subdivisions based on field)
None of the categories are inherently mutually exclusive (there’s nothing that would stop someone from being both a singing teacher and a singing performer, for example, other than a lack of experience). Instead, the categories are comprised of people who must consider singing as part of their expertise. That knowledge then forms someone that defines them at least somewhat as an expert and is not ubiquitous. They needn’t be able to discuss singing deeply with a singer to meet that qualifier, but often, they will have knowledge that a singer doesn’t possess. Recording engineers, for example, often have quite a set of techniques to get the best recording from singers (both technical and psychological), and these techniques are probably unknown by the singer. This list considers that a kind of singing expertise, and it is an exclusive expertise that other singing experts may not have.
The Rainbow of Singing Expertise
There’s a rainbow of singing expertise, where each specialist has some knowledge that the others don’t. Added together, they embody “singing expertise”, but no one alone embodies the whole all at once. Singing, as it turns out, is a broad term. In the same way that there’s not a single type of scientist, there is not one kind of singing expert. The list above is an expression of the rainbow’s components, like ROYGBIV.
Important: being an expert in one of the above does not automatically make you an expert in any of the others. Being a contributory expert in singing doesn’t make you a voice scientist, nor does it automatically make you or me a singing teacher, an agent, a classical DJ or reporter, a coach or any number of professionals that fall within one of the above categories.
For examples; a common understanding amongst singers and teachers is that coaches help with musicality and languages and the overall artistic impression of a piece, while a voice teacher helps with technique. Those skills aren’t immediately interchangeable.
Nor are the skills between singers and voice teachers. Professional singers who have not done much teaching are often considered not very good teachers. The negative stereotype is that they apply the primary techniques that work for them in their specific repertoire to all situations, whether it’s appropriate or not. Of course, those singers are expert singers. It’s just a different skill set. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to teach well, but that would involve learning those skills.
To do so would require starting again as a novice and learning the ropes from experts in that field all over again. If we’re willing to give it the time, then it’s possible.
We’ll look at the process of becoming an expert in the next post of this series.
I could accept some changes to the list if someone argued persuasively enough. This is a beta of sorts, and I’m happy for feedback. For example, I could potentially see that some categories could be combined or the names changed. I just didn’t make a convincing enough case to myself that some further combination is better or that some other name is better, but perhaps someone else can argue more eloquently. Additionally, the names might seem overly long, but I tried to make them broad. For example “singing performers” includes opera singers, but it also would have included actors who have to sing. They would then occupy different subdivisions below that based on their different sets of skills and values. ↩