The Psychology of Singing

Publication details: 1908. New York: MacMillan. 1922 edition.

Who was David C. Taylor? No biographical information is available.

What is The Psychology of Singing: A Rational Method of Voice Culture based on a Scientific Analysis of all Systems, Ancient and Modern? This book is an extensive and eloquent rejection of the assumption that healthy singing technique requires conscious management of the vocal organs. Taylor vehemently objects to the methods of the vocal scientist, and stresses instead the psychological controls of muscles.

Great Quotes from The Psychology of Singing:

“Like every other voluntary muscular operation, tone-production is subject to the psychological laws of control and guidance. Psychology is therefore of equal importance with anatomy and acoustics as an element of Vocal Science.” (Taylor ix)

“All methods are based on the theory that the voice requires to be directly and consciously managed in the performance of its muscular operations. When tested by the psychological laws of muscular guidance, this theory of mechanical tone-production is found to be a complete error.” (Taylor xi-xii)

Knowing how the vocal cords should act does not help the singer in the least to govern their action. What the vocal student wishes to know is how to cause the vocal cords to assume the correct position for each register. On this, the most important topic of mechanical Voice Culture, Vocal Science has shed no light whatsoever.” (Taylor 37)

“Without exception every teacher adheres to the prevailing idea, that the voice must be controlled and guided in some direct way—that the singer must ‘do something’ to cause the vocal organs to operate properly. All the materials of instruction, mechanical and empirical, are utilized for the sole purpose of enabling the student to learn how to ‘do this something’.” (Taylor 102)

“Describing to the student the sensations which ought to be felt, does not help in the least. Even if the sensations felt by the singer, in producing tone correctly, are entirely different from those accompanying any incorrect use of the voice, nothing can be learned thereby. The sensations of correct singing cannot be felt until the voice is correctly used. An effect cannot produce its cause.” (Taylor 114)

“Is a knowledge of anatomy of any assistance in the acquirement of skill in performing complex muscular actions? Not in the least… The anatomist does not play billiards or row a boat one whit the better for all his knowledge of the muscular structure of the body.” (Taylor 145)

Singing involves three distinct operations. First, the mental ear conceives a tone of definite pitch, quality, vowel sound, and power. Second, the vocal organs prepare to adjust themselves, by the appropriate muscular contractions, for the production of the tone mentally conceived. Third, the fiat of the will is issued, causing the muscular contractions to be performed. These three operations are executed as one conscious, voluntary act.” (Taylor 226)

“To sum up the psychology of tone-production, the singer guides or manages the voice by attentively listening to the tones of the voice. This is the only possible means of vocal guidance. The voice and the ear together form one complete organ.” (Taylor 232)

“Why should the vocal organs be thought to be unable to adjust themselves for the tone quality demanded by the ear any more than for the pitch? No vocal theorist has ever thought to formulate rules for securing the tension of the vocal cords necessary for the desired pitch. This is always left to instinctive processes….The vocal organs adjust themselves for the imitation of tone quality by exactly the same psychological processes as for the imitation of pitch.” (Taylor 297)

Hover the cursor over any quote to pause it.

Note: The quotes I have selected do not necessarily reflect my own views on the subjects they address, and they may not be scientifically accurate. They were chosen because they are representative of the author’s views. –Dr. Nielsen