ES016: Voice Science and Artistry with Dr. Ingo Titze

Dr Ingo Titze, vocologist

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.

The Conversation

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 Health.

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 vocologist.

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. is 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 sniffle!"

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 under his biography.

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