For those who haven't the time for the full, four-thousand word, read (!) here is the digest of "The Meaning of Exercises".
There is a class of exercises, or an approach to singing teaching, which I have called techno-physical. This approach, which I don't believe reflects anyone's entire method of teaching, gives information about the body of the singer to the singer, and asks them to act on it in order to improve their vocal performance.
This techno-physical approach seems to me similar to a class of exercises used in Speech Therapy, which are called non-speech oral motor exercises (NSOMEs). Many of these exercises also work on a direct physical basis and encourage the patient to act on the musculature and articulators of speech, whilst not actually speaking.
NSOMEs have been thoroughly researched. I have undertaken a broad review of this research. The best that is currently said about these exercises is that there is no positive evidence to support them. The worst is that they do not work and should not be used.
This may be of interest to singers of teaching. This will, of course, depend on how you view singing and how you view these research findings. The response could range from, "this is not relevant for singers", to "let's look for ways of teaching technique that avoid the possible pitfalls of NSOMEs".
Either way, nothing black and white is intended. Singing and humans are complex and subtle and one woman's trash is another woman's treasure.
Finally, the reasons why NSOMEs are not thought to work are also of very great interest. They inspire ideas of ways to improve the complex coordinations of singing, ideas on successful methods of learning, on the relationship between brain and body, and on the question of what the "task" of singing is.
This last question, what is singing, is of very great interest.
I'll be publishing further articles on all these issues.
For me, the point of this article is the pause it may give us in the use of techno-physical approaches in our lessons, and the questions and thinking it promotes about the best ways to help our singers.