About These Pages

About the Vocal Technique pages:

The vocal technique pages are designed to give an introduction to each of the main areas of vocal technique. I have tried to give simple definitions first, for those who are unfamiliar with these terms, and then to expand the discussion a bit for those more advanced. Don’t be discouraged if you’re a beginner and you become progressively lost. At the end of each section I have given references for further reading. None of these pieces does more than scratch the surface, but my objective is to give some idea of how I teach, and what my sources are.

Each of these technical areas builds upon those beneath. For example, if a singer has poor posture he/she will undoubtedly be having difficulty with quiet, efficient diaphragmatic breathing. The implication from a teaching point of view is that the posture issue should be addressed first, and this is generally my approach.

Alternative division (more complex: perhaps not for beginners)

Another division of the technical areas that I find useful is to group Posture, Breathing and Support under ‘Breath’, give Phonation a category to itself, leave out Registers and give Resonance a category to itself. This is a purely technical model (leaving out the performance areas of Expression and Interpretation), and looks like this:

Breath—-Phonation—-Resonance

The breath is the power source, phonation the actual vibratory creation of sound in the larynx, and resonance the acoustic modification of that original sound to give us what we hear. This model has the merit of simplicity, but the most important aspect of the model is one I have not attempted to diagram: the fact that variation in any one of these components affects both the others. For example, if breath pressure is reduced, this will affect the quality of phonation (the presence or otherwise of the fundamental and harmonics, and their relative strengths). A resonance adjustment (position of mouth, tongue, larynx, soft palate, etc.) that had been made to accomodate the original source signal will not necessarily be optimal for the new one, and may need to be changed. Conversely, if the resonance adjustment is changed and the singer attempts to maintain volume and tone quality, a change in breath pressure will be required and the quality of phonation will change. There are only three areas, but they are inextricably linked, and this makes the learning and teaching of singing at once a simple, yet infinitely complex business.
In her appropriately titled book “The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice”, Barbara Doscher goes into this inter-relationship of the parts of the vocal mechanism in considerable detail. (1)