The Science & Art of Singing Voice

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Speaking and singing: essentially the same physiological process…

The approach to singing voice that I was taught and that I now pass on to others, no matter what style they wish to sing (pop, rock, Broadway, opera, rap)- those principles come from the Italian School of Singing Voice Training called the Bel Canto School.  

I was fortunate enough to have studied, and later collaborated with Margaret Riddleberger from 1979 through 2002.  I was an actor/singer in New York City and after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I was looking for further singing-voice training because of the fierce competition and level of talented individuals I was coming up against in auditions. It was like the Olympics; you had to be at the top of your skills.  Margaret is one of the inheritors of this well known Bel Canto approach to singing voice, which she and I then developed further through my studies and research into functional anatomy, massage and later Rolfing®, movement, and the field of psychology and trauma resolution.  Over a twenty plus year period, we accumulated a down to earth and practical model which describes the physical motor skills that are necessary in order to develop a strong, clear, yet fully relaxed and resonant voice that is never forced and thus will NOT produce vocal problems, and that sounds like nobody but yourself.

Singing is singing is singing…

Anyone who sings can benefit from this approach to singing voice, no matter what style you sing.  This is somatic skills based training.   Since speaking and singing are essentially the same process, we can all learn to bridge the gap that many develop between singing and speaking, to allow you to acquire the precise kinesthetic motor skills needed to sing and speak in the same voice.  There are so many approaches to singing voice training and this approach breaks through all of the theories. beliefs, and ideas about singing to help you quickly recognize, and develop the necessary motor skills needed to sing in your own natural voice, sing like nobody but you.  Later, once you know your home base, as it were, then you can begin to expand your range, power, color, and resonance in other styles and genre.

Below are the basic principles of physiological voice production, without which, no-one can achieve a relaxed and natural singing voice. Or let me just say that very few have completely found it on their own. This is based on my 36 years professional experience and about 45 years as a singer in front of audiences.  This approach is also known and taught by others as ‘talk-singing’, or speak-singing, because speaking and singing are the same exact physiological mechanism essentially. 

Please understand that the process of bridging the gap between your singing voice and singing voice has nothing to do with your mind that uses language and concepts to deal with the world, the one that I am using to write this material.  We will be by-passing that part of the brain and using sensory-motor skills and other strategies to get you into the intuitive mind, or said in another way, the somato-emotional mode, which is where singing best happens.  These principles can be our goal-posts, reminding us about the limits and boundaries of natural voice production so that we never use force whatsoever nor never harm our delicate vocal folds.  Ever!

Principle One

Voice is that same exact process as speech, and happens in the mouth, not in the throat (vocal chords or folds).  The vocal chords (in your throat or larynx) generate only embryonic vibrations which are transformed in the mouth into consonants and vowels.  So singing, like speaking, is a phonetic process that happens in the mouth, where it gives rise to our voice.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  When many singers begin to sing, I notice a tension in their throat that is beyond what they normally use to speak.  In truth,  following these principles, singing and speaking are similar processes and so singing best happens with the least amount of tension in the throat and using the least amount of breath.  As with speaking, we do not monitor ourselves normally, controlling air flow, larynx (throat) position, and the other habits that are taught today that only inhibit natural expression.  We we speak, we just begin to speak.  We don’t necessarily need to take a breath as many do before  they begin to sing.  You don’t when you begin to speak.

Principle Two

The full range of the voice is generated by only using the minimum tension of the vocal chords along with the minimum breath power necessary for each and every tone.

Principle Three

Breath is very important to voice production, what we call the vocal generating power.  But it is not the essential power which develops the voice as so many teachers and systems teach it today.  Actually, the process of singing develops the breathing process and its capability, just as any physical action develops the organ from which it takes origin.  Thus, it is not breathing that develops singing, but singing that develops the breath power.

Principle Four

The most important factor in voice production is resonance.  It gives the voice volume and quality, as well as loudness.  So developing resonance as opposed to force, as so many do today, is the key to producing a powerful and beautiful voice.

Resonance is the most important factor in voice production. It furnishes to the voice volume and quality, and emphasizes its loudness. To rely on resonance rather than on force is essential for producing a big and pleasing voice.

Principle Five

Speaking and singing are similar functions, produced by the same physiological mechanism; therefore they are the same vocal mechanism.

The speaking voice acts as the substantial factor of the singing voice and constitutes its real support. Singing, it its very essence, is merely speaking in musical rhythm; hence no correct singing can exist without a correctly produced speaking voice.

Principle Six

There are no registers in the singing voice, when it is correctly produced. According to natural laws, the voice is made up of only one register which constitutes its entire range.

Dr. P. Mario Marafiotti’s Principle of Voice Production from his book, Caruso’s Method of Voice Production: The Scientific Culture of the Voice, (1937) Published by Dover Books

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