Singing is not difficult
The voice is not as complicated to use as many people think. It is an instrument that everybody has and uses every day. Of course it requires practice to sing professionally, but when you know how the voice works and how to use its natural functions and develop them further, you will be able to learn most of what is required.
The voice usually works perfectly until we hinder it during childhood with constriction. Singing techniques are mostly about removing constriction to allow the voice to work freely. This means everyone can sing if they do not hinder their voice production. Therefore there is no reason to work with the technical aspects of singing unless you think you have a specific technical singing problem.
Technique and expression
The CVT book however is mainly about technique – this is not because we believe technique is the most important aspect of singing. On the contrary, technique is only the MEANS by which we express ourselves. At CVI we think the most important aspect is EXPRESSION – to convey a message. What to convey and how to convey it are artistic choices that every singer has to make for her/ himself. The CVT book is about the techniques required to accomplish the artistic choices you would like to make.
The history of singing
In the old days you could not amplify the voice electronically so singers had to find a way to be heard from a considerable distance. This led to the development of certain vocal techniques that gradually became the only right vocal sound to be produced. In the Western world this taught sound became known as the ‘classical sound’.
With the invention of the microphone it became possible to amplify all sounds including those that were previously too quiet to be heard from a distance. This brought new ‘untaught’ sounds to the same volume as ‘taught’ sounds. This meant that many new sounds of the voice could be used and that new ideals emerged for what constituted a ‘good’ sound.
Many of the ‘new’ ways of singing turned out to be just as strenuous and difficult as the ‘taught’ ways. New style singers, who became known as singers of ‘popular music’, had to learn how to sing healthily by themselves because teaching in the new singing styles was not available. They could not get help from classical singing techniques as these resulted in a classical sound which they were not interested in. As a result of this lack of tuition some new singers damaged their voices and their singing styles were labelled as dangerous and unhealthy – even though many classical singers also had vocal problems.
In the ‘popular music’ camp some singers made a virtue of necessity and declared that ‘true’ singers of popular music should be self-taught, claiming that tuition would remove a singer’s special touch. Both camps nurtured their prejudices against each other. A gulf between the classical and the popular camps developed which, unfortunately, still exists today to some degree. This gulf is more about taste than of the use of techniques.
Amongst the ‘popular music’ singers who lost their voices were those who fell by the wayside in practice rooms and you never heard of them. Some lost their voices at the beginning when they started touring or later on in their careers due to the strain and increased demands on their voice. But there WERE ‘popular’ singers whose voices ‘lasted’ throughout their careers regardless of how strained they sounded.
It is therefore from both the techniques from the ‘classical’ school and the experience of these ‘popular’ singers that I base many of the new singing techniques on today.
Myths about singers
There are many myths about performers before the days of recording: ‘This was a voice like none other, never to be heard again’ and so on. We don’t believe this is true. It is probable that it was not the performer’s voice that was so special but her/his technique in producing the voice. We can all accomplish a good technique by knowing what and how to practise.
Unfortunately, we can only accept the myths about past performers because we have no recordings to prove or disapprove them as, of course, their voices died with them. We believe that all singers can accomplish all sounds. Since recordings began there has not been a sound that cannot be taught.
Myths about singing techniques
Being able to see what you are doing is an invaluable tool in learning. Unfortunately, singing tuition cannot rely on sight and that lead to myths about how sound is produced. Thankfully, science now provides new knowledge so we know much more about the working of the vocal cords today. We are now able to watch the vocal cords work and we know more about the anatomy and physiology of voice production. This has helped to eliminate many of the previous misconceptions and myths that were based largely on guesswork, many of which contributed to ruined voices and careers.
With a better understanding of voice production months of wasted and harmful training can now be avoided. When teachers can be specific in their instructions, singers no longer have to go through years of training based on vague directions. When you can work on a problem directly, it is easier to determine whether you are on the right track or not. A technique must have the intended effect immediately otherwise it is not being done correctly. Experience also shows us that singers who perfect these new techniques are able to last on strenuous tours which is one of the reasons why the techniques today have the backing of doctors and speech therapists.