On the Art of Singing

On the Art of Singing

On the Art of Singing

On the Art of Singing


A comprehensive volume on all facets of vocal performance, On the Art of Singing considers in detail established comparative vocal techniques, the specifics of interpretation and communication, the factors that contribute to career preparation and maintainance, and the application of functional information to the art of singing. Topics that most frequently concern singers and teachers at all levels of accomplishment are reviewed. These include an examination of pedagogical approaches to breath management, to laryngeal freedom, and to resonance balance, advice on career building, considerations of style and interpretation, and information on the physiology and acoustics of the singing voice. Data from diverse sources, otherwise inaccessible to the singer, are assembled and interpreted in the light of performance artistry. From his own long and distinguished career as a performer, teacher of singing, and vocal researcher, the author aims at making practical the relationship of technical proficiency to freedom in performance.


Of all the performance arts, the art of singing is the most complex. Its preparation and its practices are fraught with controversy. Tonal ideals vary. Techniques for producing those ideals abound. A survey of viewpoints found within the vocal pedagogy literature bewilders.

Much of this diversity stems from attempts to unite individual experience, cultural demands, and varying aesthetic goals with the commonality of the instrumental functions of the voice. The wide range of empirical experience described in the literature of comparative vocal pedagogy can be likened to the blind men's diverse perceptions of the anatomy not of a single stationary elephant, but rather of a herd of stampeding pachyderms. A number of these diversities are critically examined in the essays (some new and some old) on vocal technique found in this collection.

However, establishing a proper technical approach to singing is by no means the only concern for the professional singer or for the singer's teacher. Musicianship, style and interpretation, career preparation and development, efficient vocal function, and the conservation of vocal health are all parts of vocal pedagogy. Information on these topics, written by experts, is scattered throughout a wide range of interdisciplinary writing. Much of that literature presupposes familiarity with terminology not readily accessible to every singer. Singers and their teachers do not always have opportunity to explore these literatures and to join the disparate parts of valuable professional information into a total pedagogical picture.

I have attempted to assemble certain portions of data that have been highly beneficial in my own performing and teaching. My aim in this collection of mostly brief essays has been to make such information accessible to other performers and teachers, sometimes through analytical language, occasionally in exhortative mode, and at other times through curmudgeonly anecdote and parable. Several crucial topics are treated more than once from varying perspectives. Only information that I believe influences the art of performance directly has been included.

These observations have been assembled in such a manner that the reader may select topics that seem of most interest. I hope that the courageous will give all of them consideration. Readers should be forewarned, however, that the author has his own set of biases that he seldom attempts to mask, because he deeply believes in them. A certain missionary zeal for the ideas expressed may be detected. Indeed, conversions are welcomed!

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