GRAHAM F. WELCH & JOHAN SUNDBERG
One of the principal challenges for the singer is to acquire an understanding of how to develop and maintain a particular set of culturally specific musical behaviors using an instrument that is not visible and in which the functional components change physically across the lifespan. The singer's instrument has three components. The respiratory system is responsible for variations in loudness; changes in the pattern and frequency of vocal fold vibration are perceived as variations in pitch and voice quality; and changes in the configuration of the vocal tract are linked to resonance and carrying power. Although often interrelated (particularly in the untrained vocalist), these three functional characteristics are susceptible through education to focused development and conscious control.
The ability to use the voice to express music through singing is a characteristic of all known musical cultures. Each culture tends to value particular vocal timbres in the performance of its art music, such as the vocal sounds commonly associated with classical opera in the West, with the throat music of Tuva, or with blues. These vocal timbres are a selection from a much wider potential variety, indicating the inherent plasticity of the human voice. So one of the central issues in any consideration of solo voice performance is the development and maintenance of a particular set of culturally specific behaviors that use an instrument that is not visible and in which the functional components change physically across the life span. This chapter will examine the basic design of the vocal instrument (its anatomy, physiology, and psychological correlates), its function in singing, and the pedagogical implications for both teachers and performers.