The Heart of Singing

By Greschner, Debra | Journal of Singing, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Heart of Singing


Greschner, Debra, Journal of Singing


Diane Haslam, The Heart of Singing. Charleston, SC: Create Space; 2010. Paper, xviii, 168 pp., $15.95. ISBN 9781453696064 www.dianehaslam.com

"Heart" has a plethora of meanings. It can denote a foundation, or the intangible essence of soul and spirit. Diane Haslam makes a compelling case that, for vocalists, the latter is the former; that is, the heart is the basis of singing. As both performers and authences know, there is more to great singing than technique. When a listener is truly moved by a song, many other factors are at play, including emotional connection, confidence, and sincere communication. In The Heart of Singing, Haslam discusses these and other aspects as she summarizes the fundamentals of great singing.

The overarching theme of the book is self-knowledge and, as a logical out-growth, self-discovery. Self-knowledge begins with an understanding of the power of singing, and what motivates us to sing. Indeed, Haslam theorizes that the talent of singer, perhaps more than in other field, is based upon personality. The author identifies three types of singers: the Diva, the Introvert, and the Authentic Singer. All three exist in each of us. The most effective performers are those in whom the Authentic Singer is dominant. This type of singer is one who intuitively makes the best choices for his or her voice. Recognizing the characteristics of each type will aid singers in making positive choices about singing-related issues, from technique and repertoire to performance anxiety. Throughout the book, the author deliberately eschews specific vocal details (no mention of resonance or registration), and concentrates instead upon the importance of self-knowledge. The author draws upon her own experiences and those of her students, as well as a wide variety of sources in many. This breadth is evidenced in the bibliography, which contains works by (among others) poets, brain scientists, psychologists, and philosophers.

Singers are encouraged to commit: to their practice, to their sound, to their song. In one of the rare forays into technical issues, Haslam emphasizes the importance of committing to the breath: "As soon as the breath is not working 100 percent, something else will take over to make up for the missing essential energy. …

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