This post is an invitation to take another look at my earlier post called Reading List (8 July 2014). I’ve added a number of books on voice science and pedagogy that have come out of the USA. If you want a quick overview, read this page, but if you want the lists, with brief descriptions of the books, follow the link.
1. Voice Science
This list does not include clinical textbooks on voice (e.g. treatment of voice disorders), which are listed in a later section. The texts listed in this first section may seem daunting, with lots of scientific, specialist terminology, complex descriptions of physiology, physics, acoustics and psycho-acoustics. However, the more we understand about these concepts, the more we are able to separate fantasy from reality in what teachers or singers claim about their methods. Having a good grasp of the science also provides a basis for working out whether a particular physical approach is healthy, safe, or, indeed, whether it will achieve the desired result in terms of sound.
2. Vocal methods and pedagogy
A number of these books could have been listed in the first section, as they include significant information on anatomy and acoustics. But I have listed them in this section because I think their primary theme is about how to teach and learn singing. All of these books have something important to offer the singing teacher or singer. However, I think it is extremely difficult to translate the science of voice into a teaching approach that is intelligible to student singers. There is excellent advice in Chapman (2006) and Miller (2000), and those are the books I would go to first; they are brilliant teachers, but I don’t think they necessarily make clear the links between the science and the singing exercises they recommend. Kayes (2000) is useful, especially for the singer of contemporary (as opposed to the ‘classical’) vocal styles; but I think it is also possible to misinterpret her exercises, and end up doing something with the muscles that is different from what Kayes has in mind for the student. As I said, I think it is very hard to talk or write about singing in a way that illuminates for the singer or teacher exactly what is needed – I myself find writing about voice technique very challenging. Singing learning and teaching is best achieved through a multi-sensory approach, that includes hearing, seeing, and feeling what is going on. There is no adequte substitute for the student and teacher being in the same room with each other.
3. Working towards performance (and auditions)
Singing is not just about science and mechanical technique. Its ultimate purposes are expression, communication and art. These three texts help bridge the gap between the technical workout and working with music, lyrics and character. They also take us towards the performance space itself, and the audiences who come to hear and see us.