Resources for good singing technique
June 1, 2007 1:27 PM   Subscribe

What are the best books/CDs/DVDs for learning good singing techniques, across a range of vocal styles?

I'm looking for books to become part of a small recording studio's informal lending library. A lot of people are coming in with no formal vocal training, which can result in a lot of really terrible habits - bad phrasing, no control over belting, etc. I'd like to have a few good books/CDs/DVDs handy to refer to, both to help the producer (who has no vocal training either) give constructive advice, and for singers to peruse on their own if they want. Something pertinent to rock and/or folk singing would be most useful, but a wide variety of music styles get recorded here, so vocal genre shouldn't be a limiting factor in recommending good books.

I'm doing a search of Amazon reviews at the moment, but personal experience/recommendations would be really helpful.
posted by Stacey to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Adventure of Singing and The Singing Book are pretty standard primers.
posted by fvox13 at 3:52 PM on June 1, 2007

Basics of Vocal Pedagogy by Clifton Ware is a standard technique book. But you can't really learn correct technique from a book or a video. You need a good teacher.

That said, very, very few rock or "folk" singers are formally trained, and the idea that "terrible habits" will undermine you if you experiment and try to learn by yourself is overstated. Singing is a natural human behavior, done by people in all cultures, most of whom are never "trained" at all, and there is no one "right" way to do it, just different models of "right ways." Yes, you can hurt your throat -- temporarily -- by being careless about forcing your tone while not supporting it with proper breath control (which most people can do adequately from childhood, no matter what the opera snobs tell you). But phrasing, for example, is not something that can't be "unlearned" when you learn a new style. It's much more a cognitive than a physical skill, and it's style and language dependent. If you can *hear* the phrasing you want to emulate correctly, you can imitate it. The best primer on singing is a recording (or live performance) by a good singer in the style you're targeting.

If someone lacks basic musicality (within a particular style, which is the only way such a diagnosis makes sense), no book or video will change that. If someone has good ears, they can learn to sing better just by hearing someone else do it.

I say this as a former professional singer, and someone who writes and teaches extensively at the university level about the science of singing. I'm not talking (or singing) out my ass. Singing technique is one of the most bullshit-mystified subjects in music. It's like saying you can't learn to talk without lessons. It is not at all comparable to instrumental technique, which involves technologies of sound production that are not part of the human genome.

The best vocal pedagogues I've know (and I've known many) simply stress learning to relax and use your natural-born gift for singing, which most people possess (and many people fear they do not, leading to anxiety, leading to stress and tension, leading to bad technique and thus "bad" singing). Knowing your own voice and what you want to sound like is the key.

And the very best singers I know are self-taught.
posted by spitbull at 2:06 PM on June 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I should say, you can't learn "proper" (which is to say, stylized and genre specific) singing technique from books or videos. Someone needs to observe *your* existing technique first. But my point is that you're expecting too much and over-emphasizing technique with this question. Some people will strongly disagree, but few of them will be people who have sung for a living.
posted by spitbull at 2:09 PM on June 2, 2007

For belt, Jan Sullivan is something of an expert, though I personally could not stand reading her The Phenomena of the Belt Pop Voice, not least of all because she thinks 'phenomena' is singular.

Clayne Robison's Beautiful Singing: Mind Warp Moments is equal parts biography, essay on releasing creativity, and quantitative/physiological study of measurable correlates of vocal beauty. I love it, and it has made a difference in my voice and my thinking.
posted by eritain at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2007

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