Two treasured publications have been expanded and enhanced and continue their tradition of developing singing techniques for the modern artist.
This article was originally published in Classical Singer magazine. To subscribe to the print magazine, go to www.csmusic.info/subscribe.
Your Voice: An Inside View
Two years ago, in an interview for this column (March 2018), I asked author Scott McCoy about the process he used to pare down his widely read vocal pedagogy text, Your Voice: An Inside View, into a shorter volume titled Your Voice: the Basics. For McCoy’s latest project, however, he had the opposite task. The new, third edition of Your Voice: An Inside View is bigger, more detailed, and more up to date.
First published by Inside View Press in 2004 and revised for a second edition in 2012, the most obvious change in the third edition is the inclusion of more than 60 full-color anatomical illustrations. These images portray a greater layer of depth than can be viewed in the black-and-white and shades-of-gray images of the second edition.
Chapter content has been expanded as well. The chapter titled “Sound” has been divided into two parts, the first part being a musician-friendly examination of voice acoustics that first appeared in Your Voice: the Basics, which introduces the more comprehensive information of part two. The “Health” chapter, co-written by Lucinda Halstead, MD, was also expanded to include additional content on vocal health, vocal hygiene, and voice disorders.
More photos, videos, audio examples, and other multimedia are also now available on the companion website at www.voxped.com/YV3.
One of the best new additions to the book is a guest chapter written by Lynn Helding simply titled “Brain.” Helding, known as a leader in applying neuroscience to vocal performance, makes a convincing case that cognitive science deserves recognition as the third pillar of voice pedagogy, alongside voice physiology and voice acoustics.
At one time, Your Voice: An Inside View was determined to be the most widely used primary textbook in voice pedagogy courses throughout the United States and Canada. For the many teachers who are already familiar with that book, McCoy offers assurance that, despite the updates, the basic content of most chapters has remained the same as in the second edition (although a change in page numbers may require an update to syllabus assignments). He also offers teachers a heads-up in the introduction as to which chapters have the newest content.
In our 2018 interview, McCoy promised that the third edition of Your Voice: An Inside View would have “a little bit of fine tuning and some more practical information about how to apply what we know about anatomy, physiology, [and] acoustics to singing and to teaching singing.” These changes are sure to further bolster the already solid reputation of the book, which is truly the gold standard for modern voice pedagogy texts.
The Vocal Athlete
At the time of its release in 2014, it would have been difficult to find a book focused specifically on considerations related to contemporary commercial music singing that was as heavily researched and well referenced as The Vocal Athlete by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg. In an interview for Classical Singer in December 2016, Rosenberg stated that, since both she and Leborgne are speech-language pathologists, singing voice specialists, voice teachers, and performers, “we essentially designed a textbook that we would want to have.” For Leborgne, this meant writing a book that was grounded in peer-reviewed research but would connect the science and the art of singing. She said, “There are often impressive scientific papers that do not have a strong link to actual performance. I hope that a book like The Vocal Athlete will help to bridge that gap for both singers and scientists.”
The new second edition of The Vocal Athlete contains all the substance that made the first edition such a unique resource while also introducing additional and even more current material. Perusal of the table of contents reveals two entirely new chapters. The first, “Perceptions, Aesthetics, and Registration in the Commercial Vocal Athlete,” summarizes research studies intended to help delineate the different perceptual vocal qualities that are needed for classical and commercial music. It also provides an overview of the “semantic quagmire” of terminology that has been historically used to explain vocal registers and register transitions.
The second new chapter, “Common Vocal Pathologies in Vocal Athletes: A Medical Perspective,” was written by guest author Robbi Kupfer, MD, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan. Dr. Kupfer’s chapter provides information related to some of the illnesses and injuries that frequently impact the voice. It also outlines what singers may expect during a visit to a medical voice clinic. The chapter provides important background that segues nicely to the expanded chapter that follows, written by Leda Scearce (a singing voice rehabilitation specialist), titled “Multidisciplinary Care of the Vocal Athlete.”
Readers will find many updates throughout this second edition in the form of additional sections of text, new references, and new information that was not yet available when the first edition was published. The compendium notebook, The Vocal Athlete: Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer, has also been updated and expanded. This second edition is a collection of 78 vocal exercises from 65 contributors, constituting an additional 34 pages of content beyond those in the first edition (14 more exercises from 13 additional contributors).
Many of the exercises come with audio demonstrations, which have been moved from an included CD for the first edition to a companion website for the second edition. A new foreword by Robert T. Sataloff, MD, DMA, FACS, notes that the exercises represent “scientifically sound,” “medically healthy” singing techniques for multiple singing genres. He also notes that the diverse voice building, warm-up, and cool-down exercises may be useful to speech-language pathologists, singing voice specialists, acting voice specialists, and laryngologists as well as singing teachers.
Since I began writing the Singer’s Library column for Classical Singer in 2014, I have been privileged to read dozens of voice-related books that have convinced me of the high level of scholarship that is occurring in our field. Although it often still seems mysterious how best to connect functional understanding to enhanced vocal performance—a practice that has opened the profession of voice teaching to its share of quackery and snake oil pitches—I remain convinced that authors and pedagogues who are committed to developing vocal techniques that are based on the most accurate information available will have the most lasting impact.
I am often asked for my list of desert island books—the two or three sources that I would consider required reading for singers and voice teachers. Perhaps that could serve as the impetus for a future column but, in all honesty, there are too many excellent books to limit myself to a single top 10. That being said, the books I find myself quoting and citing most often in voice lessons, class lectures, presentations, and articles, are Your Voice: An Inside View and The Vocal Athlete.
The first publications of these books already represented major contributions to the field. The fact that they have been released in new editions indicates each author’s personal charge to provide their readers the most recent and relevant information. It also shows that singers and voice teachers—long prone to looking backward in time, relying on how history and tradition have developed vocal technique—are also hungry for a modern approach to pedagogy that incorporates contemporary conceptions.