The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best - Henry Van Dyke
Singing, the vocal production of musical tones, is so a part of mankind that its roots are lost in the distant past. Historians believe that singing existed even before the development of languages and that the voice is the most primeval of all instruments. There is no human culture, no matter how remote or isolated, that does not sing. However, with the onset of the mechanical age many Western cultures stopped singing and replaced their voices with “mechanical” voices – CDs, television, mobile devices, the internet. This has brought about a hardening of the voice, as well as the spirit, less social contact and the belief of most people that they “can’t” sing. But there are only two conditions that have to be fulfilled in order to sing – the ability to talk and the ability to hear. If one can talk and hear themselves and others, they can sing.
Singing becomes a form of therapy – Placido Domingo
It has been scientifically proven that singing has a psycho-physical effect on all of us and can lead to*:
- relaxation and stress relief
- increased lung capacity
- better breathing
- more energy
- alleviating asthma
- improved posture
- less pain
- a more positive outlook on life
- a lower heart rate
- decreased blood pressure
- an improvement in the general health of the elderly
- better immunity.
For example, the University of Frankfurt proved that members of a certain choir had higher levels of immunoglobulin A and cortisol, which show better immunity, after they sang Mozart’s Requiem compared to before singing it. Just listening to the music did not have the same effect.
Create your own method…make up something that will work for you – Constantin Stanislavski
Having studied the classical method when at university, then taking up the Werbeck method almost a decade ago and now looking into the benefits of disciplines such as yoga and the Alexander method on the voice, as well as exploring the vocal methods of other cultures and traditions, like most activities, my exploration of singing is an ongoing and, I believe, lifelong one. If I find an exercise, piece of advice or method that has helped me, I pass it on to my pupils and choir. As such, although there is method to my madness, there is no “ultimate” method that I adhere to strictly. From yoga to appoggio to affirmations, I use everything that I have found to have a positive effect on my voice and share it with others.
Some of my beliefs are that:
- Everyone can sing. If a person can talk and hear, they can sing. Problems often appear when the mind and body are constricted – the voice also becomes constricted. Both physical, mental and vocal exercises are used to relax body and mind and free the voice.
- One should take a holistic approach to singing. The voice should never forced or expected to go beyond its capacities. Vocal work is done at a steady pace and progress is made gradually rather than in leaps and bounds. However, many report a positive difference in their voice after their first lesson or workshop. It’s a matter of being made mindful.
- The entire body is a vocal instrument. Exercises are done to train the whole body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, into becoming an instrument, along with the vocal organs.
- Visualisation is an important aspect of singing – from imagining that your forehead is melting like a burning candle to the wall singing to saying affirmations. The mind, more than any other organ or muscle, can either limit or broaden both your expectations and executions. In effect, your voice is a reflection of your state of mind and spirit.