The Voice as an Instrument
The human voice is the original musical instrument. It's organic, primal, and basic to our very human nature, but it is also capable of being a whole orchestra of various sounds. The voice can be melodic and lyrical or percussive. It can sound like a flute, violin, trumpet, bass, or drums, all by accessing the sounds in your imagination. Whatever its sound, your musical voice is part of the human spirit, and the desire to sing seems to be an innate part of being human. In fact, animals in general, not just humans, communicate emotion and information through song. Birds sing identifiable melodies that composers have borrowed for centuries.
The vocal instrument is unique in that you are both the instrument and the instrumentalist. Your body is the instrument you are playing and, as such, you will need to learn about its structure, maintenance, and technical requirements for getting the best sound. The more you understand about the instrument, the better able you are to make use of it. Since the voice is a living instrument, it's subject to all the conditions and changes that happen constantly within the body. It is both complex in its structure and familiar because of its everyday use.
The part of you that serves as the instrumentalist, the singer, will need to learn the ways you can use your body to make the sound you want to hear. There are many styles, colors, and variations available to you, but they may seem out of reach without some technical guidance. The exercises provided in this book will give you a healthy starting point as well as a regular warmup routine.
The exercises and information in this book are designed to be an organized reference and explanation for more experienced singers as well as a solid starting point for beginners. There is no substitute, however, for a good teacher who will hear and correct your technique, giving you immediate guidance. For advice about finding the right teacher for you, read Chapter 15.
You can spend some of your study time just listening to other singers. It's helpful to hear how people deal with vocal challenges in different genres of music. How does the jazz singer differ from the classical or rock singer? It's also very beneficial to watch singers in live performance. Can you tell how they form their vocal sound? Listening and observing will give you a lot of information about your instrument.