#27  Oren Brown;  Think, Let, Trust

I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Oren Brown (1909-2004)“Discover Your Voice; How To Develop Healthy Voice Habits” His  writing is filled with wisdom and insight from his long career as a voice teacher and voice therapist.  Included is a lot of good common sense about taking care of the voice. 

The tone of the book is gentle and sensible.   At the close of many of the chapters he writes:

Think, Let, Trust

Brown espouses  the importance of an integrated and holistic approach to singing.  He advocates for the student have an overall approach to singing;  which includes recognition of their own special individual vocal quality,  a scientifically based vocal technique,  and psychological fitness.  

It’s an eclectic book which  includes a considerable amount of research conducted from the 1950’s onward in learning theory, vocal physiology and psychology, and contains examples from his teaching studio and voice therapy clients that serve as wonderful illustrations.

The initial chapter of the book focuses on the innate aspect of singing,  with exercises which are designed to help the singer to identify their own real voice through their primal sounds.  Using simple sighs and the medial vowel sound “uh”  the singer learns to recognize where their voice is functioning well, and then the exercises that follow are geared towards building from that healthy natural part of the voice.

Also, Brown is one of the  few pedagogues I’ve read, besides instructors of Alexander Technique,  who writes about the concept of thinking before vocalizing;  engaging the ideal  mental imagery of pitch as a method to  pre-training the vocal and respiratory system to respond appropriately.   The theory being,  that by allowing the brain to do the initial work of conceptualizing the pitch,  the musculature is enervated in precisely the most efficient ways, leading to an easy production of the tone. 

When discussing singing high notes and the relationship between the respiratory system  and the  larynx he writes:

“less is more.  We seek out an approach where all functions are to be carried out with the least amount of effort for the desired result…there is fuller resonance and stronger tone, when muscles are relaxed (Sundberg, 1974).”   He goes on to remark that high notes are never improved upon in quality by an increase in force or pressure. 

Significant to his technique, within the collection of vocal exercises in the back of the book, are downward shaped exercises for developing  ease and fluidity in the voice. 

As Brown writes on  the process of vocal development he says:

“Great performance is not possible without great technique. Your task is to discover your primal sound and to cultivate it through exercises that release the tone…the rest is just a matter of patience and time. 

Think what you want and let it happen, and then trust the result.” 

Oren Brown’s DVD of a Bay Area NATS Master class from 2002  is available on line. 

Try This:

You primal voice is the sound you make when you sigh or exclaim. 

These exercises are built on those sounds.

On an “uh” make a sighing sound.  Notice that the experience is relaxing and easy.

Now, notice that the sigh has a pitch quality.

Repeat the sigh and find the starting note of your sigh.  It’s likely if you are just starting your warm-up that the pitch will likely be in your chest voice.

Repeat the sigh as a five tone scale.

Take this five tone scale downward by half steps as long as it’s comfortable.  Never force the sound.

Now on an “oo” make a sighing sound.  Notice if this starts higher or lower than your original sigh.

Repeat this sigh with pitches going downward as an octave scale.

Take this five tone scale downward by half steps as long as it’s comfortable.  Once again, never force the sound.

Experiment with all the vowels [a, e, i, o, u] 

Experiment with downward scales and arpeggios.

Always start the exercise where you are easily making a sighing sound, as this insures you are never forcing the voice upward.

Happy Singing,


I have recently completed a revision of my website; www.theartfulheart.com

It now has information about my teaching and singing background, including references and links to Thoughts on Singing and The Olinda Chorale.  I’d love your feedback of the site, and as always would enjoy answering any questions you may have about singing! 

Have a lovely Thanksgiving!