#32  Balancing Act; The Naked Voice


As a way of connecting with other singers and voice teachers to develop a good library on voice care I have often asked  this question, “If you were shipwrecked on a tropical island, what book (or books) would you bring?”  I’m always eager to read what others have found useful.  It keeps my perspective fresh.  


During The Olinda Chorale’s collaboration  with Pippin Pocket Opera and Maui Pops in March  I asked the singers from San Francisco what they would bring. Two out of the five answered The Naked Voice, a book by W. Stephen Smith.

Two hits on the same text.

I ordered it right away.


Smith’s book reads like a conversation with a voice teacher who, during the course of a lesson, periodically  waxes philosophic.  His quirky use of descriptions for his exercises makes them easy to remember,  such as “simply speaking simply” and “spontaneous combustion”.  By the standards of most books on voice, Smith provides a series of unusual exercises which provide a simplified approach to vocal technique. 


To help the individual recognize what their normal patterns of pronunciation are his exercises begin with basic vowel speaking sequences.   This is the naked and unadorned aspect of voice production.  Smith makes the note that children speaking in their own regional dialects have healthy and free voices.   This natural formation of the vowels becomes the basis for an un-entangled production of singing tone.  


A very handy CD accompanies the book with a number of singers demonstrating the exercises.  Peeking at the list of singers credited I noticed not only Joyce DiDonato, whose CD of mezzo soprano arias I’d just purchased at the close-out sale at Borders, but Heidi Moss, our Adina for the Maui Pops Pocket Opera production as well!


So … what book would you bring to a tropical island? 

Give me a bounce back and let me know what you have found indispensible. 



Try this:


Speak very naturally Ni, Ne, Na, No, Nu in a smooth line.

Notice where your tongue moves and resides from vowel to vowel. 

Now sing on one pitch the same sequence being conscious of maintaining your natural formation of the vowels.

This is your un-entangled production of vowels,  and may become the basis for all of the singing sounds you make.



Sing pretty,




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