Breck Alan,
The Art of Body Singing, Vol. I
(self-produced, 2000)

The Art of Body Singing is a technical method for teaching serious students of voice, and it focuses on the mechanics and techniques necessary for high performance singing. This publication, along with its accompanying CD, is the first of four such volumes, and teaches the concepts by a progressive method. To me -- a not-so-talented vocalist -- Alan's methods seem quite sound. The text and exercises are fairly easy to follow, his examples are clear and numerous, the progressions make sense and the exercises are pertinent and varied.

Alan believes that beginners will enjoy the fact that the method starts from scratch, has a clear outline and contains everyday terminology. More advanced singers will appreciate the tools provided by his method, and the answers to many of the technical questions which plague students of voice.

Although I can't speak for the advanced singer, I think that he has certainly achieved his goals with beginners. There are a few places where the terminology is a little "less than everyday," but I think that stems from the fact that he is talking about subjects that might be a little foreign to someone not already well-versed with the technical aspects of voice training. Alan deals with this problem quite adequately though, by providing the reader with a well-stocked glossary of terms used in all four volumes.

Alan does indeed start right from the beginning, talking a bit about the parts of the voice (Inner Ear, Throat, Support System and Resonance) and how they fit together. He then provides the "supposedly tone deaf" student with some exercises designed to develop an ear for different tones. He does not go into much depth here, but the exercises were useful (even as good practice for those who can already distinguish tones), and should start the pure beginner on his way.

Next, the actual exercises begin. "The Seven Points of Relaxation" and the "Drool Exercise" emphasize how important relaxation of muscles associated with using one's voice are to singing. Photographs and diagrams are used to assist the student. In a couple of cases, larger pictures might have been a little easier for viewing the correct positions, but the majority succeed in this endeavour. The next couple of exercises focus on posture as it relates to singing, and on using the correct muscles in the body to sing.

"Singing the Melody" was an exercise I found quite enlightening, and helps the singer to understand the connection between singing and speaking. Alan's examples on the CD made this point very clear to the listener, and complemented the points made in the text. Alan then discusses air ratios -- related to breathing, throat pressure and tone, although much more in depth than that -- which is an important concept in many of the exercises. He also discusses some of the mistakes that people make in using air ratios.

There are a number of exercises that focus on the tongue and lip roll which Alan indicates are very useful for singers in terms of mechanics and coordination of the four parts of the voice. There are about six of these exercises, and all use the rolls in different ways.

The fact that there is a CD which comes along with the Body Singing text is a wonderful addition to Alan's program. Not only that, but the vocal clips included from Alan's own songs give credence to his method -- he is obviously a talented vocalist and has a versatile, controlled and clear voice. The CD basically follows the same outline as the text, but includes all kinds of vocal examples that make the concepts outlined in the book much clearer. Great examples are provided as to the correct and incorrect ways to perform each exercise, using both men's and women's vocal ranges. He also outlines ways of transferring the skills learned in each exercise to actual songs, making the student eager to learn more.

The only slight drawback to the CD, I found, was his tone. At times, he was lecturing. Other times, it sounded like he might be talking to a friend. It was as if he couldn't decide on whether to use a casual or professional tone, and so used both. I found that it kept my attention more when he was talking about the exercises and providing examples. His tone was a bit more authoritative and knowledgeable, where at other times it almost sounded as though he was rushing a bit, or perhaps unsure of himself.

All in all, I think that this could be a very good vocal program. Of course, I lack the expertise to say for certain -- it will take a lot of work at Alan's exercises, and a lot of vocal mileage before I'm ready to say that it has made me into a serious singer. The method will, I believe, provide the beginning and advanced singer with a solid foundation of vocal techniques, although the advanced singer may be better served by the following volumes in the series. A warning, however, to armchair/car/shower singers: This program requires discipline and practice, and will not make you into a professional singer overnight. For one willing to put out the necessary time and effort however, Alan's method should prove excellent.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]
Rambles: 28 July 2001



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