Tuition is given in the essential skills needed to become a convincing singer and instruction is given in all facets of vocal production including how to care for the voice, together with training and instruction in breathing technique (the voice comes from the body and can only achieve optimum use with the full and correct use of the breath); posture; position of the head (to allow the throat to emit the voice with ease); position of the mouth (to allow the freedom of sound); voice support; placing the voice, ‘messa di voce’ (control and tuning to enrich the swelling and diminishing of the full sound); resonance; vibrancy; start-of-the-note and vowel on/off-set; vocal agility and range; vocal tone; intonation; a good legato without exploding or forcing the sound, but with a steady, smooth flow of tone; trill and leaps; scales and arpeggios; diction; articulation; aural training; music interpretation. Developing musicianship is more important than teaching singing per se.
- Enjoyment of the lessons and learning to sing are the most important aspects of singing tuition
In teaching singing, all styles are acknowledged, and training is a mixture of singing songs and practising vocal exercises to train the various aspects of technique together with the elements to be found in songs in order to produce a rounded singer and musician with a focused tone and good ‘muscle memory’ with general relaxation and without any unwanted tension. Warm-up and breath exercises are used to develop a singer’s technique, enabling a stress-free vocal mechanism with sufficient range and well-managed register changes maintaining an even timbre throughout the passaggio (‘passage’), as well as the ability to sing with an even tone and intensity with a good natural vibrato which should always be present with meticulously formed vowels to encourage proper resonance together with accurate and precise tuning along with constant attention to the meaning of the text.
- Interesting, varied and structured singing tuition
Songs are chosen appropriate to a singer’s age, vocal range, abilities and musical interests to enhance their vocal and expressive range. Also, encouragement of versatility and understanding of style, coupled with an ability to deal with songs of different character, mood, tempo and era. Singers are trained to develop a good listening ear for music, enabling them to hear and reproduce rhythms, phrases (the melodic contours of which are best understood by singing them or singing the main outlines), melody and harmony lines, interval pitching etc., and to focus on the quality of sound with subtle variations of vocal colour and volume. The more each element is practised, the more beautiful and full the tone. The voice will be gradually strengthened, but always maintaining an ease of sound production with expressive presence and imagination.
Teaching the technique of the voice and teaching music through the voice
Tutor Dr Michael Spacie
Independent – Innovative – Individual – Inspired
One of Dr Michael Spacie’s FNCM research by thesis diplomas (20,000+ words) explored and expounded the teaching and training of the human voice. The then Director of Studies of The National College of Music, London, the late James Holt BMus LTCL LLCM FNCM LMusNCM PGCE examined the written thesis. His comments were as follows:
“The thesis is to be commended highly, not only for its content – which shows an unusual depth of research – but also for its original thought, at times humour and, above all, common sense practicality coupled with sound teaching methods.
This is the product of an erudite mind, evincing a dedicated approach to the teaching of singing, not just of the technical aspect but in all attendant disciplines that the art requires.
Students of Dr Spacie are provided with clear notes offering guidance not only on voice production but also on vocal care and health problems. Common sense advice is given in all matters. The majority of singing manuals, I have found, completely ignore physical health matters.
The various elements of singing examinations are adequately covered throughout the thesis. The theoretical knowledge required by the majority of examining bodies is here explained in a straightforward manner, and expert guidance is given to the student.
As to be expected, the bulk of the thesis is devoted to vocal technique. Original exercises based on traditional principles abound for the singer. No aspect of technique is ignored – articulation of consonants and treatment of vowels are conscientiously explained and the all-important concern with correct breathing technique is given due prominence together with clear explanation and guidance. In this section we even have exphasis placed on physical fitness; tension relief is aided by sensible practical exercises. The complicated and often misunderstood facets of chest, head and other registers are clearly explained and the section on Passaggio is particularly informative.
All other aspects of voice training are covered comprehensively in the remainder of this section. I like the inclusion of such topics as Tone and Emotion, Charisma and Performance – advice not readily obtained from the average Singing Primer or Singing Tutor.
The final parts cover Ear Training and Sight Reading in the same thorough way.
Throughout the thesis, Dr Spacie’s experience and sound knowledge of educational technique and method are obvious. The well-tried maxim ‘From the Known to the Unknown’ is apparent in his methods, and the printed results of some of his pupils are proof indeed of his dedication and ability as a teacher.
Dr Spacie has provided us with suggestions of songs for inclusion in the Singing Syllabus [of The National College of Music]. Perhaps he may consider producing this thesis in book form for the Singing Teacher who enters his or her pupils for examinations. In passing, perhaps he may consider producing a similar book on his methods of teaching the piano – I am sure that the result would be of the same high quality as this submission.”