The voice is perhaps one of the first instruments we learn to use – a baby crying is possibly the most effective form of attention seeking. It is by far our only means of communication, and using it comes naturally for everyone, sometimes even subconsciously. (Sleep-talking anyone?)
The voice is an instrument, and it is examinable under the ABRSM examination system. The rudiments of a singing exam are a little different compared to those of piano, but no less challenging and enriching. Piano scales and arpeggios are replaced with an unaccompanied folk song, which not only broadens students’ horizons with regards to music, but also stretches their view and interpretation of songs from foreign cultures.
Singing breaks all barriers – across cultures and eras. Students do not just sing, they perform their exam pieces, all of which are contrasting in various ways. With a keen ear and a little knowledge, students are able to recognize the country and period of origin of a song, and sing it as it was meant to be performed, historical influences intact. This hones their sensitivity to the different genres of music, as well as exposes them to a vast repertoire of languages and practices.
Many people feel that singing requires a high level of skill and talent to master. This is far from the truth. If taught the right skills, students will find singing as effortless as speaking. Singing to an audience requires students to convey a multitude of emotions with their voices, through proper breathing techniques and posture. The different styles of singing will in turn encourage good communication skills and confidence in daily activities.
Vocal education is not restricted to the classroom. A student is often encouraged to explore his or her voice and its captivating capabilities on their own time and pace. This is a very rewarding experience for many students who first embark on vocal training as they gain a sense of ownership towards their ‘built-in’ instrument, and are propelled to learn and understand more about themselves and their voices.
As we age, our voices change. This presents a wonderful and intriguing instrument to work with, one that never fails to stagnate or bore. Singing does not just consist of being ‘in tune’, it also encompasses the awareness the singer has to have of how their body works in order to produce a satisfying sound. This knowledge will allow us to then correct and improve on our natural voice so as to feel comfortable enough with it, and thus make music with our own unique voice.
Today, with the easy access to various forms of social media, students are able to enrich their learning by watching and listening to recordings of famous singers. The passion shown by these singers is both inspiring and infectious. Simply being able to make music with his or her own voice will always brings a rewarding sense of joy to the singer