Online Vocal Anatomy & Physiology Resources For Singers

The internet is full of wonderful (free) resources for singers and singing teachers. But sometimes it might be difficult to filter out the “good stuff” from the massive amount of links that are being shared on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. And unless you happen to be very organised in keeping track of your internet bookmarks, many great links tend to get lost somewhere down the road.

Here I have collected some of my favorite online resources for singing teachers and singers who want to learn more about the anatomy and physiology of the voice. The list is far from being “complete”, so if you have more quality online resources on vocal anatomy and physiology you’d like to be added to the list, please mention them in the comments below.

The resources below are listed in alphabetical order:

 

Anatomia

Anatomia is an electronic resource developed at the University of Toronto, designed to assist medical and dental students with understanding of functional human anatomy. The site is a wonderful learning tool and contains a tutorial section on the anatomy of the larynx in 3D, a digital dissection of the larynx, video laryngoscopy, and self-evaluation tests (basic and advanced levels).

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Anatomyzone

Anatomyzone is a website with free video tutorials on the anatomy and functions of the body. Especially interesting for singers and singing teachers are the 3D videos on the respiratory system, including tutorials on the ligaments, membranes, mucosa and muscles of the larynx, as well as the videos about the musculoskeletal system.

 

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CVT Research Site

The CVT Research Site is the number one internet resource for anyone interested in Complete Vocal Technique related voice research. Being an Authorised CVT Teacher myself, I am very excited about this site and keep referring to it a lot. The site presents the ongoing research and debate that forms CVT, and describes how CVT is being tested, discussed and developed. On the site you will find:

  • Illustrations and descriptions of the larynx and how the voice works
  • Definition of terms and a glossary
  • Sound examples from the CVT Sound Library
  • Descriptions and the sound of Neutral, Curbing, Overdrive and Edge, including the transitions between the modes
  • Description and sound of effects
  • Laryngeal recognition of the vocal modes and effects
  • Laryngograph waveform recognition of the vocal modes and effects
  • Endoscopy and high speed videos from CVT research
  • Extensive data and test results
  • CVT-related papers and proceedings
  • List of Conferences & Abstracts on CVT-related subjects presented at conferences since 1996

With the CVT research site, Complete Vocal Institute aims to make the data, research and knowledge easily accessible for everyone interested in voice research, and for anyone who wants to understand and study the human voice. The site is continued to be developed on a regular basis. A very handy feature are the notifications that readers can automatically receive whenever a page on the research site is updated. All old versions of any page will also be stored, and researchers can link to the exact version of any article or page so references can be used in scientific work.

This video gives you a little glimpse into the CVT research done by Cathrine Sadolin and Julian McGlashan:

 

Get Body Smart

Get Body Smart is an online human anatomy and physiology textbook. What I especially like about Get Body Smart are the tutorials with interactive animations that help you learn about the functions of the human body, and the quizzes that come in handy if you want to check your knowledge on the subjects! Although it might be tempting for singers to just study the anatomy of the larynxpharynx anrespiratory system, remember to also have a look at the functions of the rest of the body, such as the muscular system and skeletal system too. 

…it’s all connected!

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Music video: Better Man Than He by Sivu

I love this music video and keep referring to it as a vocal anatomy and physiology resource, because not only is it informative and interesting for “vocal nerds”, but it’s also connecting research with art and shows us the human instrument in action during singing. If you’re interested in learning more about the nasal passage and sound colour in singing with this video, check out a mini-lesson that I wrote inspired by the video.

 

Vocal Process / Build Your Own Larynx

Jeremy Fisher and Gillyanne Kayes from Vocal Process in The UK have tons of valuable resources available for singers and singing teachers. One of my favorite resources from Vocal Process is the ‘Build Your Own Tilting Larynx‘. In all its simplicity, this paper larynx can help you or your students learn many things about the larynx and its functions. The model is available as a free PDF template download, and you might also want to check out the video with building instructions:

 

3D View of Diaphragm

This simple video shows the movements of the diaphragm during respiration. I have found it a helpful learning aid for singers who need visual feedback or who are eager to know about the “logic” behind things:

 

Choosing a Vocal Method

Yesterday I gave two workshops  for the singing students of the Jazz & Pop department at ArtEZ Conservatory. The workshop was an introduction to the techniques in CVT (Complete Vocal Technique), I gave a presentation about the philosophy behind CVT, an overview of the techniques, and worked with a couple of singers individually in a masterclass. I enjoyed working with the students a lot. They were eager to try out different sounds and techniques, and asked me a lot of good questions. One of the questions that I got yesterday inspired me to write this blog post.

What made you choose to study Complete Vocal Technique instead of some other vocal method?

What a great question. Before I go ahead and answer, here is an important thing we talked about with the students yesterday:

Techniques and methods are not important, singing is!

Let’s not forget that singing technique is not a goal in itself. What is important in singing? Vocal performance is. Vocal performance is dependent on the message we deliver and the expression we use to deliver our message. Without a message and without expression, there is no vocal performance (at least no performance worth while listening to!). Tools that help us deliver our message include: interpretation, sound, rhythm, melody, and text. Vocal technique is merely a tool that helps us create the sound we want, to sing the melodies we want (or need) to sing with more ease, and so on. Vocal technique also exists to helps us keep healthy while doing this. Whenever we talk about vocal technique, it’s good to remember what its role is in the big picture.

So why all this need for vocal methods?  Why do I have to know about CVT of EVT or [singing method name here] in order to sing? I have news for you: you don’t have to!! If you want to sing, just go ahead and sing! You only need vocal technique if you are not able to sing the way you want to. Or if the way you sing brings you trouble and hoarseness and strain. Those are the only reasons you need technique. If you can produce all the sounds you want, reach all the notes you want, and you never get hoarse, you don’t have to study singing technique. You are DISMISSED!!

Different people, different approaches

Luckily there are (and have been) pedagogues and researchers who are passionate about the voice and want to find out how it works, in order to help singers solve problems that they encounter. This is a good thing. The reason there are different methods is that different researchers have been focusing on different aspects of the voice, and different pedagogues have had different philosophies about the voice and vocal pedagogy. And how great is that, because that way you can choose the approach that suits you and your personality the best. Every method also keeps developing, because research is ongoing and because teachers are all individuals that come from different backgrounds. This also means, not every teacher of a certain vocal method will be exactly the same.

Every singer and teacher has a path

After completing my Master of Music degree at the Sibelius-Academy in Helsinki, I had learned a lot about singing but still had lots of unanswered questions about the voice. This was not because my teachers were not good, but because you cannot learn everything about something during any study. I decided to go look for more answers and to keep learning. I found an approach that provided me with answers, helped me develop my own singing voice further, suited my personality and style of learning, with a pedagogy and philosophy that I liked. That approach happened to be Complete Vocal Technique, developed by Cathrine Sadolin. It is not called ‘Complete’ because of some ‘we know it all’-thought, by the way, but because it contains techniques for every style of singing and also for the speaking voice. I learned so much more than just technique in the 3-year CVT singer/teacher course at Complete Vocal Institute in Copenhagen.

But CVT is just one part of the ‘package’ that creates the teacher-me. Yes, I am an Authorized CVT Teacher, but I am most of all a vocal pedagogue. I have other things in my ‘teaching backpack’ too, some belcanto, some Estill Voice Training, music teacher training, music education approaches like Orff-Schulwerk, Kodàly and Dalcroze eurhythmics, the various music styles I have studied, my own experience as a singer, musician and performing artist, things I have learned through creativity and career coaching, from personal development courses, body-work like Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, Pilates and yoga, working in theater, etc, etc… And I keep adding new knowledge and experience to this package by working in music, staying updated on vocal pedagogy and research, communicating with teachers of other methods, working with logopedists, ENT doctors, producers, choir directors, and countless singers. I keep staying updated in the developments of CVT, and because I love to keep learning I am following workshops and courses with inspiring teachers from other methods and approaches. I don’t really see being certified in a specific method as the only defining factor in how I teach singing. It’s just one of the things that crossed my own teaching path.

Choosing a vocal method

What method should you choose then? The answer is very simple: choose what works for you. Ask questions until you get answers that you are satisfied with, and find solutions to your vocal problems. If something doesn’t work for you move on and find something that does! If you feel you want to pick and mix from different methods, go ahead and do that. And don’t waste your energy on trying to figure out (or prove) why one method is better than the other one, focus your energy on more important things such as singing!

This goes for singing teachers too. Focus on helping singers, teaching, sharing your knowledge and building bridges. Spend less time criticizing, comparing, trying to prove who is right and who is wrong, who was there first and who wasn’t. That’s waste of energy. Focus on dialogue. Share your experiences with your colleagues, communicate with teachers of other methods than the one you teach. We don’t have to agree on every detail or all the terminology. The world would be a boring place if everyone would think the same way and speak the same language. What we can agree on is that we all just want what is best for the singer. Remember that every teacher has a path, and we all share a passion for the voice and a passion for teaching. Try and share those things, instead of focusing on method names and differences. Open doors instead of closing them because of fear of the unknown or fear of competition. There is room for all of us, and we can all learn so much from each other.

©2012 Katja Maria Slotte

This article was originally published on my blog katjamariamusic in February 2012. 

Welcome!

Welcome to the new Complete Vocal Coach blog!

©Keke Keukelaar

©Keke Keukelaar

First, let me introduce myself: I’m Katja Maria Slotte, a Fenno-Swedish singing teacher, vocal coach, music educator, singer and musician. I work in The Netherlands, where I’m currently based, as well as internationally. My vocal coaching and teaching services go under the name of Complete Vocal Coach – a name I chose to reflect my vision on singing and vocal pedagogy (working with the whole package: body, voice, mind and soul), as well as the vocal technique that I teach: Complete Vocal Technique (CVT). If you want to get to know me, here is more information.

My singing and teaching paths have intertwined for as long as I can remember. Which brings me to this blog.

A year ago I started blogging, because I wanted to share my experiences and thoughts with other singers and teachers. I also felt inspired to write more, partly in order to structure my own thoughts and reflect upon my experiences with combining a teaching career with an artistic career. My blog katjamariamusic became a collection of all the various shoes I wear, figuratively speaking: being a singing teacher, music educator, singer, musician, and freelancer/”solo-preneur”. Now I felt I was ready to do some organizing in my “shoe store”, and open a new “department”  with only certain types of shoes available. In other words, a blog that is dedicated to singing and my work as a singing teacher and vocal coach. That way, those who want to read only about these topics, can do so without having to walk through all the other departments too!

In this blog I will write about the various subjects related to singing and teaching it. When we sing and teach singing (or music, for that matter), we deal with the complete singer, the whole package: voice, body, mind and soul. We deal with vocal technique, musicianship, performance, expression and communication.We deal with energy and emotions, creative dreams, artistic ambitions and goals. These are topics you will find in this blog. I will also post videos with tips and thoughts how to structure your singing practice, as well as exercises and talk on singing technique. I’ve already written about singing and vocal pedagogy in my other blog, and will be sharing selected posts and articles from my other blog here too. That way all singing related subjects will finally find one central home!

For me, the most powerful thing about music is communication. We use singing and music to express ourselves and tell stories. Artistry and authentic artist expression, what it is, and how it can be taught and developed, is another topic that interests me. I will also write about Complete Vocal Technique, vocal technique/pedagogy, and share some thoughts on teaching and some things that I have found useful in my work.

I hope the blog posts and videos will make you reflect on your own singing practice, artistic ambitions, or on your teaching, inspire you or give you some new ideas. A blog is not a one-way street, and that’s why I would also love to hear from you. So don’t be shy to introduce yourself or share your experiences with me in the comments below!