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Your Body, Your Voice
The Key to Natural Singing and Speaking
By Theodore Dimon.
North Atlantic Books, 2011. 184pp, ISBN 978-1-58394-320-5, £16.99.

Judy Vigurs writes:  
(
First published in STATNews, January 2012)

The central message of this book is that to understand and use the voice properly we need to look at it as a function of the bodyís whole musculoskeletal support system. The author, Ted Dimon, states that this holistic approach to vocal use and training has been neglected up to now, by singing teachers and in research, though he doesnít mention that all Alexander teachers view the voice in this way. He intends to follow this book in the future by a more complete anatomy of the voice.

The author begins by describing what he calls the "design" of the breathing system, the larynx and the musculature of the throat, and how these work together to produce the voice. I found parts of this section heavy going. The subject is complex and I was sometimes confused by the authorís descriptions. He uses the terms vocal chords, vocal cords, vocal bands and vocal folds apparently interchangeably. I was not always sure if he intended to distinguish between them or not. The author is passionate about his subject, but it was not always clear to me just what he was trying to say. I felt the diagrams didnít always clarify the text much either, which didnít help.

The next few chapters deal with more technical, often controversial, vocal issues, familiar to singers, such as support, vocal registers and placing. The author examines these in the context of the whole-body approach to his subject. These are interesting chapters, good to refer to. I found a far greater clarity here in the way the author expressed his ideas and the diagrams really added something to the text.

In the later chapters the author turns to practical voice work, promising procedures to prevent interference with the vocal instrument, to coordinate breathing and voice to produce a natural sung tone and to achieve effortless control of the voice as a whole. This is a lot to promise and I feel he can only partly deliver.

In chapter 9, "Preventing the Basic Pattern of Vocal Misuse", he describes a common pattern of pulling down and bracing the ribcage, together with forcing the voice, that we often see in singers, especially pop singers. In trying to address this general pattern of misuse, the author describes in a few sentences with diagrams how to lie in semi-supine and how to place yourself in a position of mechanical advantage (monkey), in order to start "to restore the system." He adds that this restoration takes time and is the basis of all other positive changes, but he doesnít mention the Alexander Technique, except by referring to Alexanderís writing in the notes.

This seems to me a weakness in the book. I understand that he wants to offer the general reader something that can be done without the help of an Alexander teacher. However, I donít feel entirely optimistic about the positive effect of a reader trying a monkey without help or support. And though I enjoyed the way Dimon introduces the practice of inhibition in various places throughout the book, and especially in the chapter on Producing a Pure Sung Tone, towards the end I found this a bit laboured and likely to cause confusion.

However, in spite of my misgivings about readers trying to work with Alexander procedures - and understand Alexander language - without help from a teacher, I found the chapters on controlled exhalation and the whispered "ah" more convincing. In chapters 11 and 12 Dimon writes interestingly on how to work with a controlled exhalation and take this into vocalising via the whispered "ah". I thought his suggestions here were simple and useful. I could picture a singer and maybe their singing teacher working their way through this section and learning from it.

Thereís gold in this book, but you have to dig for it. Describing the human voice and its workings in the context of the whole body support system and setting out a whole psychophysical approach to restoring good use of the voice is an ambitious task in a book of only 140 pages.

I think the book provides a useful overview of its subject and practical working material, not just for singers but for all voice users.

© Judy Vigurs 2012

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