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Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers.

Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers, by Richard Miller. Oxford University Press, Inc. (198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016), 2004. 271 pp., $35.

Richard Miller's book, Solutions for Singers, came about largely at the request of the many singers and teachers of singing with whom he has worked in his week-long seminars on the art of singing. In these courses and master classes, physiological and acoustic Function, as well as the art of communication, are analyzed and debated. Miller asks that questions be written down, so as not to disturb the flow of the classes. At the end of the week, these questions are discussed. He received many requests for this information to be put in permanent form, thus the interesting and useful format of this book.

The book is divided into ten parts: breath management, posture, laryngeal and intralaryngeal function, resonance balancing, nasal continuants and non-nasal consonants, the phenomenon of vibrato, registration, healthy singing, pedagogy issues and performance concerns. The layout of each chapter is question and answer, making it unnecessary to read from beginning to end if you have a specific concern, but I would recommend reading every chapter: there is a plethora of information for all.

Miller's knowledge of the singing instrument is exceedingly comprehensive. He can discuss a vocal issue from any angle: historic, traditional, scientific, empirical, mechanistic, past, present and future. He docs just that in his thorough and thoughtful explanations: answering all types of questions whether simplistic or complex.

The questions range from age-old misconceptions (such as correcting swayback) to ones of curiosity, even to the relentless denial of the need for today's voice teacher to understand the anatomy, physiology and acoustics of the singing voice. The many questions from confused students trying to understand what their teachers are saying is illuminated in the book, as well as why there is so much disagreement among voice teachers.

A particularly interesting aspect of the book is Miller's explanation of old terminology, such as covering, placement and falsetto, offering both traditional and modern interpretations. His comments on such subjects as the difference between the zona di passaggio in the tenor and baritone voice and how to train this area are quite instructive, especially to the young female teacher. He offers many practical exercises for tongue tension, nasality, diction problems, such as the flipped and trilled Italian 'r', and other localized tension problems.

Millet asserts that "the most beautifully produced sound is the most efficiently produced sound." He advocates a simple, systematic approach to vocal pedagogy based on freeing the components of the instrument, where the "singer fine-tunes the motor, the vibrator, and the resonator into a harmonious whole." With many questions about the need for science in the studio, he believes today's singer can, and should, absorb and apply scientific knowledge and encourages teachers to de-mystify the teaching of singing.

Solutions for Singing is a successful attempt by an extraordinary vocal pedagogue at bridging the gap between the many varied and often controversial philosophies of the teaching of singing. All singers, teachers or students with questions about singing will find this book helpful and enlightening.

Reviewed by Melanie DeMent, IVCTM, Newark, Delaware.
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Author:DeMent, Melanie
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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