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Apex Skills

Apex Skills

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Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au

Apex Skills
By Daniel K. Robinson
(2011)

I spend a good deal of my time (and my student’s time) working on the fundamentals of singing. Technical skills such as breath management, intonation, and body alignment must be mastered in order to secure a performance that is reliable and consistent. The ‘rudimentary’ abilities of a singer are best workshopped in the teaching studio and personal practice space; away from the review of others. There are howev
Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au

Apex Skills
By Daniel K. Robinson
(2011)

I spend a good deal of my time (and my student’s time) working on the fundamentals of singing. Technical skills such as breath management, intonation, and body alignment must be mastered in order to secure a performance that is reliable and consistent. The ‘rudimentary’ abilities of a singer are best workshopped in the teaching studio and personal practice space; away from the review of others. There are howev

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Published by: Dr Daniel K. Robinson on Sep 06, 2011
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Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.

au

Apex Skills
By Daniel K. Robinson
(2011)

I spend a good deal of my time (and my student’s time) working on the fundamentals of singing. Technical skills such as breath management, intonation, and body alignment must be mastered in order to secure a performance that is reliable and consistent. The ‘rudimentary’ abilities of a singer are best workshopped in the teaching studio and personal practice space; away from the review of others. There are however a range of skills that are not necessarily honed in the solitary and clinical confines of the student’s practice. This group of abilities are known as Apex Skills. Independent Coordination The first apex skill is ‘Independent Coordination’. When an untrained singer enters the teaching studio they often enter with a co-dependent vocal system. For example, when they sing into the extremes of their upper register, the whole body might respond with tension. The co-dependent voice is built on cause and effect; what happens to one part of the system ultimately affects a range of other parts of the mechanism. It’s a bit like trying to rub you tummy and pat your head – it can leave you feeling a little uncoordinated! Good vocal tuition will endeavour to enable the student singer with skills that flow with independent coordination. The independently coordinated voice will organise a range of fundamental skills (breath management, vocal tract shape etc.) in a manner that, while harmoniously synchronised, remains intuitively autonomous. Therefore a change in air pressure for example does not necessarily dictate a constrictive response in the laryngeal mechanism; independent coordination enables adjustment to the separate characteristics ultimately delivering the vocal presentation as determined by the artist. It must be acknowledged that independent coordination is a fine balance to achieve. Sadly, many student singers do not stay the course of vocal development long enough to realise this area of refined skill. Fewer still tackle the challenge of implementing independent coordination as an apex skill. The refinement of fundamental skill is practiced in the studio, but the apex of independent coordination is perfected on the stage. It is only under the watchful gaze of the audient that a performer experiences the rush of adrenalin which either empowers or disrupts their technical performance. Technical Performance It has been a long held ‘untruth’ in the field of contemporary vocals that technique is not a necessary attribute of the contemporary singer. A technically secure voice, so the cultural misnomer goes, will be stifled by a clinical whitewash; subverting any aesthetic value that the singer might be seeking to deliver. Far from whitewash…this view is absolute hog wash and is often held by those who have not taken the time to work (the operative word being ‘work’) technique into their performance. It is true to say that technique should be
© Daniel K. Robinson - 2011 Page 1 of 2

Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au

developed to the point that it runs as a subterranean river; enriching all that it flows beneath. At times of sickness and during songs of extreme vocal challenge the automated technique may bubble to the surface facilitating a performance that, in its absence, may have been disastrous. At these times (and many others) technique is the foundation that allows the aesthetic structure which stands upon it to sway evenly in the everyday windy challenges of performance vocals. The apex skill of technical performance is observed in the singer who is able to maintain the even flow of the ‘subterranean river’ while tending to the aesthetic landscape which pleases the modern audience. Janice Chapman (2006) writes, “With self-reliance, and a technique that supports artistry, there is a new freedom. (p. 145). Complete vocal freedom is only realised when the singer is able to hold technique and aesthetic in a positive tension. Connecting with the Audience The third apex skill which singers should aspire to is the ability to connect with their audience. Regardless of musical genre, musics of all persuasions are seeking to envelop their participants and observers in a relationship of give and take. The development of independent coordination and the balance of technical performance both find their climax in the communion between artist and audient. There is something special, even mystical, in those rare moments when the created art communicates and the recipient of that art interprets that communication with clarity. This apex skill cannot be practiced outside the very real experience of the live performance. In many respects the experience of the performer-audient apex is like a surfer and the perfect wave; it may be experienced rarely, but it keeps the surfer coming back for more! The apex skills of the trained singer are challenging to achieve and even more difficult to maintain. The level of demand should not deter the beginner singer from commencing the journey towards vocal prowess. The true craftsmanship of singing is found in the vocalist who has applied themselves to developing the balance of technique, aesthetic and performance. The triune tensions of these three aspects are the ultimate apex skill…and most importantly make for memorable performances.

References Chapman, J. L. (2006). Singing and teaching singing: A holistic approach to classical voice. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing Inc.

© Daniel K. Robinson - 2011

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