Italy is a country of singers. The aptitude for singing is very widespread in our country, but often everything happens without much technical awareness. In fact, the vocal instrument allows unparalleled instinctiveness, when compared to any other instrument. But although there are many people who sing well “instinctively”, we certainly cannot say that the vocal technique is superfluous. The first objective of the technique is the correct use of the instrument, so as not to alter its functionality and therefore to obtain a good production of harmonics, to make the timbre richer and more interesting.
Let’s also say, however, that the first problem one encounters when wanting to study the vocal instrument is that it is not possible to see or touch anything. It is essentially a phantom instrument, which is often limited to hearing through one’s ears, but which can and must also be perceived on a muscular physical level, in order to recognize the various mechanisms that govern it from within and therefore to be able to control it more consciously.
Singing has been taught by imitation for a very long time, taking advantage of the good talents of the singer who limited himself to copying the sounds proposed by the master. Fortunately, however, there are those who were not satisfied with this approach, but wanted to go deeper, through scientific research carried out around the world with the contribution of some luminaries of phoniatrics.
Jo Estill, a Californian singer, of Italian origin (Vadalà was her maiden name), told her seminars (which I had the pleasure of attending in the late 90s) that after having made a career as a chamber singer, at age of fifty she decided to try to give back to singing what singing had given her. She claimed that, thanks to her innate talents, she was able to put into practice the many teachings she had received from her teachers, but that she rarely received comprehensive answers to her questions about the correct functioning of the instrument. Thus began a series of scientific studies which after about twenty years was able to synthesize in the “VoiceCraft” method today EVT – Estill Voice Training, with its “12 figures” and 6 “qualities”.
With a culinary comparison we could say that the “figures” are the ingredients and the “qualities” are the finished dish. The ingredients can then be combined according to certain recipes, to get the sound needed to sing whatever you want. One of the peculiarities of this method is that it has no aesthetic conditioning. It can be applied both to the voice for spoken and recited, and in singing regardless of the musical genre. Any sound is accepted, as long as it does not compromise the correct functioning of the vocal cords. The method divides the instrument into three parts: Power, Source and Filter. Power is relative to the air pressure, obtained through the diaphragm and the breathing muscles. The Source is the larynx with the true and false vocal folds within it. Finally, the Filter is represented by the hollow parts (the mouth and the nose in the first place, but not only) which in some way can be controlled in amplitude and position and which constitute the resonance chamber. Jo Estill has thus created a revolutionary system based on the physical perception of the instrument, through localization and quantification exercises of muscular work. A system that is spreading all over the world thanks to a network of qualified teachers, selected thanks to specific exams in which, in addition to the usual theory based on Acoustics, Anatomy and Physiology of the instrument, all the “figures” and “qualities”, are recorded on a computer to be evaluated with a spectrum analyzer. Nothing escapes, as in a refined x-ray of one’s voice.
Despite the refinement of the studies and the technical tools used for the development and control of the studio, the method is aimed absolutely at everyone, because as Jo Estill said “everyone must be able to sing”: singers, actors, teachers, beginners and professionals, but also speech therapists, because the figures of VoiceCraft (now renamed Estill Voice Training) are also used for the correct recovery of some pathologies.
A technique that concretely responds to everyone’s needs, as long as you can devote some of your time to a bit of theoretical study and a bit of vocal training.