Book Review

Singing from the Inside Out –

Exploring the Voice, the Singer and the Song. A Practical Guide for the Expressive Singers

Ineke van Doorn

Singing from the Inside Out - by Ineke van Doorn

Singing from the Inside Out – by Ineke van Doorn

“This rather lengthy title, which the author describes as ‘a mouthful’ nevertheless sets out the stall for the book’s remit and for Ineke’s own teaching philosophy. The three main elements for consideration, quite rightly, are the voice, the singer, and the song. In Jazz and commercial singing styles the singer has more freedom to play with these elements to put their own personal stamp on a song than singers of classical or even musical theatre music.

“I first met Ineke in October 2014 and was very struck by her passion for working with teachers. Next, I was interested to hear her introduce her pedagogical model at Riga in 2015. I very much liked the way Ineke spoke objectively about different approaches to pedagogy that are current in the 21st century, so I was eager to see her book when in February of this year it became available in English.

“Having a strong interest in voice categorisation and how the traditional classical labels don’t map well with other singing styles, I headed straight for that section in the book (p34 onwards). The Heavy/Light distinction given here, is useful to singers, especially as the author gives examples of recording artists in jazz and pop (she uses the latter term generically) so that the reader can hear what is meant by these labels. A clear and simple overview of expected ranges in terms of high and low voices in males and females follows, making a useful and practical reference point. The ensuing ‘Hard Science’ section is clear and well-explained for anyone new to the anatomy and physiology of vocal function.

“This particular chapter concludes the opening section Your Voice and is followed by What is Your Goal? I will say at this point that the layout at the opening of the book, before the chapter delineation, is a bit confusing. Part 1 is Your Voice, Part 2 is Breathing and Part 3 is Singing Technique. For me, it was rather odd to separate parts 2 and 3 in this way since breathing and exercises associates with it are an intrinsic part of Singing Technique. This is not to imply that the content itself and the exercises given are confusing – just the overall structuring – and it is easy enough for a reader to dip in and out of sections according to their needs and interest.

“Ineke makes it clear that the book can be used by beginner as well as experienced singers. Each section is clearly introduced and there is no unnecessary mystical terminology. This is particularly important if the content is to be accessible to a variety of levels, and I do like the pragmatic language used to discuss concepts such as voice-body-mind connection and the intricacies of vocal technique. Images are used to give overviews, such as the step-ladder for breathing, which starts on the bottom run with ‘breath awareness, observation’ and moves upwards through ‘control’ ‘breath and voicing’ to ‘support’ in speaking and singing. At each stage a variety of exercises is offered and the chapter ends with an example of how to apply breath management skills in the context of a song.

“Section 3 of the book deals with Singing Technique, starting with a nice overview of what we can change, control and develop in our voice, and what cannot be changed (such as the resting length and thickness of the vocal folds and overall dimensions of the vocal tract). For Ineke, Jazz and pop are different from Classical and Musical Theatre singing in that there is no idealised sound: the artist has more freedom to interpret the song as she or he wishes, and to create an individual sound-scape. Thus, the purpose of technique is to facilitate and increase personal expression. It is also clear from the Section’s overview that Ineke takes a structured approach to vocal technique: the cycle matrix on page 76 which shows the inter-relationship between aspects of technique is very much after my own heart.

“This is followed by an advice section on how to practise, and a list of exercises to follow under topic headings such as ‘connecting breath and voice’, ‘exercises for vowel modification’ and ‘articulation exercises’. For each main topic presented in this section, user-friendly language is used to describe either functional, acoustical or musical aspects of the techniques to follow. Thus in Chapter 13 there is a short overview of the relationship between pitch, volume and timbre before commencing work on resonance.

“Looking at the chapter on registers there is one instruction that I disagree with from the perspective of my own experience and practice with singers. I like that Ineke takes the simple – and defensible – stance of there being two modes of vocal fold vibration used by most singers: modal and falsetto. As regards taking a modal voice higher in pitch, personally I would not recommend keeping the back of the tongue flat and the larynx low. This may give a desirable timbre in the lower range but in my experience is likely to cause discomfort in the higher range. However, no specifications of pitch-range are given here so perhaps this instruction is not intended for use of modal register much above F4 (F above middle C).

“Understanding how to practise is something that many young singers get wrong. This issue is dealt with in Section 5 of the book under two categories: practising singing, and practising a song. There is sound practical advice on how to approach the job of practising so that the reader understands the difference between learning, practising and performing, with a nice visual representation of the feedback loop between exploration and interpretation and how practise mode therefore feeds into performance mode.

“In the song practising chapter there is a detailed breakdown of the different elements that make up a song: key and range, lyrics, melody and chords, breathing and phrasing, tempo rhythm, groove and pulse, and of course dynamics. For someone new to music and song learning this chapter provides an excellent guide and checklist.

“The next three sections of the book deal with the understanding of basic music theory, improvisation and variation, and amplification. These are all essential skills needed for the successful jazz or pop singer, whether they are learned consciously or not. There is sound advice on how to test drive a microphone before buying and an additional section on how to address problems that might arise from sound amplification. Very clearly, this is the voice of long experience!

“The finale of the book is ‘Putting your skills into practice’. This is a comprehensive exposition of what a performer does: everything from singing with a band; doing backing vocals; stage presence (and fright) to dealing with technical issues at the venue; session and studio work; keeping in shape and what to do when things go wrong with your own voice.

“Overall, this book provides thorough and comprehensive approach to singing for jazz and commercial music singers. It can act as a training manual for an individual or for teachers working in a training institution. While there may be some points of technique on which I disagree, the book is nevertheless fully thought through with a clear structure and step-by-step approach to each topic, underpinned by Ineke’s practical experience as a singer and teacher, which resonates throughout.”

Dr Gillyanne Kayes

Singing from the Inside Out

Publisher Artez Press

ISBN 9789491444265