The Singer’s Instinct by Brandon Brophy
As a vocalist and singing teacher, it was so exciting to read a book like The Singer’s Instinct by Brandon Brophy. As is the case with so much that is currently happening in the world of singing (ahem, like this magazine for example!), as I was reading it I kept thinking, “I wish this book was around when I was starting out singing!” Oh how it would have helped me to clearly identify my voice as a beginner.
Looking back, I was a ‘flipper’ who became a ‘strainer’ with the onset of voice lessons and I struggled for many years before being SAVED by a teacher who really understood the voice. This book would have helped guide me not only on how to address my voice type, but also taught me about the physiology behind my instrument, its challenges and joys, and of course, lessons in good technique. In a broader context, it would have helped further develop my understanding of music, song, and how to seek out and experiment with my own style. WOW! What a tool for any singer to have, and an amazing reference for a teacher.
The Singer’s Instinct claims it will help you “activate the 4 impulses that unleash the power of singing” and gives a great overview of how to accomplish just that. It is brief and concise, imperative for this kind of book, with sections clearly defined and broken down into informative chapters with diagrams, exercises and inspirational quotes. This makes it a fantastic jumping off point for anyone looking to get started in singing or teaching.
The Vocal Impulse is the book’s first and most in-depth section, and not coincidentally, the one that I found the most informative. Most importantly, I think this section is crucial for aspiring singers as it addresses finding your particular voice-habit and how to structure your technique work around that habit. This invaluable information has the potential to empower any singer to understand and learn about his or her instrument, and Brophy spells it out clearly.
The following three sections are equally important, each giving practical advice and exercises to the aspiring singer. The Musical Impulse section deals with the importance of critical listening while providing comprehensive instruction on the fundamentals of keeping time, rhythm, and intonation. You may find this chapter very basic if you know your music theory well, but it supplied me with a helpful perspective to reference when trying to get basic music theory information across to students in a way that helps them develop as singers. The section offers practical advice on what to do as well as how to go about doing it (while still addressing your voice-habit and the importance of getting your voice on track technically). What everyone wants, right?
The next section, The Vocal Personality Impulse, discusses understanding your natural vocal timbre and how to develop your voice to make it your voice. I loved that this chapter was included. For me personally, it’s something that I put a lot of emphasis on and sometimes find very difficult to achieve as a vocalist. We often begin singing because we love certain songs or a particular singer, and at some point start singing along and emulating our idols. This is great training ground! But what about when it comes to finding your own style? This search can often be daunting and overwhelming, but The Singer’s Instinct offers up a small section (the smallest of the four) covering tips meant to help singers find their voice. Again, it offers practical advice and exercises, for example: how to approach your voice if it sounds too nasal, assessing your voice for your own unique qualities, being gentle on yourself (oh so hard for many of us!), how to work on riffs & embellishments, different types of vocal effects, and adding elements of rhythm and intuitive phrasing to develop your inpidual vocal style. Though I would have loved for this section to be more expansive, it was a smart move to keep it short as it offers inspiration and practicality without overstepping the importance of objective #1: working on your voice habit!
The book’s final section, The Impulse of Wise Practice, is another great addition. It offers general practice guidelines tailored to your level of expertise and what you may be focusing on e.g. recording, vocal development, performance prep, maintenance, the importance of reviewing your practice, tips on finding a good teacher, guidelines on vocal health and voice training myths. Lots of juicy information that I know students are keen to know the answers to. Mr. Brophy has held nothing back!
I am really impressed with The Singer’s Instinct. Kudos to Brandon Brophy for writing a really tight and concise book on singing instruction! It is a clear, informative and not at all overwhelming book capable of guiding any singer or teacher on their journey in a practical manner. I got very inspired reading it and am really glad to know that all those flippers, strainers, light and balanced voices out there can have access to the knowledge that helps us singers better understand our voices.
Nerissa’s Verdict 4/5 Stars
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