VOCAL TRAINING- A Little History

by Tim on January 10, 2008


Voice has been recognized for a long time as man’s chief and most effective means of expression. Before language was formed many centuries ago, the savage made known his wants and ideas by grunts, growls, and shouts. Some hold that man changed the pitch of his voice in a way to resemble melody before he could speak. And indeed this is not impossible to believe, for inflection of voice conveys meaning in an impressive and realistic manner. We know that the early sounds a baby utters, while not speech, serve to make known his needs. Similarly, much may he understood of a foreign tongue from tones employed by the speaker. Undoubtedly even at an early time, singing in some form had its place in daily life as a way of showing a common sentiment such as in war, work, and love songs, in religious chants, and in lullabies.

As civilization expanded and language grew, skill in the management of voice also advanced. Little is known of just how voices were trained and used in ancient times, but literature and other sources of information reveal that attention was early given to vocal production. References occur in the Bible, as for example in the thirty-third chapter of the Book of Ezekiel which says, "And lo, thou art unto them as a lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.–
In Chronicles I, allusion is made to vocal instruction, "And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, 1145 for song; he instructed about the song because he was skilful.

The ancient Greeks considered the manner of speech highly important, and singing was a popular and much practiced art with them. Homer described the maidens that ministered in the Temple of Delos as having power to please those who listened to them by the sweetness of their voices and the diversity of their songs.3 Demosthenes, the Athenian orator afflicted with an impediment in his speech, practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth for hours at a time in order to acquire distinct articulation. In the Greek theater, a special master was employed to instruct the chorus in singing and dancing.

The Romans, too, were not unmindful of the value of an effective use of voice. Tiberius Gracchus is said to have kept nearby a servant who sounded a note on a pitchpipe to stimulate him when he lagged in his speech, or to bring him back to moderation if he became excited and strained his voice. Quintilian, a Roman orator, gave careful directions in his writings about the management of voice for both speakers and singers. The Emperor Nero practiced diligently to become a finished singer. For years he spoke or sang only under the direction of a teacher whom he kept in constant attendance. It is said that he sacrificed many personal comforts and almost starved himself for the sake of his voice.

Early in the Christian era a notable step was made in the progress of singing when monasteries instituted schools for training choirs. By the seventh century the famous Schola Cantorum was founded in Rome which standardized the training of teachers and singers throughout the Christian world. Here it required nine years to complete study which was both practical and theoretical. Through the centuries other schools of church music were established in France, Germany, Spain, England, Italy, and the Netherlands which provided opportunity for study in various phases of music. Although their purpose primarily was to perfect music in religious worship, their influence reached beyond sacred confines.

Singorama Voice Training

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