The Use of Scales in Vocal Training

A survey of singing exercise programmes available on the net shows that most have one thing in common – a predilection for lip-rolls and sirens sliding up and down sections of the scale as a means of linking the registers and sequences of arpeggios mostly sung on one vowel at a time and notable in the audio demos for serious intonation problems, especially on the descending pathway. They also work from low to high and back again covering far too wide a range especially when one has to wait for the pitch to come back down to join in again. They are laborious and boring. Some perceptive students have noted that while they can ‘zoom’ across the registers in these exercises, they cannot repeat the feeling when they come to sing words. It is worth noting that the master teachers of the past used solfeggi and words set to music in a way which aided the movement of the voice from note to note, whether by step, skip or leap, and imprinted mechanisms for deliberately setting the voice in place on one word or syllable ready to successfully make those moves, especially when the notes spanned a ‘register break’. In all these systems the voice is continually moving within the resonators of mouth and head with no danger of being stuck in one place. Even discrete scale passages or arpeggios sung on ‘ah’ or ‘oo’ or ‘ee’ or ‘ay’ do not train the voice to land as accurately on a note as would be expected of a pianist/ violinist/ windplayer etc. The fact that most of the classical pedagogic systems are in Italian can be a hindrance in this ‘impatient to succeed’ age and may be the reason behind the widespread use, by singers, of the rather unstructured exercises described above. There is a requirement for a set of exercises which will produce an agile, fully integrated voice, which are easy to learn, and enjoyable to perform repetitively. Such a system does exist and will be introduced in the succeeding articles.