This book is by the
vocal pedagogue, Berton Coffin and is
a technical book rather than an actual
course of voice teaching. Coffin seems
to have learned from and been inspired
by the teachings of Russian born coloratura
Paola Novikova (1896 – 1967) so the
book starts with an introduction by
Nicolai Gedda (one of her pupils) and
a 27 page chapter on her teachings.
This chapter consists principally of
her sayings on various topics plus some
exercises - perhaps rather dangerous
on their own but useful if worked through
with a singing teacher.
This book is Coffin’s
attempt to codify his method of vocalisation
based on principles derived from the
physiognomy of and the nature of sound
in the human throat. The book comes
with a rather fearsome Chromatic Vowel
Chart which is used as the basis for
the vocalisations that Coffin suggests.
To use the Vowel Chart you need to become
familiar with the phonetic system that
Coffin uses and this system is cross-referenced
to two other books by Coffin. To progress
quickly, Coffin suggests using something
that he calls a Vowel Resonator. This
involves using a small electronic keyboard
with a speaker placed in front of the
mouth. The author has a great belief
in the ability of this device to help
with the correct placement of the voice.
Whilst you cannot teach
(or learn) singing from a book, Coffin
feels that with the aid of his Chromatic
Vowel Chart, Vowel Resonator and the
exercises detailed in the book, he can
teach you to place your voice correctly.
It is an attempt, using musical notation
and phonetics rather than absolute frequencies,
to implement knowledge of the voice
and throat gained from a sound engineer’s
point of view.
The result is a highly
technical book and one that requires
reading from cover to cover before you
can start implementing much of the work.
I feel that the book would probably
be of most use to an interested singing
teacher as a way of providing a different
light on their own methods. As an amateur,
I would be very wary of attempting to
alter my voice production using the
book without the help of a sympathetic
singing teacher as well.