“What Every Singer Needs to Know About the Body” by Malde, Allen, Zeller

Authors: Melissa Malde, MaryJean Allen, Kurt-Alexander Zeller

I read this as a followup to What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body, since I’m a singer, not a musician. I expected it to be similarly playful and filled with illustrations more than words. I also expected it to cover very similar material.

I was wrong on both counts. In careful detail, this book covers the anatomy and mechanics of breathing, phonation (making sound with the vocal cords), articulation (forming words with the mouth and tongue), and stage presence. Even the general material on the body is covered in more detail than in the Musician book.

Did you know that your tongue is rooted far below your teeth, extends to the back of your throat, and is much larger than that part you can see? It’s made up of many muscle fibers that can act independently of each other.

Did you know that if a letter sounds different in another language, it is made with different movements of the tongue and mouth? It makes sense, but I had never thought about it. The American English ‘T’ sound is made with the tongue touching the upper teeth. In Spanish (and other Romance languages), ‘T’ is made with the tongue touching farther back on the hard palate. I speak both languages, and had never been aware of that.

Did you know that your ribs are attached in back at your spine, and in front at your sternum, and move up and out as you breathe in, like bucket handles? I had heard that many times, but hadn’t felt the movement clearly.

Did you know that your ankle is in front of your heel, not right over it? Your heel forms part of a triangle that supports your weight, and your leg bones come down inside the triangle, not on the back point. Check your own foot and see. I’ve worked on a lot of feet, and never consciously noticed that.

This book is amazing. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand their body better from the inside and improve their singing along the way.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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