I can now proudly say that I am CFP qualified. Battling a never-ending cold, I started 2016 by passing the foundation exam that demonstrates the 26 different exercises of Jo Estill’s Voice Training. I won’t go into a long history of her life and work. You can find out more from the legacy which is her organisation Estill Voice International www.estillvoice.com/pages/history. I will however give a brief summary of my experience so far and why I’m so in love with Estill Voice Training.
What is Estill Voice Training?
Jo Estill said that “Everyone has a beautiful voice.” I love that: Everyone can sing. She listened to the human voice, ignoring aesthetic bias, and categorised singing into 6 styles or qualities:
- Speech quality
- Falsetto quality
- Sob quality
- Nasal & oral twang
- Opera quality
Each quality (singing style) uses our mechanism, the voice, in different ways to create the effect we recognise. Estill Voice Training breaks each quality down into a list of ingredients you need to create the chosen sound: For example how high the larynx is; how close the vocal folds are; whether the muscles in your throat are constricted or retracted; whether the sound is bright or nasal… I could go on and on!
Understanding the voice as the amazing and highly sophisticated instrument it is has helped me no end in my practice, performance and teaching. Since I was a teenager, I have craved a visual aid and more detailed understanding of how my voice works. Despite a music degree, singing diploma and years and years of lessons and experience, the voice remained rather mystical – an occasionally temperamental gift.
I now understand the mechanism. (Although you can never stop learning!) I can listen to my voice and add to or alter the “ingredients” to change the sound in a way I haven’t previously: I see it as something to be trained and strengthened, like an athlete. If my voice is tired, I can approach a note differently. If I want it to cut through more, I know what to change in my naturally breathy tone. I now have more colours in my vocal palette and feel more adventurous in the repertoire I choose to learn, stretching my range and trying different styles. I also find that it helps me help others, pin-pointing the reason for the sound they are making and providing exercises to help try and achieve a different one.
I recently heard a parent praising the performance of a child in a school concert. They meant well when they marvelled at the luck of his “natural gift”, but their comment annoyed me. This 8 year old child, who had just performed a grade 5 piano piece, had not reached this point solely by luck. He had practised and practised to get to the level he was so far… Yes, some are blessed with a superior vocal instrument. Some are blessed with less aesthetically pleasing instruments. But I feel that Estill Voice Training helps to prove that we can all master our own instruments and unique sound with the tools we have been given and of course some hard work.
Everyone can sing and singing brings great joy to the singer and their audience. Thank you Jo Estill and Charlotte Shorthouse, my amazing Estill teacher for all your knowledge, enthusiasm and patience. www.charlotteshorthouse.com