How to Sing

Course No. 7833
Professor Dawn Pierce, AD
Ithaca College
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19 Reviews
42% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 7833
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the musical potential of your own voice
  • numbers Learn sound singing technique and vocal artistry
  • numbers Let a master teacher train you in solid singing technique, vocal artistry, and the skills of inspired performance
  • numbers Engage in exercises and vocal techniques

Course Overview

The human voice is an invaluable tool for speech and communication, but it is also so much more. It is one of the most accessible of all musical instruments. From opera and rock to Broadway and jazz, and so much more, singing is one of the most popular, magnetic, and emotionally resonant forms of musical expression.

Many people would love to sing but question whether they can. While some people believe they are held back by being “tone deaf” or unable to read sheet music, others doubt they have the voice range to tackle their favorite songs. In this inspiring course, celebrated singer and singing teacher Professor Dawn Pierce of Ithaca College shows you that the ability to sing is a fundamental human ability—a skill that anyone can develop and enjoy. In other words, no matter who you are, you can learn to sing!

In these 24 enjoyable and highly effective lessons, Professor Pierce demonstrates that most of the anatomical and physiological features of singing are highly malleable. She emphasizes how, with a proper understanding of these features and how to nurture them, you can develop your own voice, build solid vocal technique, and enjoy the wonder and beauty of singing. Using a wealth of fun and engaging exercises and vocal techniques, Professor Pierce leads you through the engrossing process of vocal development, in a clear and accessible program of lessons that breaks down the elements of voice technique into practical, applicable steps. In the process, you’ll learn both the physiology and science of singing and the fundamentals of vocal expression and performance.

Furthermore, though Professor Pierce comes from an operatic background, she goes to great lengths to show you that the fundamentals of sound vocal technique apply to all styles of music. So whether your taste in singing is for classical music, popular music, show tunes, country, folk, or anything else, these lessons will ground you in an effective and well-produced singing technique, which you can use for any style of music that inspires you.

Build Solid and Healthy Vocal Technique

In the opening lessons, you’ll get to know your own vocal mechanism, starting with warm-ups to engage with tone, and building a basis for healthy singing through finding a free and dynamic posture. In multiple lessons on the respiratory system, you’ll fully explore the physiology of breath, working for a deep understanding of inhalation, exhalation, and how the phases of breath function together in singing.

From there, you’ll delve into phonation or sound production, tone, and resonance, working for a clear and flexible tone, and you’ll experiment with vocal sounds and colors. Throughout the lessons, you’ll learn to “vocalize”—using targeted vocal exercises to build the skills of singing—while focusing on each of the core elements of a well-produced singing voice; a voice which is flexible, resonant, and free of unnecessary tensions.

Later in the course, you’ll learn about your voice type and range, and you’ll bring your technical skills to the exciting work of vocal communication and performance, and developing your own skill as an interpreter.

Across the span of the course, you’ll work with a new song in each lesson, from familiar pieces such as “Scarborough Fair” and “Auld Lang Syne” to a body of delightful songs composed specifically for this program, giving you a wide variety of material with which to explore the specifics of good vocal technique and expressive communication. The course also includes a workbook with additional materials for building your technical and interpretive skills.

These expertly designed lessons give you a thorough and detailed grasp of voice technique, as well as the principles of vocal artistry—a rich resource which you can use to build solid skills as a singer and express yourself through any kind of music or style. Much of what you learn throughout these lessons can also help you train your speaking voice and explore the voice as a medium of expression.

Develop Your Own Unique Singing Voice

The effectiveness of these lessons rests on the masterful teaching of Professor Pierce, drawing on her decades of experience in the science of singing and its application to self-expression and performance. Teaching with passion, humor, and a deep understanding of vocal learning and training, she guides you through the full process of finding the treasures of your own voice. Along the way, you’ll explore core areas of vocal training, such as:

  • Freeing the Instrument. As an essential basis for healthy singing technique, learn to find freedom of movement and flexibility in all parts of the vocal mechanism. Also explore spine alignment, head and neck posture, and freedom of the soft palate, jaw, tongue, and resonators. Then learn to release specific forms of tension that can cause problems for singing.
  • Creating Healthy Vocal Tone. Study the anatomy of the larynx, the vocal cords, and the physiology of phonation. Work with targeted vocal exercises to produce clear tone, with a free and balanced position of the larynx. And learn to achieve a clean onset of sound, without breathiness or effort.
  • Resonance. Study the features of human physiology that cause the vocal tract to function as a resonator, and grasp the features of voice production that give your voice its unique character and qualities. Then, practice exercises to develop resonance, and the range of vocal colors of your own instrument.
  • Your Voice Type and Vocal Range. Do you wonder what kind or type of voice you have? With Professor Pierce’s guidance, discover how to classify your own vocal instrument, then use that as a guideline for choosing material that brings out the best in your voice and lets you shine as a performer. Also explore how to develop and maximize your vocal range.
  • Vocal Diction and Working with Lyrics. In the later lessons, you will encounter the vital intersection of technique and expression. Discover how to communicate meaning through pronunciation, diction, and emphasis. And apply what you have learned to mine the expressive gold of your chosen songs.
  • Vocal Artistry and Performance. Bring your vocal skills to fruition in expressive communication and delve into the specific artistic means by which you can interpret a text, analyze a character, find deep personal connections to your material, and communicate an expressive intention in your singing and in your performance.

Enjoy the Magic and Self-Expression of Singing

As a critical feature of the course, you’ll learn how to practice, making use of the material and exercises in an effective strategy of daily work and skill building. For maximum clarity, throughout the course, Professor Pierce illustrates the lessons with numerous filmed exercises and demonstrations, aided by a group of on-camera students who demonstrate each concept and skill.

Finally, each lesson in the course comprises a substantial resource in itself. As a case in point, one lesson gives you 16 targeted exercises to work toward freedom and release of the tongue and its surrounding muscles—an essential element of good singing technique, which you can approach from a wealth of different angles, returning to this important subject as needed.

Overall, How to Sing offers you comprehensive and accessible training in voice technique, the thorough guidance of a master teacher, and a full-bodied resource for practice and future study. With these 24 empowering lessons, you can make the dream of singing a reality and express yourself through this incredible musical medium.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 46 minutes each
  • 1
    Anyone Can Sing
    Begin the course with a first look at the physiology of singing, as it represents a refined coordination of posture, breath, and tone. Learn about the approach you'll study in this course, based in a thorough view of the science of singing, as well as the art of vocal expression. Then practice basic vocalizations for freeing the voice and testing your range, and finish with a familiar song. x
  • 2
    Vocal Warm-Ups
    Learn effective vocal warmups, to build proper coordination and balance for your most beautiful singing. Consider the physiological benefits of warmups, and how to care for your vocal instrument. To begin, practice full-body warmup exercises. Follow this with vocal exercises for energizing your breath, engaging with tone, sharpening vocal agility and vowel production, and increasing resonance and range. x
  • 3
    Aligning the Spine
    A flexible alignment is the foundation for solid vocal technique. Study the structure of the spine and practice exercises to find a free and dynamic posture for your best sound production. Examine lower body and pelvic alignment and note how these affect your singing. Also learn how slightly elevating the sternum and strengthening the back and shoulder muscles help free the breath. x
  • 4
    Head and Neck Posture
    Explore head and neck alignment that support a freely functioning vocal mechanism. Visualize the cervical spine and its seven vertebrae, and grasp why head position is crucial for ease in vocal vibration. Practice a range of movements and exercises to experience how vocal tone is affected by head posture, to learn how to maintain a free neck alignment, and to find your optimal, dynamic posture for singing. x
  • 5
    How to Practice Anything
    Regular and effective practice is crucial for developing your singing skills. Study three primary facets of efficient practice: Evaluate your progress; strategize a plan of action, and integrate your new skills. Grasp what a typical practice session will look like, from your warmup and assigned exercises to applying your new abilities to the music. Also, remember to sing for fun! x
  • 6
    The Anatomy and Physiology of Breath
    Now focus on the respiratory system, a foundational element for singing. Get to know the organs and structures that come into play when you sing: the airway, the lungs, the muscles of respiration, and the motions of inhalation and exhalation. Work with exercises to increase flexibility, lung capacity, and the function of your breathing, with both immediate and long-term benefits for singing. x
  • 7
    Inhalation for Singing
    Take a closer look at the important role of inhalation in vocal technique. Explore three kinds of breath: clavicular (the upper chest), thoracic (the ribcage), and diaphragmatic (the lower abdomen). Then practice a gentle, three-part yoga breath that uses all of them. Next, apply this holistic way of breathing to a song, maintaining a dynamic posture and guiding your inhalation to release low into your body. x
  • 8
    Exhalation for Singing
    In vocal technique, consider how the quality of the exhalation determines the quality of the inhalation. Study the appoggio technique, which focuses on encouraging sternum elevation and rib position during the exhalation. Practice exercises to maintain an open upper body and suspend the inclination to collapse on the exhale, releasing the inhalation and engaging appoggio on the exhale. x
  • 9
    Coordinating the Phases of Breath
    This lesson breaks down breathing into four phases associated with singing: inhalation, suspension, exhalation, and recovery. Work with exercises to coordinate these phases to create habitual patterns for breath. Using the song chosen for this lesson, experiment with how to make decisions about where you will breathe and divide the phrases. Then learn specific tools to troubleshoot aspects of breathing and posture that may be challenging. x
  • 10
    Sound Production
    Take an overview of the anatomy and structure of the larynx: the cartilage, ligaments, and muscles that house and support the vocal cords. Then look at how phonation or sound production works, and how pitch is made. Explore phonation through a series of exercises, working to create a healthy vocal tone and a balanced, free laryngeal position, without extraneous tensions. x
  • 11
    Onset: Engaging Balanced Tone
    In singing, the ideal initiation of sound creates a clear, clean tone. Look at the spectrum of ways to start tone, beginning with aspiration, or breathiness." Contrast this with a glottal "plosive" onset and see how both can fatigue the voice. Work with exercises to find an easy, more neutral, and efficiently balanced onset of sound, with minimal effort. Apply this work, using the song "Amazing Grace."" x
  • 12
    Resonance: Exploring Vocal Colors
    Grasp how the vocal tract acts as a resonator and study the physiology of the three main areas of vocal resonance. Learn to shape and control your resonance through exercises that explore vibration in the internal spaces of the vocal tract, creating different sounds and colors. Work to achieve a well-balanced resonance throughout your range, maintaining awareness of the internal spaces. x
  • 13
    Utilizing the Soft Palate
    Examine the role of the soft palate in singing. Locate the position of the palate and learn about its physiological functions. Work with mental imagery that will naturally activate and lift the soft palate, and discover how the soft palate affects vocal sound. Using helpful materials and props, work to engage with a more flexible, agile palate, which will respond naturally when you sing. x
  • 14
    Releasing Jaw Tension
    Consider why jaw tension is undesirable for healthy and natural voice production. Study the parts of the of the jaw, the muscles that control jaw movement, and the motion of the jaw hinge. Work to cultivate a free and neutral jaw position, exploring the release of internal muscles. Using a song, find how the jaw can move independently of vowels, pitch, and the movement of the tongue. x
  • 15
    Your Voice Type
    Begin to explore your voice category, and learn a general way to classify your voice, with the goal of making the most of your own vocal mechanism and choosing repertoire that allows you to shine. Study vocal registration," encompassing what are called chest voice, head voice, and falsetto. Find the point where your own voice shifts registers, as a guideline for understanding your voice type." x
  • 16
    Maximizing Your Vocal Range
    With regular practice and solid technique, you can learn to develop and maximize your natural range. Start by further exercising your range. Then explore self-massage of the muscles and joints around the larynx, and work with exercises to develop flexibility in these muscles to expand and unite your range. Using The Star-Spangled Banner," experiment with breath, phrasing, and the large range of the song." x
  • 17
    Training Your Tongue
    Freedom and release of the tongue are essential to healthy vocal technique. Learn about the anatomy of the tongue and its eight muscles and how excess tongue tension is common for singers. Do a series of exercises to work for freedom and to let go of any pushing, retracting, or pressure on the larynx. Over time, explore the effects of these tools and incorporate them into your practicing. x
  • 18
    Articulating Vowels
    Look into vowel production in singing and how independence of the articulators (the jaw, tongue, and lips) can help to maximize vocal freedom and flexibility. Practice forming vowels without jaw engagement. Learn about the International Phonetic Alphabet, which represents speech sounds. Then work with exercises to form tongue vowels, lip vowels, and diphthongs, bringing them into another fun, original song. x
  • 19
    Articulating Consonants
    Take a deep dive into the classification of consonants and how they function in singing. Work with eight categories of consonants and discover both where they are formed within the vocal tract and how they are formed by the articulators. Explore voiced and unvoiced consonants, as they relate to sustained tone, and apply your knowledge to the poetic text of a song. x
  • 20
    Diction for Singing
    Clear diction and phrasing are fundamental to vocal artistry. In this lesson, explore how we communicate meaning through pronunciation and syllabic stress. Begin to work with phrasing, how words are stressed relative to each other, and which words to emphasize as important. Consider how to place vowels and consonants in a sung phrase, and start to address intention and meaning in singing text. x
  • 21
    Engaging with Lyrics
    In approaching lyrics, study how to interpret the text. Begin by researching the piece, learning about the librettist, the time period, and the historical context. Also research the composer and how the piece was written. Using the text of an original song, and your character analysis worksheet, work to find your own expressive connection with the piece and create your interpretation of the song. x
  • 22
    Communicating through Song
    Bring your vocal skills to the areas of expression and performance. Grasp the importance of aligning your intention with the message your listeners are receiving. Explore how factors such as posture, facial expressions, physical gestures, vocal resonance, and articulation all communicate. Sing Auld Lang Syne," and practice communicating different attitudes and expressive intentions." x
  • 23
    Making Each Performance Personal
    Study core principles of vocal artistry in performance. Learn ways to connect imaginatively with your text and character, to believe in what you're communicating, and to share your unique perspective as a performer. Working with the song Danny Boy," see how sight, sound, and touch feed your imaginative work, and how specificity in your artistic choices gives your work depth and authenticity." x
  • 24
    Singing's Surprising Benefits
    Having arrived at the end of this course, reflect on your work and consider the physical and mental health benefits that singing brings, including the specific physiological effects of singing and how the lifestyle of singing encourages good choices for overall health and well-being. Conclude by singing a final original song, applying everything you've learned, then embrace the goal of scheduling a performance. x

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Video DVD
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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • Printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • Printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Dawn Pierce

About Your Professor

Dawn Pierce, AD
Ithaca College
Dawn Pierce is an Assistant Professor of Voice at Ithaca College. She earned a master of music in Opera Performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she also obtained a postgraduate Professional Artist Certificate (Artist Diploma). In addition, she holds bachelor’s degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Ithaca College. Praised as both an exceptional performer and an empowering...
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How to Sing is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 25.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Training for Church Choir Participation This course is very useful for improving and sustaining my efforts in my church choir. I have learned techniques to maintain my singing skills. I have learned methods to broaden my range in singing octave. I am glad I got this course. It has strengthened my skills in chant as well.
Date published: 2020-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from great HIGH OCTAVIES A brief review of product; female singers and tenors! Baritones and Basses good luck! Again just a brief review.
Date published: 2020-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive and Inspiring This course is ideally suited to the amateur singer who wishes not only to improve their technique, but also better appreciate the singing styles of professionals. Yes. Once you have taken this course, singing will never be the same again. The professor admonishes you to be proud of your instrument and to take good care of it while providing an easy-to-understand overview of how the body works to produce the most beautiful sound. As an educator myself, I had to admire the way the course was structured; for not only were there all-encompassing technical discussions and demonstrations of technique, but an invitation to try everything out while singing a collection of beautiful songs. To get around the difficulty of providing online feedback, the professor had assembled a mini-class of five students, and illustrated the challenges that each song presented by working with them. When I was done, I really felt that I had got to know the professor, and the students, and was sad to see it end.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've just turned 70. In college I took two years of voice lessons, and learned the basics well. But in recent years my voice began to "lose it." But as soon as I started listening to and watching How to Sing, I became grounded in the basics again--plus all sorts of splendid new principles I'd never heard of. And my voice is improving, thanks to all the "little" details the instructor teaches. This is truly a voice-saver for me! Thank you! I consider this by far my favorite of the Great Courses, and I've bought several.
Date published: 2020-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great lessons Educational and great lessons in improving my singing.
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Sing I would like to express my most sincere gratitude for the work of The Great Courses. I really enjoyed this course. It was well planned and layed out, easy for everyone to follow. Thanks to professor Pierce and all the people who make it possible.
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Start of How to sing Not what I expected. Have completed the first 3 lessons. Very interesting and different. Instructor is very good.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing Might work for accomplished singers. Not for people starting out
Date published: 2020-08-11
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