By Michele A. Capalbo on January 13, 2017
I am a professional opera singer entering my final year of certification in the Alexander Technique, so I'm very familiar with the two main topics of examination in Ron Murdock’s book "Born to Sing". I was delighted to read Ron's very accessible book where he applies the 'Use of Self' to the voice. Considering that the Alexander Technique is ideally a 'one on one', 'hands on' method of re-education, it is a real challenge to explain this is print alone!
I appreciate that Ron has given us a sense of his background and training in his book. He also includes information for those of us who rely on advanced vocal techniques such as the 'appoggia' (through the AT lens). His attention to advanced singing techniques as an Alexander Technique practitioner is not something I have seen before. This is extremely valuable! His patient journey through the process of vocal use is invaluable to someone with my background and has already become an important reference for me. The information on the voice is anatomically correct and the book includes many useful drawings. This book could be of interest for anyone wishing to improve the quality and ease of their voice especially if they have some experience with the Alexander Technique. It should be mandatory reading for Voice or AT teachers working with professional voice users.
There are some activities/exercises in the book using AT principles, but this is not a book of vocalises. If you're looking for that, look elsewhere. I've found through my own work that 'one size fits all' exercises are not what the best voice teaching or the Alexander Technique is about. Ron has stated in his book that exercises ought to be tailored to the individual voice user. I strongly agree.
Ron's major vocal pedagogy influences were Frederick Husler and Yvonne Rodd-Marling. Ron was certified in the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington in London, UK. Walter was one of the most respected 1st generation AT teachers.
Review of my book "Born to Sing" in the online music magazine published in London called "iSing Magazine” February 1, 2016
"Let me begin by saying that this is not a book for any singer on the hunt for quick fixes or instant transformation. Nor is it for vocal science geeks who are uncomfortable around phrases such as 'Mother Earth' or 'connectedness'. Don't get me wrong, this book is not fluffy. In fact, it is deeply technical and comprehensively substantive.
. . .there is a great deal of anatomical explanation and practical guidance that is of benefit to the contemporary singer. I, for one, will be tracking down the best Alexander Technique teacher I can find and am excited to discover how the discipline will be able to help my own singing and that of my students.
For singers and artists committed to singing as a craft and a lifelong journey and who are searching for deep understanding this is a book for you. Herein you will find technical guidance, practical ideas, new perspectives, spiritual wisdom, beautiful illustrations and a helpful accompanying CD” (DVD). “For dedicated singing teachers and pedagogues, this book is a joy and a must.”
Clarissa Land is a London based singer and songwriter currently recording her debut solo album.
A lovely comment about my book:
"I love "Born to Sing." A wonderful comprehensive look at how Alexander Technique informs the art and science of singing. Bravo!"
Vctoria Cole. Voice teacher, Alexander teacher, graduate of Bryn Mawr, Boston Conservatory, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University. Adjunct Faculty member at Plymouth State University.
“I plan to use this lovely book in my class: Vocal Performance and the Alexander Technique at The Boston Conservatory.”
Sara Goldstein Gall
Review in May 2016 STAT News, London (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) headlines:
“Kate Kelly finds universal and powerful truths in a book by an author with deep roots in Alexander-informed voice work.”
Kate Kelly writes:
“A thoughtful pupil of mine who teaches vocal work to actors has already found transformative results by applying what he has learned from this book.”
“. . .in his anatomical description of what happens when leg muscles ‘gang up’ . . .the true effect of interference on the comprised diaphragm is made alarmingly clear.”
“For anyone who wishes to understand voice production, improve their singing or who works with Voice in Alexander lessons and workshops this beautifully produced book is an excellent resource to keep preparation in tune with whatever you may need to know, experience and impart.”
Kate Kelly is author of Before the Curtain opens, Alexander Technique for the Thinking Actor. Click here for the full review.
Review in the American Society of Alexander Teachers Journal, Spring 2016 edition, ends with this paragraph:
“ Those who love to read about the voice will be happy to include Born to Sing in their library. Singers and voice teachers will find his approach of interest. Those who want to better understand how the Alexander Technique supports developing the voice will find what they are looking for in this book.”
Ruth Roothberg, graduate of Tufts University in the USA, singer, Alexander and voice teacher in New England.
I enjoyed your thorough insight and experienced views on voice and training (and) your writing about the concept of support and the Alexander way of aligning the body to support, but not in the way of over-working with muscles.
Very thankful that you wrote this book to share your unique knowledge. I hope it will get the attention of the singing world that it deserves.
President of European Voice Teachers Association,
Lecturer, Sibelius Academy
In May 2016 there was a review of “Born to Sing” in Classical Singer Magazine published in the USA.
“Born to Sing is both a beautiful homage to Murdock’s influential teachers and an important medium to further their useful philosophies and solidify their legacy. While informative and practical, readers will also find inspiration in the personal stories held within.” Brian Manternach.
Close to perfection
Anyone who is serious about proper singing technique: this book is as about close to perfection as you will get, and believe me, I have been taught by some internationally renouned singing teachers.
I would recommend this book as a primary source of information. This book has helped me to improve my voice in astonishing ways. All singers should get their hands on it.
Michael Gioiello, Australian tenor
A beauifully written book
A beautifully written book using clear language, with beautiful, lively hand drawn illustrations by Korina Kaisershot. What Ron Murdock writes about singing and breathing stimulates me to use my body in a very respectful and loving way in order to perform my musical ideas.
Using my body correctly means singing and making music correctly without the interfering muscle tensions built up through the years which block what I wish to express.
This book shows a clear way how to rebalance and co-ordinate the body when singing; reading this book is like having an actual lesson with the author.
Karolina Brachman, Soprano.
An encouraging book
This book is clearly written and wide ranging in its approach to vocal development and singing. I also studied with Yvonne Rodd Marling and Professor Husler. Ron Murdock's book remains faithful to their teaching whilst outlining the development of his own strategies on the journey to fully finding himself and his voice. His search led him to the Alexander Technique, something I know little about but found myself wanting to study more.
Ron's love for singing and his dedication to developing not just his voice (but other people's too) shines through. In a refreshing departure from the standard book on singing, he shares with us personal experiences: things that had blocked his own development as a singer and the ways in which he helped his son who has Down syndrome. There is also an excellent and concise chapter on teaching children how to sing and read music. The book is the result of many years of experience and much thought. It is an encouraging book.
Harriet Marling, Newcastle upon Tyne
Excellent new book on Alexander Technique and "classical" singing
Born to Sing by Ron Murdock is a unique book. It is part autobiography, part detailed explanation of the Alexander Technique, and part explanation of "classical" vocal technique. That Murdock can express all of this so clearly in less than 200 pages is all the more remarkable.
The book will appeal to a wide readership: singers familiar with the AT and AT practitioners familiar with singing. Each will benefit from the detailed explanations and excellent anatomical drawings. All the muscles involved in posture and breathing are shown with detailed explanations of their functions. It is the same for the muscles and cartilages of the singing voice.
But this is not a dry academic tome. Murdock has been singing for almost all of his 74 years. The quest of the artist is to express beauty and he details this quest with his personal story. The knowledge he has acquired over his long career has been gained because of his insatiable curiosity about singing and how the body functions to produce the classical singing voice.
The writing is personal, clear, flows well, and has nothing of the academic about it. It sounds as if he's talking directly to us. That he does not shy away from the difficulties he has had in his career lends credence to what he says.
Murdock studied with Frederick Husler, one of Europe's leading voice teachers, and with a pupil of F. Matthias Alexander. He has combined these two great disciplines in his own work as an AT/voice teacher. Husler and Alexander never knew each other but the work of each perfectly complements the other. This is not new: many singers study AT, but Murdock has articulated it so clearly and concisely that this book is a must read for anyone interested in singing and Alexander Technique.
McGill University Faculty of Music (Voice)
A keystone for anyone interested in improving singing or body-mind coordination by liberating our natural capacity for breathing.
After 15 years of highly committed studying, and 7 teaching the Alexander Technique, I have only started to understand our natural breathing mechanism after coming in contact with Ron Murdock's teachings.
This book contains the anatomical grounding of his work explained in a simple and clearly illustrated manner. I have no doubts that, for many of those who (like me) have been trained in different procedures for “improving” breathing, it will be very enlightening to discover that breathing does not need to be improved; all it needs is to get rid of its interferences, which can be done in great extent following this clear, simple, and scientifically grounded path to undo unnecessary tension and improve general coordination. Not least, many Alexander Technique teachers would be also highly benefited from one of the main underlying principles of this work, the “Psychophysical Support System.”
The central concept of the “Psychophysical Support System” is that, before we can let go of any tension in our bodies, we need to “really feel” the safety of the ground under our feet. Embodying this feeling of groundedness and safety is something that cannot be done just by thinking, but which needs to engage our whole being. Ron Murdock's way of talking about his journey is a clear example of this, and a great inspiration for committing ourselves to our psychophysical, emotional and spiritual wholeness.
I understand this approach is an important keystone for anyone seriously interested in improving singing and/or body-mind coordination by liberating our natural capacity for breathing, or wishing to help others in this journey. Therefore, I highly recommend this book.
I very much enjoyed the book
I very much enjoyed the book, and learned a lot, including (from the DVD too) that at any age we can still sing! A delightful item was an 86 yearold aunt of the author singing a popular song with expression and conveying the emotion so well. I have been singing all my life, but this book gave me more of the basics of singing than I've ever seen before, with excellent illustrations of the support system that holds up the instrument for singing - the body of the singer.
The most valuable insight that the author gives us is that breathing is natural and doesn't need to be forced, and that the voice is different from the breath. His lesson on the DVD about the voiced aah is very valuable.
The book gives the reader a chance to learn some of what Ron Murdock has learned in a lifetime of singing. I’ve heard a lot of nonsense about singing but this work tells me the sense about it instead.
Raleigh, North Carolina
"I highly recommend Ron Murdock as an author, a teacher, and a singer. I have known Ron and his teaching for almost 40 years, and right from the start it was apparent that he knows what he talking about and has a remarkable skill at communicating it both in understanding and in experience. I’;m delighted to see that we now have a distillation of his many decades of experience and teaching in the form of his new book, Born to Sing, written with the obvious clarity of true knowledge and the inspiring passion of someone who is... well... born to sing... If you cannot have lessons with Ron, rush out and buy his book right now -- you’ll learn a lot about singing and the voice, and a lot more..."
Founder/Director of Body Learning
A very important book
“This book, I think, is a very important book, not least because it is written out of the author’s own experience of performing and of learning to develop his singing. There are things here which might help the would-be singer to develop in ways they did not know were possible.”
Steven Hallmark, Director
Alexander Training School
“This book is very informative, practical and a pleasure to read. It makes complex mechanisms accessible and it contains a lifetime of experience and knowledge. The dvd is really helpful. Highly recommendable.”
. . .a life story and instruction book.
“Born to Sing" is both a life story and instruction book. The life described, of an amazing and admirable man, is one of many highs and lows which is dedicated to music - and in particular to singing.
Ron Murdock is a devoted singer and an brilliant pedagogue. Whoever reads this book will learn to understand the interplay between personality, body and voice - along with help from the Alexander Technique - to allow their voice to resonate in a natural and organic way.”
Michaele Hauke-Wagner, soprano
Encourages me to discover myself
" ‘Born to sing’ reminds and encourages me to discover myself and the world. I especially appreciate that I'm not told how to live. Ron Murdock just shares his own experience and inspired by this view I can open a door and see the beauty of life shining through.”
A pleasure to read and very accessible
I found this book a pleasure to read and handle.
Alongside a vibrant account of his personal journey Ron Murdock clears up any misconceptions about voice use. I have already found this very helpful in my own teaching and understanding of singing.
I enjoyed reading about his own life and experience as a professional singer both in performance and training. He integrates his life story with his growth as a singer and elaborates on the teaching he received from Frederick Husler and Yvonne Marling.
The author not only explains the mechanics of breath and voice but also the importance of the primary motivation for singers - to communicate and express beauty. In any voice work I have ever taught, motivation has always been the key to transformation. Expressing beauty is something I am looking forward to adding to this equation.
As an Alexander teacher himself Ron Murdock also explains very clearly how the Alexander Technique prevents habitual interference of the vocal mechanism and releases unhelpful muscle contraction. The illustrations are excellent and very clear.
Few books I have come across explain quite as simply and without confusion how the voice is designed to operate. With this as a foundation 'Born to sing' offers an understanding of how to achieve increased ease, freedom and clarity in singing.
A book for Voice teachers, Alexander Technique teachers, Singers at all stages of their career and for anyone who enjoys exploring singing.
True respect for the exquisite communicative potential of the human voice.
I am impressed by this endearing book “Born to Sing’ by Ron Murdock because of everything it is composed of: his integrety in talking about this natural human potential for singing, his searching how to approach it, and the way he seeks to free it from impeding habits. I am touched by his respect for life and his aim to help one to experience a natural state of being by singing.
Intention, awareness, content, form - beautiful aquarel drawings – and very practical simple exercises how to free the body from impeding habits and how to assist our organism to be perfectly natural, all this he brings to our attention.
Moreover he shares with us his sense of belonging to a network of people who helped him on the way, in a creative way, combining amongst others the teachings of F.M. Alexander and professor Frederick Husler.
This book is a treasure for every breathing person.
Primary Reflex Therapist, Cranio-Sacral Therapist
Excellent book for any artist.
Even though I do not sing professionally, I have benefited greatly from this book. It follows the train of thought that in order to sing, one does not need to force improve one's breathing, but rather, get rid of any internal obstacle (psychological or physical) that stands in the way of the natural tendency to express beauty. This probably holds for other artists as well, be they dancers, photographers, or other.
The style of writing in the book is conversational; you follow along easily with Ron's journey through life. Full of enjoyable anecdotes, well-told, from humoristic to deeply personal. I highly recommend this book, for anyone involved in the arts (not only singers), who can read between the lines.
Robert van Sluis
A Comprehensive Pedagogy
"I can highly recommend this book to anyone interested in mind/body work be it a singer or not.
It provides an interesting and refreshing approach to the Alexander Technique that makes sense even to those not familiar with it.
Those that know Alexander's work will learn that allowing our innate support system to work is a precondition for primary control to work.
This implicates that a bottom up instead of top down approach (feet to head rather than head to feet) is needed to truely free our body and mind.
Another interesting piece of information is that we have to trust and make use of our instincts when on stage and performing. If we are are being too busy inhibiting and directing ourselves when performing we can not give of ourselves whole-heartedly!
The drawings in the book that accompany the text are beautiful.
And last but not least the reader gets background information about the work and lives of the three key figures: Husler, Rodd-Marling and Alexander - three giants whose life-enhancing methods the author has spent decades integrating into a comprehensive pedagogy.
Thanks to the author for sharing his experience, insights and knowledge with us.”
Bas van de Steeg
Wijchen, The Netherlands
. . .a genuine pearl
“As a professional singer and voice teacher I have come across many pedagogies trying to help their pupils to control the voice. What is so beautiful about Ron Murdock’s approach is that he doesn’t seek control but instead teaches us how to unlock what is already there: a beautiful natural instrument, waiting to be un-covered. This way of working builds trust in a singer: everything you need is there, it is in your nature.
This empowering underlying basic assumption combined with all the knowledge that comes from a life-long dedication to the singing voice is a rarity and it turns this book into a genuine pearl.
‘Born to Sing’ catches Ron Murdock’s style of teaching: warm, clear, honest and with humor.
Ron Murdock has a very accessible way of writing without losing any depth. I would advice it to both professionals and amateurs.”
Jo-Anne Vissers March 22, 2016
"Ron Murdock’s combining singing with the Alexander Technique absolutely fascinates me. In his book he explains how to achieve a wonderful unity between voice and body which results in ease, lightness and clarity of tone.”
Evelyn Plank, Actress/Director. Munich, Germany
Born to Sing- a recommendation
“Student of the widely renowned voice teachers Professor Frederick Husler and Yvonne Rodd-Marling on one side and Alexander-teacher Walter Carrington, chief-assistant to F.M.Alexander himself on the other, Ron Murdock has found (by combining the principles of both disciplines) a completely new and highly valuable approach to the art and technique of singing – and especially breathing.
The principles this new approach are founded on are easy and very logical.
However, as in almost all things, that which is easy and correct is often the most difficult to recognize, and one must distil it out of a chaos of unnecessary, superfluous, interfering and wrong elements in a process of hard work which can last many years, and which even then does not guarantee success.
With his book Ron Murdock is able to shorten this long, uncertain and difficult process and leads his readers on the right way to its goal.
Very helpful are the artistically wonderful drawings of Korina Kaisershot.
A very clever book, a must for all singers, singing teachers or singing enthusiasts.”
Jutta Clemens (singer and voice teacher). Bochum, Germany
A beautiful book!
“This is a book for people who love to read, who love books, for everyone who is curious and likes to learn.
“Born to Sing” fascinates from beginning to end. Take it in your hands and feel the shining cover, see the beautiful photo and read the words: “A singer’s journey toward mind-body unity.” This triggers a lot of nerve endings and calls up the feelings of promise.
This promise is kept.
The book tells a story about the journey of a man with a talent and passion for singing: Born to Sing. But talent by itself isn’t enough. The need to combine emotion and technique shines through everything which he writes. From his earliest youth Ron Murdock has been busy with this combination via his own discoveries and from lessons from professionals. He describes everything about himself and his development as a singer. And along the way he went from student to performer to teacher. A teacher who gives lessons with heart and soul but who also can describe exactly and clearly what singing is - anatomically, physiologically and emotionally.
This book can be an example for every person who wants to search and follow their own wishes for their own life; to understand that talent isn’t enough but that along this journey of discovery there is a need to learn about and share beautiful emotional, learning and important life moments. You learn that you grow into the person you can be, to fulfil your own promise.
This is a beautiful book written by a beautiful person and I recommend it highly.”
Jos Berger-Huges, Alexander Teacher, Alexander Teacher Training Course Moderator. Eindhoven, The Netherlands