Meaningful Quotes


“If the characteristics of a sound the singer wishes to produce are unclear in his own mind, little, if anything can be done to compel him to produce successfully a sound possessing such characteristics.”

–Sergius Kagen, On Studying Singing

“Take a breath, and then forget about it.”

–Jan Peerce, The Bluebird of Happiness (autobiography)

“The elementary qualities of good vocalization are: firstly, perfect intonation; secondly, equality of note value; thirdly, equality of strength; fourthly, equality of degree of legato; and fifthly, harmony of timbres.”

–Manuel Garcia, Hints on Singing


The answer to healthy singing is one thing and one thing only, that pesky registration.

As you have all heard me say, if you can’t sing high it’s the registration. If you can’t sing low it’s the registration. Fast, slow, no endurance, not enough breath. Whatever it is that bothers you, it is the registration. The human voice has two registers, low (chest voice) and high (falsetto). Two and only two. There is no middle register. There is no ultra high register (called many things) There are only two because there are only two mechanisms within the throat to produce them, chest voice produced by the airway protection system (arytenoid group – if you want the Latin) which closes the cords, and falsetto produced by the swallowing system (thyroid group which opens the cords and stretches them for pitch. Head voice is a combination of two muscular actions which, when invoked, draw the cords together “just so” through the opposition of their competing actions. If you want to know more, ask. I can talk all day (as you, my very patient students know) about the voice.

–Katherine Kaufman Posner


“Voice is a product of function and, except to the degree to which all tone must conform to acoustic laws, has no mechanical function of its own. It is the end result of a coordinative process involving a complex of laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles whose pattern of response occurs as a direct reaction to a mental concept. To train the ‘voice,’ therefore, is to avoid making contact with basic functional activities. The character of a tone is formed at its point of inception, not afterwards, and the point of inception is that moment when the vibrating cords set the surrounding air spaces into motion. All technical devices and training methods employed whose aim is to improve the tone after the coordinative pattern has been set are useless.”

–Cornelius L. Reid


Our brains direct the vocal mechanism in response to our concept of our sound, our personal idea of what our voices sound like, an idea we got when we learned to talk. Ever listen to yourself talk on a recording? “Oh, dear.” is my reaction to my speaking voice. So if we are going to improve our singing, our task is to change our concept. This is no mean feat. It is a process that takes time and focus, persuading our brains to direct a different sort of sound making than they have done before.

That’s where the singing teacher comes in. Our task is to help our students arrive at a different concept. This means setting up a condition where students can hear themselves make sounds that are not what they are used to making. Then this new and, it is to be hoped, improved sound will become the norm for the brain which will continue to direct the vocal mechanism toward this new sound. That is the process of learning to sing. This is what voice teachers do, or at least should do. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes they try to simply take the existing sound and build on it. But if the sound is faulty to start with, then there is nothing to build on. The faulty sound has to go and be replaced by a better sound.

–Katherine Kaufman Posner

The starting point is listening. We must conceive the sound, and its elements, pitch, vowel, and dynamic. We must listen to these things with a “willingness to change.” Then we take a breath and see what happens. And, by so doing, we learn.

We sing, and then we analyze what we heard. Little by little we discover a new sound. As we hear difference, it comes into our experience. Our listening becomes more acute.

Listen to the pitch. Hear it in your head. Conceive the vowel. Hear the volume, the intensity level. Envision the musical phrase. Now, breathe and let the music come into existence.

–Katherine Kaufman Posner


Inspiring Thoughts


“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”

— Martha Graham

The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and it is the test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.

–Inscribed at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C. – Public papers of the President 1962




Contact Katherine Posner: 919-977-9767Click here to email Katherine