One Voice

Integrating Singing and Theatre Voice Techniques

Too often performers are conditioned to think they have a "speaking voice" and a "singing voice." Yet, in fact, the voice we use to speak, laugh, cry, shout, scream, yawn, and call out is the same voice we use to sing! 

Dr. Joan Melton brings together the contrasting worlds of singing and acting training in an approach that is physically energizing, vocally freeing, and infinitely practical. 

Her groundbreaking book outlines a course of study that effectively integrates singing and theatre voice techniques throughout the training process. 

The physicality of Melton's approach addresses the concerns of professional voice users in any field, and her detailed work on phrasing applies equally to singing and speaking. 

The CD accompanying this edition features guidelines and detailed instructions for many of the exercises, including a complete yoga-based sequence with sound. 

Reader's Comments

The book is wonderful! It is beautifully written, easy to follow and a lovely idea to have photos rather than diagrams. 

Julia Moody, Theatre Voice Specialist, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts

I just read your new book and found it wonderfully thorough, helpful and well written. I hope you sell a million copies! 

Neil Semer, Singing Teacher, New York City

My students are still glowing and inspired by your seminar, and how well and easily your teachings help unlock the voice! This work is so in line with what I teach, but your techniques get there so much faster! I'm requiring all my students to buy your book! 

Diann Alexander, Music Department, Pepperdine University


 In her chapter on The Voice/Movement Relationship, Joan Melton writes: “Actors frequently experience what seem to be contradictory instructions from one part of their training to another, especially in the areas of voice and movement. Fortunately, practitioners in these fields are beginning to share information and even to integrate work in some instances.... Breathing is usually at the core of the confusion, and since breathing involves one's entire being, the breathing dilemma and its solution are of necessity a major focus of any integrative approach. “

She writes from a long held belief that the singing and the speaking voice are one instrument, and at the heart of these lie the body and the breath. The training she describes involves building a strong and flexible body which allows us to find our true voice, our freest breath, a wide range of pitch and tone, and articulation responsive to the text, in other words an instrument available to singers and actors alike. We are taken through a series of physical exercises, based on Alexander, Pilates, Yoga and other systems, always using the voice in spontaneous sounds, clearly described, with accompanying photographs and backed up by the CD.

The excellent chapter on Vocal Anatomy and Physiology is contributed by Dr. Kenneth Tom, Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders at California State University with Meribeth Dayme's clear pictures; the relevance of the theory is made clear for the reader by the description of the physical sensations. The section on Vocal Hygiene is comprehensive and sensible, and as with all the chapters is followed by a wide range of suggested reading.

Range Resonance and Articulation contains structured exercises, again with careful instructions about points to watch and possible areas of tension; for instance while singing the five note exercise, “Keep space in your throat as if you are closing your mouth on a yawn—don’t let your face sag!”

The articulation exercises lead us on to working with text, both spoken and sung that is again to be done by both actors and singers.

Melton addresses some problems encountered in the working life of singers and actors, and has common sense advice to give, on choosing a teacher (“the teacher who is fabulous for your best friend may or may not be good for you”), reading music, auditions, having a friend monitor you, guidelines for performance, and many other concerns that may arise.

In these days when actors need to sing and singers need to act, this book would be an invaluable companion: it is clear, sensible and thorough; you could follow it without a teacher; it describes a route whereby through physical work, both freeing and disciplining, the instrument common to singers and speakers can be a versatile, sound and truthful means of communication.

Angela Devaney, Chair, Voice Care Network UK, VCN Newsletter, Voice Matters, fall 2012



Every year I ask my Voice and Speech class, "Where is your Voice?" Inevitably, the students point at their throat. Then I ask, "Is your singing voice different from your speaking voice?" They all respond, "Yes." The integration of the whole body is one of the primary goals of my course. So, I was thrilled to find Joan Melton's Book One Voice. I was trained by Joan Melton to be an Associate Fitzmaurice teacher, so, for me, to read her book and to use it as a resource was to relive the numerous workshops taken with her. It was a pleasure. So, in order to see if this book really suited the voice/speech trainer and the singing trainer, I sought a second perspective: that of a singing voice teacher with no experience in the Fitzmaurice method. Dr. Geoffrey Wm. Stephenson, Professor of Voice Instruction in the College of Music at Bowling Green, provides the second review. 

One Voice: Integrating Singing Technique and Theatre Voice Training by Joan Melton with Kenneth Tom is a must read for professionals and students alike. This book aims to unify singing and speaking voice techniques and to postulate that singing and speaking on stage require similar techniques. Ms. Melton, a musician, singer, actor and teacher, encourages studying and playing with both techniques because one informs the other. She encourages whole body interaction and integration of techniques, as "learning these and other vocal activities from a similar perspective can increase your overall level of skill, flexibility, and confidence (135)." Working with universal movement and voice principles, she provides detailed instructions, practice tips, suggested resources, and inspirations for students of all levels. This book is a practical guide, an excellent textbook for a singing for the actor, or a voice and movement course. There are numerous helpful exercises, clearly described and illustrated, that address the issues of the professional voice user. 

The book is divided into three sections: (Part I) Basic Technique, (Part II) Performance Details and (Part III) Additional Perspectives. Part I begins in collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Tom, whose lucid and accessible information on anatomy and physiology is invaluable. The illustrations are clear and the language addresses the needs of singers, dancers, and actors. Part II includes sections on reading music, working on text, and singing and acting. The reading music section serves the actor or musical theatre specialist more than it would serve a classically trained singer. She provides a clear argument for studying music notation. Part III provides the reader with some additional perspectives, such as overcoming fear, singing as a diagnostic tool and techniques for reaching highly emotional states and for extended voice use. I appreciated the author's continual reminder to the reader to seek out an experienced voice practitioner; she even provides guidelines on how to do so. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend One Voice. 

Micha Espinosa, Shakespeare Around the Globe: Essays on Voice and Speech, VASTA Journal 2005



Singers and actors often view voice use very differently, and the divergence is evident even in the lexicon of instruction. To an actor, voice training denotes learning how to use the speaking voice for the stage, whereas singers assume it will be a singing lesson. This dissimilarity is the impetus for Joan Melton's manual One Voice. Melton teaches voice - that is, for stage - in the theater program, as well as voice - that is, singing - in the music theater program at California State University, Fullerton. She believes there should be more integration of singing into training actors, and more inclusion of acting into training singers. One Voice is a guide, complete with exercises, to amalgamating the two. 

One of the strongest aspects of the book is Melton's acknowledgment of the differences between the disciplines. For instance, in the opening chapter on posture and breathing, the author underlines that dancers use the breath very differently than singers. Actors who have an extensive dance background must make adaptations for optimum singing and speaking respiration. When all of the other movement-related disciplines, such as the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Pilates, stage combat, and yoga - to mention only a few are thrown into the mix, it is not surprising that students often struggle with information that seems contradictory. The author underlines the need for communication among teachers of the different disciplines so students can resolve the contradiction. Melton also encourages the incorporation of movement into voice classes so students understand the application of the different techniques. 

Another of the premises for Melton's exercises is the similarity between phrasing in speech and song. She devotes a chapter to working with text, both sung and spoken. The exercises promote more efficient use of the breath and enhanced communication, both in the literal and dramatic sense. 

The anatomical and physiological information contained in the book is first rate. Melton sought assistance from Kenneth Tom, a colleague in the Department of Speech Communication at Cal State, Fullerton, to present lucid explanations of respiration, phonation, and articulation. Diagrams borrowed from Meribeth Bunch's Dynamics of the Singing Voice (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1982) elucidate the text. 

The book's exercises assume previous experience with bodywork, including Pilates and yoga. Melton also draws heavily upon Catherine Fitzmaurice's destructuring/structuring approach. For those unfamiliar with this work, destructuring refers to letting go of habitual breathing patterns, and restructuring refers to returning to the way the body works naturally. Additional resources to learn about the method augment the brief explanation offered by the author. 

The guidebook is directed at theater students, and covers topics such as reading music and overcoming fears about singing; however, the book has much to commend it to singing students as well. The author's advice regarding vocal hygiene, how to select a voice teacher, and singing in general is straightforward and accurate. 

Instruction on how to prepare scores for audition pianists, and how to select audition material and repertoire, is helpful. Singing teachers will appreciate Melton's advocacy of classical technique, including the use of legato, avoidance of glottal onsets, and emphasis on a relaxed jaw. For these reasons, the book is useful to actors who are studying singing, and to singers who wish to enhance their audition or performance skills in music theater. 

"Triple threat" in music theater describes the ideal performer. The tripartite term is misleading, for two of the components - singing and acting are dependent upon one vocal instrument. Melton's One Voice is a welcome aid in balancing the various theatrical demands made upon the voice. 

Debra Greschner, Journal of Singing, January / February 2005, Volume 61.No. 3