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An Interview with Dena Murray - on her new book 'Vocal Strength and Power'

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Steve: Hi, Dena! I understand that your new book on singing has just been published. Would you tell us a little bit about it?

Dena: This is a book that has been 15 years in the making. From the time I started teaching (over 20 years ago,) I knew there was a problem with the prevailing concepts of diaphragmatic support. Singers were injuring themselves from too much pressure and misperceiving instructions.

Steve: Do yo mean that the usual "singing teacher's lingo" was not helpful in leading the student in what they should do?

Dena: Yes, exactly. They also were not getting what they'd hoped to get from taking lessons i.e., freedom when singing/performing. So after many years of study, I finally uncovered that the problem boiled down to correct intake of air (the inhale) and created exercises to correct it.

Steve: You've published two other books on singing. How does this latest one fit in with them?

Dena: Well, I never set out to do a three-part series but that was the end result of all my work.

Vocal Technique: Finding Your Real Voice is a beginners book and focuses on the vocal mechanism. I did two things deliberately for the beginner:

1) I skipped the discussion of how to use the diaphragm for support, and instead created exercises to builid up the muscles and cartilages which control/support the vocal folds, and,

2) I separated the chest voice from the head voice because in my experience if there are problems in either register, those problems will show up when trying to bridge and combine them for that one-register sound.

This book is the first step in how to gain support.

Steve: Ok, I am with you so far. How was your approach received by your readers?

Dena: Very well, I think. My European readers were especially open with their positive feed-back, and I still receive comments to day on that book's usefulness.

Steve: Ok! What was your second book like?

Dena: The second one, Advanced Vocal Technique: Middle Voice, Placement & Styles (co-authored by Tita Hutchison,) focuses on a step-by-step process of how to bridge the voice for the one register sound, vowel formation, and correct placement for any given style.

Steve: So, that would make it the 'next steps' after clarifying the Chest and Head voices, and some discussion of the different vocal productions.

Dena: Yes, that's right. There are 13 exercises in this book with every feeling and sensation one should (and shouldn’t) have, literally spelled out for the singer. Again, we purposely stayed away from too much focus on the diaphragm.

This book is the second step with regard to support.

Steve: All right. How does this third book extend the approach of the other two?

Dena: In this third and last book of the series, “Vocal Strength and Power”, the focus is solely on how to employ correct use of the diaphragmatic region for its support of the entire mechanism.

Steve: How is your approach different from other's you've heard?

Simply stated, I've uncovered a problem inherent with other approaches to 'support' instruction, and created exercises to correct the problem.

Steve: Ok, I'll bite. What is the problem?

Dena: The problem is the correct intake of air before singing.

Steve: Who can benefit from your approach and exercises?

Dena: Anyone should be able to add these exercises (if they should so choose) to already working methods of techniques when they notice they are struggling for not just the freedom, but also their inherent great sound.

Steve: Dena, what else does the book contain?

Dena: In addition to the CD of exercises, this book also includes a glossary of dictionary-defined words, the most commonly used words for instruction. As I was looking up the words to pull this section together, I was quite surprised at the meanings associated with some of these words, as I'm sure others will be too. I found that most misperception comes down to the true meaning of a word.

Steve: Moving on to a different aspect of this work, how did you go about getting published?

Dena: Let me answer that by describing how I got my first one published. Once I knew the subject I wanted to cover, I started writing. I got a name at Hal Leonard to contact, and pitched my idea by e-mail.

Steve: What was the response?

Dena: He got back to me within a few days and asked that I I send a table of contents and the first chapter so they could review it.

I was very nervous about all of this because it was my first book so nervous that I purposely wouldn't check my e-mail. I decided to go camping for a few days and when I returned, checked my phone messages never expecting to get an answer by phone. Oh My God, they were SO excited about this book wanted it as soon as possible, sent me a contract, and advance money.

Steve: That must have been a very pleasant surprise! After the initial contact, how long did the process take?

Dena: The first book took a year to write and another to get it printed and published. It surely was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. I established an excellent relationship with the vice president and several editors by keeping them updated as to how far along I was every three months or so, and always remembering to tell them how appreciative I was to them for this opportunity. They then told me they wished all authors were this responsible about communication.

Steve: I take it from this comment that not all authors are so communicative. Do you have any advice in this regard for any writers out there that would like to have a book published?

Dena: Yes, I do. My best advice: if you get a name to contact at a publishing company and can secure the deal... keep your publisher updated as you write the book. Right along with that... never forget about the opportunity they have provided for you.

Steve: Dena, this is great information. For those interested, where and when will the book be available?

The book is already available to pre-order on Amazon.com (my link on www.denamurray.com will take you straight to the book,) It has already been shipped to Barnes and Noble, Borders, most music stores, and other bookstores. It will be available for purchase in the stores around Thanksgiving.

Steve: Thanks, Dena, for taking the time to provide this information.

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