A Systematic Approach to Voice: The Art of Studio Application

First Edition

Kari Ragan

Details: 246 pages, B&W, Softcover, 6" x 9"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-223-7

© 2020 | Available

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A Systematic Approach to Voice: The Art of Studio Application is a professional resource presenting a framework for the integration of science-informed principles of voice production and pedagogical application in the training of singers. Author Dr. Kari Ragan has spent years using this organizational template of the five voice systems—respiration, phonation, registration, articulation, and resonance—to identify technical challenges and design corrective vocal exercises in order to facilitate efficient singing.

Each of the voice system chapters contains a brief overview of the mechanics as well as key points for teachers, or “teacher takeaways.” The book’s core offering is vocal exercises which, framed within a systematic approach, provide strategies for the art of studio application. The intent is an approach that leads to technically proficient singing working in service of great artistry.

Key Features

  • Over 85 vocal exercises for studio application framed within a systematic approach for both a CCM and classical aesthetic
  • Brief overview of the mechanics of each voice system and relevant “teacher takeaways”
  • Extensive discussion on semi-occluded vocal tract (SOVT) exercises
  • Introduction of several kinesthetic singing tools
  • Eight sample warm-up protocols designed for various levels of singers and both CCM and classical genres
  • A PluralPlus companion website with video demonstrations for each vocal exercise and sample warm-up

In this interview with Nicholas Perna, Kari Ragan discusses her approach to voice and vocal pedagogy, along with ways to apply lessons from the book with students of varying levels of experience.


"Dr. Kari Ragan in A Systematic Approach to Voice has produced an application-rich resource for voice teaching that is grounded both in science-informed pedagogy as well as in successful historic pedagogy and extensive studio experience.  Each topic is presented with economical explanations and teacher take-aways followed by multiple application exercises, all of which are clearly modeled on a high-quality companion website. This book offers an excellent exemplar of Dr. Ragan’s tripartite evidence-based voice pedagogy (EBVP) construct. In sum, A Systematic Approach to Voice constitutes a valuable new resource, especially for the teaching practicum portion of vocal pedagogy courses."
—Kenneth Bozeman, Frank C. Shattuck Professor of Music, Lawrence University

"Dr. Kari Ragan’s A Systematic Approach to Voice: The Art of Studio Application is a gem that sets a standard of excellence for well-informed vocal pedagogy. Just as performing artists master technique or ‘craft’ in the service of inspired creative expressive, so Dr. Ragan has invested deeply in understanding both vocal mechanics and scholarly principles of pedagogy, and has used those studies to hone the craft of her own teaching. She now offers a smart, generous, and skillfully organized guide to the unique art of teaching singing.
Especially commendable are Ragan’s distinction between warming up the voice (preparing to work) and more focused functional exercises; the level of detail provided for both basic technical exercises and suggested variations; and the final chapter of sample practice routines for singers of different styles and training levels. Her chapter on Registration demonstrates an unusual ease of navigation between the vocal requirements of classical and popular (“CCM”) singing, subtly challenging all teachers to overcome any lingering hesitation, and to support performers in both genres.
Concise, yet brimming with knowledge and practicality, Dr. Ragan’s book stands up well alongside vocal pedagogy classics of earlier generations. It deserves a place in the library of every 21 st century voice professional."

—Joanna Cazden, MFA, MS-CCC, Singer, Speech Pathologist, Voice Specialist

"Kari Ragan’s book is extraordinary. It is one of the most practical, immediately applicable books I’ve ever read about voice teaching. If I had to recommend one book for a young voice teacher wanting to improve the effectiveness of their teaching, it would be this book. It is sure to become a seminal work in the field of vocal pedagogy."
Amanda Flynn, MM, CAS Vocal Pedagogy, NCVS Trained Vocologist






Chapter 1. A Systematic Approach


The Heuristic Nature of a Systematic Approach

Kinesthetic Singing Tools

Alterations of Vocal Exercises



Selected Resources


Chapter 2. The Twenty-First Century Voice Teacher


Cross-Training the Voice Athlete

Voice Habilitation

A Vocal Warm-up Versus Vocal Function Exercises

Motor Learning Theory and the Singer




Chapter 3. A Systematic Approach to Respiration

Overview of Respiration



Teacher Takeaways of Respiration

Application of Respiration

            Body Awareness Exercises

                       3–1: Large Ball~Stretching and Lengthening

                       3–2: Large Ball~Posture and Alignment

            Respiration Coordination Exercises

                       3–3: Sustaining Unvoiced Consonants

                       3–4: Rhythmic Patterns on Unvoiced Consonant /s/, /f/, /θ/, /ʃ/

                       3–5: Alternating Unvoiced/Voiced Consonant Pairs

                       3–6: Flow-Ball by POWERbreathe

                       3–7: Flow-Ball Voiceless Staccato

                       3–8: Flow-Ball Voiceless Messa di Voce

                       3–9: Flow-Ball Voiced “Flownation”

            Breath Depletion Exercises

                       3–10: Breath Depletion Prior to Inhalation

                       3–11: Breath Depletion Conditioning

            Respiration and resonance Coordination

                        Exercise 3–12 /ʃum/ Patterns

            Rib Cage Expansion

                        Exercise 3–13 Exercise Band

            Respiratory Release

                       3–14: Pelvic Floor Release

                       3–15: Xiphoid Process Area Release

            Core Engagement

                       3–16: Encouraging Core Engagement Through Exercise Balls

                       3–17: Large Ball Squat

                       3–18: Exercise Band Core Engagement



Selected Resources


Chapter 4. A Systematic Approach to Phonation

Overview of Phonation

Teacher Takeaways of Phonation

Overview of Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract (SOVT) Postures

            Diameter of Straw or Tube

            Length of Straw or Tube

            Material of Straw or Tube

            Straw or Tube in Water (Water Bubbles)

                        The Use of an Anesthesia Mask to Facilitate an SOVT Posture

Teacher Takeaways for SOVT Postures

Application of Phonation

            Straw Phonation/Pitch Glides

                       4–1: Straw Phonation Pitch Glides—Small Intervals

                       4–2: Straw Phonation Pitch Glides—Full Range

                       4–3: Straw Phonation Pitch Glides—Varying Intervals

                       4–4: Straw Phonation Scales

                       4–5: Straw Phonation Pitch Glides to Vowels

            Water Bubbles

                       4–6: Water Bubble Pitch Glides

                       4–7: Water Bubble Repertoire

            Lip Trills

                       4–8: Arpeggio Lip Trills

                       4–9: Chromatic Lip Trills

            Vocal Onsets

                       4–10: Mastering Staccato

                       4–11: Water Bubble Staccato

                       4–12: Staccato to Legato

            Vocal Fry

                       4–13: Vocal Fry—Sustaining

                       4–14: Vocal Fry to Chest Registration

                       4–15: Vocal Fry to Head Registration



Selected Resources


Chapter 5. A Systematic Approach to Registration

Overview of Registration

Teacher Takeaways of Registration

Application of Registration

            Female Head Registration Isolation

                       5–1: Soft /u/—Secondo Passaggio

                       5–2: Sustained Head Registration Isolation

                       5–3: Head Register Isolation Crescendo

                       5–4: Advanced Head Register Isolation

                       5–5: Advanced Head Registration—Bel-Canto Inspired

            Male Head Registration Isolation

                       5–6: Soft /u/ for Balanced Registration

                       5–7: Head Registration Isolation Through Variation of Dynamics and Vowels

                       5–8: Building a Bridge Across RegistersMale Registration Coordination

                       5–9: Using Head Registration to Develop High Notes in Chest Registration

                       5–10: Messa di Voce Through the Secondo Passaggio

            Female Chest Registration Isolation

                       5–11: Chest Registration Isolation

                       5–12: Using Head Registration to Facilitate Efficient Chest Registration

                       5–13: Building a Bridge to Belting

            Mixed Registration for a Broad Spectrum of Sound

                       5–14: “Meow” CCM Mixed Registration

                       5–15: “My”—CCM Mixed Registration

                       5–16: Arpeggio~Mixed Registration

                       5–17: Ode to Joan Lader

                       5–18: Alternating Registration

                       5–19: Mastering Messa di Voce



Selected Resources


Chapter 6. A Systematic Approach to Articulation

Overview of Articulation

            The Jaw

            The Tongue

            The Soft Palate

            The Pharynx

Teacher Takeaways of Articulation

Application of Articulation

            Jaw Stretches

                       6–1: Preparing the Jaw

            Jaw: Voiced Exercises

                       6–2: Wine Cork Between Front Teeth

                       6–3: Wine Cork Between Molars

                       6–4: Masseter Muscle Release

            Tongue Stretches

                       6–5: Tongue Out Stretch

                       6–6: Tongue Curl Stretch

                       6–7: Underside of Tongue Stretch

                       6–8: Circular Tongue Stretch

            Tongue: Voice Exercises

                       6–9: Dental Consonants

                       6–10: Palatal Consonants

                       6–11: Developing Jaw and Tongue Independence

                       6–12: Voiced Raspberry and Tongue Trills

                       6–13: Base of Tongue Disengagement        

                       6–14: Candy on the Tongue

                       6–15: Gauze on the Tongue

                       6–16: Ode to Barbara Doscher

                       6–17: Dental/Palatal Consonant Combinations

            Soft Palate Stretches

                       6–18: Isolating the Soft Palate Activation

            Soft Palate: Voice Exercises

                       6–19: Soft Palate Exploration with Voicing

                       6–20: Using Nasality to Explore the Contrast of Soft Palate Elevation

                       6–21: Thumb in Mouth Against the Soft Palate



Selected Resources


Chapter 7. A Systematic Approach to Resonance

Overview of Resonance

            High Frequency Spectral Content: Vocal Ring

            Classical Singer’s Lofted Resonance Strategy

            CCM Singer’s Brassy Resonance Strategy

            Western Classical Versus CCM

Teacher Takeaways

Application of Resonance

           7–1: Chant Speech—Humming

           7–2: Pitch Glides—Humming

           7–3: Using /hm/ to Facilitate Resonance

           7–4: Ode to Ellen Faull

           7–5 :Alternating /hm/ with a Vowel Series

           7–6: Bending Forward

           7–7: Lying Over A Ball

           7–8: Chopstick Between the Teeth

           7–9: Chadley's "Weird" /ɹ/ Exercise

           7–10: Y-Buzz

           7–11: Facilitating Brassy Resonance (Twang)



Selected Resources


Chapter 8. Sample Vocal Warm-up Routines


Classical Female (Middle/High School, Undergraduate, Avocational Singer)

Classical Female (Undergraduate/Graduate, Emerging Professional, Professional Singer)

Classical Male (Middle/High School, Undergraduate, Avocational Singer)

Classical Male (Undergraduate/Graduate, Emerging Professional, Professional Singer)

CCM Female (Beginner/Intermediate)

CCM Female (Intermediate/Advanced)

CCM Male (Beginner/Intermediate)

CCM Male (Intermediate/Advanced)



Kari Ragan

Kari Ragan, DMA, MM, BM, is both an academic and private voice studio teacher. At the University of Washington, Dr. Ragan teaches voice and voice pedagogy, and works in affiliation with the Laryngology program as a singing voice specialist (SVS) to rehabilitate injured singers. She has maintained a thriving independent studio teaching both classical and Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) genres to professional and avocational singers for over thirty-five years. She regularly appears as a workshop and master class clinician, and has presented multiple lectures at prestigious voice conferences.

Learn More

Purchase of A Systematic Approach to Voice: The Art of Studio Application comes with access to supplementary materials on a PluralPlus companion website.

To access the materials, you must register on the companion website and log in using the access code printed on the inside front cover of your book.

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Details: 393 pages, B&W, Softcover, 7" x 10"

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Details: 157 pages, B&W, Spiral Bound, 8.5" x 11"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-164-3

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First Edition

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Fourth Edition

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Details: 312 pages, B&W, Softcover, 8.5" x 11"

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© 2020 | Available

The Tongue as a Gateway to Voice, Resonance, Style, and Intelligibility

First Edition

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Details: 278 pages, B&W, Softcover, 7" x 10"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-363-0

© 2021 | Available

Singing and Teaching Singing: A Holistic Approach to Classical Voice

Fourth Edition

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Details: 620 pages, B&W, Softcover, 7" x 10"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-339-5

© 2023 | Available

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Second Edition

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Details: 150 pages, B&W, Softcover, 6" x 9"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-400-2

© 2023 | Available

The Vocal Athlete: Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer

Third Edition

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Details: 207 pages, B&W, Spiral Bound, 8.5" x 11"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-680-8

© 2026 | Available

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Third Edition

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Details: 528 pages, B&W, Softcover, 7" x 10"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-673-0

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