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Building Strong Voices: Twelve Different Ways!

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1 Building Strong Voices: Twelve Different Ways!
Stephen F. Austin Associate Professor of Voice College of Music University of North Texas Building Strong Voices: Twelve Different Ways!

2 Source for this discussion:
Stephen F. Austin, “Building Strong Voices: Twelve Different Ways.” Choral Journal, Dec. 07 & Jan. 08

3 The Mechanism

4 Target for training: Respiration Articulation AND Phonation
Breathing and Support ‘Appoggio’ Articulation Resonance Vowels and consonants AND Phonation How to make sound!

5 Premise #1 Teachers have been successfully building voices for several centuries and many have recorded their ideas for posterity. - Few of these are commonly available today

6 Premise #2 Voice science has helped us understand the way the voice works and therefore has given us a means of judging the effectiveness of traditional methods.

7 Premise #3 Most 18th c and 19th c methods focused on training the larynx as the primary component of the vocal instrument.

8 Premise #4 The concept of ‘pure vowel’ has always been a primary tenet of historical methods.

9 Premise #5 The concept of voce chiusa represents to singing what chiaroscuro means to all art forms: a balance of brightness AND darkness.

10 Building block exercises
Sostenuto Portamento Legato Other Interval Studies Onset Register Studies

11 Building block exercises
Stable Laryngeal Posture Jaw position Velocity Other articulations: aspirato, marcatto Breath management Posture

12 Rationale: All are strongly emphasized in the historical literature
Each is a part of a progressive methodical approach to training the voice Among all musical instruments, Voice training has historically been woefully inconsistent in providing singers the benefit of a logical progressive method for training

13 1. Sostenuto Almost all historical treatises begin with the simplest of all gestures: the sustained tone.

14 1. Sostenuto “It will prove to be of great help to a pupil who has a weak and limited voice, whether it be soprano or contralto. He must exercise with a solfeggio with sustained notes in his daily study. The result will be further assured if such solfeggio is kept within the limit which the voice permits at that time. It must be suggested to those who are confronted by these conditions, to increase the volume of their voices each day little by little, directing them thus, with the aid of art and continuous exercise, until they become vigorous and sonorous.” Mancini, Practical Reflections on the Art of Singing, 1774

15 1. Sostenuto Isometric exercises for the intrinsic laryngeal muscles
Coordinates breath with onset Simplicity allows focus on Vowel Posture Respiration

16 Cinti-Damoreau (1830)

17 Frederick W. Root (1873)

18 1. Sostenuto “Many habituate themselves to a distorted position so thoroughly, that it seems natural, possibly easy, to them. If the face is not perfectly at repose, if the forehead is wrinkled, the nostrils dilated, or the mouth drawn into a position not used in speaking, it is an unerring indication that there is distortion in the throat. To rid yourself of wrong habits in this respect, or to prove that there are none, try this:

19 1. Sostenuto Fill the lungs; let the countenance assume an expression of repose; relax the muscles of the throat; open the mouth well; place the tongue as above directed; then exhale slowly and steadily, at first without producing a tone, but after two or three seconds allow the vocal cords to vibrate, watching carefully to see that there be no change of position. Repeat this process several times, at first making the tone very soft; then, if successful in retaining the right position of all the members, exhale a little faster, making a louder tone. It is often of assistance to watch this process with a looking-glass.” Frederick Root, School of Singing, 1873

20 1. Sostenuto “Where voice technique is founded on systematically acquired skills, sostenuto fills its role as a builder of the instrument. Sustaining power will increase vocal stamina and ensure vocal health.” Richard Miller, The Structure of Singing, 1989

21 2. Portamento: Usually introduced after sustained tones
Usually preceded the teaching of legato Was considered an essential tool in vocal culture Singer cannot sing legato without portamento

22 2. Portamento “Thereupon he should teach him the art of slurring from one note to another and of dragging the voice smoothly in a pleasant manner on the vowels, while proceeding from high to low. Because these skills, so important to elegance in singing, cannot be taught merely by solmizing, they are often utterly neglected by the inexperienced teacher.” Pier Francesco Tosi: Opinioni di’ cantori antiche e moderni (1723) He went on to say that without a good portamento, “all other diligence falls short”.

23 2. Portamento “By this portamento of the voice is meant nothing but a passing, tying the voice, from one note to the next with perfect proportion and union, as much in ascending as descending.” “… he ought to have him pass to the study of the portamento of the voice, and instruct him well therein, this being one of the principle parts of vocal singing.” Giambattista Mancini: Practical Reflections on the Art of Singing (1774)

24 2. Portamento Garcia: “the portamento will help equalize the registers, the timbres, and the force of the voice.” Manuel Garcia, The Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing, 1847 Stockhausen: “In the larger intervals the question of registers has to be considered. There is all the more reason not to pass it over, as the portamento itself tends to blend the registers.” “…it is only by the portamento that the singer gets his breathing and voice apparatus under full control.” Julius Stockhausen, A Method of Singing, 1872

25 2. Portamento How is it to be performed?
Garcia stated that air pressure was to remain ‘equal and continuous’ and that there are ‘gradual changes of tension on the lips of the glottis.’

26 2. Portamento

27 2. Portamento

28 2. Portamento

29 3. Legato Chi non lega, non canta!
“To sing legato is to pass from one tone to another clearly, suddenly, spontaneously, without interrupting the flow of sound, or allowing it to slur through any intermediate tones.” Garcia, Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing, 57

30 3. Legato Air is continuous Joins all the tones together
Intonation must be perfect Value, force, and timbre must be perfectly even “one can scarcely attain this end with less than a year and a half of diligent study.” Garcia, Pg 57 “The smooth vocalization is the most frequently used of all; therefore, it needs no sign to indicate it, the students should always be on guard against slurring, marking, or singing in staccato any passages no so indicated.” Garcia, Pg. 58

31 4. Other interval studies
Traditional method books contained many varied forms of interval studies: ear training Accuracy Helps unify the voice

32 4. Other interval studies

33 4. Other interval studies

34 4. Other interval studies

35 5. Onset Initiation of the tone is a critical factor in voice quality
There are widely different opinions about how to begin the tone Much of the confusion is the result of misunderstanding and terminology Certain: breathiness in the voice is a common fault with young singers and aspirated onsets guarantee that they will stay that way

36 5. Onset “Hold the body straight, quiet, upright on the two legs, removed from any point of support; open the mouth, not in the form of the oval 0, but by letting the lower jaw fall away from the upper by its own weight, the corners of the mouth drawn back slightly. This movement, which holds the lips softly pressed against the teeth, opens the mouth in the correct proportion and finds it an agreeable form.” Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984),

37 5. Onset “Hold the tongue relaxed and immobile (without lifting it either by its root or by its tip); finally, separate the base of the pillars and soften the entire throat. In this position, inhale slowly and for a long time. After you are thus prepared, and when the lungs are full of air, without stiffening either the phonator or any part of the body, but calmly and easily, attack the tones very distinctly with a light stroke of the glottis on a very clear [a] vowel. That [a] will be taken well at the bottom of the throat in order that no obstacle may be opposed to the emission of the sound. In these conditions the tone should come out with ring and with roundness.” Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984),

38 5. Onset “One must guard against confusing the stroke of the glottis with the stroke of the chest (coup de poitrine), which resembles a cough, or the effort of expelling something which is obstructing the throat.” Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), 42.

39 5. Onset In spite of Garcia’s caution: Many misinterpreted his meaning
Misapplied the principle Perhaps some voices were injured by the misapplication of his intent This haunted him his whole career Austin, Stephen F. The Attack on the Coup de la glotte. Journal of Singing. Vol. 61, No. 5. May/June Pg 521.

40 5. Onset

41 5. Onset ‘uh-oh’

42 6. Register Studies Long history of confusion
No agreement on a definition No agreement on how many there are No agreement on what to call them We do not understand the focus that was applied on the registers in our historical documents

43 6. Register Studies “By the word register we understand a series of consecutive and homogenous tones going from low to high, produced by the development of the same mechanical principle, and whose nature differs essentially from another series of tones equally consecutive and homogenous produced by another mechanical principle.” Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), xli.

44 6. Register Studies (cont.) “All the tones belonging to the same register are consequently of the same nature, whatever may be the modification of timbre or of force to which one subjects them.” Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), xli.

45 6. Register Studies


47 Minoru Hirano ,“Regulation of Register, Pitch and Intensity of Voice”
Minoru Hirano ,“Regulation of Register, Pitch and Intensity of Voice”. Folia Phoniatrica, Vol. 22, Pp. 1-20, Emg Study

48 Ingo Titze, Principles of Voice Production
Ingo Titze, Principles of Voice Production. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 262, 1994. Stimulated vocalis

49 Minoru Hirano, “Vocal Mechanisms in Singing: Laryngological and Phoniatric Aspects”. Journal of Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pp Stimulated vocalis

50 Minoru Hirano, “Vocal Mechanisms in Singing: Laryngological and Phoniatric Aspects”. Journal of Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pp Register Model

51 6. Register Studies “As the bottom of the vocal fold bulges out, the glottis becomes more rectangular than wedge-shaped (convergent). During vibration, then, glottal closure can be obtained over a greater portion of the vocal fold, and thereby over a greater portion of the cycle…The result is a voice of richer timbre, which we call chest or modal voice.” Ingo Titze, Principles of Voice Production. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 261, 1994. Stimulated vocalis

52 6. Register Studies “This chest voice is not equally forceful and strong in everyone; but to the extent that one has a more robust or more feeble organ of the chest, he will have a more or less robust voice.” “A sonorous body, or rather robustness of voice is ordinarily a gift from nature, but can also be acquired by study and art.”Giambattista Mancini, Practical Reflections on Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated and edited by Edward V. Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 20, 1967.

53 6. Register Studies “Chest mixture will strengthen the soprano’s lower - middle range. Almost every female can make some chest timbre sounds, no matter how insecure, in the lowest part of her range. These notes should be sung in short, intervallic patterns, transposing by half steps upward, as more sound emerges.” Richard Miller, Structure of Singing. Schirmer Books, New York, New York. Pg , Also the best way to build strength in the high voice

54 Ingo Titze Principles of Voice Production
Ingo Titze Principles of Voice Production. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 262, 1994. Stimulated vocalis

55 Register rules: Low and loud = chest voice High and soft = head voice
Breathy and hooty = falsetto We use these natural responses to train the registers to respond appropriately

56 ‘Sostenuto tones in the chest’ – with or without crescendo

57 William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique
William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique. Carl Fischer, New York. Pg

58 William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique
William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique. Carl Fischer, New York. Pg

59 ‘Welcoming in the chest’

60 “Imposing the chest’

61 ‘Imposing the chest – II’

62 ‘Deference to the head’

63 Register Breaks!

64 Additional register exercises:
Flute or whistle voice stretches for females (humming works nicely) Falsetto stretches for males Falsetto ‘break outs’ for men – like Garcia’s middle voice exercises for women ‘Dimmer switch’ exercises from falsetto to chest in men

65 7. Stable Larynx The most common vocal fault
The ‘comfortably low larynx’ is an historically important tenet of bel canto Laryngeal posture varies widely through the range naturally If natural tendencies are allowed to dominate it can lead to severe limitations in freedom, range, and timbre Often leads to mis-classification of voices – especially men

66 7. Stable larynx Traditionally approached through the study of ‘voce chiusa’ timbre (vs. voce aperta) Described in the concept of ‘the open throat’ “Out of the darkness into the bright” Use of [o] and [u] vowels are best Start in low range and work up Single notes, small scales, building as they can achieve the goal

67 7. Stable larynx Secret to the male ‘head voice’
‘Bella signora’: My approach: whatever it takes! Places whole mechanism in it’s optimal posture for singing

68 8. Jaw opening The right thing depends upon the vocal style
How much is enough? How much is too much? Commercial styles: low and middle range is typically same as speech-modest opening High range (belt) jaw has to be lowered to maintain belt quality. There is no choice about this! All belters do it.

69 8. Jaw opening Classical style:
Like CM styles, jaw opening in low and middle voice MAY be modest, but the ‘mixed quality’ in female middle voice and high male voice is best accomplished without opening In female voice however the jaw has to lower at about F5 – formant tuning The ‘three fingers rule’ does not apply universally! It can distort the tone and can put undue stress on the mechanism

70 10. Other Articulations Legacy sources indicate scores of exercises for training various articulations other than sostenuto, portamento and legato

71 10. Aspirato Julius Stockhausen reminded us that the legato is the most important and most beautiful style of vocalisation, but also said: “It is a fact, that by this aspirated vocalisation, great flexibility of the larynx, and distinctness of technique can be most surely and quickly acquired.” A Method of Singing, 46

72 10. Aspirato Garcia described it this way: “The means of performing these passages consists of a slight aspiration placed before the repetition of each tone. This aspiration emanates from the glottis which allows a small particle of unvoiced air to escape between the repeated tones.”

73 10. Aspirato Only when a note is repeated once or note raddopiate:
Not to be used for scale-wise passages as was often encountered, then and now:

74 10. Aspirato

75 10. Aspirato

76 10. Aspirato

77 10. Marcato Garcia stated:
“All these means or manners of uttering the passages, namely: portamentos; marcatos; ties; staccatos; while applying to them all the vowels and their timbres: pauses, forte, pianissimo, fortissimo, piano, inflections, mezzoforte, and their various combinations of these means, form the inexhaustible depth in which the singer finds the brilliant resources which give life to his performance.” Complete Treatise, 111

78 10. Marcato “To mark tones is to make them distinct by thrusting them, by supporting each of them separately without detaching them or stopping them. One will succeed in it by supposing that one has repeated the vowel as many times as there are notes in the passage, but without discontinuing the sound for breathing or anything else At the same time, one will make a slight pressure with the stomach for each vowel; the pharynx will experience a slight dilation for each tone.” Complete Treatise, 58-59

79 10. Marcato Garcia suggested that marcato would help with the ‘emission of the voice’ Marcato would help lower voices define there vocalization

80 10. Marcato Stockhausen agreed that it was best suited for male voices
Gave additional indications for marcato: notes marked with ‘> > > >’ also with a tie

81 10. Marcato

82 10. Marcato Modern editions often leave off important markings indicating intended articulations 1962 G Schirmer score and Robert Larson’s edition of Una voce poca fa leave off the staccato markings:

83 10. Staccato Most common after legato and portamento
Common to the literature for all voice Noted by a dot or a dash above the note Most 19th C treatises dealt with this articulation directly

84 10. Staccato Garcia: ‘Staccato tones are formed by attacking the tones individually by a stroke of the glottis which detaches them from each other.’ Focused on the opening gesture of the glottis after a complete closure

85 10. Staccato Stockhausen: ‘In this style of vocalisation, the student should concentrate his attention chiefly on the activity of the larynx and the closing muscles.’ “A Method of Singing,” 43 Reid: ‘It is the rapid reiteration of a precise opening and closing movement of the vocal folds.’ “Dictionary of Vocal Terminology,” 352

86 10. Staccato Miller: ‘the goal is a clean approximation, and involves the principle of quick alternation between vocal fold adduction and abduction.’ “Structure of Singing,” 12 Quotes Brodnitz: ‘In staccato singing a form of glottal stroke is used to produce the sharp interruptions of sound that characterize it. But in good staccato the glottal stroke which starts each note is well controlled and done with a minimum of pressure…’

87 10. Staccato Uniformly described as a laryngeal event, not respiratory! Behnke suggested that a slight inspiration should precede every tone and that this additional element is as beneficial to the respiratory system as the opening and closing action is to the larynx. “Voice Training Exercises for Soprano,” Introduction

88 10. Staccato Stockhausen:
‘The action of the diaphragm, which is indispensable for the quick inspirations required for staccato, takes place almost automatically, as nobody can produce short detached notes without moving the muscles of the diaphragm; moreover, we practice them from our earliest childhood, in laughing and sobbing.’ “A Method of Singing,” 119

89 10. Staccato The opening of the glottis from complete closure produces a salient acoustic signal Has always been used to develop and maintain flexibility and clarity of tone Stockhausen: ‘Female students who have never practiced the staccato have no idea of the capabilities of their voice.’ “A Method of Singing,” 43

90 10. Staccato I find much confusion over how to produce this!
Often produced from the abdominal wall Misinterpretation of an observed event!

91 10. Staccato

92 11. Breath Management Like registers, a vast amount of confusion over this issue ‘Support’ is as complex as you want to make it, or as simple as it needs to be Garcia’s two volume work, often quoted here, gave about 2 pages to support If you follow the anatomy, you can’t go wrong!

93 12. Posture Body alignment matters! Position of the head matters!
‘folder syndrome’ is deadly to a free voice Head up, pointed straight ahead, not to the side where they hold their folder

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