May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized
Have you felt that when you ascend in a scale that something strange is happening around B natural or Middle C? The open voice is getting a little weird. I will convey here what I explained to a student today in New York: the head voice and chest voice feed off of each other in this medium range C-Ab. The weakness of one corresponds to the weakness of the other.
The voice is always an interplay of the opposing forces of head and chest mechanism. You always have to have some head voice in the low voice and some chest in the high voice in order to properly phonate as a tenor. However, no where is this more poignant and evident than in the Medium range of C-Ab. As you ascend a scale F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F, if you sing a pure bright AH the voice will begin to crush around D. The closer you get to the F and the more the voice gets reedy and devoid of space. The reason for this is that the tilt of the larynx is being stifled by excessive Chest voice mechanism (vocalis action). You can easily monitor this by putting your finger on the Adam’s Apple and seeing how it does not move forward, in a protruding motion in the neck. Conversely if you sing a hooty falsetto (think of imitating an owl for example) you will notice how the thyroid cartilage protrudes as the Crico-Thyroid muscles rock the larynx forward, stretching the vocal folds.
It is in this action that both chest voice and head voice are strengthened in the medium range, the pre-passaggio and passaggio. In allowing for this tilt the sound expands its lower harmonic strength, the volume increases with no loss in efficiency or significant feeling of increase in pressure. This is the “sbadiglio” or yawn position. Without this action, arriving at the passaggio means that as soon as the voice turns toward F# or G there will be a feeling of flip, as though the voice went too far toward falsetto. Why? Because the head voice is not active and is weak. It is in the opposition of the tilt that the head voice becomes strong in the passaggio as more chest is brought into the voice. Without this ying and yang in the voice the sound will become increasingly crushed while bright at the F and then will flip into a light, disembodied falsetto-ish sound in the turn.
If instead you progressively introduce this tilt of the larynx, the sbadiglio, in the prepassaggio, once the voice turns it will have a powerful and rich quality. The feeling of divergence between strongly tilted Chest voice at the F and strongly tilted Head voice on the G is far less than most tenor students imagine. By strongly tilted I intend a phonation in which the lengthening of the cords (CT) and the shortening of the cords (Vocalis) are significantly opposing each other.
Initially as you attempt this you are likely to feel like the voice is more hollow right before the passaggio. This is normal. Eventually, you will have to come back to the idea that besides the longitudinal tensions of lengthening and shortening, you also need to have the medial compression active. The cords must stay sealed. Some argue that lengthening the cords is sufficient to trigger good approximation. This is most certainly NOT the case.
Appoggio technique, or Garcia’s Coup de Glotte, is incredibly important in this range in order to keep the breath pressure in check and not blow right past the potential resonance. The Gran Vocale AH (the AH vowel is considered the Great Vowel in the Italian tradition) is a huge asset here. While the AH itself is modified by the tilt, one can still INTEND to sing a bright vowel. You simply have to be careful to not let the idea of brightening cause you to come away from the tilt. You have to learn to seal the cords not through chest increase but by the same mechanism that yields the voce finta - Garcia’s pinch, or Lauri Volpi’s saldatura di registro, the feeling that the sound and breath meet right in the larynx at the base of the neck in the soft spot between clavicle bones.
Backing off the voice in the C-F range in order to achieve the passaggio is the absolute wrong way to learn. Never back off the sound here, but rather don’t rush the air out. Think of a strong sound while the air remains inside you and the throat moves into the sbadiglio as the larynx tilts forward. It is almost impossible to understand what I just wrote intellectually. You have to hear this done the wrong way and the right way, back to back, so as to get a clear image of the sound.
Here is a clip of mine, thrown together in the studio with no accompaniment, just demonstrating these transitions. Quando Le Sere al Placido.
February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
I have read over the years about how Manuel Garcia Jr. pioneered the observation of singers’ glottal action. I have always thought this was incredibly important because it gave us an empirical observation of what the traditional method was doing at the laryngeal level. Even absent the recordings, the observations can give us an important glimpse into the sound.
In the spirit of Garcia’s curiosity, I decided I was going to finally figure out a way to observe what my vocal folds were doing. I have written about how I have for many years now observed my vocal folds to check up on them when I don’t feel that great, or if I have had bad reflux, etc. I can diagnose my vocal health fairly accurately, and when I go to an ENT I often tell them what to go look for. However, I had never been able to actually see my cords in action except on a light falsetto. I have can’t sing with a mirror and a pen light in my throat. But I was determined I was going to be able to get it done.
My main objective was to observe whether my high notes had the “shortened glottis” observed by Garcia. In essence, Garcia observed that when the cords were lengthened to the max through the laryngeal tilt and the arytenoid cartilages (back of the cords) were very energetically sealed, the back portion of the cords didn’t even open, or participate in the vibration anymore. The high voice in particular was characterized by an opening that was further forward in the cords. Instead of using the entire length of the cord for phonation, only the anterior 2/3rds were used, and even less in the high voice.
So, with this task in mind, I set forward, disinfected my instruments, heated my mirror with hot water and tried for a while to get the job done, singing while looking in a mirror and catching the reflection of the mirror in my throat. It was tough. I just couldn’t get myself into a calm enough place to actually sing naturally. Eventually I finally got it.
This is what I saw:
This does not work at all unless I think a few things:
1) I have to tilt the larynx all the way on the passaggio note preceding the high note.
2) I have to think of the lightness of a falsetto inside the larynx on top. This doesn’t mean I let go of the tilt, I just don’t feel it. If I lengthen the cords to the max at the passaggio, when I go into the top, I just think a little more approximation (Garcia’s glottal pinch) and also a feeling of morbidezza or softness inside the larynx itself, just like I were going into a falsetto in terms of weight.
3) I have to abandon entirely the idea of air moving through the cords the way it does in the passaggio, there is a real sense of narrowing and a redistribution of flow in almost a suspended way that moves through a small place in the front. This WILL NOT happen unless I eliminate entirely the sound of UHMPH, that downward dark chest component of the passaggio. I have to think bright at the center of the tone.
I have heard some advocating using the entire length of the cords up top. This is a far more loose position that cannot bring the voice toward the “falsetto” lightness which triggers the really powerful isolated singer’s formant one hears in all the great tenors.
January 12, 2013 in Uncategorized
When I was a late teenager, my father would have me listen to young Di Stefano because his tenore di grazia voice was similar in fach to my own. Many compared me to him. Clearly they were delusional, as my voice was never close to being as beautiful as his, but it was flattering for a young mind still inept in discerning all the intricacies of vocal technique, timbre, and artistry. I learned to love Di Stefano, and the type of graceful singing typical of tenori di grazia, a specific way to approach the vocal line: radiant, gentle, extreme legato, and characterized by a continuous messa di voce. Examples are Di Stefano, Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Tagliavini, Bjoerling, and others. Many consider the tenore di grazia to be the lightest in the tenor fach. Traditionally it was not so. The tenore di grazia was more a way of singing. Caruso, arguably a baritenor, was considered in his time to be among the greatest tenori di grazia along with De Lucia.Many years ago, I encountered a young tenor here in Philadelphia where I live. His name was Andrew Owens. He had a beautiful radiant voice. I thought this young man might have a bright future in the opera world, as the number one predictor of success is beauty of voice. Fast forward some time, I have had the privilege of working with this young man as a vocal mentor and observing his vocal steps over time. You can find Andrew’s profile here. Whenever I hear a true tenore di grazia my interest is always piqued, and my tenor antennas go up. Why? Because finding someone with the combination of beauty of voice, elegance of legato line, and grace in expression is a rare occasion. Usually you find someone with the potential, but not the skill.
It might appear that I am biased in lauding a tenor that works with me. I have lauded in the past Joseph Calleja, Michael Fabiano, and others because of their incredibly beautiful voices. It is the same with Andrew. I am particular about wanting to push beautiful voices. In my estimation, Andrew Owens is a true tenore di grazia of the highest calibre, and God willing, will have a glorious and long career.
Andrew is currently fest in Vienna, and just sent me a clip of his working at home. Check these clips out.
January 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
While training one of my singers today, we talked about the necessity of finding the vocal beam as a means to secure correct phonation as we weave through the registers. So very often we listen to recordings of famous singers and we hear things that may cloud understanding of the correct principles they were applying. For example, we may hear Corelli’s scoop meant to secure a low laryngeal position and assume he is widening the cords. We might hear Bjoerling put an H (aspirate sob) in front of a high note and assume this is technically necessary. We may hear a tenor attack a high note right below and then quickly scoop into it and assume this is the path you must follow.
All these singers found individual ways to make things work for them but they did this in the context of the correct principles already ingrained in their minds and vocal blueprints. Often singers imitate their model and think they understand what is going on. Imitation requires first and foremost an understanding of the principles and goals the singers had in mind when they did what they did. That is the purpose of studies. It is something developed over a long period of time – let’s say 10,000 hours, many of which must be focused on the correct principles. Not all we be focused on the correct principles because the student must first understand what is being said before actually being able to train. Which brings me to my point. You should count your blessings when your teacher can actually imitate what you do wrong, and then show you how to do it right, and explain the process leading from A to B.
1) The singer needs to think that there are no notes. This is to be thought of as one sound and one pressure.
2) The unity of the scale is achieved through great control of the breathing action. The lower abdominals engage at the moment of inhalation to prop up everything that is above them, effectively suspending the open ribcage and upper abdomen. When singing the lower abs will automatically engage more, but rather than resulting in a faster, vertical stream of breath moving through the larynx, this will be suspended within the thorax, a feeling of suspension at the center of the body at the height of the sternum, a completely buoyant and non rigid expansion. This is not felt as pressure, but rather as the suspension of it. It is not the lower abs pressing upward (though objectively it is) but rather the feeling that a flexible expansion occurred within our core. Oddly enough this requires more muscular awareness and control than the crass push. Pushing is random and chaotic. Anyone can just eject breath.
3) Based on the note being sung, the larynx must have its correct tilt. Of course the larynx is always in a low range, that is a given, but it is not enough. You can sing with a low larynx and not tilt the larynx at all. In which case you have a low larynx chest dominant singer that pushes.
4) Every segment of the grand scale (known as registers), and there are 3 major ones (though the top one is divided into two parts proprioceptively) must be characterized by the correct lengthening of the vocal folds.
5) Pitch can be achieved in one of two ways: either push more air at the cord, or lengthen the cord and do not push. Achieving pitch without tilt and its consequent lengthening requires pressure. Those singers who do not tilt but rather go up chesty either push more air vertically or get progressively smaller in sound as they ascend in the attempt to minimize the fatigue of pushing. Pitch MUST BE achieved with the idea of unity of pressure and unity of sound. This can only be achieved when pitch is achieved through lengthening of the folds. Specific PHYSICAL actions must occur.
6) Vowels are largely created by adjustments in the shape of the tongue, but some aspects of vowel definition can only be created by modifying that which occurs in the larynx, below the tongue. The actions of registration (singing in the various areas of the voice), or the ability to sing throughout the scale with the feeling of unity of pressure and sound, occur below the tongue, while also being linked to the tongue. But, no shift in tongue position can trigger the laryngeal events. This is why vowel modification is largely ineffective. The student must be shown the quality of the phonation rather than the shape of the vowel. One must focus on function rather than vowel. The function of tilting the larynx modifies the vowel unavoidably because of the altering of the harmonics being produced, but no mere shift in tongue position can result in the correct results at the source of the sound. Bottom line, if your laryngeal cartilage does not move forward in the throat as you ascend, you are doing something wrong and have not developed the unity of the scale.
Finally, the guide for the mind in achieving the correct unity of pressure and sound is the vocal beam. When the vocal folds are correctly adducted, have the correct length and tension for the required pitch, when there is correct action of the breathing musculature, and when the tongue, jaw, and soft palate are correctly shaped and relaxed based on the register, the vocal beam can maintain its integrity. The cardinal principle of the one and only great Italian tradition (and European one as well) is that the vocal folds work exactly in order to produce a thin, laser-like sound which emerges from the larynx and strikes in specific parts of the mask based on pitch and vowel. The feeling is that of a track, a thread, a beam of sound. The singer that can do this knows that loosening the cords kills the beam; pressing breath kills the beam; not assuming the correct jaw, tongue and laryngeal posture kills the beam.
When the singer unifies the scale, the beam maintains its integrity and the scale is not many notes, but rather one sound and one pressure. The exactness of the pressure and sound yield the beam. It is only in this context that one TRULY discovers what it means to support. Anything falling outside the margins of acceptable physical function kills the beam. Hence, the diaphragm and the muscular action that would push it up suddenly have a clear goal: maintain the beam. Suddenly the high note is just a note. You don’t need aspirates, scoops, etc, you need unity. However, unity is not characterized by staying in the same physical place, top to bottom of the scale. There are specific physical modifications in laryngeal tilt, tongue and jaw, that MUST occur in order to maintain the integrity of the beam. These are flexible modifications that carry the effort of speaking at most. There is no “Battle of the Titans” going on in the throat in order to maintain the beam. The battle is in the mind to not push once the correct physical shifts occur.
In fact, I would invite you to think of registration as subtle and flexible shifts, just like moving your feet in dancing becomes a subtle art. This is a waltz rather than Brooklyn style popping and breakdance. Nothing disjunct, but rather flexible and flowing elegantly from one position to another in order to never imply to the mind that some extra pressure would be required. The greatness of Maria Callas is in this perfection. She was greater than almost any singer I can think of because of this skill.
Following is a clip recorded today of me in my studio demonstrating the execution of a scale meant to train the mind to execute a high C with unity of pressure and sound, just following the vocal beam. There are shifts in tongue, jaw, and laryngeal tilt, all done elegantly and flexibly in order for the mind to know that the suspension of pressure inside the thorax must survive.
My objective is to think of this as one sound. I simply press a button and another pitch emerges without upsetting the balance yielding the vocal beam. Notice how in descending from the C to the G there is an immediate shift to second cavita’ as I engage more chest in the tilt. I did this immediately without scoops to demonstrate the rapid and flexible nature of the shift and how the two notes are thought of and felt as profoundly unified in pressure and intention. If I was lifting a ton of bricks up top, the immediacy of the legato line would be impossible. My only objective in this scale is the survival of the vocal beam, so every adjustment is flexibly done seemingly instantly in order to form a clear picture in the mind that no spurt in pressure is required.
I cannot stress how much the feeling of equality of pressure is essential. This can only be achieved when pressure is not required to achieve pitch. That can only occur when the registration is correct.
December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized
Marcello Giordani, Salvatore Fisichella, and Pietro Ballo, will be our guest masterclass instructors this year.
I am excited to meet many young singers from America, Europe, and Asia. I look forward to working in collaboration with my friends Marcello Giordani, Salvatore Fisichella, and Pietro Ballo, as well as with my distinguished staff at MOS. This will be a wonderful experience – learning, performing, and enjoying the inspiration that only Sicily can bring!
Many singers ask me and email me about how they can achieve a low larynx. Often singers experience challenges with laryngeal elevation and feelings of tightening in the throat; or they report a sense of the voice loosing a connection to the body as it “crushes” (losing depth and height). This is especially true for tenors, but I have found this problem also with sopranos.
Across the board the problem is always the same: vocal identity. The higher larynx conveys a certain quality to the voice that the singer recognizes. If he or she has trained this way for some time, they have “refined” and invested in their voice for some time. The refined high larynx vocalism represents countless hours and dollars. It is very difficult to hear another say “you don’t know what you should sound like.”
I have recounted in the past how I had this experience when training with Franco Corelli. I tried to get my larynx low for so long, and I just couldn’t do it. I could lower the larynx, but the sound suddenly became dull and strangled. The weight in my throat told me everything was wrong about it. What I didn’t understand until meeting with Corelli was that my problem was not in muscles but rather in ideas.
Singers have wrong ideas about what they should sound like. The mind has a blueprint for what to expect in terms of sound, as well as how to automate things in order to get you to that sound. I have just recently made significant steps forward with a few tenors and sopranos simply by giving them a sound to imitate. I give the most basic sound that occurs when the larynx relaxes low, typically on an EH vowel so as to get the tongue oriented up and forward…. well it’s not really an EH, its more like an OO throat with an EH vowel up top, so the sound is more like an EU as in the French word “peu.” Simply imitating the sound I give them takes out all the hang ups. Suddenly by imitating the sound, not singing, just imitating a sound, then they feel how the larynx is released. They are not quite singing yet, just making noises to them. When you have them listen to recordings they hear a different sound coming from their throats. It is often shocking because it doesn’t sound like that internally because they have no way to actually measure this.
It is the same when you tell tenors to stop singing a spoken AH sound and start making an open throat AH sound where the tongue is far closer to the position of the EH and the larynx is far more relaxed. They think they are singing an EH or an A (as in cat), that is until you record it and have them listen. The reason they feel this way is because their AH vowel has suddenly picked up significant vibratory strength in the same mask regions the EH vowel typically triggers. They are not only listening, but also feeling, though they don’t consciously know that. When they hear it, they start reprogramming instantly the mental blue print of the vowel. It is the same with the low larynx. The vocal identity is significantly altered.
Here is the kicker, when the larynx lowers it is almost a sure bet that the cords will loosen. This is instinctual given that the yawn position of the larynx needs open cords to replenish the breath. Therefore, the sound will tend to sink into the pharynx with the loosening and darkening, and the characteristic feeling of freedom in the throat and rumbling in the sternum emerge. I can’t tell you how many teachers accept this. Just recently a student of mine preparing for a debut at the Met had me give a listen to a lesson he had with a “voice guru”, at least by internet standards; a “voice teacher” by the way, who has a knack for taking ideas from my blog and suddenly tracing them back to his old teacher from 50 years ago, even idiosyncratic things my dad would say reported on this blog… The lesson was appalling. All the vocalises made to darken the voice by mixing registers and loosening the cords. The worst possible sounds in the passaggio were the ones most accepted. Not that they were ugly sounds, and perhaps this is the problem; no, they were beautiful sounds, because this tenor’s voice is beautiful. No, instead they were destructive sounds because of the tremendous impact loosening has in the passaggio.
The low larynx must be coupled with closed cords. When this is done right, the voice projects upward from the cords into the mask in a narrow, powerful stream. Relaxed low larynx and closed cords producing a strong upward expansion of sound – appoggio alla maschera, or the sense that the voice’s resonant body has energy above at the roof of the mouth or above the mouth, depending on range. This is a fundamental tenet of the Italian tradition. La voce laringea e’ voce teatrale – the laryngeal voice is a theatrical voice. Laryngeal voice meaning a voice that is born at the cords with a low larynx and projects and leans upward into the correct places in the mask (proprioceptively speaking). The idea of loosening so that the passaggio is in the cracks between chest and head is one of the most pernicious and technically destructive vocal errors imaginable.
Soon to come a series of video demonstrations.
The more singers I meet to train, and the more I realize how prevalent and pervasive the idea of keeping the cords loose is. Apparently many teachers advocate the idea of keeping the cords completely loose, and even apart, thinking of the air passing through them freely, and how this will somehow magically cause the cords to be sucked together, and how over time this will develop the full power of resonance a theatrical voice should have. Where did this idea come from? I don’t understand how this became so prevalent. No wonder so many singers sing loosely and can’t refine harmonics. No wonder so many sopranos and mezzos sing back and use the tongue to try to increase brightness. This idea is wrong.
Some might argue: what about singers who say that the breath should not be stopped by the cords and should flow into the mask (Tetrazzini for example)? Well of course… but what does that mean? First of all, when done correctly, the breath does not feel like it is being stopped at the cords. Further, the breath does not flow into the mask but goes out the mouth. We would have a nasal sound if even a small ratio of breath exited the nose. The breath feels like it flows into the mask when the resonant flow of sound strikes the mask. It is the air above the cords that is being agitated, and probably vibratory conduction of bones. But this does feel like movement. Furthermore, the more the voice is felt as vocal beams, the more exact the resonance tuning. This is not the result of looseness but rather of firm glottal closure.
Listen to me! When the cords loosen the voice sinks into the pharynx. It feels more rumbly in the chest. It feels like the voice has no direction or placement but is everywhere. This is not correct. It might feel super relaxed, but it is not the tradition of great singing. Lauri Volpi warned against letting the voice sink into the “gorgo della faringe” – the chasm of the pharynx. In my interview with Salvatore Fisichella he advocated the traditional idea that the diaphragm propels the voice into the mask. This does not happen by letting the air run freely into the mouth, but rather opposing the breath through firm cord closure. Now, once this process is correctly balanced it is true that the singer merely has the clear impression that they are not letting air rush through the cords, but there is no sense of blockage at the larynx. No blockage does not mean that the air is rushing through. Minimal air usage while feeling no blockage!! The feeling of flow is a sound flow.
My friends, the default is not loose, but pressed. Initially, the cord closure is almost always overdone when trained correctly. Why? The answer to this question can be gathered by Manuel Garcia Jr.’s observations of his singers by laryngoscope as they sang in the traditional way. When he pioneered the direct empirical observation of the phonatory process he noted that the back of the cords (arytenoid process) was completely closed, and that as the voice ascended to the higher range, the opening in the cords was more limited to a narrow slit in the central and eventually frontal part of the cords depending on range, and absolutely not in the back (shortened glottis). He stated that at the onset of the sound, the cords should be closed, and to foster this maneuver he advocated the coup de glotte, which is essentially the idea of appoggio in Italy (connection between closed cords and breath pressure – support). Garcia, as Italians do, stated that this idea of firmness can be achieved through applying the cord closing function of the bright and narrow EE and EH vowels to other vowel formations. When the closure remains intense from the onset, the opening, and the sense of flow is the consequence of opening of the cords in central and anterior parts of the cords depending on range. This is no puffy singing!! The sense of flow given by a cord opening at the center or front while the back is closed is undoubtedly a sense of flow and freedom, but not at all a sense of air rushing through the cords as it would be when the back if is loose. In fact, it is a sense of narrow flow, while unimpeded. Far more narrow than loose singing. You should aim for as narrow as functionally possible to produce a great sound, and not minimally narrow or just enough narrow. Unfortunately for the student, functionally narrow never is automatic.
Garcia called the closure of the back of the cords (the arytenoid adduction) a vocal pinch or squeeze. This process changes the way we perceive our vowels. The loose back way creates a sense of darkness in the sound. The rounder vowels tend to release even more air as usually singers will loosen even more to produce the AH and OH instead of simply saying the vowel. The AH and OH should not be looser. Why would they be?
The problem I often encounter in singers is that some have learned to get bright sounds while yet having the back of the cords loose. They clearly are compensating by squeezing the front of the cords. Problem is that their bright sound is not sustainable because it encourages push because there is no containment of air. The heightened squeeze in the front calls breath pressure to continue to produce bright sound and that heightened pressure is completely unimpeded in the back. So they get bright sound and run out of air quickly. Fixing this is hard because the singer has to reconfigure entirely how to manage breath and how to think of brightness.
Garcia, and the tradition, are undoubtedly correct. Great singing comes only when the back of the cords is completely sealed. You can hear this seal vividly in all the great singers from their low range all the way to the highest pitches. It is clear that the key to extremely resonant singer’s formant rich notes for tenors, is in progressively sealing off more of the back. The idea of the glottis shortening, or the back opening of the cord progressively sealing off and moving the opening further to the anterior was observed and advocated by Garcia and makes sense. This is particularly the case with old school, squillo dominant singers and not in the case of 2nd formant dominant high note singers.
Remember, the sense of flow is a sound!! You can look through this site and find some posts about layers of vowels, boyish sound, sigh, etc., you have to remember that all this is in the context of sound, not actual breath movement. You don’t push air through the cords to create flow. This is why I do not advocate certain exercises meant to increase air flow, like lip trills. I think they could be good but these encourage a sense of flow through the cords, this pernicious idea of the Bernoulli Effect. The gain is not worth the risk. If the Bernoulli Effect has any relevance to singing, which scientists are now backpedaling, it is certainly in the context of firm glottal closure and not of loose dark singing. Any teacher advocating a dark loose sound where you let the breath go, where there is no sense of narrowness in the sound, well… you shouldn’t listen to these people.
Let me quote the great Luciano Pavarotti in his interview with Hines to distill this idea of cord closure:
Pavarotti: [about covering the passaggio] It took me six years of study and one must be convinced of its importance from the first day… never change ideas. You know the first five or six months it is very depressing because it doesn’t come out right, and you become cyanotic, red in the face. (clearly the consequence of very firmly closed cords and breath pressure against them) Then some students begin to think this approach is wrong, and they try the other way (loose), but it will never bring them security of voice.
Hines: Let us try to translate this word cover as it is used in the passaggio, into sensations in the throat. What is the difference in feeling in the throat when you make the change from middle to high voice?
Pavarotti: I think there is a kind of tightening…
Hines: a little more muscular strength in the larynx?
Pavarotti: Yes. Nnnnn… not really the muscles. The opposite. I think the muscles must be very relaxed, like you’re yawning (pharyngeal muscles). But you must make the voice more squeezed. At the beginning of studies the sound seems almost sacrificed. This changes the color. (I can’t emphasize how important this is!! This change of color is almost always the thing that stops people from accepting. They don’t think this color can be right. Their agents don’t think so either. They don’t wait for the end result and they fail).
Pavarotti then demonstrates a scale ascending to the high notes squeezing and cracking like a novice.
Pavarotti: In the beginning you always crush these notes… always. And when they begin to come out correctly they are very secure, even if not yet very beautiful. More and more they take on body and become… (Pavarotti demonstrates ascending scale)
Hines asks more about this “squeezing” and Pavarotti answers:
Pavarotti: Yes! More squeezed inside of me. It doesn’t mean the sound comes out like that. The sound should be even.
The feeling of narrowness in the cords doesn’t mean that the sound is squeezed. Initially however, it might be. But eventually you learn to open the cords in the right place. You learn to reestablish flow without opening the back. The sound begins to blossom while all along you have continued to seal the cords. Pavarotti calls it a squeeze; Garcia called it a pinch; the idea is the same: a narrowing and firmness in the glottal closure that releases breath not generously like a flat tire, but measured and through an opening in the cords that is not posterior.
One thing I want to mention further is when Hines asks Pavarotti if he thinks deeper with the sound as he ascends.
Pavarotti: No! I think the position is the same. For me the position never changes… it is high even when I sing the low note
This is very important to finally breaking the grip of pressed phonation. When you initially crush the notes with firm closure, the voice feels somewhat stuck in the larynx at times. As you establish correct appoggio, you begin to feel the emergence of vocal rays, or specific overtones that feel like they move from the larynx to specific parts of the mask. The breath pressure, which previously pressed against the closed cord, now has been balanced thanks to more correct action of the diaphragm and of releasing the cord to open in the middle or front depending on range. When this balance is achieved, the voice feels like it is propelled up into the mask, almost magically emerging in the front and back of the head, bypassing jaw and mouth, sometimes striking at the dome of the mouth, depending on how chesty you are, but in any case, not in the throat!! The voice is OUT of the throat. If you feel your voice in the throat, if your position is bassa e non alta (low and not high) then you have loosened the cords and the diaphragm is not acting with the cords to refine harmonics in a way that feels like the voice is propelled out of the throat. You have gone the other way.
October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized
Welcome everyone to this new site. I am happy to give everyone the possibility to discuss things and share their experience more fully. The community section of this site will allow for a REAL TENOR TALK. One of the greatest gifts I received was the possibility to grow up in a vocal studio at home, and then to move to the USA and attend the Academy of Vocal Arts, where I pretty much lived with other opera singers, talking, performing, living and breathing opera all the time. There are important opportunities for developing singers, and perhaps in a “virtual way” we can create a community where you can talk, interface, share clips, etc.
Just so you know, if you want to post examples of your singing or of someone else’s, all you need to do is post the clip on YouTube, and then post the YouTube link in the body of your text on the site (blog reply, forum, group thread, status, etc) and the video will automatically be embedded in your post.
I had the site programmed and set up this way so you could have a voice in talking about vocal technique. Good luck!
September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
I wanted to let the TenorTalkBlog community know that in about a week there will be a new site, and TenorTalk will be part of the Gioacchino Livigni website. I am having the site prepared in a way that there will be an associated social network where there will forums, groups, etc. I hope people will have a chance to connect and discuss things, etc.
The domains tenortalkblog.com gioacchinolivigni.com and jacklivigni.com will all point to the new site.
I have a wide variety of new students. One may be singing at the Met, and another just in my studio, but it is equally exciting for me to work with them. I share their hopes and drive, and I take their aspirations very seriously. Training singers and working with wonderful accompanists is very exciting and fulfilling. True, I sing pretty much for about 10 hours, but my voice has never been stronger thanks to the method I have inherited. I would not be able to teach the way I do otherwise. I get the biggest vocal workout of all my singers! Thanks Pop and all my trainers!