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OPERALABARTICLES Technical Checklist

OPERALABARTICLES

Vocal studies should train the singer to become his own t e a c h e r. We m u s t learn to practice alone and to find solutions without always turning to the teacher for help.

Technical Checklist A summary of the Principles taught in the OperaLab Voice Studios By Gilles Denizot

Most singers want to find out how to work on what has been accomplished during their last lesson but also how to improve these results without their teacher's help. The following 'checklist' may be used by singers looking for basic answers. It will hopefully allow them to gradually build a solid knowledge and the tools to find solutions in their daily practise. As a result, they will become independent and confident. Vocal studies should train the singer to become his own teacher. We must learn to practice alone and to find solutions without always turning to the teacher for help. A singer needs to practice daily on his own, but also has to warm up and prepare for an audition or a performance without any help. Addressing and demonstrating self-practice is recommended. The 'Warm-Up' workshop has been designed for that purpose and allows the student to learn about the various ways to warm-up according to the time of day, the type and state of the voice. This specific, tailored-made training provides freedom and consistency to the singer. Listing the most common technical problems will never prevent any singer from attending a real lesson with a teacher. This checklist should not be viewed as a substitute for a vocal session. It is merely intended to help a singer identify the source of a problem and to find a quick answer for the daily practice.

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OPERALABARTICLES Technical Checklist

Posture. Breath. The basics. POSTURE

BREATH

The optimal posture in singing is the 'noble posture': feet steady on the ground, knees slightly bent, curve of the back is corrected, pelvis is flexible as well as the abdominal muscles, torso is open (in the shape of an umbrella), sternum high and forward, shoulders down, skull is resting on the neck, in a vertical alignment. The noble posture lifts the sternum high and forward and widens the rib cage. The 'noble posture' allows for a faster and fuller inspiration. It is important to remain in a flexible position so that you can move freely while singing and not lock yourself up in place. The physical posture of a singer should be comfortable yet energetic.

To lower the diaphragm, you must adopt the 'noble posture' and free some space normally occupied by the internal abdominal organs. Breathe in a very small quantity, low and silently. As you exhale, a specific group of muscles (pectoral, lower lumbar, abdominal, and intercostals) will hold back the breath pressure

"This checklist should not be viewed as a substitute for a vocal session. It is merely intended to help a singer identify the source of a problem and to find a quick answer for the daily practice."

Solution While standing, raise your arms above your head. Notice the open, wide position of your rib cage and the high, forward position of your sternum. Slowly lower your arms while maintaining the posture. Correct - if necessary - the curve in the lower back, slightly bending at the hip sockets and at the knees. Lining the body against a wall will encourage the correct posture.

away enough from the larynx while allowing a tiny, yet constant stream of air through the cords. Solution Sit on a chair in your 'noble posture'. Relax the lower abdominal muscles without collapsing the upper torso. The breath should freely fill your lungs as you release the abdomen. When this movement is achieved, rise from the chair keeping the weight of your body on your feet. Slowly exhale on a sustained S while maintaining the 'noble posture' and the low abdomen.

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OPERALABARTICLES Technical Checklist

Support. Appoggio. The basics. SUPPORT

APPOGGIO

People constantly mention the lack of body support in beginners or young singers. Yet it is very difficult to find short and precise explanation on how to create and maintain proper support. The lower lumbar muscles achieve support. These muscles control the outflow of air and motion of the diaphragm. They allow the singer to resist the breath pressure and only let the appropriate amount of air through the vocal cords. Laughing, coughing, sneezing engage the lower support muscles. Sustained support in singing engages the same muscles only longer in duration.

'Leaning' (the English translation) may be understood in various ways: leaning of the body in the correct posture, leaning of the breath against the rib cage and the resistance it creates, leaning of the sternum high and forward. Most of all, it should be understood as leaning the sound on the breath, connecting the sound to the breath, feeling the vocal cords gently closing and the sound leaning on the breath flow. The appoggio is essential to a healthy, energetic, intense and free resonance.

"In Appoggio lies the great secret of the art of singing."

Solution Once you have learned how to breathe in/out and how to allow the proper compression to Francesco Lamperti occur, it is time to experiment with sound. Repeat the solution example described under posture and produce three short 'hissing' sounds followed by the sustained one. You should feel a resistance in the lower back muscles (pressing into the wall) and in the Solution Produce a gentle cough on the syllable sternum (moving forward). 'Hiss' a line of music and HA (the H must be audible). You will feel your vocal then sing it with words. You will feel that you cords closing softly. Stop the sound but keep the conduct your voice much better. sensation of the closed vocal cords. Repeat the exercise with HA and - without letting go of the sensation - sing an A vowel on a comfortable pitch. The breath and the sound must be connected for the true appoggio to happen.

"It is by singing with the voice well appoggiata, that the pupil, under careful supervision, will learn what is the true character and the capabilities of his own voice." Francesco Lamperti

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OPERALABARTICLES Technical Checklist

"The mouth should be in a rounded or oval shape, not spread. This position is especially valuable in the passaggio, a delicate area for all singers."

Mouth. Jaw. The basics. MOUTH

JAW

The mouth should be in a rounded or oval shape, not spread. This position is especially valuable in the passaggio, a delicate area for all singers. The natural tendency is to open the mouth wider to listen to one's sound production. When this happens, the voice thins out and loses high and low notes. Keeping the mouth narrow will help 'open the throat', which in turn will allow the acoustical release to occur.

The jaw should be slightly back and low, never forced down or locked tight. The back and low position allows for a lower larynx position, cords closing more efficiently, tongue base out of the throat, and helps in reducing tensions in the neck. The position of the jaw has critical results on the vocal production.

Solution Practice while watching yourself in a mirror. Make sure your lips are in the oval position and the aperture of the mouth is vertical, not horizontal. The I vowel should not disrupt the oval mouth shape.

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Solution Lay your head on a pillow as if you were sleeping. Feel how your jaw relaxes in a slightly back and low position. Apply this position when you are standing. While singing, place a finger vertically in your mouth (the fingernail should be behind the upper front teeth, the finger along the chin). This will wrap your jaw back and help you realize how much the jaw wants to thrust forward.

Š OperaLab Gilles Denizot – All Rights Reserved


OPERALABARTICLES Technical Checklist

Tongue. Soft palate. Vowels. The basics. especially to use while singing. You might also have heard of the idea 'smell the rose'. If you gently breathe in through the nose you will feel the air flowing against the soft palate. This is one way of experiencing the lifted soft palate. It must be said that a proper breath management and posture will always place the soft palate in the best position.

TONGUE The tongue should be slightly arched, base of the tongue wide instead of bunched and out of the throat, tip of the tongue touching the lower front teeth. In this position, the tongue will not fill the throat (or phar ynx, which is the primal resonator). Of course the tongue will change shape when pronouncing various vowels. It should not be frozen in position, but it should always go back to the NG position (NG as in the word sing in English or lingua in Italian). The NG position prevents the base of the tongue from pressing down, which would block the natural resonance of the voice.

behind the tongue. Then, sing the same 5-tone descending scale on the five Italian vowels (I E A O U) while keeping this open vowel space in the back of the throat (tongue must remain forward).

"True results can only occur when the fundamental elements of vocal technique are achieved: a correct body posture and a reliable breath management."

Solution Pronounce the word sing in English (or lingua in Italian). Study the position of the tongue when pronouncing the NG with the middle of the tongue, not with the back. Notice the vibration in the cheeks. Sing descending five-tone scales on NG to create focus in the tone.

SOFT PALATE Zygomatic muscles help raise the soft palate (or velum). A spread and lifted soft palate allows in turn for higher overtones to appear in the voice, especially in the high register. A pulled down facial posture prevents the sound from being colourful and brilliant. A spread and lifted soft palate also allows the singer to discover the feeling of up and over: the notes being reached from above instead of being pushed upwards. Solution Pinch your upper lip while singing to feel your high soft palate. You will most certainly experience that the sound is easier to produce. Also, you might want to try the nasal inhalation that raises the soft palate. This is a way to train the soft palate to rise at inhalation, not

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VOWELS

FINAL REMINDER

An essential characteristic of a professional classical voice is the tonal alignment of all vowels. The famous Garcia spoke of 'one vowel space'; Lamperti also spoke of the vowels being formed in the pharynx.

These examples complement each other but true results can only occur when the fundamental elements of vocal technique are achieved: a correct body posture and a reliable breath management.

Solution The 'Garcia Pharyngeal Vowel' exercise. 'Hum' - tongue out between the lips - a 5-tone descending scale. While humming, stretch the back of the throat away from the root of the tongue and feel the space

© Gilles Denizot OperaLab. 2012

© OperaLab Gilles Denizot – All Rights Reserved


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