Sunday, February 28, 2010

Keeping in touch

Hello Friends,

Between my master class in Berlin, dealing with an interminable cold (finally starting to show signs of saying goodbye) and an eye irritation that makes looking at the computer screen a bit uncomfortable, I have had to take a little time off from posting. But be assured I have lots to share.

The master class was a small but very informative event including some excellent singers, our constant Blog friend, Martin Berggren and the developer of Voce Vista, Donald Miller.  Much was discussed, learned.  I am looking to do a longer class perhaps during the summer when people are more apt to travel.

I am already comparing acoustic information from Pavarotti, Bjoerling, Gigli, Lauri-Volpi and Corelli arguably the dominant tenors of the 20th century. They did a lot right and very similarly. Much to discuss.

Not to leave the ladies out, I am also doing acoustic analysis on the middle voices of the likes of Nilsson, Milanov, Eleanor Steber and others who demonstrate excellent balance in the middle.

All voice types will be covered ultimately.

It will be a very busy month for me, but I intend to leave time in the evenings for regular posts. You can be sure there will be good quality clips as well of yours truly as the development of the tenor voice is showing very presentable results.

Sorry for the dead cyberspace the past week.  Back online soon!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Spontaneous Sharing

Dear friends,

I have been very sheepish about sharing any clips for a while. I had planned to take today off from activities because I had been very active the last few weeks. However, I decided to have a spontaneous practice today and was satisfied with what came out. I sang several arias and as it was going well I decided to record "Come un bel dí di maggio..." from Andrea Chénier.  Unfortunately the only recording equipment I had with me was my Google phone.  Don't be surprised if you feel you are listening to an old Victrola recording.  The quality is good enough to hear the nature of the voice.  I feel that this shows a fair assessment of what I have achieve these past 22 months.  Don't be disappointed that the piano accompaniment does not continue. I only used the first two measures to get my pitch. I also play a chord at the end, also to check my pitch.

20100211Come un bel di.mp3

Just as a reminder. This is more or less what I sounded like as a baritone before I started the change 22 months ago.

Verdi Di Provenza.mp3

Thank you for your support of the blog and of my process.


Opera Magazine (February 2010) Article by Stephen Lord

Stephen Lord, conductor of Opera Theater of Saint Louis in the United States muses on the current state of singing. It is about time that a major conductor comments on what is missing in the education of singers. I hope more professionals at Mr. Lord's level will continue the conversation that he has begun in this very articulate piece. The magazine is subscription only and the article cannot be reprinted here. I recommend that all operatic professionals ponder on the points raised by Mr. Lord.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kashu-do (歌手道): "You have no voice!": My Biggest Pet-Peeve Part 2

One of the comments from the previous article is worth treating with greater acuity.  I thank Carlos, the commentator for a well-thought out response based obviously on some very poignant personal experiences. Having a discussion about the difficult issues of vocal pedagogy and performance is central to the purpose of this Blog.  I will put Carlos' comments in italics and my response in normal script.

I personally think that many singers are misled to believe they can have great carreers with a mediocre voice. If even those with important, coordinated and musically gifted voices(as well as prepared musicians) are falling apart, why to think that there is space to everybody?

A very fair and logical comment. But it is not so simple in my opinion.  If we were to dismiss every singer who appears to "have no voice" some of the greatest artists of our great art would never be. Philosophically, I do not believe it is the place of a teacher to either tell a singer that s/he will have a career or that s/he will not.  Simply put, we are not in the business of telling the future.  

My personal approach is this. Knowing what the obstacles are, I will let the student know what all of them are.  

1. What does it take to build a complete voice? How much work do you have to do to get there?
2. Assuming you train the voice to its best strength throughout, what kind of musical deficiencies do you have to remedy?
3. Assuming you develop the musicianship of a first rate musician, can you speak at least French, Italian, German and English fluently and do you have a basic knowledge of Russian, Spanish and Czech?
4. Assuming you become a polyglot, what kind of acting ability do you have?
5. Assuming you become an actor of Shakespearean proportions, how is your physical appearance and conditioning?
6. Assuming you become the most athletic actor onstage and look wonderfully appropriate for your roles, what kind of literary, historical, poetic, dance, plastic arts knowledge do you have?
7. Assuming you develop and encyclopedic knowledge of things artistic, how are your people skills?
8. Assuming you become wonderfully charismatic and gregarious, how is your confidence level? Do you give up when someone says you are not talented enough?
9. Assuming you develop a tough outer skin able to handle criticism, good or bad, how much are you willing to invest in your ultimate success, monetarily and in physical and emotional effort?
10. Assuming you have committed fully, so you believe in your heart that you are meant to be a singer?

The final question is the only one that counts. I was being recruited by important schools for informatics and engineering at the end of my high school education. When my father told me he was afraid for me in the music field, I told him if it were my destiny to be poor the rest of my life, then so be it. I know I can feed myself somehow, but I am certain that I was meant to be a singer.  

First and foremost, a singer must take responsibility for his/her path.  No one can guarantee anyone a career, any more than anyone can guarantee that a doctor will become wealthy.  There is just as much competition for wanting to become a doctor as there is for operatic singing.  Yes our field has serious structural problems because many of those leading it do not understand the complexity of the issues at hand. Same can be said for many non-artistic pursuits.

It takes more than a voice to be a sucessful singer, but with the world so competitive as it is, one has to be aware of his assets and shortcomings. And the voice itself, with its natural gifts, is very important. I have friends in Germany that at 40 years-old are being dropped, fired by opera houses, and they have no choice. They don't know what to do with their lives. They are still fine singers and travel madly around the world to audition. Intendants and directors won't take them because they are too fat, or too old, or too small, hardly the criterium is on the voice's always the same. Stupid folks are destroying opera. I decided to stop attending performances, for I can't bear the profanation to this great art.  It's shameful. 

You are right about everything you say here Carlos. I teach some of those singers (too often after they have exhausted the normal avenues).  I have met many singers who have done what they were told to do. Have lessons, have coachings, learn some roles, develop a great high C and show up to international auditions. That is not enough and it never was. 

As much as I would like to see more competent teachers and conductors and intendants and so on, I would like to see singers ready for what is ahead instead of saying that they do not get hired because the system is flawed.  Yes the system is flawed, but if you are a very good singer, you will not be competitive in today's market. One has to do everything better than expected. It is a tall order, but the only guarantee for getting hired is by preparing in a way that make everyone listen and look and pay attention.  

It was never just about voice in the past. Yes it is less about voice now.  I believe a singer who shows up delivering what is expected but also has a magnificent voice will change opera.  There are many singers currently working who do not look like supermodels.  But they develop at least a part of their package to such a high level that they cannot be ignored.  Opera is multi-faceted and a singer must deliver a package that is irresistible.  It is incumbent upon the singer to know what the job description is and fulfill it.

So, I would never encourage someone to study only singing to earn a living.Do pursue your dreams, but have always a strong plan B. There are too many neurotic and frustrated people in this business because nobody gave them the healthy advice to look for something else to do.
Conservatoires today are part of an industry, tailor-made to employ teachers that didn't have careers and are pointed by important people... and most of them are plainly incompetent.

This is great advice for any field.  One should always have a plan B or even C.  There are a lot of neurotic people in this field because many believe that talent is "given" and will take them to their desired goals.  When they discover that talent is not given but "earned" then it is often too late.

My personal advice: Singers know what you need to succeed and look for it where you can find it!  The system is flawed. Very flawed! So what do you do? If you are a singer, you figure out how to beat the system by offering it what it is looking for without compromising your own artistic value.
As long as there exist people like Damrau and Pape and Beczala and Borodina and Garanca and Blythe and my new favorite, the rising Julianna di Giacomo, then it is possible to be successful in this field for all the reasons we value: voice, musicianship, emotional depth, stagecraft, collegiality and love for the art.

The bar is higher and lower than it has ever been. An opera singer today needs to decide which door s/he is going to take. If one decides to take the low bar, the competition will be impossibly fierce.  The high bar is ridiculously difficult to go over. But it is the only one worth going over.

Finally to the point of my original post. Voice is not the reason to tell someone not to go into opera because voice is the one thing that can be trained for certain (yes finding a dedicated, competent teacher is not easy).  Tenacity, passion, a sense of personal responsibility, devotion to the art, etc are things that are much more difficult to acquire. They are character issues that singers often do not come equipped with and  are not interested in acquiring.

© 02/10/2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kashu-do (歌手道): "You have no voice!": My Biggest Pet-Peeve

I interrupted a very interesting post on "Open Throat" (will appear shortly) to deal with the pronouncement that has irritated me my entire vocal career. It is the cowardly and dismissive statement that comes out of the mouths of coaches and voice teachers and directors and conductors when they do not have the expertise or vision to help the singer move forward in their process:  "You have no voice!"  What is even more irritating is that they justify such a lie (and it is a lie) by saying that they are helping an obviously untalented singer avoid the bleak reality down the line. I also get equal enjoyment from hearing the same people who dismissed a singer a couple of years before say: "Wow! I never thought you had it in you!"

What I have realized however is that no matter how I wish that these people, too often in very influential positions, would acquire the knowledge that would give them true vision, it is not going to happen. People who are in positions of power have no need to further develop their knowledge and usually don't.  They become captive to the limited product that gave them their success and will not alter a single thing for fear of losing what they have acquired.  Such people I call working musicians, not artists.  That is a personal definition of course.

For me artists are curious people who seek to understand more, who wish to go beyond the horizons of their experiences everyday in order to understand the world the live in a bit better. More harm is done to aspiring artists by established people in the field who squarely define such aspirants. But I digress.

"You have no voice!" That is a self-protecting euphemism for: "I don't know what your limitations are. And since I am successful, if I don't understand it, then probably no one can help you! So give it up!"

Now for the science that reduces that statement to the non-sense that it is!

1) What is an operatically viable sound?

A vocal sound that is operatically viable is one that is easily perceivable by the human ear without difficulty in the presence of a standard opera orchestra.

2) Can any human voice produce that sound?

Yes. We all (barring damage of the vocal apparatus) produce that very sound as babies. As we grow up we lose the natural coordination that we were born with because we copy vocal sounds in our surroundings (family, teachers, early musical influences, bad training) that are against the nature of our voices. With good training we can get the muscular strength and coordination back.

3) What is necessary to accomplish this sound?

Three muscles groups in particular are under our contro (aside from breathing strategies)l. The Crico-Thyroids (CT), the Thyro-Arytenoids (TA, the interior portion called Vocalis), and the Inter-Arytenoids (IA) must coordinate for every single note in a specific way to bring about the specific vocal posture that creates the primal sound that is more easily perceivable to the human ear than any other.

4) Why is it so hard to accomplish?

In point of fact, it is not so hard. It requires somethings that the average young singer is not willing to do: A) make sounds that are not balanced in the pursuit of balance.  Singers are justifiably afraid of making cracking sounds, unstable sounds, wobbly sounds that are completely natural while the muscles are being strengthened and balanced. Justifiably because they do not understand why they have to allow these sounds to come out of them. Like a baby who is learning to walk, one must crawl, wobble and fall before one can walk upright. Babies laugh when they wobble and fall. Singers get scared when they wobble and crack. B) The singing culture tells a singularly disarming lie: that one is either born with a coordinated voice or not. Singers believe the myths of the operatic culture more than the facts. C) Singers are afraid they will not have enough time because the business of singing is willing to accept interesting personalities without a viable operatic sound instead of waiting for viable singers to be trained. So they rush to produce whatever is mildly acceptable.

5) How long should it take to train an operatic voice to viability?

I will go on record here: With a teacher who understands the instrument thoroughly and a student who is committed and has a great work ethic, it should take about two  years regardless of voice type to coordinate and strengthen the muscles properly for an operatic sound.  But then, refinement for specific voice types requires more time.  Flexibility necessary for coloratura voices requires advanced musicianship and guided practice. My advice to every coloratura, learn to play an instrument from childhood that requires fioratura playing (e.g. flute, violin, piano at a high level). Louder singing for dramatic voices requires time. Volume is essentially breath pressure against the vocal folds. To increase breath pressure without blowing the folds apart (disturbing the structure that creates the primal sound) requires time for the muscles to strengthen in that specific set-up. This can only be accomplished by singing. That is why the Italians have a tradition of singing more lyric parts first and then graduate to more dramatic parts as the voice grows (caveat: each voice has a limit as to how far it can be developed in pursuit of more dramatic parts. E.g. Florez will never sing Manrico).

6) Why then does it take so long and why did the Italian teachers of the past recommend as much as ten years before going on stage:

The skills of the Italian teachers is as much based on myth as in reality.  The Italian teachers of the past did not have the knowledge we have now, so they could not do targeted training like we now can providing the teacher in question makes use of the available information.  Furthermore, the old school teachers were also responsible for the musical training of their students, which require additional time. I am addressing only the muscular training of the vocal apparatus to create an operatically viable sound. For muscular training it should take about two years.

7) What makes a Pavarotti or Damrau vocally as opposed to the average good tenor or soprano?

Forget about the musical skills and charisma for a second! Let us talk purely vocal. Pavarotti and Damrau not only trained their muscles to produce each note in their voices correctly (this specific muscular set-up I speak about) but they sing repertoire that is made for their voices. That is to say,  repertoire use the areas of greatest  natural intensity in their voices.  Pavarotti sang Verdi's Otello in his later life and it was loved by audiences in Chicago despite the fact that he had the flu. I personally loved it. Why? Because in the absence of a true dramatic tenor who has the dark colors to make Otello dramatically interesting and the high notes and control to accomplish all the colors necessary for this part, Pavarotti sounded truly impressive with the caveat that his voice sounded too happy and sweet in the moments of tragedy and anger. If Damrau sang Ariadne, we would have to laugh. She would not sound good. In fact she would not sound extraordinary singing Contessa Almaviva.  But we would enjoy it because the voice is pleasant and she is already famous. But to the point, what prevents a singer to have the vocal quality of a Pavarotti or a Damrau is simply the time to develop the instrument to strong coordination that makes it possible to sing fully-supported high Cs in the case of the tenor and high Fs in the case of the coloratura, and the discipline to sing repertoire that features the natural strengths of the voice in question.

8) But can every singer learn to sing a pianissimo in the high range like Leontyne Price?

Yes, but paradoxically, a true pianissimo that is as well-supported as Price's cannot be developed before a strong forte is developed.  To sing pianissimo requires stability in the set-up for the specific note in question. When the set up can handle great sub-glottal pressure as in a strong forte, then it will have the stability to handle the pressure that comes from soft singing. In soft singing there is less air-flow which necessitates firmer glottal closure and therefore increased sub-glottal pressure in a situation where the breath could get cut off by the increased medial squeeze.  It takes not only strength but practice to maintain the coordination at will.

9) If it is that simple to learn, why are there so many singers who only reach a certain middle level?

A) Not enough competent teachers to teach technique. Even fewer that do not take it upon themselves to abuse the psyche of the student.

B) The singers in question do not have the daring to go beyond what came easily to them. To make strong sounds, it is necessary to go through weak sounds. To make beautiful sounds it is necessary to go through ugly sounds. To sing balanced sounds it is necessary to go through imbalance. Not many singers are willing to experience the dark side of technical growth.  What Rocky and ask yourself why he goes through a rigorous training period before the main event.  Many singers do not have the mental fortitude, the heart, the faith to go through fire!

In short it is simple, but I never said it was easy.

10) Why don't students who have the heart and faith and mental fortitude not seek out competent teachers and how many sessions a week should a student have?

Some do. Others cannot because of financial constraints. To bring out great quality voices we have to realize it is not a fair world.  As a teacher I practice an ideology of "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low!"  I mean I will teach a committed students who cannot afford it for a reduced price or even  free if necessary and I hope that a student of mine who is wealthy would volunteer to pay more although I do not charge more than my standard fee which is reasonable (OK I could be more forthright about the "...every mountain and hill made low" part. In fact one student I have taught several times insisted that I take more because according to him I undercharge.

As for how many lessons in a week, for a beginner I would like at least three  sessions a week because they must also learn what it means to make singing a daily part of their lives and they need frequent guidance in the early stages as not to make mistakes in their practice. With advanced students, there are some I only see twice a month or even once in two months for a check up. In general after the initial phase of learning a practice regimen and understanding the issues at hand, a single session a week is plenty. I currently have two ex-baritone tenors who have sung for many years but the nature of the change is such that they wanted to have multiple sessions a week as I am away every other month. So they do multiple sessions. We arrange a price structure that is affordable to them and fair to me.  Truthfully, if I were a millionaire, I would not charge and I would chose who I want to work with.

These are ten common questions I get and how I normally answer them.  The question of nature vs. nurture is not going to go away because the mythical culture of opera enjoys the drama that goes with the "nature" side of things. It is more dramatic to have Divas on one end of the spectrum and the merest of mortals on the other hand.  I will be called an incorrigible dreamer for my beliefs as if that were an insult. Dreamers have to take responsibility for their dreams. Nay-sayers only have to make pompous pronouncements that they can just throw about particularly when they are in positions of authority.

Accomplished opera singers in the highest sense are mere mortals who alchemize themselves into great singers. The nature of their transformations is unique to each and often even unconscious.  All of them have experienced doubts and feared and gone beyond them.  I will go to my grave with the thought that an operatic career is made from uncommon tenacity and hard-work, which stem from the one talent:  the belief that one is born to be an opera singer and the passion to follow through on that belief.  Everything else can be learned. To refer to Malcolm Gladwell, once again: You just need 10,000 hours.

© 02/08/2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Opera and the Black Singer: An article by George Shirley

Dear Friends,

I received the enclosed link to a wonderful article by George Shirley, my teacher during my graduate days at the University of Michigan. I have often expressed my profound admiration for this remarkably accomplished man, and thought you might enjoy his balanced and well-thought out article.

I hope you find the article as interesting as I do. You should know that I have replaced my Voce Vista tools and am already engaged in acoustic analysis of the great voices of the past. I will soon have a series, as promised, dealing with the virtues and weaknesses of the great masters based on such analysis.

Happy reading!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Kashu-do (歌手道): Stage Presence and Confidence: A Result of Conscious "Ausbildung"

The German word Ausbildung might seem strange to English speakers in particular. The root word is Bilden, literally "to form". For those of us who speak Romance languages, the words formation (Fr.) formazione (It.) or formación (Sp.) come quite literally to mind. The reflexive verb sich ausbilden (literally to form oneself) has direct equivalents in romance languages (e.g.. se former, formarsi), which have educational implications. The idea of forming oneself or better said, giving oneself a shape is of paramount importance to the professional performer taking his/her product to market.

What makes one singer with great skill appear bland and another with less skill appear magnificent? I have been both, and I continue to see how perception can change the quality of a product. To that end, there is a reason athletes need a coach to give them a pep talk before a game, a boxer a cornerman before a fight, or a singer a coach or teacher before a performance or audition. In the end however, the best singers I know enter an audition room with a sense that the auditors are lucky to be able to hear them, and this is not based on some empty ego-trip but a certain knowledge that some element of what they offer is spectacularly better than that same element offered by most others. Some others will copy this attitude, but will not do as well because they are simply putting on an attitude without believing in the product they are selling.

This subject came clearly to my mind as one student who just finished a Broadway national tour came for a lesson because he is being considered for a rather important part for a show currently on Broadway. Another student of mine also just finished a different Broadway national tour and the two know each other very well.

Singer one is a very committed young man with a voice that still needs some basic work, but when he walks in a room, there is no doubt that he is there to conquer. After working on some high notes he had to sing for this audition, I asked him what makes him so confident. He said two things that I think are very important to success: 1) "I've worked hard to get here! I know what I have done and I know it is good. I'm an optimist too." 2) I came from a small town with nothing in it. You gotta take a risk to get anywhere. I have nothing to lose by giving it my all. Whatever happens, I have sung on Broadway.

Singer two is a source of great pride for me as a teacher. It came to mind at our last lesson that we had been working together on and off for 8 years (how time flies, I thought)! This singer is one of those who began her academic career with what (to my chagrin)  my colleagues use to call "a singer without a voice." Well low and behold, this singer without a voice has sung the lead role in a Broadway national tour. I love her for her work ethic, for her continuous building, for not giving up when it got hard, etc. But at many lessons, I remember having to build her up, helping her to value the work she had done and convincing her that she indeed had a terrific voice that was growing daily and besides she was a terrific dancer and a natural actress. BUT, despite landing a lead role in a Broadway show, she finished the run with the thought that perhaps she would never get another chance like that again.  What will it take for her to believe she is no longer a "singer without a voice"?

Guess which of the two will have a grand career? I am betting on singer one. Although he has work to do, he values the work he had done. He is very much a "half-full" kind of guy. As for my darling student who I cherish for working so hard, I am praying that she learns to "own it", that she gives value to the way she has "formed herself"!

In the end, it is about being a sculptor of self. If I were a sculptor, how would I form myself? I am currently doing it, and guess what, I'm a pretty good sculptor and I am liking what is coming out. But not enough yet to put it in public. As my own voice develops (and voice is only a part of my sculpture), I am seeing how truly extraordinary it could be. If I can get it to behave consistently in the way that I now perceive it, I will have no qualms about entering a room with the attitude: "I have prepared a present the likes of which you have not heard before"!

But ignorance is bliss. There was a time, in my baritone days when I thought that voice was a minor part and that my artistry would trump everything. I won competitions against singers who sang technically much better than me, but I was more confident because I felt my overall product was of a singular quality. Of course as I progressed professionally, I got to a point whereby the obstacles could not be overcome and I had to discover that my vocal quality lacked something. In my case, I was singing the wrong vocal category and would not ever sound my best until I re-calibrated the instrument to fulfill the functions of its natural design. In other words, I had to sing as a tenor to discover my best quality.

To make the argument more tangible, it is not possible to enter an audition room or a performance stage with confidence if one has fears about any aspect of the performance. Singers often have success before they even understand the nature of what it is that merits success and adulation.  They are often equally surprised when they are dismissed.

A certain pianist, known as much for his hurtful commentary to burgeoning musicians as for his absolute dependability as a collaborative pianist once told me something I never forgot: "If you cannot sing that note dependably on your worst day, don't perform it!" Nothing could be more true. Unfortunately he said this to me as an argument that I should become a bass-baritone instead of a lyric baritone because my high G was problematic when I was 22. years old.

Because of such people (and they are plentiful in our field) it is important to consider both sides of this critical issue. We must not present something we are not completely proud of and we must be proud of what we have built. We must give ourselves the chance to "form ourselves" in a way that gives us a sense of pride and confidence in our work such that we will have no reason to second-guess ourselves when confronted with negative commentary, whether constructive in nature or not.

It goes back to the conclusion of a recent post. If you do not value it, why should anyone else? If you do not value it, why would you present it to anyone with a feeling that they are going to value it?

In short, true confidence comes from Ausbildung. Educating oneself in a way that makes one proud.

© 02/01/2010

Kashu-do (歌手道): Occlusion, a Simple Path To Voice-Building

I have often talked about "occluded" consonants here and have included [v], [z] and rolled [r] in my exercise regimen here on the blog in addition to lip trills. Occlusion can be defined as obstruction, or closure. In terms of voice, the specific mechanism involved with occluded consonants has logical and positive ramifications relative to vocal training. My work over the past couple of years has shown interesting results particularly with tenors who sang as baritones and dramatic coloraturas having to develop a strength in the top voice relative to the fullness of their middle voices. It is not that those voices are special relative to the subject at hand but rather that in both cases there are specific challenges relative to muscular retraining.

First the mechanism of occluded consonants. Let us take [v] for example! To produce a [v] that is both clear in tone and with enough air pressure to vibrate the lower-lip-upper-teeth juncture requires a near-perfect fold posture because a clear tone requires well-adducted vocal folds and the air pressure required in the buccal cavity (mouth) to vibrate the [v] formation at the lips-teeth juncture must be elevated. In order for the air pressure to be elevated, it must be able to flow enough through the firmly adducted glottis. These are the qualities  necessary for ideal flow phonation. Therefore, the ability to sing a perfectly clear and vibrant [v] is a confirmation of a near-perfect phonation mode. In short, the ability to produce a perfect [v] on every tone is the sign of a voice that is strong throughout. But it does not constitute ideal strength. Ideal strength would be the ability to produce the [v] without great muscular stress. To do this means that the [v] set-up must be so strong that it does not cause any effort.

For that reason, before the singer can produce a [v] that is clear and vibrant, the fold posture must be trained near enough to proper balance such that the [v] posture is near possibility. The [v] in particular is in my opinion a tool for the final phase of study. However, a full-voiced lip trill can bring the folds near enough to proper balance that the [v] can be achieved afterward. How long it takes to achieve near posture through lip trills depends on the singer's personal strength levels in the relevant muscles (particularly, CT,TA and IA).

Three things should be kept in mind relative to occluded consonants which include pretty much all voiced continuants (e.g. m. n, z, r, l, etc. Partial occlusion as in [l] is less effective, but rolled [r] is very helpful because of the air pressure required to maintain it): 1) Clarity of glottal tone and strong air flow through the occlusion is crucial. There fore 2) If done too early (i.e. before the muscles are ready to produce the correct coordination, exercises on occluded consonants can be frustrating for the singer. 3) On the positive side, when the singer has near precise coordination, occlusion can bring them to ideal balance.

Yet, every singer probably a part of his/her range that is relatively balanced. In that range, do a five-note scale on a strong vibrant, clear [v], then repeat the exact same exercise on [a]. The singer should feel an immediate precision and ease on the [a] scale after the occluded scale. The goal is to carry this coordination throughout the range. When the singer reaches an unbalanced area, it will become difficult to do the exercise. A full-voiced [v] is often not possible in the upper range with singers who sing very well. It is because we are prone to accept a high note that sounds secure even if it is out of balance. The high range even among top singers is often thinly produced and therefore pressed. Occlusion exercises would induce the air flow that would bring the folds to balance by reducing medial pressure by increased airflow, which logical will require a thickening of the fold mass to maintain pitch. This would change the balance of the antagonism between CT-TA. This is less immediate with the tendency for looseness in the lower range. Looseness in the lower range can be remedied by occlusion if the middle range is already balanced. A strong vibrant and clear [v] produced in the middle range can be gradually brought down to the loose lower range. The balance of the middle would encourage a similar balance in the lower range. It can be argues that the singer can simply do exercise that increase medial pressure in the loose range. This is true. However, occlusion maintains a level of airflow that would protect against pressed voice as would occur with exercises that deal with glottal closure alone.

© 02/01/2010