Vocal Technique

Singing Vocal Technique

We can compare a professional lyric singer to a high-level sportsman. He is a “voice athlete “. Singing demands  very good health and breathing conditions as well as  huge endurance. A singer must master his own instrument as vocal endurance may vary from one to another.

Two or three 30mn sessions of vocal technique every day seems ideal to develop the instrument and maintain it in prime condition. A singer should not be tired and may try not to perform more than three times a week. He should not shout, should not over-use his voice and should sing within his range (tessitura). It is commonly admitted that one voice out of four is wrongly classified.

It is essential to acquire a healthy vocal technique in the early learning stages. Too many singers take interpretation classes before their instrument is sufficiently prepared to respond to composers’ demands.

The best musical ideas are impossible to achieve without a perfected technique. This vocal technique may take two or three years to learn. After this, the singer may continue to develop his instrument  throughout the duration of his career.

Various Aspects of Vocal Technique

The vocal coach must guide the singer in his learning of technique.
Every angle of the vocal technique must be considered.

Knees are slightly bent. Spinal column is stretched. Shoulders are low. The head is in the axis of the spinal column.

Management and support of breath
Caruso used to say that you shouldn’t need more breath to sing an aria than to have a talk with friends.

A singer must learn to manage the sub-glottis pressure.

The rib cage is sustained by the intercostal muscles. This causes the lowering of the diaphragm. It is the pressure of the abdominal muscles (internal oblique, external oblique and cross functional muscles) that raises the diaphragm and creates the pressure needed for the formation of sound.

If the inhalation is not excessive, the singer can open his rib cage  slightly at the moment of “attack” of a sound and when he rises in the tessitura.

This careful management of the sub-glottis pressure keeps the larynx lowered when producing a sound.

Safe onset of vocal cords
Subtle muscular pressure allows for the safe onset of vocal cords.

Position of the soft palate.
The sensation is difficult to master.

The mouth forms an ovoid and the zygomatic muscles are tensed slightly allowing one to maintain a soft, raised, palate.

It creates the necessary space for vowels formation.

The Formation and Homogeneity of vowels
The position of the tongue within the mouth determines the vowel. These are formed in the pharynx at the place where the consonant “G” is formed. They can be “visualized” by the ears.

In order to obtain homogenous vowels, we will use the space of the vowel sound “OO“ to create all of the other vowels.

Dissociation of tongue and Jaw.
In order to keep the pharynx open in the “OO” position the young singer will learn to dissociate the tongue and the jaw.

In the vocal art, the jaw is slightly lowered and set back (the lower teeth are slightly set back from the upper teeth).The tongue and the front of the pharynx must not be in contact.
Moreover, the tip of the tongue will be in contact with the lower teeth when creating vowels and it should not retract so that its base  presses down on the larynx.

Consonant formation
Consonants are created closer to the front of the mouth than the vowels, with the lips and the tip of the tongue. The consonants “K” and “ G” are formed closer to the back of the mouth.

Applying technique to the repertoire
When the singer begins to work with the repertoire, he will have to use the concepts learned in the exercises.

He/she may vocalize the piece on the “NG” position ( also called moïto), or using the vowel OO , and then using the other vowels of the piece.

Only after this he/she may reincorporate the consonants.

The notion of projection is dangerous
The word  projection” is dangerous for a singer. It is important to keep in mind that we  must not project the voice but let it develop by itself. 

When a singer wants to “project “his voice, he stresses (or strains) his instrument and tightens his throat muscles.