Breathing for Singers...Why is it so Difficult to Learn (or to Teach)?
It is true that, if control of breath for singing is well established, almost any technical feat can be achieved. The abdomen and chest can easily be examined visually and manipulated physically, whereas problems of the larynx defy any hands-on approach.
Breath management is best achieved by maintaining Lamperti’s “noble position,” which encourages cooperation between the chest muscles, the ribcage muscles, and the oblique muscles of the abdomen.
Update on Breath Management
Master flautist, Keith Underwood, has spent more than twenty years finding and simplifying breath management for singers and woodwind players. His findings are phenomenally effective and easy to command.
Vibrato, Wobble, Tremolo, and Bleat....Do you have a problem?
There is virtually no disagreement among vocal pedagogues and vocal researchers regarding the cause of vibrato difficulties: the two main causes of vibrato problems are: (1) excessive tension in the laryngeal mechanism and (2) unbalanced breath support. The answer to the problem of tension lies mostly in relaxation techniques. The solution to unbalanced breath support is the appoggio. Since proper vowel modification results in less laryngeal tension, it also plays a related part in vibrato stability.
The Singer’s Dilemma: Tone versus Diction
The singer’s indefatigable quest for a higher level of expression defines the basic elements of singing. They are two: the musical element of the voice (accurate, sustained vowels) and the expressive communication of speech (consonants). Singers and their teachers seek a diction that is as clear as speech. Truthfully, however, that diction will give only the illusion of being the same as speech; it must be quite different in actuality. William Vennard’s felicitous phrase explains, “To sound ‘natural’ will require studied artifice.” My way of teaching that “studied artifice” is what this article is about.
(This article contains IPA symbols; if you can't see them, select this version: diction.pdf [requires Adobe Reader].)
Achieving Carrying Power
If one disregards stylistic demands, it might be said that opera singing differs from recital singing in only one substantial way, that is, the voice of an opera singer must be audible in a large hall despite the considerable decibel output of an orchestra. A recital singer is required to be audible only above the weaker sound created by a piano, except for those occasions when the modern concert business forces the singer to perform in an unsuitably large hall.
(This article contains IPA symbols; if you can't see them, select this version: carryingpower.pdf [requires Adobe Reader].)
The Tongue as Master of Your Singing: Vowel Modification
Today it is voice science and research that provide the rationale behind the insistence upon vowel modification, but the great voice teachers of the past came to the very same conclusions by means of acute observation and pragmatic experience.
(This article contains IPA symbols; if you can't see them, select this version: tongue.pdf [requires Adobe Reader].)
Berton Coffin's research into the acoustics of voice and the power of vowel modification has empowered both voice teachers and their students.