Friday, November 13, 2009

Singing With a More "Straightened Out" Tone as an Exercise for Dramatic Voice?

If you have come here looking for answers about singing, it may be that you have come to the wrong blog.  I am an amateur singer on a journey, and most of what I am exploring here are my questions.  Some of the questions I am working on have already been discovered and answered by people who have gone before me.  Sometimes I find out that some of my questions have not been figured out by anyone yet.

Maybe some more experienced and highly developed and refined masters of singing might take me to the side and say, "Listen, dear, you don't have to do all this to learn to sing well.  You are trying to reinvent the wheel.  Just do what your teacher tells you and practice practice practice and you will get there."

I don't know about that.  That's what I thought I was doing for so many years, and I somehow didn't get there.  Maybe this won't get me "there" either, but I am having a lot of fun exploring my questions and ideas.  I really think that at this point, considering my state in life, and the late stage of the singer's game, that I do not have too much to lose to go ahead and play with my ideas.

Today I find that a curiosity of mine about singers who sing in an early music style has been growing in a couple of ways.  You all may have read that I took that class in baroque ornamentation this past summer.  I wrote about it in the following two posts: "Ornamenting Handel and Bach, Rameau, Mozart & Monteverdi?  Me?" and "Follow Up: How Ornamentation Has Changed Me as a Musician."  It was in this class that I first heard this interesting kind of early music coloring and sound from live voices.  I really enjoyed hearing the singers in my class create this sound, and I wondered how they were doing it.  I thought maybe it was easier to accomplish with lighter type voices to begin with, but there were some people with bigger kind of voices doing it too in class, so I had to keep wondering.

A few days ago, in a blog, I told you about how the song "Lascia ch'io pianga" was kind of calling to me to sing it and I had found it with my materials from the ornamentation class, and was taking a look at it in my practice room. (See: "Reading Through Lascia ch'io pianga")  Well, a short time after that, I found a new blog to read by Elizabeth McDonald, a Canadian singer, teacher, and blogger, and, lo and behold, she was using the same song, "Lascia ch'io pianga" to demonstrate the kind of research a singer should do on a song in order to really understand it, know it, and sing it.  (See her post: Spotlight on Lascia ch'io pianga)  I guess I got really lucky that in using that song as an example of how to research, she gave me a head start in the work I have to do on the song.

On her blog, she gave youtube examples of the song being sung in two different musical styles, one like the way I heard the early music singers in my class this summer singing it, and another sang with a fuller sound, more vibrato in the more operatic style of singing.  You definitely should go check out her blog if you've been interested in this and listen to the two styles. (Spotlight on Lascia ch'io pianga)

Then, just after that, someone posted a youtube video on the New Forum for Classical Singers (NFCS) message board in which the singer in the video was using the early music style to a certain affect in a creative video production of the song "Piangero."

After that, a discussion ensued about the use of a tone with less vibrato, a straightened out kind of tone, like the kind it seems they want when you sing in a choir sometimes, and the style that some of these early music people use to color and make their voices sound more instrumental.  There's been a little bit of a discussion about what is the scholarship about it and the choices surrounding this issue.  (see NFCS discussion: Interesting Video of "Piangero")

I, personally, enjoy very much the sounds that are created in this style of singing, and have a lot of questions about how it is being produced.  I felt that a lot of the people singing in this style in my ornamentation class had very healthy and beautifully produced sounds within this style.

As a singer, however, I don't know how to sing in that style.  I don't seem to be able to do it.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm still developing my vocal technique, and my upper middle voice is still in development, and I'm still trying to gain more stamina and strength.  But I also don't know if it's because my voice is too dramatic/heavy type to lend itself to this style.

I have been wondering if experimenting with and learning how to produce this style would be beneficial to my overall vocal development.  Can using the style of this early music be part of my "cross-training" idea? (See addendum to post "Reincorporating the Belt Voice")  Will trying to achieve a more straightened-out sound teach me anything about my own voice and vibrato?  Can the things I'll learn from attempting to sing in this style inform my vocal knowledge in a way that benefits the rep I will eventually sing?  Just like singing in the musical theater style gave my body information to use that I was able to incorporate into my classical singing, does early music-style "straight-toned" singing have something to offer my technique? If it is beneficial to explore the style, can it be done now, or should I wait until I have a better handle on my voice, or can it be part of developing my voice?

I took a shot, very minimally successful, at straightening out my vibrato a little bit and trying to achieve that early music sound that I hear.  I probably would need a knowledgeable teacher in this style to really take a stab at learning it.  It's possible that fooling around with it on my own might cause little problems, so I won't do it too much until I have a chance to work with someone knowledgeable about it.

If you want to hear, I've put me attempting to do this in Frecamari's Practice Room:  "Cross Training: Trying to Straighten Tone in Lascia ch'io pianga in Two Keys"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Frescamari!

    Thanks for the shout out! I'm glad that it was helpful.

    I think that your questions are fantastic about the early music "technique"...and relevant considering the Classical Singer Magazine that just landed in my mailbox this week. The whole issue is dedicated to the singing of early music and in that is a great article/interview with teacher and singer Nancy Zylstra. She talks about the misnomer that is "straight tone singing" and how vibrancy and vibrato do not have to be the same thing.

    From a personal perspective, I have a large voice but spent a considerable amount of time singing all classical genres which was a great foundation for my technique. I really believe that exploring (without hurting yourself) is always valuable!

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.