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The following texts are valid for all voices, including the countertenor voice that I know well. The only difference is that the counter-tenor will absolutely have to work  his mechanism 1 regularly, said, chest and do a lot of work on the union of the registers, to have a perfect homogeneity on his notes of pass downstairs. There are plenty of exercises for this. All the following recommendations are indicative. The teacher adapts his speech to each one. Only the ear of the teacher is a sure guide, and the student, when the teacher says: "There, it's good", will have to memorize what he has done to reproduce it. In this way, very slowly, the gesture will become optimal. We sculpt a voice, like a work of art, which begins with roughing it down, to finish in the smallest details.

I work like that.

To be raised.

Wanting to become a singer is a marvelous dream, but it is also strewn with pitfalls. Before being a student, you have to choose your teacher and have in your ear a reference of singers who sing well. Have as soon as possible, a critical sense and established references.

A few leads: One mistake is to systematically take the teacher next to your home. It may be good, it may also not be what you need. One track is to go and listen to the students. If they all have the same fault,   for sure, in a while this fault will be yours. So distrust. What to choose ? A conservatory? A particular lesson? You should know that in the conservatory, the first year, you will only have 20 minutes of singing lessons per week (source CNR de Bordeaux), which is ridiculous, on the other hand, you will have access to all the subjects essential for your training. Second solution, the private lesson, the often high price, 60 to 80 euros on average can be a bulwark to regular work. So choose first, the teacher in relation to the progress he makes you do. I pity the singer who, penniless, wants to make lyrical his profession, because either he will only have 20 minutes of lessons per week, or he will be stuck with the money to pay. It is Kafkaesque. You can sometimes negotiate with your teacher, a monthly fee, which can be advantageous.

Dietrich Fischer Dieskau said that when you have found a teacher who helps you progress, you have to stay and persevere. Changing often is the best way to never move forward, because you spend your time changing muscle memory, which ultimately never settles. That's why you can study for ten years, and have no vocal technique built. I invite you on the subject, to find out what kinesthetic memory is. It takes at least 2 months to correct and register a new muscular gesture, provided that the bad gesture is not repeated at all.

Barring exceptions, great ease requires great patience to be obtained. Indeed, it is not a question of making a Bb for a tenor, like that, many tenors have Bbs. What is needed is to do this Bb in the totality of what your instrument and your body can do. That is to say, with perfect support, total release of the throat, optimum vocal focus. And this Bb, believe me, when it will be there, will have nothing to do with the Bb that you will have made without thinking, without building. So, yes, it's disconcerting, because singing is a construction of a muscular set. Can you imagine becoming an athlete, having only practiced bodybuilding for 3 months? It's exactly the same. So, even if you are a gifted vocalist, you have to be patient, and not tackle the big things too soon. Wait for maturity, like a good wine.

The main difficulty I had to face was the contradiction between the professors' speeches. It was very difficult to find your way around: "....Sing in front, sing behind, sing on your lips, open your throat, don't get fat, don't squeeze, sing on the strings, breathe with your belly, support bottom to top, support from top to bottom.....", in short, a bitch would not find her young there. In fact, when you make a gesture in place, you realize that they are all right, but it will take years to build a technique, and I'm not talking about the construction of your repertoire, your concert programs , to face the stage fright, the staging, the auditions, the relations with his agent, the long periods of absence from the house……I will only speak to you about the first stage, the shaping of his instrument.

When studying singing, you have to be constant in your work and be in a fairly neutral psychic state. By that I mean don't get discouraged when you're stomping, and don't believe everything has happened when the correct sound is emitted. The progress in singing is not linear and is somewhat similar to the curve of the cac 40 on 2021.  Hearing the evolution on the recordings made from time to time is a great help.

Another important point is the treachery of what one hears as a singer because the sound one hears has nothing to do with the sound the listener receives. I would even go further, getting along a lot is not a very good sign.

When the vocal gesture is good, we only hear each other partially, and we often have the impression that it is the piece that sings. We can even have the impression that the sound we produce is horrible, it does not matter. So be careful about your feelings.

What is the purpose of voice learning? Maximum performance, beauty with maximum ease. Tita Ruffo said: “…Piu e forte,meno mi costa…. The louder I sing, the less it costs me!

Now how to work. As far as learning vocal technique is concerned, what I recommend, especially at the beginning, are short but frequent sessions. If you want to make it your job, I also recommend studying the piano, music theory, languages, and later, harmony. If in addition, we can do theatre, that's perfect.

  The singer must be a complete, full-fledged musician and you cannot envisage this profession without passion. So, to be a singer, what do you need? First, a well-made head, then work, more work, a little luck, and, incidentally, a little voice!! I have been able to see for almost 35 years now that the most beautiful voices are not necessarily those that make the best careers, and many beautiful instruments have never kept their promises.



On breathing, for 30 years (I am approaching 60 today), I have read and heard so many things... Between Giuseppe Giacomini who told me to push my stomach, and Giorgio Zancanaro who told me to bring my stomach in .....I suffered from the contradictions, and even cried!! The breathing often taught in singing schools is costo-diaphragmatic breathing. This technique involves a lot of widening of the ribs. I realized, with experience, and this on dozens of students, that the fact of wanting to make him voluntarily open his ribs before the attack of the sound, created many blockages, because the student is no longer listening to his sensations, he is looking for something "theoretical", he upsets the body, because it is not in the feeling, in the natural, in the primary,  but in the   "to want". He ends up being so obsessed with the opening of the ribs, that he prevents the normal functioning of breathing. For my part, in the education of the appoggio, that is to say, the permanent accompaniment of the sound by the support of the breath, I consider three stages:

  • The first, discovery and experimentation.

  • The second, experimentation and development

  • The third, development and improvement

Before developing, you have to discover, feel for the first time. We cannot reproduce or describe a color without having seen it at least once!! Without this step, we play Colin Maillard, we risk going in the wrong direction and losing years. This first step can be long, it all depends on the student's story.

Do we do something special to talk? To scream? NO !!! Do you think about your breathing when you are arguing with your wife and the plates are flying in the kitchen?? No. The baby who cries for hours on high C, does he think about opening his ribs before bawling? No. Muscles work the same when we speak, or when we sing. The only difference is the energy and strength required of the abdominal muscle as a whole. In high-intensity singing, the transverse, oblique and rectus muscles (I summarize!!), compress the air in the lungs, under the vocal cords which are a sphincter. The vocal cords undulate under the pressure and speed of the air passing through, this is called Bernoulli's phenomenon. The higher you go in the treble, the faster the undulation, the greater the abdominal muscle contraction. This is an indisputable scientific fact. One of the means that I use (the cough), to make the student "see" what is happening, is a tool that I like. On the attack, the impulse (much softer in the phonation than in the cough, of course)   is often felt below, sometimes in the kidneys, with the "observation" that the odds open, or rather, stay open. If you inflate a balloon, the abdominal muscles contract. You have to listen and observe, because each student is different, not at the level of the result, but at the level of the feeling. But if we think, before the attack of the sound, to open the ribs, we risk disturbing the primary intention of the body. The will takes place on the reactive, the primal gesture, and this is the door open to parasitic tensions. Worse, we sometimes associate this gesture with the desire to bring in the belly excessively, and there, it is guaranteed failure. The abdomen ends up going in, because the lungs are emptying. Again, reaction. The inspiration must be done by letting go of the lower abdomen, in a relaxation of the perineum, like a stone falling to the bottom of a well. This release generates an automatic re-entry of air, nature abhors a vacuum. We let go, the breath engulfs itself in a great relaxation, the mouth open, as if we were drinking the air, like a kind of gargle. The air caresses the back of the throat in a kind of great emptiness. In an absolute relaxation of the bottom. This preliminary work when it is understood, in a very natural way, cancels all the tensions of the upper body and is a remedy of formidable effectiveness against the many cases of reverse breathing that I have encountered.

The expiration, the triggering of the appoggio is done in the opposite way, the air comes out, compressed. It is this reaction, when, for example, we cough, or we do: HHATTCCCCCHHHAAAAA……. By keeping the CHHH, by feeling that one sits on the breath. The latter relies on the kidneys, but be careful, do not collapse the chest. Also observe, the next time you sneeze, your abdominal sensation. We must always maintain a proud attitude, a "courteous" verticality, which goes against what is said in many schools, where we pull our hair upwards, which also generates tension. . In general, exaggerations create tension.

Subsequently, this appoggio which sometimes at first seems violent, becomes nuanced, tamed and dominated. In short, as the singer becomes an artist, he refines his gesture, develops it, learns to play with his body, sometimes to open up the upper body and the floating ribs more  pour la virtuoso vocalization, to use the back more..... But this will be done when the basic appoggio will be there, will be felt, assimilated, and this will only be a continuity and an extension of the primary gesture in our body. The muscle memories will be installed, slowly over time. We will then work on soft attacks, for example with surprise, for attacks with optimal performance, but, and this is essential, the student will have become aware since the beginning of his studies, the gesture, he will have understood very quickly at locate where it happens. He will not have wasted time cutting corners and creating blockages.

There is therefore no contradiction in the methods, simply a question of timing in order to let the unconscious become conscious and settle in complete safety without loss of time or disappointment.

I will not develop here the problem of the tongue, which, if it is badly positioned, prevents the normal support of the sound and the arrival of the sound in the resounding vault. The tongue is the key to the passage of the voice in the head, and from its right position depends the correct support of the breath.

I do not approach either, this being the subject of another text, the reduced impedance. This corresponds to the absolute necessity of installing a counterpressure to the subglottic pressure. It is, simply, what the ancients called sound coverage.

I do not approach the resonance either, which when it is optimal, relieves the appoggio, the performance of the instrument becoming optimal. Because instead of giving 10 to get 10 or sometimes less, we give 6 or 7 to get 20!

All this goes back to what the great masters of the past said: "Sing well, and you will breathe well". Without going to what Fernando De Lucia said to Georges Thill: "Breathe as you can, and Basta!!", singing develops the song. Necessity creates the tool. The appoggio is a reaction, and not a learned theory which only makes that nobody understands anything any more. Think carefully about the fact that the great sportsmen, the apneists, the yogis , do not necessarily have singing skills, yet they have a huge work on the breath. I repeat, the song develops the song, the need creates the tool!!!!! If we have a balloon in front of us, placed on the table, if we press on it from above, the sides come out. If we press on it from the sides, the top and bottom come out. This implies that when the abdominal muscles compress, by the vital need , the air in the lungs under the vocal folds, or vocal cords, whatever our feeling, a pressure is made and a sound can be produced. This explains the contradiction of the explanations which had been made to me by Giacomini and Zancanaro, which, in fact, were not. Their science and their perseverance in the work, had made that they had pushed to the supreme their science of the control of the pressure under glottic, which had made them, the international stars that we know.

The teaching of singing is a terrible juggling between all these parameters, which must remain the property of the teacher so as not to panic the student, the kingdom of the student must be simplicity !! 



The opening of the throat



The opening of the throat  is crucial and must be done on inspiration, in a light and pleasant expansion of the space located at the back of the tongue, a feeling not only of fullness ,some talk about gargling,but also in a feeling of openness of the body. Without it, no operatic singing. This negligence leads to defects in breath support, tightness, diminished vocal means, days of frequent vocal malformation, forcing. 

Naturally, as a beginner, when you go up in the treble, the throat closes, the larynx goes up, off, it's just the opposite that must happen.  When the 'we go up in the treble, the larynx must have a downward movement, taking care with the language which must not sink, tense. The recurring image of singing teachers: "When you go up, think you are going down", expresses exactly that.

Today, we speak of reduced impedance to explain this phenomenon, or also of sound coverage. The word "cover" can be misleading, because you can "block", whereas things must be done in a homogeneous way, without widening or fattening the sound. Listen to Léo Slezak, or more towards us, Juan Diego Florez, the homogeneity of the voices is sublime. The feelings of sadness, of fear, are able to bring the singer to the result, generated by the progressive tilting of the Thyroid cartilage and the greater tension of the vocal cords which begin to vibrate more and more quickly. The throat must remain open from bass to treble so that the subglottic pressure, brought about by the pressure of the breath, is balanced by a supraglottic pressure, created by the opening of the throat and the descent of the larynx (be careful not to not push!!). The larynx is therefore never in saturation and the pressures are balanced. The student who finds this, the first few times, finally feels the action of the breath and something releasing in their throat, because the correct mechanism releases the tensions, releases the voice!! Listen to Helge Roswaenge and everything will become clear to you. With him, the opening of the throat is really obvious.

Let's talk for a minute about an important point. The opening of the throat can lead to wanting to widen the vowels. Serious error, it is the assured magnification, and the death of the projection of the sound. My favorite formula is to sing with space, and not IN space!!

The vowels must always remain calibrated, and this calibration is a sine qua non of optimum vocal performance and obtaining the tilt of the voice in the lead.



The mask

When the internal arrangement is good, a bone vibration of the face occurs. The mask is therefore a result. The voice seems to come out of a disk that goes from the base of the nose to the forehead. The image of inspiration, like breathing in a flower, is good. A good exercise, to feel the point of resonance, is that of Huming. It consists in emitting the sound with the back of the tongue glued to the soft palate. This exercise has the double advantage of positioning the tongue correctly, and fixing the resonance.

But be careful, if you push your voice forward, sooner or later, you close your throat. Many believe they sing in the mask, nasally. Suddenly, they get along enormously, because the soft palate having collapsed, the Eustachian tubes take the full force of the sound waves. The twang makes them hear their timbre a lot, so they push harder and harder to hear it more and more. The sound inside them seems huge, while it has no range. 

One can perceive a very high nasal repercussion, behind the eyes, certainly, but one should not sing in the nose. Nasillation is the infernal circle of forcing and assured hardness, a path of perdition from which some people take years to get out. A clue, if while singing, you pinch your nose without modifying the sound, it's good!

The cheekbones are a great tool to help enrich the sound of high head vibrations, so it's important to feel them lifted. Many singers raise their cheekbones, especially in the treble. It is not a question of pulling the corners, in a harmful tension which would eventually paralyze the jaw, but of marking the slight rictus of the ancient mask. The blossoming of the back of the throat, or the image of the inner smile, leaves of itself the imprint of the outer smile of which I speak, and this without tenseness of the jaw and the neck. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, in master class, often spoke of the cheekbones, and she herself had, when she sang, a smiling and raised face. You will see this in the master class videos, in the site menu.

Approaching a score


How to approach a work?

First, dissect solfegically. Absolute rigor in the rhythm, in the intonation, in the text that we work on separately. Harmony and musical structure for the most advanced. Marking time in pencil for beginners. This is called table work.

Make the effort, not to learn by listening to the song on YouTube! Except in an emergency.

Deciphering, certainly more tedious, will teach you much more for the future.

The biggest mistake is, I believe, to have the will to interpret a score that one does not dominate. It requires the utmost loyalty to what is written. Respect the nuances, the tonic accents, the highlights, the phrasing. Do not stress the ends of sentences.

Work, by removing consonants, to gradually establish an absolute fusion of vowels. Gradually add the consonants, without cutting the legato. When there are vocalizations, it is necessary to isolate them, and to vary the rhythms. The speed will come by itself after a while. This preparatory work, which is essential, must be done in the greatest neutrality, without first trying to put any personal dough into it and above all, no emotion.  After some time , this fidelity to the score and this rigor will pay off, and the part of what you are deep inside yourself will emerge. The interpretation will be born from this work, and this interpretation will be the opposite of a caricature that you would have created by listening to the piece on loop on Youtube. When the piece is known, the work with the vocal coach can begin, and I promise you that you will be grateful for this serious preparatory work that you have done.

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