A little talk with the great italian singer Eleonora Bianchini and why a professional like her, ranked 4th italian jazz singer, a stable duo with Enzo Pietropaoli, great career, winner of a merit scholarship at Berklee College, came having lessons with me. What did she found in our work, why it was important to her. Enjoy!
When my artists send to me something to hear in which they push intentions and do not find it in the voice. Very often they still think doing something on the moment to produce the note, they still think singing is when heard. Singing is doing some things with your body and your imagination and emotions put into the body, the sound heard will be just in certain moments as a part made heard of this doing and not a pressing all together just in the moment you want to produce a sound. You produce a sound and a phrase and a movement inside and you just make it heard on the outside: sometimes entirely, often just fragments of that.
I am someone who can solve the reason why some people can’t be effective in a vocal technique or style, or when a professional can’t have the full or correct use of its instrument even with excellent teachers or coaches. I was a soloist and being trained in Italian Belcanto technique. A chronic disease that affects my inflammation level in the body related to a medical malpractice made my career last just three years during which I achieved goals I even had not dreamt about (further details https://luciacossu.com/about/).
I started then teaching, vocal technique. Being frustrated by seeing some structural issues that made some singers think about them and never relax into a deeper dialog with music I tried to found ways to solve them forever with the same approach to sound I had when I was a soloist. So I invented some physical exercises and discovered in what they were useful to a wider range of persons, even if invented on someone specific. This became a corpus of exercises, some totally invented by me, some are yoga or dance exercises modified to be useful for voice muscular chains. I have so found some principles to work on the reason why some can’t have a proper vocal technique even with good teachers. I found the relation voice-muscular chains in a way not imagined by professionals and now also the way some Manuel Garcia vocalises were intended and why even my excellent belcanto teachers couldn’t use them correctly. . It is a very specific work, nothing to do with others body practises for singers, useful but less precise for a vocal purpose. To be sure that the results with my students were really appropriate I put some people with and without vocal problems under medical control before and after our work together and it was confirmed the solution of their vocal problems in very short time, while a medical prevision of no improvement possible (https://luciacossu.com/cossu-method-program/ ) and those with no issues had confirmed an improvement in voice and posture.
When I say it is new I don’t mean that my work comes from nothing and goes to a new land, no. I mean that it is a step forward in what is the italian belcanto technique. I mean that it brings to the vocal land many that couldn’t previously reach it. And those who are yet there have a way to refine and obtain more.
That it is: a way to bring to voice (and voice styles and technique or even just natural voice) those who couldn’t before and to refine and find tools and expression for the advanced and the professionals.
It is a sort of way to put everybody to the zero point.
Professional singing is not natural and it is a wearing activity, that’s why you need a technique. A technique, a good technique, will make yourself and nobody notice those two things and that’s why it is so important for singers to build a proper technique instrument, and for us the professional of voice to ajourn our tools and adjust and evolve them with the evolution of music.
In vocal technique to solve a technical point often means to make in the perception of the singer the disappearing of the question. This is the case for the passaggi, or vocal bridges. When truly solved the mechanism to adapt gesture and postures and muscles work and copertura will make the singer never perceive that such passaggio do exist.
* This is one of the typical examples of how a technical level will give opposite perceptions, even if from a physiological level the question is the same. In a technical solved level the singer will say exactly the opposite of the not solved singer about any question.
One of the fundamental points in technique is when and with what position making the copertura, especially related to the first turn of the larynx for the first bridge. Great part of national schools and national taste in sound is given by this position and way of making the copertura. If you prefer you can think about it as the first point in which you make the turn of the larynx, being the second the necessary one to obtain the high notes in female voices, falsetto in men and a certain kind of successive slightly turn for high notes in men voices while sustaining when it is not desired a falsetto sound.
It gives the clear and precise english sound in medium and medium high register with its quite high position and the habit of not getting below, the somewhat flatted and falsetto sound in France, the velvet and lightness of accent and high tones in the spanish due to the involvement of soft palato to obtain their copertura, the always connected to sustain and back of american school that gives more strenght to the nearly same position then english school but less poetry in the ovetornes, the low position in german school that need to put some intubation to make the turn possible and connected, the perfect balance of all these elements in Italian belcanto school, the slightly below positions of the swedish italian belcanto that gives more weight by the lower position and greater use of back diaphgragm connection, the russian school which now is the closest to the XXth century italian belcanto we have.
The first turning point can be moved and managed both by pronounciation or use of mask muscles and soft palate or internal nose muscles and the sustain and appoggio muscles and the posture in itself. It is something to think about when starting a training and also it is to have a strategy about according to repertoire and market in which the singer is working or going to work.
The same pressure can be associated to strain or perfect phonation. There are many ways to produce the same pressure: creating it before the attack, on the attack, with a certain speed, at a precise speed and with or without suspension, with some muscles and timing and reciprocal order of movement, putting a tension in some part and then just creating a slight tension in another part to create conditions for the attack etc. Understanding this is fundamental to have a correct attack and many different ways of attacks accorded to musical and interpretative requirements.
For a singer or a performer it is often more effective looking for vocal solutions thinking in a way that has a vocal logic instead of a truer one. We have a point of acting to obtain the voice so deformed by instrument way of being built and related and cohordinated and the fact that we are inside that we have to accept and make allied this deformation. The vocal correct gesture acts in all its possibilities only from a vocal way of perceiving and thinking; if we know that well we don’t need to make confusion bewteen what and how we think to sing and how we really act to sing.
It is called fiato (breath) a certain precise movement of connection bewteen a pressure under the glottis and the voice, being that not a flow of air despite the name. It is a force, a pressure in the muscles, a lightness in the throat, a point of concentration, a posture given by a precise muscular movement.
There is only a way of being appoggiati and sostenuti, and it depends on a certain precise connection between diaphragm and larynx. You can hear it in a certain kind of overtones for the sustain and a related way for the appoggio, being that relation perfect when you can correctly execute a messa di voce (from pianissimo to forte or fortissimo and back to pianissimo). The way you perceive them and where you feel in the body depends on style, vocal range, individual body and body specifities, technical level (the higher level pass from a point of similarities of perceptions). All the places everybody can feel must work during the correct vocal gesture, so often in the training we have to work what you will never feel while singing, because it is the balance of all the places of diaphragm insertions with some wanted overacting that make the correct appoggio and sustain for style and voice.
On this subject one of the more common mistakes is to overwork the insertion you want to be heard in the sound, without noticing that it is the lack of some others that make its work not satisfing, the second being the fear for the overdoing of some specifics and the choice to make every voice simply and prudently just balanced without any specifics (losing in that way what of personal and truly specific a voice can produce in a deeper level).