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.
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.
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.
Often it is said that the larynx has to be low; and in my experience this is often a misunderstood concept. In the high notes it has to be high enough to be correct for their production. There is a range of movement that is correct for voices and notes production and it is in this range that we have to manage its movement. Tha larynx has to be in that range for every note, just lowering in the moment of voice production. To have in all the extension an innatural low larynx will create more problems then it solves, and will need an exaggerate need of pressure that can be accepted and desired only for the last notes of each tessitura or in certain cases of belting. The larynx will come up and down in a controlled way along the tessitura, just it will lower a bit in the correct attack.
She is a singer who entered my study program in may 2014 with nodules, a pre-contact, an emathoma and a whiplash injury on the vocal folds. She had several years of voice lessons without gaining enough extension or intonation or the personal style she desired for a proficuous career. All the attempts to have a good technique (even with good and experienced teachers) were a failure, gaining something at the depens of other things and her vocal folds getting worse. This were her vocal folds when she started the program.
I found in her something in the muscular chains (that are the center of my method) without the sufficient elasticity and the proper work to give freedom and movement to tongue and larynx. The first weeks I used the physical exercises I have invented to start solving that muscular problem. As the connection was possible and more correct I worked on changing habits in authomatic gesture, imagined gesture and the feedbacks with vocalises on two octaves and songs out of her repertoire useful for my purposes. Those are her vocal folds after two months, quiet a huge difference.
Here her vocal chords after one year (you find them also at the half in the video above).
LILLI LEHMANN: SINGING TOWARD THE NOSE. HEAD VOICE
When the peak of the softest part of the palate is placed forward toward the nose, instead of being drawn up high behind the nose, as in the head voice (see plate, head voice and nasal tone), it forms a kind of nasal production which, as I have already said, cannot be studied enough, because it produces very noble tonal effects and extraordinary connections. It ought always to be employed. By it is effected the connection of tones with eachother, from the front teeth back to a point under the nose; from the lower middle tones to the head tones. In truth, all the benefit of tonal connection depends upon this portion of the soft palate; that is, upon its conscious employment.
This is all that singers mean when they[Pg 79] speak of “nasal singing”—really only singing toward the nose. The soft palate placed toward the nose offers a resonating surface for the tone.
The reason why teachers tell their pupils so little of this is that many singers are quite ignorant of what nasal singing means, and are tormented by the idea of “singing toward the nose,” when by chance they hear something about it. They generally regard the voice as one complete organ acting by itself, which is once for all what it is. What can be made of it through knowledge of the functions of all the coöperating organs they know nothing of.
Blind voices are often caused by the exaggerated practice of closing off the throat too tightly from the head cavities; that is, drawing the pillars of the fauces too far toward the wall of the throat. The large resonating chamber thus formed yields tones that are powerful close at hand, but they do not carry, because they are poor in overtones.[Pg 80] The mistake consists in the practice of stretching the pillars too widely in the higher vocal ranges, also. In proportion as the pillars are extended, the breath spreads over the entire palate, instead of being concentrated on only one point of it, and bringing at the same time the resonance of the head cavities into play. The soft palate must first be drawn up to, then behind, the nose, and the attack of the higher tones be transferred thither. The pillars of the fauces must necessarily be relaxed by this action of the soft palate. Thereby breath is introduced into the cavities of the head to form the overtones, which contribute brilliancy and freshness to the voice.
Many singers persist in the bad habit here described, as long as nature can endure it; in the course of time, however, even with the most powerful physiques, they will begin to sing noticeably flat; with less powerful, the fatal tremolo will make its appearance, which results in the ruin of so many singers.
If you find in a guitar dismantled, some piece unglued, some screw too tightly fastened, the strings not properly fixed do you expect it to sound well? do you think to play it? Are you surprised if it doesn’t sound properly? And if you have never played a violin do you find correct to judge your ear and musical capacity by playing it? Voices are like those two examples. Even when you don’t see anybody walking with his head in his hand or a leg round his neck, this doesn’t mean that his body is properly assembled to sing, or according to the second example he does naturally good and proper things to play his instrument. Some very lucky are yet properly settled and do some very right things just naturally, others not, sometimes due to simple injuries or bad habits.The worse is the judgement deaf-tone voices; I have experimented people who have submitted to, and the consequent shyness that render them more shy and uneasy in the regard of such a joyous instrument as voice is, and the consequent lack of the necessary energy and body attitude added to the problems that renders those voices out of pitch. Sometimes they also think having a bad ear and a bad musical brain. It is always possible but in my experience it had no relationship with a tone deaf voice. Tone deaf voices I have worked with, were mostly a bad shaping body, as the first example and when we properly set up they were no more tone-deaf voices, but only voices who had to learn how to sing. Some, very few in the second. To start with the ones of the first example I usually put them in a possible shape for singing (I explain that hereinafter) and I don’t ask them to match a pitch, but just to imitate me. If I put them in the condition of vibrating and I produce a good sound for them by passive attitude they will start vibrate according to one of the overtones in my sound, if possible to their body the easiest one, the correct pitch I wanted, if yet impossible something normally not that far in very little time. To make it possible there are many simple and less simple exercises to give the minimal elasticity and shape of a possible correct sound. I have to play them for the first period as the second range strings of a viola d’amore. The Viola d’amore was an ancient viola with a double range of strings, one under the other. The player played the upper range and the other vibrated according to the superior “per simpatia” was said, by sympathy. What is nice in that passive way is that the lack of tension to match a pitch will live the body smooth enough to simply let itself being changed and shaped by the teacher and vibrate. In that way they have the experience in the body of a sound less incorrect, a feeling to remember, a feeling to relate to look for sounds and pitches, a feeling and an experience that will feed body and brain and give a quiet and easy sense of comfort while producing sounds. The body and the brain will remember those feelings and will reproduce the same patterns while you will play less and less for what is acquired and as before to obtain more difficult and complex things. The teacher has the necessity to understand well the inside shaping of the student. What renders so difficult to understand what and how is badly set up is the fact that we don’t see the elements of our instrument, they are for the most part inside and very rarely we can feel it before having made a work on them, so how can a teacher know what to do? And how to do if the person doesn’t even feel the existence of he has to move and change? A good teacher and a good singer should be able to feel in himself what is happening in the student, but I think that on that subject the teaching world should think about developing proper methodic to deal with, and that’s why I talk about voice luthiery, a field to explore and develop. I can usually feel how they are shaping themselves, because I let my body being guided by their shape and opening the same communicative channel of musicians I can make them take the shape I am assuming. This shape I assume and want them to imitate must be not that far from the shape they have and at the same time they must have the elasticity to assume it. I mean that I have to assume me their shape and then to ameliorate it in a suitable way. To give them the elasticity I make them do some simple and less simple physical exercises. To maintain that elasticity and not make an intellectual control that will use movement pattern yet existing and not useful I ask them to lay together as children: I do they do, I do they imitate without thinking or analyzing my voice or sound or movement. When we think I experienced that some part of the body will get stiff and than it will be impossible to sing correctly without being yet nearly a singer. We can think before and after, not during.The exercises I give to the student will give the correct shape and strength or the necessary soft to all the body’s parties, and work on the coordination of the single parts. Singing is a complexe activity and we just have to render the brain and body in the possibility to execute that complexe coordination.