Voice luthier

Lucia Cossu

An old precious perspective on voice with new exercises to work through it in a contemporary way; the old instrumental italian belcanto technique and a corpus of new exercises to obtain that instrument the voice is. A perspective useful for professionals, beginners and in rehabilitative field. 

I use the term luthier to define the exact work I pursue on voices, I build instruments working on precise muscles and muscular chains and way and time of reactivity and coordinatory patterns. The  new perspective in the voice instrument is due to the real possibility of working on the voice we have, to change it into a better instrument exactly in the same way we can work on wood to have a good violin from it. When someone wants to learn to play violin or piano or guitar he uses an instrument made by a craftsman and the instrument is yet a proper violin or guitar and after the use it is normally put in a protective case or stay in a proper home that will not damage it too much. That is not the case with the voice.

Our body is made and modified by our entire life: habits, physical activity, coordination, what we eat and drink, our hormonal balance and changes, physical accidents, surgeries. Our voice is our body, not only an abstract breath flowing and vocal chords. Our voice is made by our vocal chords as a piano is made by its chords, it is just a part of it and the most fragile one; without many other parts working properly and shaped properly they can’t make well their part, and in my experience that’s from where many tone-deaf voices come. I dream a day where tone-deaf will be no more an ear judgment but in most cases a body shape form to modify and so to render perfect pitch possible in the correct range of that voice. I found that it is possible to work on those deficiencies directly. When we were born we were not born as a voice-body but as a body. Singing, even if can seem so natural in some, is not that natural and requires unnatural coordination and specific settlements of some parts and we have to deal with that. The vocal technique developed on the centuries in a complete and reliable technique is the well known Belcanto technique and structured on tradition and Garcia Method, Matilde Marchesi and all the corpus of voice exercises as Concone, Panofka, Rossini are in that path. Maria Malibran, Lilli Lehman, Mirella Freni, Beniamino Gigli, Giulietta Simionato are representative of that kind of tradition.  It was developed on classical music necessities, and it is useful in its whole for the classical sound and not for the very different and also evolving characteristics of the others kind of music. It contains however in itself the principles of the voice, and those don’t change even when the sound changes. I studied with Giannella Borelli (I often had lessons after Sumi Jo or Chiara Taigi) and Anna di Stasio, two representatives of Italian belcanto School, and I was very lucky in that. My singing, my technique and now my work is in the sequel of those principles and school, and the good and physiological results I obtain are certainly due to that. In this method the work on the body as well as the learning of playing the instrument voice are made at the same time and vocalisation is in the purpose of both the results. To have a development of the same good results in a different kind of sound I have found and defined a corpus of different exercises, with and without sounds that have been useful even in cases of damaged vocal chords and helpful to gain a more healthful state. What is new in my method is just the approach to voice and vocal problems, the adjustment of those instruments to one single person: not everybody requires the same settlement, the possible sounds are so many and the path is to discover together which is the proper sound of the body and the soul of that person. A technique to me is not a only and absolute method leading to the same results everyone but the instrument to make music without damaging ourselves, it is a craft and a freedom, for professionals or amateurs. The voice is the deepest expression of someone and can’t fit the same way to everybody, it is not an abstraction and we don’t have to be submitted having a bad sound just because we have a bad coordination in breathing and we don’t know how to overcome that. It is a work useful for beginners in all styles, for professionals who would explore different possibilities in their instrument and sometimes, in accordance and under phoniatric control, in rehabilitative field.

On performances of young singers


I often work with young and very young singers, some of them with genuine attitude and powerfully talented. I just teach singing and not music for young age, so the minimum I require is to verify in the first weeks the authentic desire of learning that only can make them be happy in short or less short vocal lessons, without wasting time and parent’s money. When they are very talented they desire to feed that talent with good music and after a little also to give that music to someone in the form of performance. I am not totally against young in performances, broadcastings and competitions, but there are some rules that I find important in all my teaching that should be followed and I see that often are not. All the talented persons I have met of young age showed a double in them: a young person and that talent that when real is out of age. The talent is adult and experimented, not the person who contains that talent. Talent has some necessities that can be very light to the talented and forced requests to the other. I think that nothing is bad if we just don’t hide young singers performances, if we let a space of existence to the characteristics of young persons. In my experience their performances are plenty of fluctuation in the level, in the technique control and in the musical depth. If we want to moderate that before their experienced technique make that fluctuation so little that you don’t really perceive it you will make of them little robot performers and that is what I really can’t bear. I can’t bear to see a little singer having the pressure of making a good performance for a tv public or to make happy people around him and not simply a gentle and respectful way to share and rejoice the music that this little singer desires to give us. Music is giving something to the others in a form correct and acceptable, since when this is possible by the technique level I agree and organize for my students to perform in private or less private or public situations, but always, and I mean always respecting the freedom of being just what they are at that moment, with their qualities and lacks. We are teachers in a path to help them become in the time musicians if they will desire that and if they have the talent to, or simply to enjoy and practice music with correct basis, not teachers who have to show their good teaching by the incredible performances of little robots performers. We have to help them to make and experiment and refine the music they have inside, not to use it for our pleasure or business, and the difference is clear and sometimes very subtle. You will never find before the correct time one of my student required to be “perfect”, they will always have from me the request to have the courage of having the pleasure of performing and the courage of trying what the inside is asking to have music, and after we will discuss and choose what was good, healthy, not too plenty of risk but in their sense of their imagination, of their musical universe, of their musical dream. The level is something that raise all together when it is well conducted, and can be so easy to make one perfect or two perfect songs during one year, but that will not raise the entire level in a balanced and grounded way. I teach to beginners and they have the right to be what they are during the time they get stronger and more solid and stable in their results, and no tv Show or Competition or parent or manger should put the pressure on them of not being enough or to have to do something far from their genuine talent just to make someone happy of them.

The same is to to be said on the vocal performance and the risk of abusing so young instruments: they are growing and they are elastic and not strongly structured instruments. We learn adults not to do everything is possible for our voice to do, we must be much more careful to teach what is healthy and what at a certain age never must be allowed. Sometimes they find by themselves some high tones and too heavy notes that make everybody around them being excited, but in that we have to teach them well what can be done without risking the future of their voice and what will make it age prematurely and ruin it. When they are young they are often less protective toward themselves as adult are and I prefer not to teach what can be dangerous to be sure they will not use when nobody controls or just to be appreciated and loved. But young voice is then another subject.