Training the voice is a complex work of opposite forces, and it does not work with the simple opposition of opposite muscles. We can think in a more complete and refined way putting the opposition on the functions so to work in some parts or in all the muscular chains and obtain not by luck all the different possibilities of voices and not strain or remain with a too limited voice.
If you are a boxeur or a sprinter will you train just in a relaxed and smooth way, as for example doing only Tai Chi? Relaxation can be useful and even fantastic as Tai Chi, but it is one of the tools possible and useful in voice training and it does not serve all the required purposes for professionals and performances or certain styles. Music and repertoire are made of different rhythms and accents and strenghts and if we do not train the system voice in a rational and precise way to be the perfect image of the music we are going to perform we will have a problem. Of course how to do that and from where and by what passages develop strengths and speeds requires great care and wisdom as in every training, but the answer always smooth and legato and relaxed is not the answer correct.
– What is your job? – Create problems to create new habits. Said in other terms when there are bad habits that it is required to be changed and not contained (less freedom and less effectiveness if just contained) the thing is to create conditions in which the new habits desired contain the solution and the previous bads cannot find it. Below this excellent article to explain what habits are and how to find them, so it can be more clear the strategies I adopt in my work.
*the series was streamed on YouTube where it remained available for some months (then it was time to let it go and look at the future). Now some clips and a resume in the page dedicated here and some on Instagram @lucia_cossu_voiceteacher #aliceandme #aliceandmetheseries
We are at the end of these 6 weeks, Alice performs again. She decides to stream it on her Instagram while we stream on Youtube. She decides to sing 5 songs. She risks more, enjoy.
What nice to talk with a former student who has an interesting view on our work and my method from his medical job; and so nice that not only he is smart as he was but his band will get back rehearsing. Thank you Alex, still pleased of having had you between my students.
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!
What is it the voice sound? Does a voice sounds always the same and having always the same perception of physical work to start a sound?
Sound is a wave, starting from a vibrating source. A trained singer with his memory will have a complex reaction and he’ll have his body ready to make the note required and vocal folds vibrating, slightly before we put the energy and the mucosa wave that starts the sound heard outside (an experienced singer can prolonge this moment of singing without sound for quite a long time and it is something special to experience). Inside we have lots of other structures vibrating, we are not at the zero absolute point so everything in us ocillates, sometimes vibrating in accordance with something else outside transmitting the oscillation or determined by our specific inside or even a sum of both. A good point to start singing is to just give an internal movement to breath related structures so to have a clear sound coming from our instrument that is generally what is perceived as our voice. The interpreter will make you dream, and have all this incredible effects a voice can have, does not just listen to its vocal folds and big muscles vibrating the note but hears and chooses something more precise perceived inside or outside, and puts the wave starting from this other point of oscillation or its waves to reach it in a summable way so to sum it in his proper voice and so making heard what sometimes we call the invisible that become visible. Truest interpreter will sound on something they feel as something precious or significant or simply with an inexplicable charm vibrating somewhere and just making it being where the wave starts or arrives to give it a voice.
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.
Arriva un possibile nuovo allievo. Può essere un professionista o un principiante. Prima cosa trovare il modo di metterlo a proprio agio per ottenere di ascoltarlo cantare come fa abitualmente. Seconda cosa è trattenersi dal pensare e capire e analizzare tutto subito, delle volte può essere corretta e completa la prima analisi ma in genere son le proprie cornici e categorie mentali, di gusto e tecniche a posizionarlo velocemente all’interno di esse tagliando, tralasciando e subendo anche l’ovvia reazione affascinata o infastidita di cose proposte e ottenute e fatte con un diverso settaggio e utilizzo nel sistema complesso canto. Terzo: se delle cose funzionano anche se non si capisce come e perché avere molta cura che l’insegnamento delle altre non le vanifichi. Quarto: chiedersi come essere un utile strumento per il cantante che abbiamo di fronte e non farlo rientrare in un’ideologia accademica, per quanto buona annullerebbe le differenze e uniformerebbe appiattendo verso il basso la vera tecnica che è sempre leggermente diversa su persone e anime diverse. Quinto: chiedersi regolarmente se si sta sbagliando tutto e far mente locale a dei test che facciano capire se si ha ancora un’idea fresca e vispamente utile invece che solo una strada che va in un punto deciso tempo prima e che va ricorretta o almeno ricontrollata come se fosse nuova man mano che ci si sposta dal punto del controllo precedente. Il canto si giudica dal canto e non da idee di come si fa, altrimenti Gould e Richter e Backhaus avrebbero dovuto avere la stessa proporzionale altezza del panchetto e Hari Hoenig non dovrebbe esistere. Sesto: ricordarsi che la tecnica vocale serve per ottenere musica e risultati musicali efficaci senza danneggiarsi e questo è possibile farlo con infinite varianti di cose simili e che il nostro è uno strumento complessissimo e nessuno di noi lo capisce tutto e fino in fondo.
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.
What is breathing for singing? What is correct breathing? Is it different from normal correct breathing? What are the muscles related? Which muscles have we to work to obtain a good singing breath?
The ancient methods talk about an appoggio (a sort of stand, of pillar) the voice find in a correct breath and of floating on the breath, of singing on the soffio (a gentle, very gentle blow) of the breathing. When we do sing well we lose the exact perception of the air going out and we just perceive a sound around us and a sort of lightness mixed to a sense of solidity and that’s what we call appoggio. How can we find appoggio? This is one of the most important questions of singing. It is normally the result of a good technique work, and it is essential to have the pressure without effort to make the vocal folds work properly. It is in some sort the way to make air become sound and energy, and not a rough blowing air. I tell my students to imagine that with appoggio air becomes water, a living water on which we surf. A sea or a lake or an ocean, it depends on the music we are singing, but not a geyser going out but something that become elastic on which we can float and jump and play surfing on the waves. It is a sort of pressure the air will have under the larynx that you will not feel as a pressure in a water gun for garden ready to be open, but just a freedom and a consistence in the body. This because we can augment the pressure by breathing out the air or by creating an opposition between the muscles of expiration and those which provoke inspiration. In the first case we will have not a good air for singing while in the second case all our air will become ready to become just sound and not to be rough to our larynx or vocal folds. I found very useful the osteopathic conception of breathing which is not that far from yoga conception (the true things relate all to the same, just the use or the path to join those is different). To osteopathy we have three horizontal structures involved in breathing: one under clavicular, the proper diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm. Those horizontal structures in a good respiration move accorded one to the other. The clavicular for the voice is involved in the throat opening (also Jerzy Grotowski found that evidence in his acting technique), the proper diaphragm goes up and down in exhalation and inhalation, and it is just involuntary as the hearth. The pelvic one is composed by muscles that make lateral and backward-forward movement. A great part of singing technique is related to the possibility in controlling the diaphragm by the structures to which is anchored, and many are absolutely useful and good for many purposes. The new step I found in my experience is to control the effort and the wrong attack of sound by the training or retraining of pelvic diaphragm, which is directly related to the proper diaphragm. We can have easy pressure by opposing voluntarily the inspiratory muscles of pelvic diaphragm during phonation. I found very healthy to coordinate sound attack to a muscular inspiration through some studied movements that will have the result of an opposition of inspiratory and expiratory forces and a phonation with no effort. When this opposition is present the voice has the appoggio. With this simple appoggio and without a voluntary use of all the sustain muscles normally used in vocal technique in my experience I find an easy elastic voice that permits to work on faulty coordination of others part of the instrument voice. For a performing voice it will lack of some support sometimes, but it will be easy to add it when the fundamental defaults are extinguished and the gain in term of capacity of shaping new coordination is quite relevant. In a not so faulty voice I will add the necessary support by appropriate vocalisation and by appropriate repertoire. I usually wait the moment in which the attack of the sound has joined a good automatic coordination so to seem totally natural to teach the voluntary supports to obtain a voluntary work on sound more refined. The pelvic diaphragm often is not properly working and I have developed many exercises to work it and relate it to the voice, exercise anybody of any age can do. Results have been surprising also to me in profesional singers with or without problems, in some damaged vocal folds, in adolescents during the changing of the voice.
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