Saturday, August 6, 2011

Singing on the gesture of inhalation

I love the Italians, So often, those little nuggets of advice which we have heard from our teachers (“sing on the breath”, sing “on the gesture of inhalation”, “appoggio”, “with the words forward, on the lips”) are derived from the Italian vocal tradition. To me, these aphorisms bridge the gap between the science of singing and how it feels to actually do it correctly.

I first encountered “singing on the gesture of inhalation” in the wonderful little book, “Hints on Singing”, a description of lessons with Francesco Lamperti. Let’s unpack the term:

1. Beginning the tone with a feeling of inhaling, or “drinking in” allows us a smooth transition between inhalation and exhalation/phonation.
2. It is an efficient way to set up the action of the inspiratory muscles against the expiratory muscles which is the hallmark of appoggio.
3. It releases the larynx, lifts the palate and expands the pharynx, in a dynamic fashion.
4. It reverses the contraction of the windpipe which generally accompanies phonation.
5. It “places” the voice. Singing “on” (not “in” or “under”) the feel of inhalation means that we feel the voice “over” the resonance cavities of the throat.
6. It teaches us the feeling of the correct onset. All we have to do, then, to have a perfectly balanced onset, is to take care that there is no breathiness in the sound.

Ultimately, it is the imagination that makes the sound; muscles are directed by brain at the speed of thought.
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