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Energy and Singing

Energy and Singing

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Published by Andria Uale

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Andria Uale on Apr 11, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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10/31/11 8:55 AMPrint view - International Index to Music PeriodicalsPage 1 of 7http://iimp.chadwyck.com.eres.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/citations/p…tsID=132C0D5F78B&ItemNumber=1&FormatType=raw&journalID=JID08848106
Printed from International Index to Music Periodicals 31 October 2011
Print view
Miller, Richard
Energy and Freedom in Singing
 Journal of Singing - The Official Journal of the National  Association of Teachers of Singing 
53:2 (November-December 1996) p. 27-30, 34
URL for this item:
The chief dilemma for the classically trained singer is how to apply breath energy (''support'') without loss of vocal freedom. Tasks facing the performer who sings the vocal literature heard in the recital hall, in the operahouse, in the oratorio, and in musical theater as well, exceed those of the public speaker or the professionalactor.
richard miller 
The voice pedagogy house is divided when it comes to how the body should best be energized for singing.On the one hand there are those who believe that singing requires little or no physical energy beyond thatneeded for normal speech. Others hold that the difference in energy required between speaking and mostsinging compares to the difference in energy needs between walking and running. These technical premisesare based on differing aesthetic standards.A soprano skillful enough to participate at a relatively high level of competition hears from one of her judgesthat she is ''pushing,'' while another finds that vitality and energy are lacking in her singing; a third evaluator considers the contestant's performance to be excellent! The audition ratings from the three judges run from ahigh 96 to a low 66. It is clear that the three adjudicators do not share pedagogical convictions regarding theideal balance of energy and freedom.One of the wonders of the human vocal instrument lies in the astonishing facility of the vocal folds (vocalcords) to vibrate at remarkable speeds. For example, when a soprano sings a high A (A
), the cycle of vibration occurs at 880 times per second. This means that within each of these 880 vibratory cycles, the vocalfolds open and close. This process is too rapid for the human eye to discern. That is why vocal foldmaneuvers can be precisely seen only by subjecting phonation to stroboscopic examination. (Of course, theremay not always be the same exact completion or vocal fold parting and re-approximation in each vibratorycycle.)
10/31/11 8:55 AMPrint view - International Index to Music PeriodicalsPage 2 of 7http://iimp.chadwyck.com.eres.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/citations/p…tsID=132C0D5F78B&ItemNumber=1&FormatType=raw&journalID=JID08848106
A proper balance between freedom and energy can happen only if the three parts of the vocal instrument arein accord with each other. The motor, the vibrator, and the resonator (the breath-management machine, thelarynx, and the vocal tract) must be synergistically coordinated. These members of the tri-partite vocalinstrument cannot be allowed to pursue independent lives. An understanding of how the energy-generatingsystem of the voice works is necessary in order to achieve efficient balance between dynamism and ease insinging. There must be precise coordination between aerodynamic (airflow) and myoelastic (muscle)activities of the motor and the vibrator.figure 1. an egg graph of the vowel [
a] firmly spoken by a bass-baritone at a comfortable
 pitch level, in which the open phases of the glottis are represented by the ''brim of the hat,'' the closing phases
 by the ''crown of the hat.''Many systems of ''breath support'' strive consciously to increase airflow, hoping to supply the vibrating vocalfolds with the right amount of energy essential to phonation, thereby creating an excessive flow of breath thatis not turned into tone. Still other systems for managing the breath look for ways to counteract the higher  breath-flow rate required for singing by increasing resistance to breath emission through inducing firm glottalclosure. In the first instance, breathy phonation results; in the second, pressed phonation. Yet, the mostefficient system for managing airflow for the singing voice avoids both breathy and pressed phonation, and isappropriately termed
balanced phonation
.It is clear that the way in which the larynx responds to airflow and subglottic pressure determines the degreeof freedom and energy in singing. Currently it is possible to verify by instrumentation aesthetic judgmentsabout the sounds of singing as to the presence or absence of a proper balance between glottal closure andairflow. As the vocal folds respond to moving air (which sets them into vibration), the opening and closing phases of the glottis can be measured by electroglottography (EGG), a non-invasive p.27technique that permits unhindered singing. In the EGG graph, as illustrated by Figure 1 , glottal closure isdisplayed by the ''crown of the hat'' or ''peak'' appearance; glottal opening is shown by the ''hat brim'' or ''valley.''When singing in the speech range, the ratio of opening and closing phases of the glottis resembles the ratiofound in firm speech. Figure 2 compares spoken phonation from a well-trained bass-baritone on the vowel [
a]with three modes (breathy, pressed, balanced) of singing at the comfortable low range fundamental C
.In skillful singing, the degree of energy generated by the breath-management mechanism must becommensurate with the requirements of three parameters: (1) the fundamental (pitch), (2) the intensity(degree of loudness), and (3) the phonetic selection (vowel or consonant). This is the case at any pitch, at anyintensity, and with any phoneme. It is for this reason that much of traditional vocal instruction begins with theonset (
l'attacco del suono
) sung on comfortable pitches. The onset exercise is a stratagem for inducing precise synergistic action between the breath-management and the vocal-fold response to the air flow.However, as the scale mounts and as intensity increases, this process becomes additionally significant. Inresponse to mounting pitch and intensity, the period of time during which the vocal folds stay closed during avibratory cycle becomes longer.
10/31/11 8:55 AMPrint view - International Index to Music PeriodicalsPage 3 of 7http://iimp.chadwyck.com.eres.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/citations/p…tsID=132C0D5F78B&ItemNumber=1&FormatType=raw&journalID=JID08848106
These changing factors that result from mounting pitch and intensity are, unfortunately, often not taken intosufficient account by some vocal researchers. It is falsely assumed that throughout all ranges of the singingvoice there should be little or no appreciable increase in the degree of resistance the vocal folds offer to theflow of breath. Whatever exceeds the levels of vocal-fold closure appropriate to speech is then considered to be undesirable and to constitute ''pressed'' phonation. For that reason, demonstrations of singing termed ''flow phonation'' often strike the trained musicianly ear as breathy and at a low-energy level.figure 2. series of egg graphs.
uppermost window
: spoken phonation of figure 1.
middle window
: balanced sung phonation (c
), in which the open phases of the glottis are represented by the
''brim of the hat,'' the closing phases by the ''crown of the hat''.
lower-middle window
: sung breathy phonation
), with longer open phases of the glottis.
bottom window
: sung pressed phonation (c
), with a longer 
closure phase.
figure 3. series of egg graphs.
upper window
: sung balanced phonation (b
[flat ]
) at the
 passaggio. middle window
: sung breathy phonation (b
[flat ]
) at the
 primo passaggio. bottom window
: pressed
 phonation (b
[flat ]
) at the
 primo passaggio
Figure 3 represents the same bass-baritone singing three modes of phonation (balanced, breathy, and p.28 pressed) at the fundamental B
[flat ]3
, which is his primo passaggio.figure 4. series of egg graphs.
upper window
: sung balanced phonation (e
[flat ]4
) at the
 secondo passaggio
middle window
: sung breathy phonation (e
[flat ]4
) at the
 secondo passaggio
bottom window
: pressed phonation (e
[flat ]4
) at the
 secondo passaggio
figure 5. series of spectral analyses at c
upper left 
: spectral analysis of spoken phonation

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