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Building Strong Voices: Twelve

Different Ways!

Source for this discussion:

Stephen F. Austin, Building Strong

Voices: Twelve Different Ways. Choral

Journal, Dec. 07 & Jan. 08

The Mechanism

Target for training:


Breathing and Support



Vowels and consonants


How to make sound!

Premise #1

Teachers have been successfully

building voices for several centuries
and many have recorded their ideas
for posterity.
- Few of these are commonly available today

Premise #2

Voice science has helped us

understand the way the voice works
and therefore has given us a means
of judging the effectiveness of
traditional methods.

Premise #3

Most 18th c and 19th c methods

focused on training the larynx as
the primary component of the vocal

Premise #4

The concept of pure vowel has

always been a primary tenet of
historical methods.

Premise #5

The concept of voce chiusa

represents to singing what
chiaroscuro means to all art forms:
a balance of brightness AND

Building block exercises

Other Interval Studies
Register Studies

Building block exercises

Stable Laryngeal Posture

Jaw position
Other articulations: aspirato, marcatto
Breath management

All are strongly emphasized in the historical

Each is a part of a progressive methodical approach
to training the voice
Among all musical instruments, Voice training has
historically been woefully inconsistent in providing
singers the benefit of a logical progressive method
for training

1. Sostenuto
Almost all historical treatises begin with the simplest

of all gestures: the sustained tone.

1. Sostenuto
It will prove to be of great help to a pupil who has a weak
and limited voice, whether it be soprano or contralto.
He must exercise with a solfeggio with sustained notes
in his daily study. The result will be further assured if
such solfeggio is kept within the limit which the voice
permits at that time. It must be suggested to those who
are confronted by these conditions, to increase the
volume of their voices each day little by little, directing
them thus, with the aid of art and continuous exercise,
until they become vigorous and sonorous. Mancini,
Practical Reflections on the Art of Singing, 1774

1. Sostenuto

Isometric exercises for the intrinsic laryngeal

Coordinates breath with onset
Simplicity allows focus on


Cinti-Damoreau (1830)

Frederick W. Root (1873)

1. Sostenuto
Many habituate themselves to a distorted position so
thoroughly, that it seems natural, possibly easy, to
them. If the face is not perfectly at repose, if the
forehead is wrinkled, the nostrils dilated, or the
mouth drawn into a position not used in speaking, it
is an unerring indication that there is distortion in
the throat. To rid yourself of wrong habits in this
respect, or to prove that there are none, try this:

1. Sostenuto
Fill the lungs; let the countenance assume an expression of
repose; relax the muscles of the throat; open the mouth
well; place the tongue as above directed; then exhale slowly
and steadily, at first without producing a tone, but after
two or three seconds allow the vocal cords to vibrate,
watching carefully to see that there be no change of
position. Repeat this process several times, at first making
the tone very soft; then, if successful in retaining the right
position of all the members, exhale a little faster, making a
louder tone. It is often of assistance to watch this process
with a looking-glass. Frederick Root, School of Singing, 1873

1. Sostenuto

Where voice technique is founded on systematically

acquired skills, sostenuto fills its role as a builder of
the instrument. Sustaining power will increase vocal
stamina and ensure vocal health. Richard Miller, The
Structure of Singing, 1989

2. Portamento:

Usually introduced after sustained tones

Usually preceded the teaching of legato
Was considered an essential tool in vocal culture
Singer cannot sing legato without portamento

2. Portamento
Thereupon he should teach him the art of slurring

from one note to another and of dragging the voice

smoothly in a pleasant manner on the vowels, while
proceeding from high to low. Because these skills, so
important to elegance in singing, cannot be taught
merely by solmizing, they are often utterly neglected
by the inexperienced teacher. Pier Francesco Tosi: Opinioni
di cantori antiche e moderni (1723)

He went on to say that without a good portamento,

all other diligence falls short.

2. Portamento
By this portamento of the voice is meant nothing

but a passing, tying the voice, from one note to the

next with perfect proportion and union, as much in
ascending as descending.
he ought to have him pass to the study of the

portamento of the voice, and instruct him well

therein, this being one of the principle parts of vocal
singing. Giambattista Mancini: Practical Reflections on the
Art of Singing (1774)

2. Portamento
Garcia: the portamento will help equalize the

registers, the timbres, and the force of the voice.

Manuel Garcia, The Complete Treatise on the Art of
Singing, 1847
Stockhausen: In the larger intervals the question of

registers has to be considered. There is all the more

reason not to pass it over, as the portamento itself
tends to blend the registers.
it is only by the portamento that the singer gets his
breathing and voice apparatus under full control.
Julius Stockhausen, A Method of Singing, 1872

2. Portamento

How is it to be performed?
Garcia stated that air pressure was to remain equal

and continuous and that there are gradual changes

of tension on the lips of the glottis.

2. Portamento

2. Portamento

2. Portamento

3. Legato

Chi non lega, non canta!

To sing legato is to pass from one tone to another

clearly, suddenly, spontaneously, without

interrupting the flow of sound, or allowing it to slur
through any intermediate tones. Garcia, Complete
Treatise on the Art of Singing, 57

3. Legato
Air is continuous
Joins all the tones together
Intonation must be perfect
Value, force, and timbre must be perfectly even
one can scarcely attain this end with less than a year and

a half of diligent study. Garcia, Pg 57

The smooth vocalization is the most frequently used of
all; therefore, it needs no sign to indicate it, the students
should always be on guard against slurring, marking, or
singing in staccato any passages no so indicated. Garcia,
Pg. 58

4. Other interval studies

Traditional method books contained many varied

forms of interval studies:

ear training

Helps unify the voice

4. Other interval studies

4. Other interval studies

4. Other interval studies

5. Onset
Initiation of the tone is a critical factor in voice

There are widely different opinions about how to
begin the tone
Much of the confusion is the result of
misunderstanding and terminology
Certain: breathiness in the voice is a common fault
with young singers and aspirated onsets guarantee
that they will stay that way

5. Onset
Hold the body straight, quiet, upright on the two legs,
removed from any point of support; open the mouth,
not in the form of the oval 0, but by letting the lower
jaw fall away from the upper by its own weight, the
corners of the mouth drawn back slightly. This
movement, which holds the lips softly pressed
against the teeth, opens the mouth in the correct
proportion and finds it an agreeable form.
Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1,
Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press,
1984), 41-42.

5. Onset
Hold the tongue relaxed and immobile (without lifting it either by
its root or by its tip); finally, separate the base of the pillars and
soften the entire throat. In this position, inhale slowly and for a
long time. After you are thus prepared, and when the lungs are
full of air, without stiffening either the phonator or any part of
the body, but calmly and easily, attack the tones very distinctly
with a light stroke of the glottis on a very clear [a] vowel. That
[a] will be taken well at the bottom of the throat in order that no
obstacle may be opposed to the emission of the sound. In these
conditions the tone should come out with ring and with
Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated
and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), 41-42.

5. Onset

One must guard against confusing the stroke of the

glottis with the stroke of the chest (coup de poitrine),
which resembles a cough, or the effort of expelling
something which is obstructing the throat.
Manuel Garcia, Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1,
Translated and edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press,
1984), 42.

5. Onset

In spite of Garcias caution:

Many misinterpreted his meaning

Misapplied the principle
Perhaps some voices were injured by the misapplication of his
This haunted him his whole career

Austin, Stephen F. The Attack on the Coup de la glotte. Journal

of Singing. Vol. 61, No. 5. May/June 2005. Pg 521.

5. Onset

5. Onset


6. Register Studies

Long history of confusion

No agreement on a definition
No agreement on how many there are
No agreement on what to call them
We do not understand the focus that was applied on

the registers in our historical documents

6. Register Studies
By the word register we understand a series of
consecutive and homogenous tones going from low
to high, produced by the development of the same
mechanical principle, and whose nature differs
essentially from another series of tones equally
consecutive and homogenous produced by another
mechanical principle. Manuel Garcia, Complete
Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1, Translated and edited by
Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), xli.

6. Register Studies

All the tones belonging to the same

register are consequently of the same
nature, whatever may be the
modification of timbre or of force to
which one subjects them. Manuel Garcia,
Complete Treatise On the Art of Singing, Part 1,
edited by Donald Paschke (New York: Da Capo Press, 1984), xli.

Translated and

6. Register Studies

Minoru Hirano ,Regulation of Register, Pitch and Intensity of

Voice. Folia Phoniatrica, Vol. 22, Pp. 1-20, 1970.

Ingo Titze, Principles of Voice Production.

Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 262, 1994.

Prentice Hall, Englewood

Minoru Hirano, Vocal Mechanisms in Singing: Laryngological and

Phoniatric Aspects. Journal of Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pp. 51-69. 1988.

Minoru Hirano, Vocal Mechanisms in Singing: Laryngological and

Phoniatric Aspects. Journal of Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pp. 51-69. 1988.

6. Register Studies

As the bottom of the vocal fold bulges out, the

glottis becomes more rectangular than wedgeshaped (convergent). During vibration, then,
glottal closure can be obtained over a greater
portion of the vocal fold, and thereby over a greater
portion of the cycleThe result is a voice of richer
timbre, which we call chest or modal voice. Ingo
Titze, Principles of Voice Production.
Jersey, Pg. 261, 1994.

Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New

6. Register Studies
This chest voice is not equally forceful and strong in

everyone; but to the extent that one has a more

robust or more feeble organ of the chest, he will have
a more or less robust voice.
A sonorous body, or rather robustness of voice is
ordinarily a gift from nature, but can also be
acquired by study and art.Giambattista Mancini, Practical
Reflections on Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated
and edited by Edward V. Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 20, 1967.

6. Register Studies
Chest mixture will strengthen the sopranos lower -

middle range. Almost every female can make some

chest timbre sounds, no matter how insecure, in the
lowest part of her range. These notes should be sung
in short, intervallic patterns, transposing by half
steps upward, as more sound emerges. Richard Miller,
Structure of Singing. Schirmer Books, New York, New York. Pg. 136-137, 1986.
Also the best way to build strength in the high voice

Ingo Titze Principles of Voice Production.

Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 262, 1994.

Prentice Hall, Englewood

Register rules:

Low and loud = chest voice

High and soft = head voice
Breathy and hooty = falsetto
We use these natural responses to train the registers

to respond appropriately

Sostenuto tones in the chest with or without crescendo

William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique.

Carl Fischer, New York. Pg 214. 1967.

William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique. Carl

Fischer, New York. Pg 214. 1967.

Welcoming in the chest

Imposing the chest

Imposing the chest II

Deference to the head

Register Breaks!

Additional register exercises:

Flute or whistle voice stretches for females (humming

works nicely)
Falsetto stretches for males
Falsetto break outs for men like Garcias middle

voice exercises for women

Dimmer switch exercises from falsetto to chest in


7. Stable Larynx
The most common vocal fault
The comfortably low larynx is an historically

important tenet of bel canto

Laryngeal posture varies widely through the range
If natural tendencies are allowed to dominate it can
lead to severe limitations in freedom, range, and
Often leads to mis-classification of voices
especially men

7. Stable larynx
Traditionally approached through the study of voce

chiusa timbre (vs. voce aperta)

Described in the concept of the open throat
Out of the darkness into the bright
Use of [o] and [u] vowels are best
Start in low range and work up
Single notes, small scales, building as they can
achieve the goal

7. Stable larynx
Secret to the male head voice
Bella signora: 1-3-5-8-5-3-1
My approach: whatever it takes!
Places whole mechanism in its optimal posture for


8. Jaw opening

The right thing depends upon the vocal style

How much is enough? How much is too much?
Commercial styles:

low and middle range is typically same as speech-modest

High range (belt) jaw has to be lowered to maintain belt
quality. There is no choice about this! All belters do it.

8. Jaw opening
Classical style:

Like CM styles, jaw opening in low and middle voice MAY be

modest, but the mixed quality in female middle voice and high
male voice is best accomplished without opening
In female voice however the jaw has to lower at about F5
formant tuning
The three fingers rule does not apply universally! It can
distort the tone and can put undue stress on the mechanism

10. Other Articulations

Legacy sources indicate scores of exercises for

training various articulations other than sostenuto,

portamento and legato

10. Aspirato

Julius Stockhausen reminded us that the legato is

the most important and most beautiful style of

vocalisation, but also said: It is a fact, that by this
aspirated vocalisation, great flexibility of the larynx,
and distinctness of technique can be most surely and
quickly acquired. A Method of Singing, 46

10. Aspirato

Garcia described it this way:

The means of performing these passages consists of

a slight aspiration placed before the repetition of
each tone. This aspiration emanates from the glottis
which allows a small particle of unvoiced air to
escape between the repeated tones.

10. Aspirato
Only when a note is repeated once or note

Not to be used for scale-wise passages as was often
encountered, then and now:

10. Aspirato

10. Aspirato

10. Aspirato

10. Marcato
Garcia stated:

All these means or manners of uttering the

passages, namely: portamentos; marcatos; ties;
staccatos; while applying to them all the vowels and
their timbres: pauses, forte, pianissimo, fortissimo,
piano, inflections, mezzoforte, and their various
combinations of these means, form the inexhaustible
depth in which the singer finds the brilliant
resources which give life to his performance. Complete
Treatise, 111

10. Marcato
To mark tones is to make them distinct by thrusting
them, by supporting each of them separately without
detaching them or stopping them. One will succeed
in it by supposing that one has repeated the vowel as
many times as there are notes in the passage, but
without discontinuing the sound for breathing or
anything else . . . At the same time, one will make a
slight pressure with the stomach for each vowel; the
pharynx will experience a slight dilation for each
tone. Complete Treatise, 58-59

10. Marcato
Garcia suggested that marcato would help with the

emission of the voice

Marcato would help lower voices define there

10. Marcato

Stockhausen agreed that it was best suited for male

Gave additional indications for marcato: notes
marked with > > > > also with a tie

10. Marcato

10. Marcato
Modern editions often leave off important markings

indicating intended articulations

1962 G Schirmer score and Robert Larsons edition
of Una voce poca fa leave off the staccato markings:

10. Staccato

Most common after legato and portamento

Common to the literature for all voice
Noted by a dot or a dash above the note
Most 19th C treatises dealt with this articulation


10. Staccato
Garcia: Staccato tones are formed by attacking the

tones individually by a stroke of the glottis which

detaches them from each other.
Focused on the opening gesture of the glottis after a

complete closure

10. Staccato

In this style of vocalisation, the student should

concentrate his attention chiefly on the activity of
the larynx and the closing muscles. A Method of
Singing, 43


It is the rapid reiteration of a precise opening and

closing movement of the vocal folds. Dictionary of
Vocal Terminology, 352

10. Staccato

the goal is a clean approximation, and involves the

principle of quick alternation between vocal fold
adduction and abduction. Structure of Singing, 12
Quotes Brodnitz:
In staccato singing a form of glottal stroke is used
to produce the sharp interruptions of sound that
characterize it. But in good staccato the glottal
stroke which starts each note is well controlled
and done with a minimum of pressure

10. Staccato

Uniformly described as a laryngeal event, not

Behnke suggested that a slight inspiration should

precede every tone and that this additional element

is as beneficial to the respiratory system as the
opening and closing action is to the larynx. Voice
Training Exercises for Soprano, Introduction

10. Staccato

The action of the diaphragm, which is indispensable

for the quick inspirations required for staccato, takes
place almost automatically, as nobody can produce
short detached notes without moving the muscles of
the diaphragm; moreover, we practice them from our
earliest childhood, in laughing and sobbing. A
Method of Singing, 119

10. Staccato
The opening of the glottis from complete closure

produces a salient acoustic signal

Has always been used to develop and maintain

flexibility and clarity of tone


Female students who have never practiced the staccato

have no idea of the capabilities of their voice. A Method of
Singing, 43

10. Staccato

I find much confusion over how to produce this!

Often produced from the abdominal wall
Misinterpretation of an observed event!

10. Staccato

11. Breath Management

Like registers, a vast amount of confusion over this

Support is as complex as you want to make it, or as

simple as it needs to be
Garcias two volume work, often quoted here, gave

about 2 pages to support

If you follow the anatomy, you cant go wrong!

12. Posture
Body alignment matters!
Position of the head matters!
folder syndrome is deadly to a free voice
Head up, pointed straight ahead, not to the side

where they hold their folder