Weekly Teaching Tip – May 23, 2016
by Dr. Hubert Noe
In my last teaching tip I tried to show the significance of being able to sing legato for a healthy function of the vocal folds. The vocal folds are the motor of the voice and it is not good for any motor when it is used in a permanent stop and go traffic. This may even influence the longevity of the motor. I recommended to focus an even and continuous airflow which is easier to focus and to control than the pressure during the phrase because there is such a great lever between the abdominal muscles and the glottis. The pressure is mainly controlled by the ears of the singer. But we want also to train the feeling of good singing during a phrase. Singers do not sing always alone and we all know how difficult it can be for a young singer to sing in a choir. As the overall lung energy is pressure x flow, the even flow can be a good reference point also for the pressure in use.
Today we want to focus the consonants in this context of legato in order to prevent uneven voice leading and overload of the precious vocal folds so typical for the unskilled singers.
Of course legato may be disrupted by unvoiced consonants but the singer can learn to minimize this disruption. We have seen that we are able to focus different things while we sing and so we know that we cannot easily practice a phrase (exercise) in total, but like any other athlete exercise only what we focus repeatedly.
Now let us take a couple of front and back consonants and focus as an objective that the flow, pressure and loudness before during and after the consonant should not change. We can use the vowel ah (not the diphthong ay) and stay on one pitch first:
Later we use words from difficult parts of a song still perhaps on a single tone or with the melody both in a comfortable range first. This may even open the eyes of the pupil that he has the habit to dam air pressure – may be for more power (?)- behind the closure of an unvoiced consonant (glottis open) which bursts on the vocal folds as soon as the following vowel has closed the glottis again. Which leads to contracted outer neck muscles above the larynx and these singers usually confuse covering a tone with contracting or pressing down the rout of the tongue. But this is another story of the same. Sometimes we hear that a former teacher has even told the pupil that he should give the consonant an extra support with his belly. And remember always: one phrase, one breath. Good luck!