Beginning Vocal Lessons

In helping a student with beginning vocal lessons in classic technique I came across some materials online that I think are of value to new vocal students. One of the difficulties with developing vocal technique is that what the student hears in their head is different than what others hear. So with voice study in particular, it’s important to have an outside source guide you in technique and placement. In it’s simplest form, the teacher is helping the student with how a proper placement feels to them, so the student can build muscle memory on basic technique before moving to more complex layers and interpretation.

One of the first steps in classical technique is to work on the open “ah” sound to build the muscle memory for an open sound that can project well. I thought this video was a good representation as a starting point on this technique:

Then here are a couple vocal warm ups the student can use to build note recognition and also practice forming all the basic vowel sounds with the new open “ah” approach. In short, the back of the throat is open like in a yawn and the lips form the different vowel sounds. Exaggerate this approach at first, so the student gets in the habit of always singing with an open sound on all vowel sounds – the formation in the back of the throat is the same for all vowels, only the lips change the enunciation. This will not sound “good” at first, but for classical technique it’s important to get away from the thin enunciations we use in everyday speech (particular for North American English speakers).

Vocal warmup 2:

Most vocal students of classical technique will learn some of the “24 Italian Arias” from the famous G. Schirmer edition. I think it’s valuable to compare what a more modern enunciation sounds like vs. an authentic Italian enunciation. Here are two versions for students to compare:

Luciano Pavarotti. Notice in Pavarotti’s version how open his resonance is, how pure the vowel sounds are, how the notes sustain into one another focused on the vowels, and also where he makes the artistic choice to put in a vocal slide.

And for practicing Caro Mio Ben, here is a backing track (for low voice):

My latest gig was working as Music Director for “Rock of Ages” with NCL International out of New York. This is an 80’s rock show that’s “in your face” and you would think it is as far removed from “Caro Mio Ben” as possible. However, in vocal warmups I picked a couple of the leads and out of the blue said “Sing an Italian Aria.” Almost all of them could break into a memorized Italian aria on the spot. In fact, one of them did indeed sing “Caro Mio Ben” on the spot. I tell you this to impress on the beginning vocal student how important it is to develop facile classical technique. Certainly you don’t have to, but if you intend on swimming with the big fish and audition in a place like New York City, I can guarantee you that your competition HAS put in the time to learn proper technique.

Who can learn classical technique? Anyone. It’s not just about talent, it’s about putting in the time and having a teacher that gives you good guidance.

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