I heard about the importance of good breathing support (appoggio) since the first time I started learning how to sing, more than 10 years ago. But knowing something for a long time doesn’t guarantee that we actually use or act on that knowledge. That’s how I feel about appoggio. It’s not something new, but at the same time, it feels like a wholly new experience. At least, in the context of the singing lessons I’m taking this quarter.
My current teacher told me from the get-go that singing training is, in part, muscle training. Especially when we speak about the breathing technique. It’s like going to the gym, but without evident external changes 😄. And that’s exactly what makes it so elusive. We don’t see the muscles and the parts of the body that we want to strengthen or get more control over. It’s all trial and error. This is ‘the unseen’ in singing training.
Not being able to see the inner parts of the body in action (the lungs, the diaphragm, the larynx, the tongue, etc.) makes learning to sing trickier. We need to rely more on body sensations, in the sounds we are producing, how something feels in a certain part of our instrument (which is the whole body!). For some people, this makes it even more fascinating. The challenge of not being able to know or to see everything, and trying to learn the skill all the same.
There are still many technical words in German that come up in our lessons and that I still don’t know. Most of the time I can still get the main directions and instructions from Patrick. If it’s absolutely necessary, he says the equivalent word in English. Fortunately, we don’t need to rely on that so often. I’m very thankful for having such a patient teacher, who’s willing to teach a non-native student who’s still learning German 😊.
The Tenth Week of Practice
This week I got back to the breathing exercises, focusing more on ‘explosiveness’ instead of how long could I stretch a fiato (a single breath). Up until now, I had always thought of breathing training (in singing) in terms of being able to hold a note for a very long time. When I started noticing difficulties in getting to the high voice, I realized that being able to hold a longer note didn’t help at all there. Or, at least, not at the point where I’m at. First, I need to be able to sing a short high note.
That’s why these days I’ve been observing with more attention how much support I need in different parts of my voice register. I learned that it’s important to dose and manage this well. Otherwise, we use everything we have in the medium voice and run ‘out of gas’ in the higher register. We don’t want this to happen! So, we train in order to have strong muscles, but we don’t use this strength equally throughout our voice.
In this week’s lesson we practiced keeping the same placement while changing between vowels. Below you can hear this with ‘A’ – ‘E’ – ‘A’. I alternate between the vowels and try to keep the sound more or less in the same place.
This is the same as above, but staying a little longer on the ‘A’ at the end:
Here’s a fragment of a recording of Der Neugierige, by Schubert, from this week. Thank you so much Mandee Madrid-Sikich for letting me use your excellent accompaniments in this project!
Ich frage keine Blume,
Ich frage keinen Stern,
Sie können mir alle nicht sagen,
Was ich erführ’ so gern.
Ich bin ja auch kein Gärtner,
Die Sterne stehn zu hoch;
Mein Bächlein will ich fragen,
Ob mich mein Herz belog.
That’s all for now! 😊