Summer Voice Lessons

Thursday, August 30, 2012

shapeimage_2-5I have seen David five more times since the beginning of May. It has worked out to about 3 or 4 weeks between lessons, with various non-singing vacation/retreat weeks in there as well. Each time, he gave me new and different exercises. Usually I had just about gotten used to the previous set of exercises when it was time to learn others. Even though the new exercises always felt great when I was there with David, it usually took several frustrating and uncoordinated practices days before I could re-create the same good feeling by myself at home. Then, just when I felt like I was mastering the new exercises, it was time for new ones again. Yet, I was sort of getting used to the ups and downs of this cycle. David seemed to think I was making good progress, and Michael made fairly frequent sounds of approval and encouragement. I tried to trust the process and not judge the quality of my practice from day to day. Just show up and let the work have its effect.
I was learning the Sieber 36 eight measure vocalises, applying the new approach to some tunes with syllables. I really enjoyed these short pieces, but my voice felt very sluggish trying to put diction on vowels in the upper passaggio. Staccatto also felt gummy and thick. Better to work through these difficulties on music that I wouldn’t have to perform ever. Actually, I sang a wedding gig with the Princeton String Quartet at the end of May – Schubert Ave Maria and some other things. I tried out the more down and back feeling, and nothing bad happened. It felt very different, but the members of the quartet said I sounded good. Still, the diction caught in places. Something was going on with my tongue, and David put me through an obstacle course of “digga digga digga” and “la la la la la” to loosen things up. The Sieber tunes started to feel better and flow more evenly. My lower middle voice started to feel more secure, and my very lower notes even started to stay put after singing high. High notes were not a problem, but the upper passaggio was still sort of a mystery. This really feels like rehab after an injury – sometimes hard to see the progress from day to day, but slowly and steadily changing and improving. Once I got back from IMS, it was time to work on High Holy Days rep.
I sang some of the big Janowsky pieces for David in my August lessons. He said lots of his students bring these in at this time of year. On the recording of my lesson, whenever it sounded good to me, or David said, “yes that’s it”, I would hear myself say – “that feels so far back and wide!” It seems so counter intuitive to me, so different from how I have sung and taught for so many years. Yet, it does sound better – more even, more flowing, better vibrato speed. It feels heavy and dark to sing that way, but it doesn’t sound like that, and it doesn’t feel open or spread. I am used to connecting my breath to a small, high place in the front, where un-huhn is. I have to figure out where to hook the breath in this more spacious, far back area. Maybe that snore place in the upper back corner of the palate? I don’t seem to be having trouble with breath, yet to sing this way seems to take more air than the forward, narrow approach. I always thought appoggio was leaning into the un-huhn mask place. David talks about appoggio leaning against the sternum. That’s a very different conception and physical feeling. I’ll just have to get used to it and figure it out as I go along. So interesting.

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