stephen f austin associate professor of voice college of music university of north texas l.
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Stephen F. Austin Associate Professor of Voice College of Music University of North Texas. Articulation. Additional building blocks. Sostenuto Portamento Legato Staccato Aspirato Marcato. Rationale:. All are strongly emphasized in the historical literature

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stephen f austin associate professor of voice college of music university of north texas
Stephen F. Austin

Associate Professor of Voice

College of Music

University of North Texas

Articulation

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

additional building blocks
Additional building blocks
  • Sostenuto
  • Portamento
  • Legato
  • Staccato
  • Aspirato
  • Marcato

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

rationale
Rationale:
  • All are strongly emphasized in the historical literature
  • Most seem to be totally ignored in the average vocal studio
  • Each is a part of a progressive methodical approach to training the voice

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

sostenuto
Sostenuto
  • Almost all historical treatises begin with the simplest of all gestures: the sustained tone.

“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

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

sostenuto5
Sostenuto
  • Isometric exercises for the intrinsic laryngeal muscles
  • Coordinates breath with onset
  • Simplicity allows focus on
    • Vowel
    • Posture
    • Respiration

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cinti damoreau 1830
Cinti-Damoreau (1830)

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frederick w root 1873
Frederick W. Root (1873)

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

sostenuto8
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:

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sostenuto9
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)

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sostenuto10
Sostenuto

“Try to overcome all tendency to tremulous tones, by striving for a steady and regular pressure of breath from the lungs. Certain tones, those in the neighborhood of E, will be, in most voices, more tremulous than the others, and the learner is sometimes surprised to find that in ascending the scale the quality of the tone suddenly changes at a certain pitch. But remember that nothing must interfere with the prescribed rules for producing a tone. Accept without question the tone that comes when you have assumed a natural position. Attack each tone with precision, and so avoid the bad but very common habit, of commencing below the proper pitch and sliding to place.” Frederick Root, School of Singing (1873)

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sostenuto11
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

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento chi non lega non canta
Portamento: Chi non lega, non canta!
  • 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

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento
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: Opinionidi’ cantoriantiche e moderni (1723)

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portamento14
Portamento

He went on to say that without a good portamento, “all other diligence falls short”.

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portamento15
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)

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento16
Portamento

Garcia: “the portamento will help equalize the registers, the timbres, and the force of the voice.”

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.”

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento17
Portamento

Stockhausen: “…it is only by the portamento that the singer gets his breathing and voice apparatus under full control.”

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.’

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento18
Portamento

Stockhausen cautioned that the vowel must remain stable throughout the whole extent, no matter how wide the interval, and the ‘the portamento must not degenerate into an anticipation…the pitch of the second note must only be heard at the beginning of the target pitch.’

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop

portamento19
Portamento
  • Difficult to find anyone who talks about it directly.
  • Will Crutchfield, critic and conductor said:

‘Portamento, properly understood, is the basis of legato singing, and as such it is close to the basis of the entire tradition of opera vocalism.’

  • Crutchfield goes on to support the use of portamento in the music of Mozart and Rossini

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portamento20
Portamento
  • Crutchfield – a ‘sterilization’ effort occurred in the 1950s to ‘unromanticize’ classical period opera.
    • ‘Voichesapete’
  • William Vennard’s ‘yawn-sigh’ includes the portamento

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portamento21
Portamento

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portamento22
Portamento

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portamento23
Portamento

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legato
Legato
  • Garcia: ‘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.’ Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing, 57

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legato25
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

“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.” Pg. 58

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staccato
Staccato
  • Most common after legato and portamento
  • Common to the literature for all voice
  • Noted by a dot or a dash above the note
  • All 19th C treatises dealt with this articulation directly

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staccato27
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

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staccato28
Staccato
  • Stockhausen:

‘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

  • Reid:

‘It is the rapid reiteration of a precise opening and closing movement of the vocal folds.’ Dictionary of Vocal Terminology, 352

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staccato29
Staccato
  • Miller:

‘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…’

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staccato30
Staccato
  • Uniformly described as a laryngeal event, not respiratory!
  • 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

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staccato31
Staccato
  • Stockhausen:

‘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

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staccato32
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
  • Stockhausen:
    • ‘Female students who have never practiced the staccato have no idea of the capabilities of their voice.’ A Method of Singing, 43

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staccato33
Staccato
  • I find much confusion over how to produce this!
  • Often produced from the abdominal wall
  • Misinterpretation of an observed event!

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staccato34
Staccato

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aspirato
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

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aspirato36
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.’

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aspirato37
Aspirato
  • Only when a note is repeated once or note raddopiate:
  • Not to be used for scale-wise passages as was often encountered, then and now:

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aspirato38
Aspirato

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aspirato39
Aspirato

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aspirato40
Aspirato

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marcatto
Marcatto
  • 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

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marcato
Marcato
  • Also ‘martellato’
  • Means ‘marked’
  • Early uses of the term suggest that it was interpreted as staccato – Mancini
  • Commonly discussed in the 19th C

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marcato45
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

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marcato46
Marcato
  • Garcia suggested that marcato would help with the ‘emission of the voice’
  • Marcato would help lower voices define there vocalization

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marcato47
Marcato
  • Stockhausen agreed that it was best suited for male voices
  • Gave additional indications for marcato: notes marked with ‘> > > >’ also with a tie

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marcato48
Marcato

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marcato49
Marcato
  • Modern editions often leave off important markings indicating intended articulations
  • 1962 G Schirmer score and Robert Larson’s edition of Una voce pocafa leave off the staccato markings:

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articulation
Articulation
  • Legacy sources indicate scores of exercises for training various articulations
  • Modern environments where serious students typically study do not support a careful methodical treatment of voice building
  • But we can try!

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop