Learning from my voice class (3)

Buzz is the word for the week. The past two classes Dr. Linnartz talked about singing in a high position and diction, i.e. the pronunciation of words in singing.

Singing is an exercise (yes I do sweat when I sing). Good singers turn on their full energy when they are performing. When we talk with others, we can get by vague pronunciation and low sounds by just guessing. Unfortunately, inadequate energy will make a singing performance a nightmare for the audience. The prevalence of microphones and amplifiers makes it unnecessary for singers to produce a loud volume, but this shouldn’t be a reason to compromise their sound quality. It is useful to imagine yourself in a big theater without any voice-amplifying device and try to make yourself heard. Enunciation is needed to make the words clearer and the performance fuller.

Singing “in a high position” entails buzzing the space above your nose and projecting your voice in your head. Try “Mmmm….”, first without pitch and then with pitch. You will feel some vibration above your nose, and that is what we call a “buzz”. As singers, we need to maintain that buzz no matter what consonants or vowels we are singing. More “buzzing” also enhances your presence in the room.

Every syllable in the lyrics matters, because any inadvertent mistake or imprecise pronunciation gets amplified in singing. For example, I tend to swallow the “n” and “d” sounds when I sing, and that gives the audience a sense of “unfinished-ness”. These end-of-word consonants needs to be clearly pronounced without falling off the pitch.

In the warm-up section, our voices were getting squeaky and ugly as we went higher. Dr. Linnartz said: “Sometimes it’s useful to just squeak the highest squeak. Nobody sounds beautiful in their highest pitch. But you need to exercise the facility. You need to go pass the beautiful to become beautiful.”

Go pass the beautiful to become beautiful. C’est la vie.

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