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Thread: How to sing opera?

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Default How to sing opera?

    I tried to sing opera yesterday, but it hurt my throat, like I had been yelling. What am I doing wrong? Should my tongue be in some position or something?

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I tried to sing opera yesterday, but it hurt my throat, like I had been yelling. What am I doing wrong? Should my tongue be in some position or something?
    Oh boy. The answer is "or something." A lot of somethings.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Bix's Avatar
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    The list of things to do to be able to sing opera is as long as a piece of string. If you just want to sing along with your favourite arias, do so with a normal singing voice and don't try to emulate the power of an opera singer; if you want to sing like the opera singers it wont come accidently - you have to do certain things.

    Just a few tips based on what you say you have done so far - sore throat etc

    1.) be loose, just let your whole body relax, let your face relax, if you want to get into the relaxed zone perhaps a glass of red wine (im not saying that opera singers do this as a matter of course, if you acheive the correct physiological state with wine then you'll know what your aiming for without it), i must sound like im encouraging alcoholism.

    2.) you probably have a sore throat because you are concentrating the power of the notes in your voice box - what should happen is that the power of the sound (the air) comes from deep down near your diaphragm, pushes past your voice box (which is the only thing that needs to be precise whilst the rest of you is relaxed) and out you mouth. Now 'out your mouth' sounds a little simple, but it isn't. You are having to create the right space within the structure of your mouth to allow for perfect resonance - this resonance is what allows projection to occur. This is as opposed to shouting which is different - the power of souting originates in the voicebox and will cause damamge in the long term.

    3.) there are specific muscles that work in the throat to help create the opera sound, be careful not to use the muscles that one would use to swallow food (swallow now, feel those muscles, dont use those when singing, if you do you will hurt);

    oh im just jabbering, thats what having a stroke does for you, when im tired i cant string sentences together properly - i sing opera, if you loved close i could just show you how to sing opera

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    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
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    I think Bix has it about right. Mostly it's a combination of relaxation and breath control. Breathe from your diaphragm.

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    One thing I've read over and over again in interviews with singers is the importance of keeping your larynx low down in your throat, which is much easier said than done. Look in the mirror and try to use your throat muscles to keep your larynx pushed down -- it's tough! And much moreso when actually singing; watch yourself sing in the mirror and see how much your larynx rises up. I'd guess it takes months of practicing hours per day to keep it consistently in the right position, but it allows you to get a bigger, more resonant sound when it's in the proper location.

    In any event, I'd guess that the answer to "How to sing opera" is the same as the old joke about the tourist in New York:
    Tourist: How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
    New Yorker: Practice, practice, practice.
    -Ian

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    Senior Member kg4fxg's Avatar
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    Couchie,

    I think to sing opera you need to look different Couchie? Sorry, I just could not resist.

    I have never had voice lessons but it would be interesting to learn some basics. Maybe another way to say it, can anyone be taught to sing or is that impossible for some people - period.
    No, it's a Bb. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but it's right - Vaughan Williams.

    Bill Carter, CPA

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    Quote Originally Posted by kg4fxg View Post
    Maybe another way to say it, can anyone be taught to sing or is that impossible for some people - period.
    I don't know if there's a hard and fast answer to that question, but I find this video to provide fascinating anecdotal evidence


    At the beginning, her voice is decent but not much more -- probably wouldn't get the lead in a high school musical, but would get a backup role. And now she's one of the top sopranos in the world. Says a lot about the value of hard work.
    -Ian

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bix View Post
    [...]
    2.) you probably have a sore throat because you are concentrating the power of the notes in your voice box - what should happen is that the power of the sound (the air) comes from deep down near your diaphragm, pushes past your voice box (which is the only thing that needs to be precise whilst the rest of you is relaxed) and out you mouth. Now 'out your mouth' sounds a little simple, but it isn't. You are having to create the right space within the structure of your mouth to allow for perfect resonance - this resonance is what allows projection to occur. This is as opposed to shouting which is different - the power of souting originates in the voicebox and will cause damamge in the long term.

    3.) there are specific muscles that work in the throat to help create the opera sound, be careful not to use the muscles that one would use to swallow food (swallow now, feel those muscles, dont use those when singing, if you do you will hurt);

    oh im just jabbering, thats what having a stroke does for you, when im tired i cant string sentences together properly - i sing opera, if you loved close i could just show you how to sing opera
    Fascinating exposition; thanks. I am somewhat surprised to find that much of what you describe is very similar to what a clarinetist friend has told me must be done to control the sound quality of his instrument.

    On a considerably less profound tack, singing in the shower (provided there's room enough in there to get some 'presence') will obviate the need to 'get technical' - especially near the bass-baritone end.

    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    On a considerably less profound tack, singing in the shower (provided there's room enough in there to get some 'presence') will obviate the need to 'get technical' - especially near the bass-baritone end.
    It's not so much the resonance as the nudity that improves the singing--a technique put to good use by that noted voice specialist, Calixto Bieito.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Couchie, other than improving your green monster appearance (the way it currently is, it won't take you much farther than, maybe, a Regie version of Where the Wild Things Are), there are numerous exercises for the voice that singers go through. They are best taught by a voice coach. They include, for example:

    -Warming up the voice
    *Tongue-tip trills
    *Lip trills (rolls)
    *Warming triads
    -Exercises to extend vocal range
    *laryngeal tilt
    *vowel modification
    *3-note exercises on the five Italian vowels
    -Exercises to blend and bridge the registers
    *accoustic shift (aggiustamento)
    *voix mixte
    *glides, slurs, and portamento
    *back-and-forth climb and descent
    *short intervalic leaps
    -Exercises for good tone production
    *vocal tract shaping
    *upper and lower harmonic overtones
    *resonant tuning (formant tuning)
    *staccato/legato exercises to improve middle and upper tuning
    -Exercises to improve pitch
    *ear training
    *harmony training (reproducing the third and fifth notes in a chord)
    *arpeggios
    *scales in minor keys
    -Exercises to develop agility, flexibility and vocal facility
    *melismatic vocal runs
    *sostenuto singing
    -Exercises to improve breath support and to increase stamina
    *avoiding breathy tone (air is lost too fast)
    *avoiding pressed phonation (air is expelled too forcefully)
    *avoiding tanking up (controlled inhalation rather than deep inhalation)
    *appogio technique (to slow the rise of the diaphragm and retain more air)
    -Exercises to acquire healthy vibrato
    *how to avoid faking or forcing a vibrato
    -Exercises on song interpretation
    *how to prevent nasalizing non-nasal vowels
    *understanding song tessitura
    *working the musical line (musical phrasing)

    And so on and so forth. Like I said, the "or something" is a long list, and these folks work very hard to get to Carnegie Hall, like the joke above indicates.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Aug-10-2011 at 03:46.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member kg4fxg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Couchie, other than improving your green monster appearance (the way it currently is, it won't take you much farther than, maybe, a Regie version of Where the Wild Things Are), there are numerous exercises for the voice that singers go through. They are best taught by a voice coach. They include, for example:

    -Warming up the voice
    *Tongue-tip trills
    *Lip trills (rolls)
    *Warming triads
    -Exercises to extend vocal range
    *laryngeal tilt
    *vowel modification
    *3-note exercises on the five Italian vowels
    -Exercises to blend and bridge the registers
    *accoustic shift (aggiustamiento)
    *voix mixte
    *glides, slurs, and portamento
    *back-and-forth climb and descent
    *short intervalic leaps
    -Exercises for good tone production
    *vocal tract shaping
    *upper and lower harmonic overtones
    *resonant tuning (formant tuning)
    *staccato/legato exercises to improve middle and upper tuning
    -Exercises to improve pitch
    *ear training
    *harmony training (reproducing the third and fifth notes in a chord)
    *arpeggios
    *scales in minor keys
    -Exercises to develop agility, flexibility and vocal facility
    *melismatic vocal runs
    *sostenuto singing
    -Exercises to improve breath support and to increase stamina
    *avoiding breathy tone (air is lost too fast)
    *avoiding pressed phonation (air is expelled too forcefully)
    *avoiding tanking up (controlled inhalation rather than deep inhalation)
    *appogio technique (to slow the rise of the diaphragm and retain more air)
    -Exercises to acquire healthy vibrato
    *how to avoid faking or forcing a vibrato
    -Exercises on song interpretation
    *how to prevent nasalizing non-nasal vowels
    *understanding song tessitura
    *working the musical line (musical phrasing)

    And so on and so forth. Like I said, the "or something" is a long list, and these folks work very hard to get to Carnegie Hall, like the joke above indicates.
    Thank you. This an the video are EXTREMELY helpful in my understanding. She has come a long way. So it is like anything else, like playing a violin, work, practice, and then more practice. I guess the voice is an instrument like the violin, you don't sound good over night. You don't wake up one day and decide to sing Grand Opera.

    Thank you all for some great perspective! That is why I am here - to learn.
    No, it's a Bb. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong, but it's right - Vaughan Williams.

    Bill Carter, CPA

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    You're welcome, kg4fxg
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I tried to sing opera yesterday, but it hurt my throat, like I had been yelling. What am I doing wrong? Should my tongue be in some position or something?
    Now that all my knowledgeable fellow forum friends have given their thoughtful and incisive replies may I add my own two cents?

    I think Couchie-Coo is taking the *Michael*
    Ann

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    Senior Member amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kg4fxg View Post
    You don't wake up one day and decide to sing Grand Opera.
    That's an interesting coincidence. I woke up this morning and decided to sing Grand Opera. I'll keep the forum informed as my career progresses.

  20. #15
    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bix View Post
    The list of things to do to be able to sing opera is as long as a piece of string. If you just want to sing along with your favourite arias, do so with a normal singing voice and don't try to emulate the power of an opera singer; if you want to sing like the opera singers it wont come accidently - you have to do certain things.

    Just a few tips based on what you say you have done so far - sore throat etc

    1.) be loose, just let your whole body relax, let your face relax, if you want to get into the relaxed zone perhaps a glass of red wine (im not saying that opera singers do this as a matter of course, if you acheive the correct physiological state with wine then you'll know what your aiming for without it), i must sound like im encouraging alcoholism.
    This shouldn't be a problem, I'll just do my singing after 7 pm. A glass of wine is a given.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bix View Post
    2.) you probably have a sore throat because you are concentrating the power of the notes in your voice box - what should happen is that the power of the sound (the air) comes from deep down near your diaphragm, pushes past your voice box (which is the only thing that needs to be precise whilst the rest of you is relaxed) and out you mouth. Now 'out your mouth' sounds a little simple, but it isn't. You are having to create the right space within the structure of your mouth to allow for perfect resonance - this resonance is what allows projection to occur. This is as opposed to shouting which is different - the power of souting originates in the voicebox and will cause damamge in the long term.

    3.) there are specific muscles that work in the throat to help create the opera sound, be careful not to use the muscles that one would use to swallow food (swallow now, feel those muscles, dont use those when singing, if you do you will hurt);

    oh im just jabbering, thats what having a stroke does for you, when im tired i cant string sentences together properly - i sing opera, if you loved close i could just show you how to sing opera
    #2 is bang-on! I watched some instructional videos, singing blogs, etc. and throat singing is exactly what I was doing wrong, and why it was painful. Just fooling around for a few hours with some breathing exercises and allowing the power to come from the diaphragm, not the voice box, and holding the throat open has made such a huge difference: sweeter, more consistent tone already, I can hit notes much more easily. It's a lot more like playing an instrument than I realized: the air originates in the lungs like a bagpipe, is pushed up by the diaphragm and then "played" by the vocal chords as the air rushes past! Obviously I wasn't doing anything more than natural vibrato-less singing, but I had always thought singing was totally a lost cause for me, this has offered a glimmer of hope! Also great (and intimidating) overview Almaviva. Clearly you need to procure a teacher if you want to get serious about doing most of the stuff on that list, we'll see.

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