Resonance

Hi:)
I want to take some time and talk about a very important thing that really counts when you want to sing opera. (sing without a microphone).

So what does resonance do?
Simply, it makes any kind of voice be heard in a hall, without a orchestra. You may be asking why only without an orchestra. Well, because having only resonance is not enough, you must also have a certain volume. This volume is the so called Fach. Dramatic singer vs lyric singers don`t have better or more resonance, but they have more volume! In most dramatic roles, the dramatic singer has to be heard above a loud orchestra. Sounding dark or light actually doesn`t give your Fach. It`s the notes that are your strongest that build your tessitura(confortable range).

What about huge volume?
Volume isn`t enough, because without resonance the sound will not propagate.

How do you know you are doing it right?
This is tricky. VERY! When I begun singing, on lower notes I did a bad thing: I opened my throat a bit and made my voice darker. This is the thing you do when your teacher says your voice is not forward enough. Since my voice sounded mature she assumed and trained me as a lyric soprano. This made me drag a lot of chest as I moved up in my range. Around E5 I would have a lot of volume… but zero penetration in a room. This was not my natural voice… I was faking my voice to be darker. Only after I got a high tessitura aria to sing, did she hear my real, natural voice which also could be heard in a hall! She shouted: Oh! I though you were a lower soprano, but you actually are a lyric coloratura!
Remember, if you have a lighter voice, after B4 go in the lightest coordination possible. I will write about this more, when I will talk about vocalises.
SO:) Now, if you want to know if you produce a “classical sound”, you can get a teacher, or look at frecvency spectres. Since the sound is a wave you can analize it with software like Spectogram16 or sing&see. If you`re doing it ok you`ll get something like this:
squillo
In order to be heard you must have harmonics above 3kHz. This is the “ring” in the voice or squillo. I marked with red that frecvency. The blue waves you see are formants. The thicker they are, the more volume you have. If you are a pure coloratura you will have less then me, if you are a full lyric you will have more. Vowels are also important.. I was singing C5 -ah- vowel. If you are interested more about this you can read more here:

How does resonance feel?
I`m not really sure if you can ‘get it’ as a beginner singer, but after 1year I think you can certainly get it!:)
The secret is that you must think you place the sound in the most forward position, in the teeth, but also create a big sound, feel the sound filling your head. (resonance+volume). I still don`t feel a lot of buzz, so you won`t necessarily feel the sound. But thinking about it like this, makes a difference. Start on a buzzing sensation near your teeth and keep it there! Then add more volume to it, fill your head with sound. Pure vowels help: try singing a- ah e-eh, u -uh and so on. Breathe out! but don`t be airy. If you can maintain the position and create a big sound then you are singing in full voice. If you are a beginning young soprano you will have full voice until E5. After some training you`ll manage to get a G5. (!in full voice!). You can go higher, but don`t try to create a big sound, just keep the forward position, near the teeth. I`m 21 and my full voice peaks at Ab5, but I sing in the so called pure head voice in vocalizes till Eb6. It`s natural that if you are young you don`t have a lot o full notes. Don`t worry! In time, your voice will grow bigger and fuller, but do not push for a sound that is not yours! By using a lighter voice quality, you will not have a lot of volume, but you can train in these years on agility. Don`t chase big sounds, your vocal chords will suffer and you will not sound as good as when you are singing with your natural voice.
I hope this helps. This isn`t an easy topic and I hear well known singers that sing out of their Fach. The majority of them developed vocal problems: nodules, loosing the voice. Tebaldi made her voice darker in her later career by singing dramatic roles. Even if her voice had a huge volume, very comparable to a dramatic soprano, her tessitura was that of a lyric. Eventually she dragged the tension to her higher notes and lost her voice. This also happened to Dessay, Netrebko, Callas. (although Callas speaks of keeping the voice in the brightest/lightest position in her youth). All of them sung better in their youth. Later, they begun dragging tension up. There are plenty of roles for every Fach:) keep your true voice healthy, do not imitate a trend, even if nowadays opera singers sing in a lot of Fachs. Remember that some opera halls have amplification to help them sing a role that is too heavy for them. Sad.. but true:(

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    • Blake Moore
    • April 14th, 2012

    Hi!
    I’m a grad student currently writing my thesis on the art of the Coloratura, and was wondering what sources you used for your information about the coloratura ranges (specifically the piccolo and the lyric).
    Thanks so much!

  1. Hi:)
    If you want books there are also some old and newer books who talk also about coloratura here: http://sites.google.com/site/operalala/Resources
    But every voice is different, even coloratura voices, so I also got some of my information through training with different teachers (both spinto and coloratura) and personal experience. Piccolo is often referred as “pure coloratura”. A lot of opera singers from the past refer to this type of coloratura that way. There are interviews on youtube about pure coloraturas… but I don`t remember them being technical. I hope you find what you need. It`s a very interesting subject.

  2. Hi I’m happy that I found Your blog.I am writing my thesis about soprano spinto and squillo technique, so I’m happy that you found spectogram…tell me please where? I’m from Poland I do not have access to the research materials like this. You can give me some advices how to get this spectrogram? I would like to put this in my dissertation, together with information about the source (who, where and when done research). I’ll be very grateful for any help even the smallest. This is my email address: a.patrys@gmail.com . That information is very important to me .

    • gomi
    • September 18th, 2012

    Hi, just passing through the giant internet and came by your blog. Have just recently discovered opera singing is not the “dramatic screaming” that I’ve always believed it to be. Appreciate the in-depth explanation & youtube examples of different voice types. Explanations very easy to understand & helpful. Some youtube videos were down but that can’t be helped. Thanks for your effort!

  3. Hi,
    I am a 45 year old opera lover and for the last two years, I have been developing my voice. I enjoy the Phantom of the opera pieces the most. Would you, please tell me what type of opera voice is fit for that music?
    I, within the last 2 years developed to a semi-professional level according to my teacher, grade level six. But my practical, voice control like sound projection, resonance, maintaining the sound strength is only on level 4. How can I speed the way up to be at the same level? I feel that I have a voice but I fail to have full muscle control over it. Have you any practical exercise to share with me?

      • canyonbay
      • July 7th, 2013

      Had you had prior singing experience of any type before you began classical training? I am 45 and have been all my life, but incorrectly. I began my classical training two months ago, and it is quite difficult to break old habits. I am curious how you did in the beginning of your taking lessons? Thanks!

        • eva4chavah
        • July 7th, 2013

        Hi Canyonbay, no I did not have any professional singing lessons prior to two years earlier. The reason I asked an audition of my son’s voice teacher, two years ago was that I did not know how to breathe correctly. After singing a bit, like a phrase, I used to suffocate.

        She liked my voice, and she gave me four free lessons to improve on my breathing. Then it happened. My voice did really emerge, and I have been singing ever-since. After this, she taught me for 18 months and grounded me with classical singing skills. I changed teacher six months ago to advance to operatic voice and skills. It is much harder work but my voice seems to sound really opera, soprano, coloratura; whistle tone.

        I am usually warm up every day from 5:45 am before work for 15 minutes. I, when nobody hears me, even in my workplace, during the day, actually scale up and down.If I am surrounded with people, then I just hum. I love stretching the palate in my throat and sing without straining or pulling on my voice box. Humming is great for that.

        Breathing is a continuous work to strengthen my muscles and to be in control of the airflow. Therefore, I do practice this 2-3 x per day. However, I might have a practice breathing for particular music piece or I might fail to have enough air control and suffocate myself again. Basically, this is my ongoing pain, breathing correctly.

        Hope this might help.

        By the way, I am very happy to read, You are the same age with me and sing with a teacher. I used to think that, I was way too old to learn to sing classically from scratch.

        • canyonbay
        • July 7th, 2013

        Thank you for the reply! Yes, I was happy to see were the same age, too! I don’t come across very many people who have begun classical training at a more mature age. In the two months I have been taking lessons, I have definitely seen improvement, but it is slow going. My teacher tells me that if I had come to her with no prior singing experience, it would not be so difficult..but she also says we’re getting there, I just have to have patience πŸ™‚ I actually knew that going in.. I grew up around Opera singers..my parents both sang and my mom sang with New Orleans Opera, so I was around the Opera house and her friends, and teacher all the time, so I knew even then, the work that goes into classical singing. Just wish I would’ve started earlier..hehe! I’m glad to hear you’re doing so well! It’s encouraging for me. My biggest problem at this point is tension in the tongue and throat. I’ve sung for so long in the chest voice only, that it still tries to come up. Breathing is not quite as big an issue for me, but because I am always so focused on trying to stay relaxed in the throat, I tend to not focus so much on the breathing..there’s soooooooooooo much to think about, as you know! πŸ™‚ I don’t know yet what my Fach is..I don’t suppose I will for a while. Right now we are working on songs in the Mezzo-Soprano..but she said we are going to try something in Soprano, next. I thought, Yikes! I know there is method to her madness, though πŸ™‚ I love talking about this stuff, but I don’t really find many people who are into it..so, thank you! If you’d like to talk more, I can shoot you my email, let me know πŸ™‚

    • Hi, if you lack the resonance, there are some exercises that are designed to let you know where is the actual point of maximum resonance; So you basically want to feel the sound very forward… the more forward the more resonance you get. You can just practice a-u-i vowels on different scales.. because when you sing a line in an aria you sort of loose the position because of the consonants. Of course the goal is to memorize the right position for each sound and try to keep the line all in that point. Also you don`t want to feel any muscle tension in the jaw for example smiling and opening the mouth very large helps me…because it facilitates a brighter sound. On the higher notes I also like to think about my umulus lifting in the back of my mouth… like in a yawning sensation. However without slipping into a more backward position of the sound. The sound is always right in front of the teeth. Or you could go up to a note that your teacher tells you is in resonance and try to go with the same position down the scale.

        • eva4chavah
        • July 7th, 2013

        Hi Serinia, thank you so much for your reply. I am thinking through your advice, and also I am trying to clarify what I missed telling you before.

        I lose strength and resonance in my voice, when I go below middle registry to mezzo soprano or alto. It just stops sounding and I think, to avoid the ugly, no tone sound, I actually use the falsetto to bring out some quality and maturity of the tone. Even so, as soon as I am up in my head register the frequency is so much more natural and sounds great that I have little or no resonance problem at all. It rings well, and I love exercising my voice in that range.

        Mix voice is the problem.What theory would apply for the middle and lower range notes to resonate it and bring quality of depth without lowering the larynges or doing something unhealthy?

        The other thing is, my high notes are not “breaking” in head registry but travel up nicely with the same timbre sound as my mid and lower notes. My soprano high notes are not extremely high; C6 is my highest, but very clear and strong, not faintly or thinned out sounding.
        I personally love that depth and gracefulness of it,yet playful, agility that is developing in my higher registry. Not so happy thou with the rest of my voice. It’s almost like my speaking voice, especially the middle register.

        I apologize for my expression without much knowledge of technical terms, it might be hard for you to follow it.

    • eva4chavah
    • July 7th, 2013

    Hello again Canyonbay, thanks so much for your reply.
    I am happy to talk about this topic. I also wish to future encourage you to see if classical, opera singing is your passion. If it is, then you must go on and sing, or you’ll die without a purpose.

    Other very important thing about singing is to enjoy every minute of it. After all it is something to do with your whole being, like when you pick the right song to sing. But even if you exercise as your daily routines, please have fun with your voice.

    My voice is me, the expression of my spirit and my soul. I praise God with the same thing and I encourage others with it as well. I use the tone of my voice to teach Scripture in the public school and I sing with the kids as well. I sing in the church chorus and also presenting solos occasionally.

    I love singing, its my passion; perhaps others sound better, but I definitely having fun. In the end of the day, that is what really counts. That is what my soul praise God for and thank Him every day.

    Technically speaking, I think, I might have 10 more years to sound great in my terms, then age will slowly stars to quick in. In the mean time, I want to have fun and sing professionally as much as possible.

      • canyonbay
      • July 7th, 2013

      That’s awesome! I too, sing for God! I am a songwriter and I write and sing whatever He gives me. I’m with ya, I Love to sing! Always have. I began singing in church as kid in grammar school and have been ever since. I played in bands for many years, too. Since I began classical voice, however, something is different..there is a passion and drive to learn and become as good as I can be, like I haven’t had before. I do know that God is the one who prompted me, 2 months ago, to do this. He has been all over it. When He told me to start this training, ever since, everything has worked out perfectly..from finding my teacher, to the lessons, to the practice, to everything. I don’t know what He has in store for me with this new journey He has me on, but I do know that He has something coming. I don’t know if I’ll sing Opera, per say, but I would love to be able to do any classical or musical theater piece, and do it well! Who knows, Opera may involved, too..it’s wherever He leads me. I know I have a very long road ahead of me though. When I read that you have been doing it for two years, I thought, wow, I can’t wait to be two years in! hehe πŸ™‚ I agree though, to do opera, and do it well, takes many years. I know my dad took lessons for 12 years, and my mom, even longer.

      I wanted to tell you, too..when you talked earlier about how you practice at work, etc.. I laughed because I do the same thing. I am ALWAYS thinking about technique and practicing. I have my daily practice, which is usually about an hour and a half, but all day I am going over scales, breathing, etc.. And like you, if I am somewhere that I can’t be very loud, I will hum, too..hehe! One day a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to McDonald’s to grab some breakfast while working. He dropped me off and I went in, while he waited outside. As I was waiting on our order, I was doing exercises, but I was so focused on them that I didn’t realize people could hear me..they must have thought I was crazy! hehe! I guess we are addicted to classical voice! πŸ™‚

      I have no doubt that your voice is absolutely lovely and the fact that you use it to praise God makes it all the more awesome!

      I do have fun singing. I love going to my lessons and I love practicing. I actually get excited each week for my lesson. I will admit that I do get frustrated with myself, but I still LOVE it! I never want to stop! πŸ™‚

    • Cerena
    • September 10th, 2013

    Hey there, I’m only 17 , but I absolutely LOVE to sing and listen to Opera πŸ˜€ ❀ I'm just wondering how exactly you find out what "Fach" you have, just by your range, and how your high notes sound. (quiet or loud, rich or thin, etc.)

    I had a voice teacher for about 2 months before she moved, and she helped me develop my voice a bit for Opera. During lessons, my posture was improved, and I found out I have a very large range… I don't quite know how low I can go, maybe at least an octave lower than middle C, but I've found I can go as high as a high D# (2 octaves above middle C), sometimes an E. The notes above the high C are more quiet than those below, and I can get quite loud.

    Would you know what Fach I have based on this? :S

    • Bruce
    • November 12th, 2013

    Unfortunately, you provided your readers with an incorrect definition of vocal fach. It is not volume. Fach is a classification system of categorizing opera singers according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. These lists are maintained by opera companies such that they can quickly match (or eliminate) performers for various roles, and save time during the casting process. Rare singers are able to alter their fach to accommodate a greater spectrum of roles.

    Sometimes these differences in fach are very subtle, but still important. For example, a baritone cantabile and a baritone verdiano each have an identical range. But the cantabile can vocalize more “color” while the verdiano has more “squillo,” or a piercing quality to his voice.

    There is sometimes pressure on classical singers to train their voices to match a certain fach instead of finding their natural voice, because some fachs (and roles) are more popular than others. This nearly always ends in failure and eventual loss of voice. It is very difficult to correct bad vocal habits!

      • canyonbay
      • November 12th, 2013

      Thanks for the info, Bruce!!

      • J
      • November 27th, 2013

      Agreed!

    • J
    • November 27th, 2013

    Hi,

    I am an opera singer msyelf, and I have to say that it really, REALLY depends on your voice type. Also, everybody is VERY different, you cannot outrule the fact that for example the bone structure in the face can be different from one person to the next, which means that resonance can feel different. I think what you describe as singing forward can be very dangerous for a heavier voice. I am a dramatic soprano and I almost ruined my voice by singing “forward” in the way you describe it. It was actually when I started to use different parts and combining them that my true voice started to show. When I talk about combining I am talking about “the mask” + neck + chest + breath + top of head + nose. But keep in mind, this worked for me. What worked for me may not work for another. That’s why I felt I had to comment on your post – the forward singing can do a lot of damage if used in the wrong way. Please be careful.

    I do like your blog though :-).

    (Recently started singing for several prof. opera companies in Europe)

    – J

    • eva4chavah
    • November 28th, 2013

    Yes, I agree with you J. I usually observe myself and see if its fits with me to try alterations to produce more quality voices. However, not everything is good or feels right.
    Here is an example: This year in January I noticed three small nodules on in my neck during practice. I sensed my neck was not relaxed, and my voice sounded strained. I did not force to go any higher after that, and I kept tapping my neck over the next few months to see if the nodules are growing. Sure they did and by June, the largest was over 5 cm. During this time, my voice changed, went darker, not so much lower but deeper. Then I had a biopsy in August, and the shocking news of thyroid cancer.
    One minute I was normal and busy in my life, after that the news changed everything. The nodules by then grew larger than a size of a golf-ball and fused together. I had to go to have a surgery within two weeks and then radioactive iodine therapy to kill the cancer within four weeks.
    Now, after 3 month of having my life saved by singing, I am singing again. I have to take it slow and no solos at this stage. But I am back in the chorus and getting ready to sing Christmas carols. I am not practicing as I used to and I am not doing any operatic style of singing yet.
    My voice changed but for the better, its lighter in tone, very clear and getting stronger. I love the sound of it but I still get drained from excessive singing or talking, more then an hour. I have to rest my whole vocal apparatus and give time for total healing.

      • J
      • December 1st, 2013

      Dear Eva,
      I’m very, very sorry to hear that. I wish you all the luck in the world and very happy to hear you are recovering. In time your voice will find it’s way back to you, in one way or another. Lot’s of luck and strength for you, from one singer to another. X j

    • Digby
    • December 21st, 2013

    What an excellent site! I am a mezzo, and my granddaughter (12) is just beginning to get voice training. I plan to pass this resource along. Perhaps you can comment on the developing girl’s voice. Thank you for all the effort you put into this blog.

    • bec
    • January 17th, 2014

    Hi, you seem a little confused about what formants are.
    When you sing a note, your vocal folds vibrate at a particular frequency, called the fundamental (the lowest blue line in your picture). This will also produce harmonics, which are multiples of the fundamental.
    Formants are resonances of the vocal tract, which amplify particular frequencies, and determine the envelope shape of the spectrum. I suggest you look at http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/music/vowel.html
    All the best

  4. An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I think that you ought to publish more about this topic, it may not be a taboo
    subject but usually people don’t speak about such topics. To the next!

    Best wishes!!

    • Ken
    • June 24th, 2014

    Nice site!

    One suggestion… you are asserting that a counter-tenor and leggiero tenor are the same, but they are not. A male alto/countertenor is a baritone singing in falsetto register, whereas a light tenor (tenor di grazia, leggiero tenor, spieltenor, call him what you will) is a light tenor singing with the usual mixed-register classical technique.

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