Singing: Truly a performance!

Opera singers can be compared to Olympic athletes. Voice training is, of course, an important part of any operatic career, but more than that, opera singers have to know how to act... in different languages, to boot! Learning, memorizing, rehearsing... packing bags and facing the crowds... Opera singers, particularly those who have achieved international fame, are invited to sing on the world's most prestigious stages. Audiences pack the halls to hear their voices. You certainly don't become a Luciano Pavarotti or Natalie Choquette by happenstance!

Singing is truly a vocation!

In order for a singer to practice his art with ease and success, he must:

  • Learn and master breathing techniques that involve quickly and deeply inhaling a large amount of air into the lungs and then controlling the exhalation while singing.

  • Acquire excellent posture by learning to stand up straight while feeling the feet well rooted on the ground.

  • Develop grace and fluidity in his movements and gestures.

  • Learn several languages including Italian, French, and English with perfect intonation and pronunciation.


The Vocal Instrument

To make a sound with the voice, one must:

  • Generate air

The diaphragm is a long, dome shaped muscle situated under the floating ribs that supports the lungs.  When a person inhales, the diaphragm flattens and is pushed down allowing the lungs to expand and the rib cage to open.

The challenge facing all singers is controlling the volume and length of the exhale while maintaining the expansion of the lungs and ribs. Without this control, the singer would be incapable of singing an entire musical phrase.  To attain this mastery of breathing techniques, a singer must train regularly. He must learn to relax, to develop excellent posture and to strengthen his abdominal muscles.

A way to visually demonstrate breath control is to hold a balloon full of air between the thumb and forefinger. The thumb and forefinger represent the vocal cords and the balloon represents the lungs. Control the amount of air escaping from the balloon by putting pressure between the thumb and forefinger. Explain that a singer’s vocal cords work in much the same way when controlling the amount of air escaping from the lungs.

  • Vibrate the vocal cords

In breathing, the vocal cords get farther apart allowing air to freely circulate around them. At the moment that the singer attacks a note, the vocal cords close, leaving only a small opening while vibrating under the pressure of the long stream of air beneath them.

  • Amplifying the sound emitted by the cords with the aid of resonators.

Found inside the nose just above the mouth is a big space used to amplify the voice. By becoming conscious of this space and learning to use it, a singer can perfect the tone of his voice. 

Thus, a singer’s voice can be described as a:

  • Head Voice (the sound is placed in the nasal cavity or superior resonators)

  • Chest Voice (the sound is placed in the throat and under the vocal cords or inferior resonators)