April 11, 2013

Staccato


When is the last time you practiced exercises on staccato? Do you even know what the word means? Do you know how to do it? Why am I thinking that you don't?

(voice teacher shaking head and rolling eyes) 

Are you aware that the acquisition of a beautiful staccato is within reach of every voice, not just coloratura sopranos, and that the staccato is an essential tool for developing real vocal technique as well as a legacy of the García and Lamperti schools of singing?

What are the benefits of singing staccato vocal exercises?

  1. Singing staccato makes you listen to what you are doing. This is a big deal. Give a singer with a big voice staccato exercises and dagger looks will result. "Why can't you just let me sing?" The singer fairly yells with his eyes. "Why are you making me sing this stuff?"  Because it makes you listen to what you are doing. You can't bellow while singing staccato. Nor can you fake it. Either you approach the staccato head on, or you will bungle it. 
  2. Staccato will clean up your act. Real staccato is clear and brilliant, not guttural or nasal. It will teach you the correct "attack." 
  3. Singing staccato will enable you to guide your voice, rather than "shoot & aim," hoping it will land in the right place. 
  4. Staccato exercises will teach you to suspend the breath. You can't be heaving or wheezing. 
  5. Staccato exercises will open your rib cage. If it doesn't widen in every direction, something is wrong. 
  6. Singing staccato will open your ear. You know the exercise is working when all the extensor muscles of the body are called into action: when very muscle from pelvis to the top of head lifts, becomes alert and responsive before any sound comes out of your mouth. Does this mean you can force yourself into military posture and "open" your ear? Sorry, no. It doesn't work that way. Your muscles lift in response to the desire to sing, to communicate clearly, not overt manipulation.
  7. Staccato exercises enable you to sing piano. 
  8. Staccato exercises prepare you to sing the "shake" or trill. 
  9. Staccato is an excellent 'cure' for the tremolo. 
  10. Staccato exercises enable you to sing with great flexibility.

Forget about voice placement when you are singing staccato exercises. The vowel (and you should always think about making clear vowels rather than a tone) will seem to be everywhere. If your staccato is relegated to your throat or aspirated, you know something is wrong. 

Practice staccato slowly on closed vowels like /i/ and /e/ in the medium range. Why? These vowels sounds will enable you to hear 'head resonance.' However, you will have achieved a great deal when you can sing staccato on /a/ without effort. 

What is the overall impression of staccato? Bell-like resonance. When you have mastered the staccato, you will be ready for the trill and chromatic exercises. All three require heightened listening ability. 

6 comments:

  1. hey! :) would you point me towards some good exercises? i've been trying it and then quitting in frustration for a few months, now. thank you, great article

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    1. Having a good teacher show you what to do and how to do it more important than "exercises."

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  2. Thank you for this article. This is so true! My teacher and I spend years working on being able to sing a staccato properly. It was painstaking in the best of times to retrain my muscles to stop pressurizing my larynx. Now, I wouldn't sing a day without practicing this exercise because it will ensure that the vowels are connected to the breathe and that the onset is without any pressure in the throat. Because I fixed this technical deficiency I am not able to, as you say, start a high note on a pianissmo and I have a much easier flexibility.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Leah Gordon.

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I welcome your comments.