March 4, 2014

The Lamperti School: voice placement and bone conduction

Giovanni Battista Lamperti 
Don't listen to your self sing! Feel yourself sing! 

The ear leads "clairvoyantly" and recognizes the real spark that kindles the voice. 

Singing depends on the sense of hearing. 

The mental ear "visions" little by little how to produce it. 

After the voice is developed, stop thinking of the growing years, and sing from the head down. The presence of resonance in head, mouth and chest (overtones) is proof that your voice is full-grown, full-fleshed. Thereafter you get ready to sing from your head downward, because your head is the instrument. Your head, mouth and chest are hollow or resounding with tone all the time. Never dissipate the hollow feeling. Breath through it. 

Always remember that what "goes on" above the throat are illusions no matter how real they may feel and sound. At the same time, observe that these illusions of the senses of touch and hearing are the only proofs that the throat is functioning normally and efficiently. The more evident the sensation of resonance is the cavities of the head and mouth, the better the "placement" of voice. 


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I read these passages from Vocal Wisdom: Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti by William Earl Brown and think to myself: "What he's describing is the audition of bone conduction." How do I arrive at this conclusion? Simply put: when you have headphones on your head—as I did at the Listening Centre in Toronto—and listen to filtered music via bone conduction, you begin to understand what "singing from your head downwards" really means. The tickle of vibration is heard in the head, and even above the head, which seems fantastical, but is an observable phenomenon nevertheless. Auditory illusion? Of course. However this trick of the ear is the very same one which accomplished singers take for granted, that is, until it is no longer present: its lack being keenly felt—feeling itself being a vestibular function of hearing. This reminds me of Brigit Nilson's experience, who recounted having quite a bit of trouble after receiving inadequate instruction, then worked things out on her own, describing an auditory experience that guided her for the remainder or her career.

I found a way to get the sound up in my head with the support, without applying pressure to my vocal cords. After one and a half, two hours, I found my technique. —Great Singers on Great Singing (1982), page 198

 She talked further about her technique in an interview with Bruce Duffie. 

I always say to my students, “I want to bake the cake before I decorate it.” Most of the time the breathing is not right, they don't support correctly. They don't use the resonant room that we have in our foreheads and at the sides of the nose. I work like they did in Italy many many years ago to get the tone produced “in the mask” because that is the only way to get the right sound. That is our violin case, our piano case, and that has to sound. If you pass those areas, the voice either gets dark or heavy, or it might sound very big in one’s own head but it doesn't project. If you have the voice placed correctly, far up in the head in those resonant rooms (as I call them), then you can start working on expressions, dynamics, and everything else.

That sound you perceive in your head? It has important consequences.

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