June 19, 2014

How Francesco Lamperti Taught Blending of Registers

While the García School thought in mechanical fashion, at least in terms of the action of the soft-palate in accessing the high range and blending of registers (sing a clear /i/ and then a clear /ü/ on the same note and you may feel what this means), the Lamperti School had a somewhat different approach. 

In this regard, an article in the Journal of Singing from the 1950's is quite informative. A gentleman by the name of Charles Hedley writes about his studies with Frances Stuart, who was a student of the Milanese maestro. Hedley tells the reader how Lamperti used a most ingenious analogy to teach students to sing in the upper range.

In sum, it seems that Lamperti thought of every vowel as being a diphthong, each vowel having a clear, focused point, which then decayed—a kind of doppler effect. 

The analogy? Lamperti taught that every vowel was like a hair pin, with a pointed end and a wide end. As the student ascended the scale, he was to think of the wider end while maintaining the clarity of the pointed end. Of course, one has to hear what this means. One must also keep in mind that Lamperti insisted that students sing scales and arias sotto-voce, believing that the ability to do this made singing with full tone a piece of cake. Of course, the problem with this approach is that most students do not sing sotto-voce with enough acoustical energy, energy which is centered in the head—another Lamperti concept which is nothing less than the audition of heightened bone conduction. (It is my observation that the term sotto-voce, when used by students of Lamperti actually refers to mezza-voce—half-voice, since singing in a whisper doesn't quite cut it.)

To preserve a true OH, for instance, it was necessary to think further and further towards the oo; in the case of AY, further towards the ee. To say it another way, the higher the pitch, the further was the thought towards the final sound of the diphthong—or in customary terminology the higher the pitch the more "cover." —Charles Hedley

Is it really necessary to point out that Lamperti's approach, like that of García, avoids the whole business of singing in functional falsetto? For those with ears to hear, it will also be noted that it incorporates a rounding of the vocal tract. 

The source material for this post can be found in Lamperti and the Singing Word, NATS Journal, December 1958. You can access this article at the NATS website if you are a member, or via the JSTOR database at a university library.

Note: Students are encouraged to compare Lamperti's method with that of García—which can be found here.

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