November 28, 2012

Tony Bennett: M & N

I wrote a post about Bennett's bel canto origins (you can find that post here), and thought it time to revisit his singing after a student told me about hearing him sing in Manhattan a few days ago.  Well. I asked. What did he look like when he sang? (Mind you, the man is in his 80's) And how did he sound? My tenor student proceeded to tell me that Bennett had that 'open face' I am always yammering about. The voice was all there, high notes and everything. The stunner in the Q & A? Bennett's answer to the question of how long it took him to find his performing legs. What did he say? Seven years. (Think about that when you go to your next voice lesson.)

The man is a veritable master of his craft, which you can hear by listening very closely to how he sings. Towards that end: I encourage you to listen to the cut below and focus on the manner in which Bennett sings two consonants- m & n. Why? When you can hear them in the way Bennett does, your voice will seem as though it comes from two places at once: the center of your head and the front of your mouth. This isn't just an affectation. The old Italian school singers were taught to do this, the Lamperti people especially. Oh sure. The science people will tell us that these sounds are in the region of 1500 hz, that is, where nasality is perceived. But does Bennett sound nasal to you? Nope. Me neither. Ok then. Let's not confuse facts with art. The simple truth is this: when you can savor sounds you can sing. 

Though the start of a tone seems hum-like, and felt at a certain spot in the bony structure of the head, it is useless to insist on the sensation of a focus, until the body instinctively compresses and pelvicly controls breath.

The spot where tone seems to start, is the place where the vibration of "ng" (as pronounced in the word "England" is located. From Vocal Wisdom: Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti by William Earl Brown (1931).

You can find more on Bennett's technique here.


  1. Tony Bennett is one of my idols. I heard him live in Baltimore a few years ago when he was "only" in his early 80's. He did his stunt of turning off the amplification near the end of his concert and his voice carried nicely through Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. I love his artistry as much as his technique and am interested to learn more about his Bel Canto influenced training. Wonderful article, Daniel!

    1. Thank you, Brian! Click on the link in my post for my other blog post on Bennett. You'll find there the few facts I could muster regarding his teacher. That first post came about from hearing him talk to Charlie Rose. Bennett gave credit to his 'bel canto' teacher and training. He lives not to far from me. And yes- I'd love to interview him.

  2. Beautiful masterful singing!!! Thanks.


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