September 29, 2015

Column of Breath

Francesco Lamperti made much of it, this thing called breath. But he thought about it quite differently than students of singing today, who are trained to think about breath in physiological terms.

Lamperti, rather than expounding on the physiological aspects of breath and breathing, simply made his students sing on it. The voice had to be on the breath. This introduced the student to the concept of a column of breath, which was something more than the amount of air in the lungs.

In and up on the breath.

That was Lamperti's teaching. The student was taught to hear and feel the start of the tone in the middle of the head. The student was also taught to do this in a mezza-voce manner. Think that was easy? Think again! Most students sing in a breathy fashion when attempting this.

To obtain a sense of Lamperti's teaching of singing on the breath, the autodidact is encouraged to silently pant in a pulsing fashion—inwardly—for 10 to 15 seconds without stopping—a teaching also from Lamperti's studio. Every muscle of the torso and head will be felt to lift. As far as this is concerned, Lamperti taught that breath should be separate from the tone, a mind-bending proposition for those fixated on physiology and subglottal pressure (see my posts on Giulia Valda for more information).

But there is no need to make things complicated. Keeping the feeling obtained while panting inwardly and silently—which is felt from pelvis to crown of head—will reveal much. Of course, this is where things get interesting, since the student must have some idea of the tone that is going to be spoken or sung. The ear has to educated, and that is a whole other matter. 

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