Tag Archives: Education

What is Sound?

What is sound? If you watched this video from earlier posts, you know, and could see that it’s air in motion.

When we’re talking about voice and sound, we mean either talking or singing – right? (Luckily, they use exactly the same parts of our bodies.)

First, let’s talk about getting our bodies to do a better job of putting air in motion when we’re making sounds!

Anybody ever heard of a body-part called a “diaphragm?” Many choir directors will tell their singers to “breath from your diaphragm,” (but possibly don’t explain further).

Here’s a simple exercise to help you feel exactly where your diaphragm is, and what it feels like when you make it work.

WARNING: Do NOT Do This Exercise More Than Once Or Twice. If you feel light-headed STOP IMMEDIATELY! It just means you’re not used to getting so much oxygen!

  1. Sit down on the edge of a solid surface like a chair or sofa.
  2. Scrunch forward so your elbows are on your knees and your chin is in your hands.
  3. Now make one or two emphatic “HA’s” like you’re panting.
  4. You should feel your midsection make quick movements every time you say “HA.”
  5. That’s your diaphragm lifting up to expel the air out of your lungs to make the sound.

Now try standing up, putting one hand on your midsection, and saying “HA.” You should feel the same movement. If not, get into your crouching position again and do one last “HA.”

REMEMBER: Do NOT Do This Exercise More Than Once Or Twice.

Why? Because your head may not be used to so much oxygen getting into your body and you may feel light-headed. (The same reason why beginning woodwind and brass players of any age are told the same thing!)

Here’s a moving model of a working diaphragm

Today’s Gaslighting (updated Dec 2021)

This post was originally published 5 January 2012. The links have been updated. Why is it in the “Music” category? Because it’s so relevant there… and sadly, today’s world in general.

Gaslight was a 1944 noire film that starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. The term, ‘to gaslight,’ comes directly from the plot.

Updated 4 December 2021 with the following suggested articles.  See if they ring any bells.

talking tips #2

How many of you have called a friend and known from the minute they said “Hello” that something was wrong?

That shows you how instantly and unconsciously peoples’ voices can change.

The violinist’s instrument is a violin, the drummer’s instrument is a drum, the singer’s and actor’s instrument is . . .

Their entire body, not an entirely separate, inanimate object.

So what can they do when something goes wonky and they have to perform?

The violinist or drummer can send out their instrument for repair, and carry on with a substitute. But singers and actors can’t send out their throats for rehab, and carry on with a sub.

“Wait! You can’t equate singing with speaking!” I hear someone say.

Yes, you canit’s the same instrument. I repeat: It is the same instrument.

What makes one sound better can make the other sound better, too.

It takes learning new habits to replace the old ones, and practice-practice-practice!

We’re not talking astrophysics, folks! Just replacing old habits with new.

Just like better sports practices have passed from the pros to the general public. (Think stretching before jogging instead of jogging without a warm-up.)


Don’t like the way you sound?

  • Wish you sounded better on your vlog?
  • Wish you sounded more confident in public?
  • Wish you sounded better every day?

You can.

If you didn’t watch the video, “Say it with sound,” in the previous Talking Tips, please follow the link to see it. The video introduces concepts and terms you will need for Talking Tips #3.

talking tips #1

Spring/Autumn has started in both hemispheres. 🌷🍂🌺🍁 Maybe now’s the time to think about basics.

Many of us take our speaking voice for granted until we have a problem. Here are some ideas to think about and try. They should help you keep talking. 😉

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Below is an exploration of sound — what it is, and how animals make it and use it to communicate.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think.

The Royal Institute’s Christmas Lectures, 2017 began with the lecture, “Say it with Sound.”

To tease you a bit, here’s an outline of what’s covered.

  • 0 min. The recording Voyage carried.
  • 2 min. Making Mold, the rat, laugh.
  • 5 min. Crickets’ wing sounds.
  • 7 min. Structure makes a difference.
  • 8 min. Seeing sound with a giant slinky.
  • 13 min. Sounds inaudible to humans.
  • 19 min. Mosquitos’ love duet.
  • 24 min. How cockroaches hiss.
  • 27 min. A camera and a working larynx.
  • 33 min. Why the audience is blowing raspberries.
  • 34 min. Balloons, a shower curtain and a leaf blower.
  • 37 min. Why Resonance?
  • 38 min. Christmas baubles and breaking a wine glass.
  • 43 min. Strings and tea chests.
  • 45 min. How tea chests are like vocal tracts.
  • 47 min. Male deer and mens’ voices.
  • 51 min. Reeps* demos plosive sounds (think consonants).
  • 54 min. Beat boxing meets Verdi.
  • *** GRAND FINALE ***

*Reeps One is an extra on beat boxing, in case you’re interested.

Giving Voice,” The New Yorker, 2013; by John Colapinto If you really wat to get into some details, here’s an excellent article.

A note to parents of young singers:

The human voice doesn’t mature until approximately 30 years of age for women, and later for men, which helps explain why so many men’s voices seem to fluctuate between tenor and baritone for so long.

Remember that boys’ voices shift downward during their teen years. Young women have a much less noticeable shift, and consequently reach vocal maturity sooner.

A note to maturing singers:

Both men and women may experience a deepening in vocal quality as they mature, but this does not mean an inability to sing higher notes. Sometimes the physical technique may need to shift slightly to accommodate body changes, but if the technique is solid to begin with, it should be a matter of slight adjustments.

Talking tips #2.

needed: inspiration

I took a break from work yesterday afternoon and spent an hour listening to Dame Eva Turner, British soprano absoluta.

Why? Because her “In questa regia” (from the opera Turandot by Puccini) never fails to move me.

Listening to the glory of her  deep, rich sound, the resonant freedom of those high notes evident despite 1920‘s & 30‘s recording technology. . . always uplifts & refreshes me.

That’s what grand opera used to be all about. Here’s a link to a YouTube. Have a little listen for yourself. If you’ve not time for the whole thing, listen to the last 30-to-60 seconds.

Petite Dame Turner didn’t need deafening amplification, strobe lighting, or smoke. She did it with her voice, her knowledge of how to sing properly (a.k.a., vocal technique), and her inspiration.

The secret in singing lies between the vibration in the singer’s voice and the throb in the hearer’s heart

Kahil Gibran

That’s communication beyond words.

one thing led to another, or tetrazzini in san francisco

A look around the trio of web sites from this prolific blogger reminded me of a story about a soprano singing on the streets of San Francisco over one hundred years ago.

Memory proved accurate, and I can now suggest another site for piccies next time she’s on Market Street with a camera.

Famed soprano Luisa Tetrazzini (1871 – 1940) loved San Francisco, and had a knack for creative programming. During a contractual dispute on New York City, she reportedly said, “I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing there in the streets, for I know the streets of San Francisco are free.”

On Christmas Eve in 1910 she did just that.

To an audience of somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 San Franciscans, she sang ~ no microphones in those days ~ for 30 minutes.  And was heard blocks away. The lady had technique. She had heart.

The concert also recognized the rebuilding of the city after the 1906 earthquake. Her final song was “Auld Lang Syne.”

From all I could gather, the bronze plaque commemorating that concert is still attached to Lotta’s Fountain, on Market at Geary & Kearney.

An artist who used her art to help heal a city.

References include:

More reading at Project Gutenberg:

establishing rapport

José Carreras
José Carreras
click for photo source

Plácido_Domingo click for photo source
click for photo source



Was reading over at Uncle Spike’s blog, and came across his Nessun Dorma post, which immediately reminded me of a video with more behind-the-scenes details.

Wonder of wonders, and perhaps because it’s still only available in VHS, the entire piece is available on-line here.

I guess the 58-minute video is too large for wordpress to upload. My apologies for making you click over to watch, but please do. It’s well worth it!

It shows the original three tenors meeting for the first time,  discussing possible repertoire, clowning & rehearsing with conductor Zubin Mehta – long before they rehearsed with  orchestra. It also details some of the obstacles event producer Mario Dradi had to surmount.

Event producers, be aware of those details. And of how many rehearsal hours were scheduled with these four hugely successful artists.

Was their rapport infectious? Yes. Why?  Those maaany hours of rehearsals, besides lifetimes of study and performing.

Don’t think it can be equalled without those rehearsal hours!

further reading

Tavis Smiley: Talking with musicians

Mr. Tavis Smiley, courtesy tavistalks.com
click to go to web site

Mr. Tavis Smiley: …  the reason why I love music artists is that you get the most authentic conversations with them…  Because what’s in them typically comes out in one way, shape, or form.

From Mr. Smiley’s interview with Mr. Ben Harper and Mr. Charlie Musselwhite earlier this month.

Au*then”tic, a. [OE. autentik, OF. autentique, F. authentique, L. authenticus coming from the real author, of original or firsthand authority…] 1. Having a genuine original or authority, in opposition to that which is false, fictitious, counterfeit, or apocryphal; being what it purports to be; genuine; not of doubtful origin; real; as, an authentic paper or register…

montalbano: internationally successful

actor Luca Zingaretti from wikipedia click to go to article
actor Luca Zingaretti
from wikipedia
click to go to article

If you haven’t seen Detective Montalbano, try looking around your local telly channels.  In the U.S., MHz stations frequently include it as part of  their international mystery series.

The opportunity to watch and learn from a meticulously crafted ensemble of performers, both behind and before the camera, is invaluable to anyone involved in the performing arts.  And the music is great!

Now there are 2 hours of videos on how it’s done, led by insights from actor Luca Zingaretti (Montalbano).

Series viewer caution:  This is an Italian television series.  Some viewers may find portions objectionable.

Conversation with Luca Zingaretti (45 min)  A subtitled in-depth conversation with Luca Zingaretti on theatre and screen acting, the importance of one’s soul, the character of Montalbano, and much more.

Detective Montalbano – Making Montalbano (27 min)  From the director’s point of view.

Detective Montalbano – From Page to Screen (29 min) From other artists behind the scenes.

Detective Montalbano – True Sicilians (24 min)  The Sicilian supporting actors add immeasurably to the overall production.

opera or ?

so what makes an opera singer these days?

let’s talk vintage!

used to be an opera singer’s voice would/could fill an auditorium seating 4,000 plus, and float over an orchestra with no microphone.  just their trained understanding and use of the human body’s natural resonance. along with a bazillion other minor details.

anybody every heard a newborn cry?  instant attention for a quarter mile, right?  wonder how??

anne midgette, musical critical & writer for the ny times and washington post did a handy dandy little audio about this very thing for the times.

in a brief 4 minutes she explains & gives 2 examples of just one factor involved.

have a listen.

(Audio, MP3 format)

if above got you thinking, you can read more here.