Vocal Pedagogy — An Intro

Vocal pedagogy started with the experiments of castrati and the handing down, from one generation to the next, the methods they used to achieve their primary goals:

  • The ability to produce Long phrases (long breath),
  • control over diminuendo and crescendo,
  • even vocal lines, without noticeable shifts or breaks when going up or down in pitch,
  • the “equalization of all registers,” as Garcia put it, or, as Lilli Lehman more accurately described it, “the elimination of registers.”
  • Oh, and, of course, beautiful, easy, ringing tone.

As aesthetics, taste, music, technology, and civilized life has changed over the past 4 centuries, so have the goals, pedagogy, career, & economics of a singing career or avocation, and even the very concept of what good singing is.

In the dawn of voice teaching, the goal was an attempt at defining the ideal vocal tone, beauty of sound. dynamic control, unobtrusive but even vibrato, a consistency of vocal quality throughout the singing range. The earliest castrati became the teachers to other castrati and, eventually, to women and men of unmodified genitals, and their goals were always this beauty of sound and ease of production, even to the point of advocating a relaxed smile in an otherwise tragic scene to demonstrate good training. 

When efficiency of vocal production and the necessity of projection over a distance, over an orchestra, and other singers were the primary goals of vocal production, as opera developed, effort remained the enemy, but both dramatic verisimilitude and clarity of musical and lyrical production required more strength and stamina and singing evolved. In some senses, it didn’t necessarily “improve;” it changed.  

Vocal pedagogy started with the experiments of castrati and the handing down, from one generation to the next, the methods they used to achieve their primary goals:

  • The ability to produce Long phrases (long breath),
  • control over diminuendo and crescendo,
  • even vocal lines, without noticeable shifts or breaks when going up or down in pitch,
  • the “equalization of all registers,” as Garcia put it, or, as Lilli Lehman more accurately described it, “the elimination of registers.”
  • Oh, and, of course, beautiful, easy, ringing tone.

As aesthetics, taste, music, technology, and civilized life has changed over the past 4 centuries, so have the goals, pedagogy, career, & economics of a singing career or avocation, and even the very concept of what good singing is.

In the dawn of voice teaching, the goal was an attempt at defining the ideal vocal tone, beauty of sound. dynamic control, unobtrusive but even vibrato, a consistency of vocal quality throughout the singing range. The earliest castrati became the teachers to other castrati and, eventually, to women and men of unmodified genitals, and their goals were always this beauty of sound and ease of production, even to the point of advocating a relaxed smile in an otherwise tragic scene to demonstrate good training. 

When efficiency of vocal production and the necessity of projection over a distance, over an orchestra, and other singers were the primary goals of vocal production, as opera developed, effort remained the enemy, but both dramatic verisimilitude and clarity of musical and lyrical production required more strength and stamina, though it was hard work to maintain the consistent trickle of air needed for tone production, vocal ease and 

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