Singing Without Overpowering the Voice

Ghenady Meirson
Submitted: Sun, November 18, 2012 - 11:16pm EST
Russian Opera Workshop 2012

All my voice students are professional singers. A few years ago I began an informal experiment with my vocal students at Curtis and AVA. I asked each singer to replace traditional Italian dynamic markings with adjectives in English.

I work exclusively with opera singers as a vocal coach. Projecting in a large theater is quite a challenge. Focused, clean vocal production is key.

Here is a simplistic look at a complex idea, which certainly is not new. Now I will address two basic dynamic markings:

p - piano (soft)
f - forte (loud)

I found that translating traditional Italian dynamic markings into one's native language provides an added nuance. Here are some adjective replacement examples:

p - comfortable, smooth, silky, velvety ...
f - full, rich, powerful ...

Because none of the above adjectives describe some sort of a fixed dynamic level, singers can interpret them proportionally in the context of their unique vocal instrument and within the boundaries of their bodies.

For example, the word "full" could mean different things to different people. Once, one of my students returned to a rehearsal after lunch with 1/2 of uneaten sandwich. When I asked why she didn't finish the sandwich, she simply said, "I was full."

To achieve a deeper musical connection, we work on fusing adjectives representing dynamics with musical moods, from serene to intense and rhythmically driven.

I found that applying "fuzzy" logic helps singers achieve good dynamic range that is uniquely theirs and without overpowering their voices.