Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Introduction to the Issue of Fach

One of the thorniest issues in vocal production can be the issue of fach. Fach is a German word which literally means "compartment" or subject of study. In singing, fach refers to the issue of categorizing voices. We all know the major categories: Soprano, alto, tenor and bass. But beyond that, there are numerous subcategories which refer to specific issues such as weight, agility and the like within each major category.

Fach is used worldwide, but originally grew out of German opera houses. If a singer was categorized as a full lyric soprano for instance, that singer would only be asked to sing roles within that category.

Many voices clearly fall into one fach or another. But often, a voice will have qualities of more than one fach. Categorizing those voices can be difficult. What do you do with a woman who has a lot of smoky color in her mid range a mezzo-soprano, but has the full range of a soprano, or a male who comes into the studio who sings in the tenor range, but with a lot of "chestiness" in the midrange.

The issue is important because singing out of fach, can not only be a failure to live up to the potential of the voice, but can be damaging to the voice. A person whose voice "rings" in a higher range, but who chooses to sing in the lower range without access to much resonance can often sing with a depressed larynx, which can cause a host of problems.

So how can we determine fach in our students or for ourselves? Sometimes it is clear. A young soprano comes into the studio and she is clearly a soprano. The problem is most often faced by voice teachers in regard to "middle" voices or voices with clear tensions such as jaw and tongue tension. I think the most clear indicators of fach lie in vocal timbre and vocal tessitura.

Look to where the vocal passaggi lie when the voice is cleared on tension and the throat open. If the voice is not free of tension, work on relieving tension and correcting breath before worrying about fach.

Renowned teacher, David Jones, explores this issue (along with many others) on his website. His articles are clear and quite informative. I value and respect his opinion. You can find more information at:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

NATS National Convention 2010 Salt Lake City

I am recently back from the NATS (National Teachers of Singing) Convention in Salt Lake City Utah. It seems that there is a buzz at every NATS national convention and this time, the buzz was all about teaching belting. There were four workshops covering the subject this time: everything from teaching kids how to belt to teaching "super" belt.

I went to three out of four of the workshops and I have a better sense of how to teach it. I started out singing musical theater as many young teens do, and learned how to engage a heavier mechanism (AT vs. CT). Then when I went to college, I had to learn how to use a lighter mechanism--or head voice (CT) From there, I was able to smooth all the registers out.

I wonder about the ease and/or difficulty of learning head voice after one has spent a significant amount of time singing in a belting style. Belt necessarily means more pressure on the larynx than is used in a classical production. For me, it was quite difficult to undo. It took a long time and I still find that I can exert too much pressure on the larynx when I sing.

On the flip side, I still love musical theater. I have a fair amount of mix in my mid range and though it isn't belt, it is a meatier sound. One of the most interesting aspects of belting vs the classical sound, is the size of the mouth. In belting, the mouth is more open and wider for much of the range. In classical vocal production, the aperture is smaller for most of the range.

So the question is: What is belt? Is it that meatier sound? Is it "super" belt? Is it the sound we hear in R & B?

Lots to think about I think.

For further information, check out Lisa Popeil's website. She was one of the presenters at the conference.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NATS Singing Festival--San Francisco Chapter

Congratulations to my student, Allison Rosengard, who placed 4th in her age division for art song. This was her first time participating in the festival and I am so proud of her.

It is a joy to see your students sing well. It is a joy to see them progress from week to week, month to month, year to year. I can be feeling a bit low and will feel so much better during and after I am done teaching.

Love it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recitals, recitals, recitals!!

Today, my students at Head Royce have their end-of-year vocal recital. I am running through the odd bit of music, the difficult passage, the runs, the ornaments, the rests with them prior to the recital. I worry for my students. I hope for them. I am excited for them!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Students Ready for Recital

The end of the school year is a busy time for me as a voice teacher. I teach voice part time at a school in the Bay Area. I also teach for a number of other professional groups as well as maintaining a busy private studio. Recitals for all of these venues are coming up. My task is to help my students prepare as well as possible so that they will have good experiences while performing.

Today, some of my students worked for the first time with their accompanist for an upcoming recital. I worked on notes and rhythms with some students. With some I worked on anticipating the musical line more to help move the line along. Others were ready to work on emotive affect, looking at the music the composer has provided them and how that music fits together with the text. This is one of my favorite parts of the performing process.

I love that singers can move an audience emotionally. I love the feel of it when I do it and I want for my students to learn how to do it as well. A favorite conductor once said, "The audience doesn't pay to hearing beautiful singing. They pay to be emotionally moved." I don't know if that is always true, but I suspect there is some truth in it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Graduate Project

I am midway through my graduate project on--you guessed it--performance anxiety. I am finishing a master's degree in Vocal Pedagogy at Holy Names University and the graduate project is the last thing I need to finish before I well, finish. During this process, I took my state licensing exams and passed them. I am now a licensed marriage and family therapist. I would like to help performers, not only with performance anxiety, but also with the issues that tend to plague performers: anxiety in general. Performers have lives that are in some measure "on parade." They are in front of the public in many ways. That can be difficult to manage over time.

Too, there is some difference I think between making music and "performing" it. This is something that I am examining for myself and I think it has ramifications for others as well. The difference may be as simple as the difference between feeling authentic in the "performance" or feeling you must put on something that feels inauthentic to "perform" the music.