First Principals

June 25, 2012

Luciano Pavarotti once said you should “always remember your first lesson.”  He must have had a terrific teacher, because I didn’t get what I now consider to be “First Principals” until well after college, many teachers after that first lesson.

For instance, it wasn’t until I was already singing professionally that a teacher told me the voice should be loose.  And it wasn’t until I worked with Ellen Repp in NYC that I learned what support really should be, and what an open sound really is.  Sure, lots of people talk about “support” and an “open sound” but without defining how it works, or getting the student to actually DO it.

So, this blog is to be a rumination and discussion about those first principals.  Let’s talk!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sieglunde Wakeman July 16, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I agree completely. I’ve been singing for eight years since college and it wasn’t until after I graduated and found a teacher on my own that the concept of real support was discussed.

I think some people feel that they are supporting the breath, but they’re not.


admin July 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Yes. I’m glad you found someone who addresses support.

The most I got out of most of my teachers was, “Are you supporting?” But there was no real discussion of what that was supposed to mean. My next post will start to address breath support, as this is the foundation that all technique should be built upon.

Thanks for the comment! Phil


Barbara July 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

My first teacher broke my tendency toward thoracic breathing by having me lie on the floor to place a text book directly on my abdomen. Only then did I benefit from watching the book rise and fall as my diaphragm contracted and relaxed. He knew instinctively that he was fighting my vanity given the reluctance to let my tummy fall forward.


admin July 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Barbara, that’s a common issue – we’re all told from childhood to keep our stomachs in. However, if the ribcage is up & open (I mean good posture, like stretching your arms wide), no one will notice what your tummy does!

There used to be a teacher in NYC who would stand on his student’s stomach. That’s a bit much!


Barbara July 25, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Admin…do you go by any other handle?

Also, regarding breathing technique, my same teacher taught me how to use catch breaths rather than audible inhaling, which I detect sometimes on recordings. He would teach us to abduct the vocal folds before breathing in order to avoid cooling the vocal folds while silently inspiring.

By the way, I could only imagine what my father would think if he saw my teacher standing on my tummy.



admin July 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

Ad for short. Phil, actually.

Quick breaths can be good, as long the the breath taking is a relaxing experience. I’ve seen too many singers try to grab a quick one, and get tied in a knot. I’ll get into the mechanics of it in my next post.

Some breathing you hear on recordings are the fault of close miking. Such sounds don’t generally project in the theater.

I hope to get the next posting up today.



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