TCV Turns One Today… Our Most Popular Posts from 2011

By  | January 1, 2012 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Features, The Editor's Desk

One year ago today, The Countertenor Voice published its first issue.  We have published around sixty articles on vocal technique and the singing life, as well as in depth reviews of recordings and artists.  THANKS TO EVERYONE who has read, shared, and commented on these pieces. Extra special thanks to my team of writers (Oliver Camacho, Nicholas Tamagna, Bryan DeSilva, Henry Lebedinsky, Tai Oney, Frank Richards, and Dr. Peter Hennen).  What a nice little countertenor community we have formed here :-) .

I want to re-share our top five most popular articles from 2011.  Maybe you missed them the first time around, maybe you will enjoy re-reading them now that some time has passed. Given how many active singers read this blog, I am not surprised that these articles are all practical pieces on how to be a better singer! I hope that you will look through all of our pieces from last year. Just click the category links in the menu bar.

To all our readers across the internet world, happy new year, and best wishes for 2012.

Now go practice.

Seriously… go now… :-)

Countertenor Technique: An Introduction to Concepts

by Ian Howell, originally published April 12, 2011

Is countertenor technique different from standard classical vocal technique? Should a countertenor train like a male or female voice, and what pedagogical approach and conceptual model best elicits a healthy countertenor sound? Is a countertenor merely the intersection of gender and tessitura, or is there something specific to the technical approach and musical context that limits the definition?

Read more…

Vocal Technique: How to Best Practice Practicing Singing

by Ian Howell, originally published June 1, 2011

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent…” ~ Calvin Coolidge

I have been through six years of music school (and about eighteen years off and on of private study), and I find it curious that the one thing that is rarely systematically addressed is how to practice. Especially when the quality of one’s practice habits, not necessarily how well one currently performs, is one of the best indicators of one’s long-term professional viability. So, here follows my thoughts on how to practice being good at practicing:

#1: You become what you practice…

Read more…

Some Thoughts on the Nature of Stage Fright, a.k.a. How to Stand and Deliver

by Ian Howell, originally published December 21, 2011

Most issues related to technique and performance are solved when we step back from the actual point of struggle and frame the question correctly. Stage fright is just such an issue. Debilitating and confusing, yes. Can we fight it in the moment? There are tricks that calm the body and mind, but it is difficult to rationalize your way past the bio-chemical experience of The Fear. The Fear laughs and sends another cold shot of cortisol through your tummy. However, change your thinking toward the act of performance and the roles that both you and the audience play in that extended series of present moments, and the brain’s natural defense mechanisms will have no need to kick in.

Read more…

Vocal Technique: Boring Exercises That Will Make You a Better Singer

by Ian Howell, originally published August 3, 2011

That exercises are non-musical/non-expressive could be obvious. How can one compare the expressive potential of a Bach Passion aria with an ascending and descending major triad? Dig a little deeper, though, and I hope that you will apprehend my point: It is technically valuable to exercise the voice without the imposed layer of an expressive construct, specifically because the desire to express something often engenders unnecessary layers of muscular tension.

With this in mind, this month I present a series of exercises initially designed by voice scientists to help rehabilitate the voices of non-singers. These exercises not only serve a “non-expressive” function, but also fill a likely gap in your practice routine, namely isometric exercises. Scientifically measured benefits to the inclusion of these exercises in a regular practice regimen includes increased awareness of breath control, increased sense of relaxation during both inhalation and exhalation, decreased rate of airflow while singing (and decreased sub-glottal pressure), increased phonation volume, increased maximum phonation time, and many more…

Read more…

Vocal Technique: The Flex

by Ian Howell, originally published July 5, 2011

Since my previous articles in this series on countertenor relevant singing technique have been rather general in nature, I wanted to write this month about a specific exercise. Building on the information introduced in April’s article Countertenor Technique: An Introduction to Concepts, the exercise I outline here, called the flex, is one that reveals hidden mental prejudices that work against countertenors, builds stability and an authentic sound into the lower range of the countertenor voice, and eventually helps to bridge the transition (a shortening of the vibrating portion of the folds even as the folds remain stretched) that should take place between Bb4 and B4. My hope is that the inclusion of audio examples in this article will help to explain any questions that arise, and spark an conversation about what the countertenor voice is capable of and how it might be trained.

Read more…

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Ian Howell is a countertenor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He regularly performs as a concert and operatic soloist all across North America and writes from time to time. He was educated at Yale and Capital Universities, sang with Chanticleer from 2000-04, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.