Saturday, May 5, 2007

more string analogies

gotta earn my keep, since theconcert's ACB introduced my blog to her blogroll with an appreciation of my string analogies for voice. so here's another set.

I've been reading Cornelius Reid's books on vocal technique and training, and his thoughts on (vocal) registration are concepts that I've been kicking around my head a fair bit -- not least because it seems one of the most compelling points that he makes.

In a nutshell (and if I've got it correct -- trrill would probably be able to steer you right if I did it wrong), there are two vocal mechanisms for producing sound - the chest and the head (and then Reid goes on to connect these terms with their etymology in the old Italian tradition [though honestly, who *doesn't* talk about the 'old Italian tradition' is what I'd like to know]). The trick is then combining these two mechanisms in a coordinated way so as to produce a sound that combines the virtues of both mechanisms and allows the voice to be graduated "seamlessly" from the bottom to the top of the range in tone quality and resonance. Ok, so I just threw a bunch of buzzwords in there, but Reid is particular about defining exactly what he means when he uses these terms. I use them a little more loosely in this sentence. It's also a little bit more complicated, as Reid also defines a couple registration "events" (if you're playing math-geek at home, it would be inflection points - where second-derivative = 0, tee hee), but the gist is all there.

So where does the string analogy come in? Alright, so I was very lucky to have a violin teacher who wanted her students to make aesthetic and technical choices for themselves -- kind of like the point of therapy is to provide one with tools to deal with problems. She was teaching us to fish, as the proverb goes. And a lot of that had to do with developing our own bowings and fingerings.

So aside from an ease standpoint (awkward string crosses, shifts, etc.) there is also the tone quality that comes from each of the strings. There is always a choice as to whether or not to shift higher up on the A string for it's more rounded and "covered" tone or cross to the E string for its bright, sometimes steely ring. Of course there are even more subtle differences between the other strings, but the E string tends to be the most obvious of the four.

So the idea of registration then, follows the sort of thinking of "high up on the A string/lower down on the E string." At some point, you will have to go to the E string just to play the notes that you need to. (And if you're going with clearer aesthetics, it's going to be much sooner than if you're just interested in what's possible.) I think that's similar registrally. The general rule of thumb is that you want to keep an even scale, and even sound -- make it so you don't hear 4 strings (or 2 mechanisms). But other times you really want that effect. You want the sound of high up on the G string (like Bach's Air on the G string) versus lower down on the D. It makes all the difference!