Appoggio Singing Technique
In this singing tutorial, I’m going to show you how to sing with Appoggio singing technique. In a literal sense, Appoggio translates to ‘support’ or “lean” – but like most classical and Opera singing terms, is a figure of speech in a metaphoric sense. I like to treat Appoggio as an extension of my posture, breathing and foundation, and really treat Appoggio itself as a breathing CONCEPT rather than a physical technique of pull this or flex that to achieve Appoggio.
Appoggio is simply a controlled breathing approach that involves extension and engagement of the diaphragm instead of expansion and contraction of the ribs and chest. You achieve Appoggio by slowing the ascent of the diaphragm while you sing, ascend in range or sustain a note or phrase – Breath Support is simply the act of resisting the recoil of the diaphragm itself to increase air pressure but limit the flow of air.
Singing with your ribs out but ‘relaxed’ may seem like a contradiction, but over time this will simply become a part of your foundation and happen instinctively. Breathing and singing with Appoggio is actually very simple and easy to do when you have the right approach.
If you interpret “Appoggio” in a practical sense as “don’t allow your ribs and chest to dictate your breath control”, then taking these steps each time you sing will get easier and easier with time and practice. Along with Appoggio, here are ten singing techniques that EVERY singer needs to learn.
#1 – Placement
Resonance placement is extremely important in a healthy singing voice, and involves a limiting of any excess and unnecessary frequencies that are being created by an improper placement. If you limit these frequencies each time you practice, your vocal chords will learn the healthy habit of only creating healthy and efficient frequencies that vibrate and buzz with POWER, allowing you to put your energy into the techniques that really matter rather than fighting with your voice. Placement is simply the act of resonating within the vocal tract in an efficient way without wasting energy or using improper or unnecessary frequencies.
#2 – Compression
Learning to support your voice by increasing and managing the level of pressure that is allowed by extension of the diaphragm is paramount to a powerful singing voice, especially when singing Rock music. Compression is an extension of your diaphragmatic breathing and support. Compression is a two part process created by Appoggio – supporting your voice with the breath, and secondly controlling this pressure by partial closure of the supraglottis above the vocal folds.
Register release is best implemented in the beginner singers foundation and warmup, but even for experienced singers, or those who have perhaps been using a “DIY” approach to singing for some time will benefit greatly from releasing their registers – in essence re setting an unbalanced coordination of the chest and head registers. The most common way of training register release is to practice a lip trill through your middle range, but many other exercises are also efficient at register release if you hold the right intention behind your practice routine. Blending chest and head voice to create one long, connected and fluid range is paramount to a great singing voice.
#4 – Vowel shaping
Instead of articulating your vowels with pronunciation like we do in speech, singing requires us to shape our vowels with the tongue while matching each vowel sound with a vocal tract width to suit the change in frequencies that occurs with each shape change. While this sounds like a complicated concept, it’s likely that you know how to do this already for most of your vowels and simply aren’t aware that this is happening – this is why you voice might be suffering from some inconsistency day to day. Learn the right vowel shapes, nail every single word that you sing with ease. It’s easier than you think, EE is tongue up at the back, AH is tongue down, and OO is tongue back towards the soft palate.
#5 – Consonant Grouping
I personally like to group consonant sounds into their respective types, and then build a tailor made approach to each consonant group for every student, considering their voice type, accent and singing experience. Different accents and native tongues experience specific issues with particular consonant groupings, but once identified and an approach is designed for each type, singing actual songs becomes a very easy and consistent pursuit.
#6 – Balanced onsets
Learning how to balance your onsets so that you sing with optimal vocal chord closure and the most efficient resonance is a special skill that takes training and consistent practice. Your voice is capable of creating three different onset types, only one of which is useful and healthy, known as a balanced onset.
- Glottal – Your chords are shut and air pressure blows them apart (this is bad for your vocal health)
- Breathy – Air flow passes your chords before they meet for closure (this is also unhealthy)
- Balanced – Air pressure reaches your vocal chords the second they meet, to create the perfect onset.
A balanced onset will keep your voice healthy and safe, while allowing you to sing with power and consistency.
#7 – Soft Palate control
Controlling the soft palate is an intrinsic part of building a healthy singing voice, but unfortunately is often treated improperly by voice gurus who tell their students to yawn before singing, quite possibly the worst instruction one can receive. Now, when you sing vowels, your soft palate actually needs to be closed so that air is not escaping through your nose, and when you sing open resonants like M,N and NG, your soft palate should naturally open to allow airflow through your nose. The soft palate is sometimes called the door to the nose – learn to use it wisely and your range and resonance will expand beyond belief.
#8 – Resonance tuning
Commonly taught as vowel modification, resonance tuning is the subtle art of altering your resonant space as you ascend to allow for the greatest ease and proper use of your resonance. A simple way to learn this concept is the technique of vowel modification where you alter the character of your vowel ever so slightly to fit in with each different resonant space required for ascend into your high range. The term “vowel” modification is another confusing and contradictory term, as the change to your vowel sound actually occurs with changes in the vocal tract rather than the sound of your vowel itself. The vocal tract is the cause, and a modified vowel is the effect.
You’ve no doubt heard of chest voice and head voice – but did you know there is a third register in the middle of your tonal range, often called MIX voice? This secret third register happens when you develop a central coordination between your two main registers, allowing you to connect chest and head voice with ease, while building a powerful and controlled middle range. In essence, mix voice is simply a blend of resonance from chest voice with resonance from the head voice – a blend or mix of both registers.
#10 – Twang
Not to be confused with country twang, or a drawl, vocal twang is the art of narrowing the top of the epiglottis to allow for a greater amplification of resonance and more powerful sound. Twang is easy to train and can be used to great effect in every singing style to give the illusion of MASSIVE power and amplified volume.
How To Sing With Appoggio
Appoggio is a classical term for breath control and refers to slowing the recoil of the diaphragm as you sing a phrase or hold a note. I personally refer to Appoggio as support, but there are many interchangeable terms that ultimately mean exactly the same thing. Appoggio singing technique is an important part of your vocal foundation and is one of the very first things you need to develop to achieve a powerful and strain free singing voice.
A great place to start is the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will not only show you how to achieve support in your breathing, but will also show you how to achieve each of the ten steps above required to develop an impressive singing voice with an extensive vocal range. You can also check out this free Mixed Voice Singing Lesson to learn the simple art of connecting chest and head voice.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about with the Foundation vocal approach, here’s just a few examples of how I use Appoggio to support my voice when singing – just imagine how powerful your voice is going to be when you learn to sing with support!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.