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’ – 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 a simply a controlled breathing approach that involves extension and engagement of the diaphragm instead of expansion and contraction of the ribs and chest. There’s actually a super simple (and practical!) approach to this that works every time you sing, without the confusing archaic terms and analogies – basically, if you start with a healthy posture, so, head up, shoulders back/down, chin parallel with the floor – your next move should actually be to free up your ribs, or ‘widen them’. Now, this isn’t a bone cracking and strained ‘widen’, it’s simply situating your ribs in a position that allows you to breathe using the diaphragm without the rib cage ‘collapsing’ when you exhale – basically, to breathe for singing you should be doing so without moving your chest or shoulders, but in a relaxed way. My favourite way to show my students how to sing with Appoggio and widen their ribs in this manner is to add an extra ‘honorary’ step to their posture – raise the sternum without breathing in. Often what happens when you intend to raise your sternum in this manner, your ribs will widen and your stomach will contract, allowing you to control your breathing in a powerful way by extension of the diaphragm, and any lateral contraction of the ribs when you release any air pressure is simply not possible, in essence, FORCING you to sing with Appoggio singing technique.
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.
#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.
#3 – Register Release
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.
#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.
#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 great 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. While this isn’t the most efficient way to tune a vowel, it’s certainly a great start.
#9 – The mix coordination
You’ve no doubt heard of chest voice and head voice – but did you know there is a third middle register, 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.
#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.
Why use all these confusing singing terms?
Now this is EXACTLY why I launched Bohemian Vocal Studio in 2010, after realising the lack of a practical, yet PROVEN approach to singing that doesn’t rely on old-world classical terms that have now become ‘lost in translation’ by well meaning contemporary coaches who don’t truly understand how the voice works beyond the exercises they were originally given – and one that focuses on the actual mechanics of the voice in a simple, but effective way. My studio’s approach is currently being practised and utilised successfully all around the world as we speak, so when you’re ready to learn singing the RIGHT way, you can book a session with me!
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
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.