Singing: Buzz-Words De-Buzzed [Singing Terms Explained]
The singing world is full of contradictory terms, abstract instructions and classical terminology that really makes little sense in practical application. Terms like Appoggio and Chiaroscuro really should have been left behind in the 15th century when they were coined, and especially where rock singing or contemporary singing is concerned. What do you do when singing teachers and online resources rely so heavily on these abstract and archaic descriptions, which have almost become mythical in the way they have been misinterpreted and misunderstood over the years? This guide will De-Buzz every buzzword ever associated with singing and the process of finding your true voice.
Singing itself is ultimately a simple act of balance, but is often over-complicated with classical Italian singing terms and also marketing terms that have been adopted to sell courses and sell “the secret” to great singing – when in fact, you really don’t need these confusing terms anymore, and I’m about to show you why.
If you’d like the full guide with over 40 different simplified and practical explanations of classical singing techniques, you can download the Buzz-Words De-Buzzed eBook for a comprehensive list of singing terms with practical explanations as to their origin and more importantly, how to apply them to your voice.
Appoggio is simply the Italian word for support, or lean. A better translation of it’s original intent is actually RELY, you RELY on your breathing, you RELY on your posture and you RELY on your technique – if you let your foundation falter, then you will lack support because you’re not relying on diaphragmatic breathing, placement and resonance. Much confusion has been caused by the use of the term Appoggio, so I try not to use it too much myself anymore – basically, support means you use diaphragmatic breathing to balance your air pressure and air flow as you ascend in range/increase your intensity, and this is facilitated by your posture and a naturally wide rib position. If your airflow and air pressure aren’t balanced by the reliance of diaphragmatic engagement and maintaining a healthy posture, then you aren’t singing with Appoggio.
Chiaroscuro simply means dark and light at the same time, in essence a balance of high and low frequencies, and a balance of bright and dark tonality. Balance is the key to almost every aspect of great singing.
My least favourite of the classical terms, Open Throat stems from the Italian instruction to sing with La Gola Aperta, literally, The Open Throat. Singing with an open throat actually requires closure in many facets of the vocal mechanism, from closure of the soft palate to vocal fold adduction, to narrowed vowels. A better interpretation of Open Throat is actually “No Throat” or “Singing Without The Throat” – simply meaning that you should sing without focus or tension in your throat, which is facilitated by proper use of the soft palate, vocal chord closure and correct vowel production.
Vibrato is one of the few useful classical singing terms and refers to a natural oscillation of the vocal fold around a central frequency. Vibrato is often confused with Tremolo, which is a forced change of pitch or amplitude. Vibrato is actually a result of healthy singing technique rather than a technique or trick itself, and only occurs when you release your registers properly while supporting your voice and producing your vowels in the right manner.
Classical singing terms are often a figure of speech rather than a literal instruction such as “Open Throat” – terms like this aren’t a practical instruction to “Open Your Throat” and instead attempt to explain what happens when you are singing properly with a strong foundation – it feels as though your throat is free and open, even though this feeling relies on closure of the soft palate, vocal folds and narrowing of your vowels.
A great place to start with a simple approach to singing is the full Buzz-Words De-buzzed eBook available in our eBook library which details another 40 classical techniques in a simple and practical way, along with the free foundations courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a strong foundation for your voice without relying on confusing terms and abstract instructions – only practical and useful singing techniques. When you are ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching that simply works, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started extending your range and developing control and consistency in your voice every time you sing.
If you have any questions about singing terms, or there a classical technique you’d like me to clarify, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!