Since we can’t fully hear ourselves, and since we might decide we can take excessive vocal risk based on transitory feelings, we have to have a process that includes certain rules. We then rely on these rules to guide us through challenging situations where our present emotions might encourage us to behave differently:
- “I breathe here. No matter what.”
- “I round my lips here. No matter what.”
- “I wear my ear plugs for this piece. No matter what.”
- “I only give 85% of my max volume here even though it says ff. No matter what.”
- “I maintain some squillo here, even though it says ppp. No matter what.”
- “I modify the vowel here. No matter what.”
- “I check in with the conductor here. No matter what.”
You’ll develop these rules on your own given your own strengths and weaknesses and the challenges of your given circumstances. When should you make such rules? Here are a few over arching times:
- When you keep forgetting something that you know will help you.
- When you have shifting circumstances such as room acoustics.
- When you have very difficult music, especially music that presents a risk of early vocal fatigue.
Behind all this is the idea that your practice is mindful, so that you can develop rules in advance in order to fully integrate them. But late-developed rules are better than none at all.
In a wide-ranging interview on Masters in Business, Ray Dalio – the super successful investor – said this about opinions while discussing his process question, “How do I know I’m right?”:
BARRY: When should you not have an opinion?
RAY: Well, a lot of times, right? I mean, opinions – particularly in any – is a zero sum game. So many people have opinions that they’re attached to, and they don’t know whether they’re right, and that bias is killing them. I think one of the greatest tragedies of mankind is people stupidly holding on to opinions that could be wrong, that they could be so easily put out there and stress test, and that emotional attachment to these opinions is one of those things, where instead you could just say, let me get the best thinking I can have, it doesn’t even have to come from me. Why does it have to come from you?
Although it’s an investing/money podcast, the interview should be valuable for just about anyone since it’s primarily process-oriented, with concepts that apply to just about everywhere else.
You can hear that moment here:
Singing the Eugene Onegin choruses is a particular delight amongst the various opera choruses I’ve now sung. They also present a few challenges that are worth comment.
The dominant challenge is that the length of phrases is unusual. The opening chorus contains some long lines where the ideal spot to breathe happens later than you might expect. Here’s one such example, with my preferred breath spot marked:
With the “Adagio” tempo marking, you need to prepare in advance to reach the ideal breathing spot. You also have to construct the phrase musically in a way that makes sense with the language and the larger musical context. My ideal stress point are the downbeats of bars 11 and 12.
As with a lot of this music, those stress points don’t have to happen on the highest note in the phrase, so you need to restrain yourself and not just blast out the higher tones. It’s a challenge, but when it all comes together, the effort proves itself worthwhile.
Tonight is Theater Dortmund’s premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. It’s a wonderful piece and a joy to sing. Toi toi toi to everyone involved.
Heute Abend findet die Premiere Eugen Onegin von Tschaikowsky im Opernhaus Dortmund statt. Das Stück ist wunderschön und eine Vergnügen, zu singen. Toi toi toi an allen Beteiligten.
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