THE TRUTH OF BEL CANTO

By Frank A. Rosati, Sr.
and
Katia Zallas

Bel Canto means "Beautiful Singing" which is achieved by a high placed speaking voice (placement should not be confused with pitch), where the singing is an extension of the speaking voice. This produces seemingly effortless natural singing, wide range, flexibility, musicality, ability to modulate the voice (mezza-voce to full-voice), expressiveness, clarity of diction and sound, brightness, smoothness and consistency of tone. Consequently, one attains full control of the voice, thereby extending the longevity of the singer's career. The fact that the Italian language has helped form the basis for the Bel Canto style, also described as the "Italianate Sound" is further proof of the relationship of the speaking voice.

The study of voice is the seeking of overtones by freeing the emission. The sound of the violin seems small in a room but it resonates in a theatre. The same holds true for the human voice when the sound is projected freely into the theatre with a high, forward, focused emission (as in a sigh), using flexible diaphragmatic support that causes a column of air to pass through the vocal chords without impediment. The three resonating bodies are the head, chest and theatre. But the theatre has to receive the sound; therefore, constrictions of the tongue, jaw and neck have to be eliminated. A perfect example of the head voice is a baby crying free of constriction. As a result, three things are evident: diaphragmatic breathing; resonance and carrying ability of the voice; and the lack of hoarseness.

In growing-up, one develops bad habits caused by language, yelling, "Macho" complexes and incorrect muscle development as a result of sports activity, thus losing the head voice. Most singers, especially men, tend to press down the larynx which constricts the tongue, producing a bigger, darker and more masculine sound to their own ears. The so-called chest tone is one of the most misused terms in vocal technique. It is produced, again, by pressing down the larynx or actually going in the throat, changing the quality of the sound. No matter how low the pitch, the placement must always be high. This will retain overtones, facilitate the attainment of the upper register, and produce a spinning effect of the sound resonating freely in the head cavities, known as "the mask".

In conclusion, with consistency there is profundity. Bel Canto singing is very simple, but we humans make it complicated.