Where Does Your Voice Naturally Shine?
In the wonderful world of voice, there is such a thing as a vocal comfort zone. Classically trained vocalists understand this to be the optimal collection of notes falling within their tessitura, an Italian term that describes a singer’s most comfortable, full and resonant vocal range.
While singers and voice actors are certainly not limited to pitches within their tessitura, one can tell at times when an artist has gone outside the boundaries of his or her tessitura.
Have you explored the outer limits of your vocal comfort zone? Be sure to comment with the results (be they favorable or not!) in today’s Vox Daily.
A couple weeks ago, I went to a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Ernani, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Having been to Lincoln Center years ago as a stop on a tour, you can only imagine my delight at returning to this place and staying for an entire evening.
The main attraction, other than the beauty of masterful storytelling, was Placido Domingo. You might remember him as one of The Three Tenors, a trio that performed around the world whose members included Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti. Domingo, age 74, can still pull out all the stops on stage. From my vantage point, storeys above the orchestra pit, I could tell it was him, but more so by voice than by sight. His adoring fans came out in droves to see him and he played well to the audience, gracing the opera house as only a luminary of his stature could.
Domingo, though a tenor for the vast majority of his long celebrated career, has recently explored baritone repertoire, and in this case, taking on the role of Silva in Ernani. The four-act opera took place in Spain during the year 1519. Old Silva, a baritone, had many songs in which his voice played a starring role. Domingo’s performance was great, but his voice shone brightest in the higher notes on the stave that rested nicely within his tessitura. From time to time you could hear that familiar, glorious resonance, sparkling with a glimmer unmatched by the tones in the singer’s lower register.
Honoring Your Range
While this observation may seem centric to the opera world, I assure you, the same applies to all of us whether words are spoken or sung. Sometimes a voice professional’s range might shift. After all, a woman’s voice doesn’t fully mature until she is in her forties. I happen to know of a tenor though whose vocal range shifted to that of a baritone, and accordingly, he had to learn new repertoire to accommodate this unexpected turn of events. That said, ongoing training and the careful monitoring of your voice, and its range, are always good ideas as is honoring where your voice naturally sits.
Two examples of actors who pushed their voices to the limits are Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The pair loved to dwell in the lower ranges of their voices, unfortunately to the detriment of their instruments years later. You might be familiar with the vocal disorder Muscle Tension Dysphonia, nicknamed the Bogart-Bacall Syndrome. I bring these two to mind because it is far more common for a voice actor or singer to capitalize on the lower range of his or her instrument than its higher range.
Back in our high school vocal class, we were given the opportunity to sing a song of our own choosing. Some girls chose to sing songs that drew upon their lower registers instead of showcasing their natural soprano ranges. These choices surprised our teacher, who found himself at odds with the selections and how they reflected the singers’ instruments.
How About You?
Have you experimented with the extreme highs and lows of your vocal range, or do you choose to stay within your tessitura, your instrument’s comfort zone?
How has doing so affected you?
Looking forward to hearing from you!