Soprano & Voice Teacher, North York, Toronto, (Don Mills & Sheppard)


I'd like to share on this blog things that inspired me (relating to music, singing & vocal pedagogy) - hopefully they will inspire you too! Frequency - about once a month. You are welcome to leave your comments and suggestions or e-mail me.

I will also publish in this blog events and performances and you are also welcome to visit my official website or voice studio website. Happy reading and singing!

~ Miriam

Sunday, September 26, 2010

French Recital - Saturday October 2nd 2010, 6 PM

Works by Machaut, Hahn, Gounod, Chausson, Fauré, Debussy, Satie, Monnot (Piaf) and more.

Saturday, October 2nd 2010, 6 PM
$8 advance; $14 door
Bloor Street United Church
300 Bloor St. West, Toronto
(between St. George and Spadina Subway Stations)

Click here for detailed programme, full texts and translations. You can print or purchase programme at the concert to cover printing costs (limited number of programmes will be available).

Contact to order your tickets in advance.
Click here to view the event on Facebook.

Among ticket buyers an exclusive hand-made piece of Silver Ponds jewellery by Y. Stern will be drawn!
(when joining our mailing list)

Sponsored by Y. Stern Jewelry & Judaica Designer:

Y. Stern, Jewelry and Judaica Designer

The Voice Capabilities

The human voice has such a wide range of capabilities. Some say that if a person can mimic the sounds of all animals - they can sing ANYTHING (I have the cow, sheep and fish more or less under control, so I'm on my way!).
I'd like to share with you a few examples of singers and composers who extended the conservative definition of vocal production.
First - the lovely Cathy Berberian who composed and performed Stripsody.

If you can't view the video, click here.
(and thanks to Rony Weiser who sang it recently and reminded me of this wonderful singer!)

There are other interesting interpretations, for example view Diana Gamet; she also explains nicely about the piece before singing it.

The range and variety of sounds produced by Yma Sumac:

If you can't view the video, click here.

Another interesting piece that shows her exceptional vocal range and colors (but not so many "special effects" of the voice) can be found here. I wonder what would have happened had she became a classical singer - which fach category would she fall into...

An interesting study has been done by composer Michael Edward Edgerton. I wouldn't try those effects without close guidance of someone who knows what they are doing, as I think some of the vocal effects could be imitated in a way that may cause vocal damage. The composer assured me that:
"...this piece is the result of very focused training - so the parts that have the loud aggressive tones are produced through high air flow with a very relaxed glottis. So, in this case, there is no damage being done to the system. If the singer starts to apply excessive tension, then problems will begin to appear..."

If you can't view the video, click here.

Overtone singing, sometimes called "throat singing" is a method when a singer sings quite low in his/her range, usually on one pitch, and then a very high whistle-like unrelated melody is created simultaneously. At first I did not believe it is possible, until I heard the breath and how both "voices" stopped at the exact same moment. Click here to view a video demonstrating the different techniques of overtone singing (nose, upper jaw, chest, etc.)
It is easier to hear the overtones in the following video:

If you can't view the video, click here.
Here is an explanation on how to "throat sing". I didn't really try it, but if you are curious - you can try. I do not know if it harms the vocal chords or not - so proceed with caution!

I don't like it. At all. And even though I would not encourage anyone to go and scream - it would not be right to not include that kind of possibility of voice production in this post. I do find Melissa Cross interesting. She's a vocal instructor who specializes in teaching "screaming". And maybe, just maybe, this could be done without damage. I like her because of her energy and passion, because her own voice sounds clear and healthy (at least when she speaks), because they say about her that she "screams" softly, which probably means less or no damage. I am not too impressed with many of her students' vocal production, but they may have been worse before they came to her...

If you can't view the video, click here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vibration, Resonance and Bi-Noises by Lamperti

From Vocal Wisdom:
Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti

Vibration, Resonance and Bi-Noises

Always remember that what "goes on" above the throat are illusions no matter how real they may feel and sound.

At the same time, observe that these illusions of the senses of touch and hearing are the only proofs that the throat is functioning normally and efficiently.

The more evident the sensation of resonance in the cavities of head and mouth, the better the "placement" of voice.

The more ringing the sound of vibration in the bones of head and mouth, the better the production of tone.

Both resonance and vibration must finally "take possession" of the cavities and bones of head, mouth (and in low tones the chest) and be permanently resident there.

Many times the bi-noises of the voice are inevitable.

Those caused by phlegm, emphasis, emotional effects, declamatory exclamations, aspirated emission, exaggerated pronunciation, etc., should not prevent the vibration and resonance of the voice from filling head and mouth and in low tones the chest.

Bi-noises do not "carry" and are unnoticed by an audience, if the succeeding resonance is rich and the following vibration ringing.

Vibration and resonance can cover a multitude of noises.

If preparing to sing does not straighten you up like a soldier, some essential part of your anatomy is not taking part.

While objectivity predominates, this feeling begins at the feet.

When subjectivity rules it commences in the head.

Giovanni Battista Lamperti was an Italian singing teacher and son of the singing teacher Francesco Lamperti. Free scores by Giovanni Battista Lamperti can be found in the International Music Score Library Project or you can purchase them online here.

Singing in Company

Watch this hilarious video of what NOT to do when singing in company (or solo). Unfortunately it is so true...

If you can't view the video, click here.

This ensemble, I Fagiolini, is a great inspiration for me (I saw them live). Not because of their musicality and technique (which are great) but for their inventive and creative ability. There are many ensembles who can sing this music, each with their own interpretation, but they go a step further and aim to create an experience which goes beyond music. They find innovative ways to make their music more meaningful using different means of arts and technology; for example drama or sound engineering. Yes, they can be viewed as plain gimmicks, but I think those "gimmicks" allow the audience to view the old pieces in a new light which is more relevant to their current life.

Purists may claim that those "gimmicks" are there to "cover up" for an inability to pass the message of the composer (and poet) in a more abstract way. Others may say that some pieces have been performed so many times that one has to pour new meaning into them or they will forever be compared to that one perfect recording done in 1954 by X. What do you think is the role of the performer (other than get attention, dress nicely and have notorious temper tantrums)? Comments are welcome!

Back to School (back to flu and colds!)

So, we're back to school.
And we're back to flu and cold season.
And with it we become frustrated, scared, and very very annoyed.


These are tips based on my own experience and I have no training whatsoever in this field. So if you follow this advice and do damage to yourself - do not even attempt to sue me. You will face a dreadful bad luck (unless of course you forward a lot of chain letters including this newsletter to everyone on your mailing list and do a hula hoop dance in the rain for 23 seconds while wearing an orange hat).
Always use good judgment and check with your doctor or certified herbalist or reliable sources before you decide to take or not take any medication or action or herb or natural remedies. Bla bla bla...


Click here to read the best advise for singers that I found so far written by Dr. Francoise P. Chagnon, FRCS. It was written on 1997, things may have changed since then. Some of the information is not very comforting, but it is the truth.
Some information about colds and other vocal health issues is available here. I love licorice and it works wonderful for me - but it doesn't work for everyone and may not be healthy for you.
If you are a natural-remedies freak - you may like the blog Superior Vocal Health written by David Aaron Katz, singer, nutritional consultant, Herbalist and Reiki practitioner.
Take care and remember to cherish the days that you are vocally healthy - and practice :-)

Would love to hear what works for you (and what doesn't) - you're welcome to leave comments!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Students' Concert / Open Lesson

Students' Concert / Open Lesson: April 3rdNext student concert / open lesson: Saturday, April 3rd - location and exact hour to be determined. Fee: $20. To register, click here.

Sorry about the picture, got carried away by the influence of Django Bates and The Shaggs...

Spring (already?!)

Well, it's March, and the weather's good. Yes, they all say it will be cold again, but let's enjoy it while it last (and let me imagine that it's the beginning of Spring!). This is the season to celebrate the rebirth of nature with romantic Lieder about the trees, and a mélodie involving poetic (=incomprehensible) text about the birds.

Sch (r) shh br (t)

Christian Friedrich Daniel SchubartA couple of a weeks ago we had a musical evening / party: Philosophy with Schubert/Sherbet and I had the pleasure of adding more shhh bb rr and t, by singing Schubert's songs to texts by Schober and by Schubart. While I was never too impressed with Schober, I did become intrigued with Schubart, a poet and composer who seems to have had a very colourful personality (and a big mouth). Then, the following day, in one of those great "coincidences" of life, I just came across this beautifully inspiring quote of his, who summarized the introduction of Max Spicker to Franz Abt's Practical Singing Tutor, Op. 474:

...and will close our preface with Schubart's glorious tribute to song: "Song is indisputably the first Article in the whole art of music, the axis around which revolves all that is called melody, modulation and harmony. All instruments are mere imitations of the singing voice. Song sits as a king upon his throne, while round about all the instruments bow as vassals. The human voice is in the nature of things the primitive tone, all other voices in the world being but a distant echo of this divine first voice. The human throat is the first, purest, and most admirable instrument of Creation!"

Just don't mention it to the pianist...

If you can't view the video, click here.

"Die Forelle" (score and additional information available here)
Text: Schubart
Music: Schubert
Piano: Julius Drake
Voice: Ian Bostridge

Free score of Practical Singing Tutor, Op. 474 by Franz Abt (what kind of a name is Abt anyhow?) is available in the International Music Score Library Project, where you can read the rest of the introduction (quite inspiring and informative) and get more ideas for healthy vocal exercises, or purchase it online here.
Would love to hear what works for you or what doesn't. Please leave your comments below!

Django Bates (Interval Song)

Django Bates
Continuing with colourful characters to suit the beautiful spring: while thinking and searching for creative ways to learn intervals I came across this Interval Song by Django Bates from his CD You Live And Learn... (Apparently).

If you can't view the video, click here.

I love it. Yes, it is very annoying, but at the same time so catchy and so much fun. And yes, if you like it - it means you're a music nerd. But you're in good company, because so is Django Bates, who reminds me a bit of the 21st century version of John Cage ("I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." ~John Cage). Get inspired by Django Bates Quotes, by his biography on his website by Django Bates's Music or just by the Latin jazz rhythms...

And to balance the previous quote by Schubart:
"Being a musician is incompatible with self-importance because it is surreal in itself. Selling vibrations in the air. What's more surreal than that?" ~Django Bates.

Free ear training tools for are available here.

Expanding the Definition of Music

Going another step further... Listen, if you can, to this song: Who Are Parents by The Shaggs. OK, this is not an example of good vocal technique, but... Is this art? Just because it is original and creative? Is this music or is it not? What IS music? You can vote in this online poll.

If you can't view the video, click here.

Some quotes - may help you shape your opinion:

  • "Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music." ~Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • "When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed the point." ~Maria Callas
  • "The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason." ~John Cage (then again, many people consider him more an inventor than composer/musician)
  • "If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all." ~John Cage
  • "At Bloomington, Indiana, I was invited to listen to music written in quarter tones for four harps and voices. I had to go out to be sick." ~Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
  • Shostakovich: "What do you think of Puccini?"
    Britten: "I think his operas are dreadful."
    Shostakovich: "No, Ben, you are wrong. He wrote marvellous operas, but dreadful music."
  • "Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour." ~Gioacchino Rossini
  • "I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds." ~Mark Twain
  • "Not until the turn of the century did the outlines of the new world discovered in Tristan begin to take shape. Music reacted to it as a human body to an injected serum, which it at first strives to exclude as a poison, and only afterwards learns to accept as necessary and even wholesome." ~Paul Hindemith
  • "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." ~Johann Sebastian Bach
  • (About Bach) "Too much counterpoint; what is worse, Protestant counterpoint." ~Thomas Beecham
  • Composers should write tunes that chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle. ~Thomas Beecham
  • Movie music is noise... even more painful than my sciatica. ~Thomas Beecham
  • Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory. ~Thomas Beecham
  • "My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require." ~Edward Elgar
  • "Music rots when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music." ~Ezra Pound
  • "The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't got the joke yet." ~Oliver Herford
  • "Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be soporific." ~Aaron Copland

Tickle of Tone or "Voice Placing" by Lamperti

From Vocal Wisdom:
Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti

Tickle of Tone

If the sensations (tickle) of the resonance against the mucuous membrane of nose, pharynx and mouth disappear, the mutual relation between voice and breath are broken.

These sensations must last from syllable to syllable, word to word and even phrase to phrase.

In fact, they seem to be ever present.

This is "voice placing."

If they predominate in the back part of the mouth and throat, hold the "cupped" hand over nose and mouth and feel the "tickle" on the palm of the hand as well as at bridge of nose, and in roof of mouth. This intensifies "singing in the mask."

The voice is an illusion of the two senses, touch and hearing.

Tickle of tonal vibrations and sensations of muscular energies unite only when emotion controls.

When these illusions and energies are continuous and intense, you are a great artist.

The ear is true only through team-word of thought and imagination.

Objective study is by thought through imagination to emotion.

Subjective control reverses this, when emotion arouses imagination which uses thought.

Until there is "consanguinity" in consonants, you cannot sing.

Until there is relationship between vowels, you cannot sing.

Until the mathematical accordance of two or more tones obtains, you are singing falsely.

Pure tone is a "magic carpet" that lifts us and carries us through the realm of sound.

The throat does not furnish the power of the voice, it only decides the pitch and quality of the tone.

The diaphragm does not furnish the energy to sing, it only controls the use of the same.

Throat and diaphragm are inseparable in their action, and silent or singing are always functioning - never relaxed, nor ever rigid.

Imagination cannot pilot a shaky, leaky, lop-sided voice.

The voice must "find itself" ere the subconscious powers take possession and guide.

Emotion without a floating tone, wrecks the voice.

Only a full rigged voice can exist on the sea of sound.

Giovanni Battista Lamperti was an Italian singing teacher and son of the singing teacher Francesco Lamperti. Free scores by Giovanni Battista Lamperti can be found in the International Music Score Library Project or you can purchase them online here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Open Lesson / Students' Concert

We will finally have a students' concert / open lesson / master-class on Saturday, February 6th 2010, 5 PM at Bloor Street United Church located between St. George and Spadina Subway Stations. I recommend registering - you REALLY only learn to sing when you perform in front of others, and it will not be too formal, more like an open lesson.

Naturally we will try to focus on love themes, but not only, besides, how much music is there not related to love?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

Wishing you a year filled with wonderful music!

View a short fun greeting (apologies if you have seen it already...)

Happy 2010 from Miriam Tikotin!

An ice sculpture of a harp and two violins glistens in the winter sunshine at the Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada