I took part in a vocal improvisation master class yesterday ( Wednesday 1st October 2014 ) at the RCS in the Agos Opera Studio. The class was given by Anne-Liis Poll and Anto Pett two fabulous teachers from Estonia.
Anne-Liis Poll is one of the most leading improvisational singers of Estonia. She is also an eminent teacher of singing and improvisation. She has taught singing at the Estonian Institute of Humanities (theatre students), singing and improvisation since 1996 in Drama School of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (docent) and since 2001 at the University of Tartu Viljandi Cultural Academy. Anne-Liis Poll is also improvisation pedagogue at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.
Anto Pett is one of the most well-known free improvisators and improvisation teachers in Estonia. He graduated with piano studies from the Tallinn Music High School in 1978 under the guidance of Ene Metsjärv. He continued studies at the Tallinn State Conservatoire in piano class of Virve Lippus, studying also composition with Eino Tamberg and improvisation with Hugo Lepnurm, and graduated in 1983. He has developed original teaching method and introduced it in several music academies in Europe (Helsinki, Stockholm, Leipzig, Odense, Paris, Riga, Marseille, Bordeaux, Vilnius, Glasgow, Gdańsk
The main concept that I took away from the lesson was to be aware of how you can portray emotion through your consonants. Your consonants initiate your vowels so if you work on the emotion you project it will encourage a dramatic tone in your vowels too, which hopefully creates an exciting text for the audience 🙂
Here is one of the exercises that we were asked to try out. We used a Syllabic language ( made up sounds ) using a consonant followed by a vowel. You could use any consonant sound from any language that is the best thing about improvisation.
For example :
LO YA EIV QUO PEH SUH
We began by changing every syllable on a crotchet at a slow 4/4 tempo. Then we were asked to speed it up, changing every quaver, every semi-quaver and so on … This helps to improve your articulation and your speed of imagination.
When you try this exercise it sounds a little like beat boxing. We began by passing around the room sounds in a call and response manner.
We then explored the difference between unvoiced and voiced consonants
Unvoiced consonants. – unvoiced consonants are consonants which rely on the air being disturbed by the teeth, lips, tongue without using the vibration of your vocal chords
Voiced consonants –as the name suggests are consonants which require the vocal chords to play their part in the production of the sound.
Many consonant sounds come in pairs. For example, P and B are produced in the same place in the mouth with the tongue in the same position.
The only difference is that P is an unvoiced sound (no vibration of the vocal cords) while B is a voiced sound (vocal cords vibrate). Put your hand on your throat as you say the pairs below to feel the difference.
This leads us on to other partner consonants such as
F and V
T and rolled R
S and Z
K and NG (nasal)
You use similar placement of the tongue in the mouth which allows these partnered consonants swift movement between the changes. So you can produce the sounds very quickly and efficiently, which is so helpful for a singer.
For example the tip of the tongue creates the T on the top ridge of the mouth and the rolled R is rolled behind the top teeth.
It was great to see the development of these exercises as we all joined in.
Having fun with the improvisation exercises
As the lesson progressed we touched on tuned percussion, the speaking voice and then the singing voice.
The class helped me with my understanding of how vocal improvisation can be used in the development of my singing technique and help my warm ups and vocal exercises.