Adapting Denes Striny’s exercises

Learning advanced singing for free – see my resources page

Exactly a year ago I read and followed Denes Striny’s ideas and exercises (see my resources page for details about his wonderful books). This began my journey back to the way I had been taught by my teachers’ Beatrice Webster and Isabel Cunningham. It also led to me creating a three year project for myself that I have affectionately titled ‘The Lilli Lehmann Project’ (please see my Lilli Lehmann page for details about the resources this great artist created for us to learn from).

My last post explained the vocal lineage of my teachers and the abundant resources available to us on the internet from this vocal lineage. I explained that these resources, suitable for advanced singers, are available for free on the internet (see the blog post “Learning advanced singing for free”).

My teachers always told me to make an exercise into music. The late Daphne Collins, a colleague and bel canto singer, knew instinctively how to do this. I learnt a lot by listening to her when I was in my late teens. Every note was music. Therefore, in essence, in these recordings, made on my iPhone, I am taking the exercises and having fun with them. I am not doing exactly what Striny said or my teachers said. The iPhone compresses sound but you may still get a sense that I am using a constant messa di voce, not just on a phrase, but also single notes. I have also added staccato and trills.

These exercises are how I begun my singing practice today. I am often using ‘i’ either by making a grace note from ‘i’ or thinking ‘i’. The reason is that the sound needs an ‘East to West’, to use Isabel’s words. Without this ‘East to West’ the sound is 2 dimensional. My voice is dark and I have to be very careful to balance the darkness with ‘e’ or ‘i’.

Below are my examples. Any mistakes in the interpretation of the books I read and my teachers’ words are solely my own. Please refer to Denes Striny’s books just in case I have not interpreted his words properly!

U a o – thinking i and using a grace note to help sometimes
Here is ‘You love our home’. I am dwelling again on the ‘i’ sound. I think it is a tad dark here but I like the ‘whirling currents’ (to use Lilli Lehmann’s words)
Here is an example of me having fun with an exercise I do every day. (See the technique page for details). I am adding in messa di voce here too for a challenge.
Having fun and putting in challenges.

Going from the Denes Striny warm up to an aria…

Finally, here is the use of the word ‘piu’ to warm up the aria ‘Ah, non credea’. The p is similar to a b and is great to achieve a light character. The i and u are great vowels to get a balanced sound. The u creates a depth and the i adds height. I have a dark voice so I need to concentrate on i and e vowels as well as singing on the upper edge of the note. When I warm up I would rather be sharp than a dark muddy mess.

Using ‘piu’. Also, using rubato and messa di voce. The iPhone doesn’t show it as well but there is a big dynamic range here.

Ah, non credea by Bellini

Here is an example of how I go from these exercises to an aria. Here is ah, non credea rehearsal with my clumsy guitar playing. I am thrilled with the top notes. The iPhone recording doesn’t show it but the last note was a crescendo and then diminuendo to pianissimo. I was getting glitches on the high soft singing but now I am keeping a raised palette and ‘East to West’ feel and the glitches are virtually gone.

Ah, non credea
My enjoyment of singing has increased tenfold since reading Denes Striny’s book ‘Head First’

Published by Deborah Wai Kapohe

I am a classical singer and guitarist. I have created a project called 'The Lilli Lehmann Project'. The project, lasting from 2020 until 2023, aims to refresh my voice and prepare me to be a singing teacher. The scope of the project is that I am studying Lilli Lehmann's singing book, bibliography, recordings and her reviews, as well as other historical vocal pedagogy. I have chosen this platform in order to blog about my discoveries, demonstrate techniques and exercises, and perform pieces of music. I have done so because I wish to be transparent. I think that if a student is prepared to learn from me then I should stand up to public scrutiny.

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