Thanks for joining me for the final installment of Journal of a Richard Miller Week. In this series I am sharing my journal notes from a 1994 week’s workshop with the great vocal pedagogue, Richard Miller.
It is interesting to compare these notes to what is available in pedagogy graduate programs now days. This information seems basic now, but 20 years ago it was new information.
Friday, May 27
The first part of the morning is spent studying female registration.
Chest voice “pivotal point” around E-flat above middle C.
From E-flat to F# 5, “voce media”–sometimes called head voice
F# first passaggio.
(I hope we have time to talk about this more. My first passaggio is around E-flat)
The size of the larynx determines the “pivotal point.” In mezzos and dramatic sopranos these points are obviously different. (my question answered.)
Lighter voices have an ease about registration matters.
Whistle voice is not the same as flageolet according to voice science. Whistle voice is a dampening and slapping apart of the folds.
Flageolet is a great assister, but not necessary for all voices. Some voices can’t do this.
Miller feels it is best to start vocalizing in upper middle voice.
Miller emphasizes charging what you are worth. “Is this an avocation or a profession?”
We work with the following–
In upper middle range–
5′ 5′ 5—-1
Eh EH EH—–
Equality of timbre dependent on more appogiuro.
Heavier baritones may need to go toward (a) on top. Use ah-oh-oo combinations.
Do not base tenor (or anything) on the “HEY!” or “call” technique. Introduces too much vocalis pressure which can create imbalance. (Note: this was before voice science knew much about registration balance in popular music or musical theater.)
Mezzo di voce important every day.
Zwichen-fachs must be the patient in development.
We listen to recordings of Boerling, Corelli, Comingo, Pavarotti, all singing the same “pen-sier” to a high B-flat. All very different, all thrilling. Vowel choices interesting.
It is a common male teacher mistake to have women sing up high with too much breath pressure. Female teachers tend to underenergize their male students.
We have been saving our questions all week for today. There are many technical questions and clarifications. I ask him about his wife. What role has she played in his professional success?
Miller seems surprised by this question and says he has never had anyone ask it before. His eyes actually tear up a bit, when he says he would not be where he is without her. She has enabled him in every way to be where he is today, from taking care of his home and children to typing and editing manuscripts to listening to him practice talks.
There is a good-natured disagreement between Miller and the female teachers/singers in the class (myself included) over his assertion that the abdominal muscles have no play in support. He says there is no use of abdominal muscles other than all the muscles of the thorax have their origins in the pubic area and are therefore “used” without thinking about it in appogiuro. All the women have spoken up in disagreement, and we have a show and tell that is very interesting. He concedes that women have more space in the abdomen because of the womb, and perhaps we feel things differently.
We end the week with singing “daily regimen warm-ups.” He emphasizes warming-up before teaching.
On performing dates, sing through the voice by 12 noon. Before performing, sing agility exercises.
Learn not to sing fully during contracted orchestra rehearsals and save bloom for performance.
We leave the room slowly, speaking with each other, trading business cards, thanking Miller and talking in small groups. I am anxious to see the children but don’t fly back to DC until tomorrow morning.