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Bel Canto technique and Pop

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WhiteTan
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Hi all,

 

For the past couple months, I've been working with a vocal instructor who teaches Bel Canto. I enjoy working with her but I am wondering if the technique we're working with is going to be suitable with the goals I have for my voice.

 

Ultimately, I am interested in singing pop and r&b. However, the Bel Canto method is mostly opera oriented from what I understand.

 

So far I've made progress with our lessons, and have learned how to properly sing from the diaphragm, but I'm wondering if it's time to explore other techniques.

 

Is there anybody familiar with Bel Canto who can offer their opinion?

 

Thanks for any future responses,

 

WhiteTan

 

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From what i heard modern interpretations of Bel Canto is amazing for pop music. Just because some of the stuff in bel canto makes you sing as effortless asbpossible with having nice projection and tone.

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One of the problems with "Bel Canto"... is that it is a term that a lot of voice teachers use because it sounds interesting. "Bel Canto" sounds serious or ... as if it is the ultimate in singing techniques or something... "Bel Canto" has become a "buzz" word that people use to impress students, simply stated. I hate to sound cynical, but that is a fair statement and its a problem. 

 

Do you know what Bel Canto really means or are you just going on faith that it means "ancient voice training method that stood up against the test of time that makes people sing amazing because its the real deal"... be honest, is that more or less what you assumed Bel Canto was?  If that is more or less the situation, then you have been "Bel Canto'd".

 

"Bel Canto" just means beautiful singing? It essentially is referring to a style of singing that has a lot of legato in it, that came from a specific region of Italy in the 18th century. Thats it, there is nothing magical about "Bel Canto", unless you are led to believe that it is something more then what you could get with any other good teacher.  Don't believe me... here is wikipedia's definition... see the red, I rest my case. 

 

Bel canto (bel-canto) (Italian, "beautiful singing" or "beautiful song"), along with a number of similar constructions ("bellezze del canto"/"bell’arte del canto"), is a term relating to Italian singing. It has several different meanings and is subject to a wide variety of interpretations.[1]

 

Essentially, it doesn't mean anything particularly special. Many Classical voice coaches will call themselves "Bel Canto"... Not really because it identifies that they are a specialist in something, but because it sounds fancy and makes students think that they specialize in something. It is unfortunately used as a marketing "buzz" word.  I can call many of the things I teach, "Bel Canto". Any good teacher that teaches legato and appoggio and beautiful resonance can call themselves "Bel Canto". So the first thing is, don't be fooled that your getting something super high brow or special. It may be good training, but I'm only saying, it isn't some rare, ancient method of singing that other people don't know how to teach.

 

If you want to sing R&B and pop, get a contemporary voice coach and a home study training program that shows you new techniques and sound colors. It is likely, your wasting your time.

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Rob, respectfully, I'm not so sure I agree with you on that.  I agree with you on most everything but there are some elements of classical I learned with Frisell, I wouldn't let go of for the world.

 

Don't you believe they help in Rock and R&B vocals?

 

I can't think of one vocal program that doesn't contain elements of Bel Canto Principles. 

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Rob, respectfully, I'm not so sure I agree with you on that.  I agree with you on most everything but there are some elements of classical I learned with Frisell, I wouldn't let go of for the world.

 

Don't you believe they help in Rock and R&B vocals?

 

I can't think of one vocal program that doesn't contain elements of Bel Canto Principles. 

     I think that what Robert means is that back in the day Bel Canto did not describe a training technique but  described the sound or style of the singers.  Anything that was believed to sound good was Bel Canto. So if at the time people thought screaming falsetto sounded good it was considered Bel Canto.

    Later people started calling many different styles or schools of teaching voice  Bel Canto........Could really be anything.

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Rob, respectfully, I'm not so sure I agree with you on that.  I agree with you on most everything but there are some elements of classical I learned with Frisell, I wouldn't let go of for the world.

 

Don't you believe they help in Rock and R&B vocals?

 

I can't think of one vocal program that doesn't contain elements of Bel Canto Principles. 

 

Bob, please read my post again, you didn't get my point...  My point is, that "Bel Canto" is a term that is tossed around too liberally because it has been ***** slapped into a marketing "buzz" word and when you really understand what it means, it just means "beautiful singing" with legato in light mass configurations... or something like that depending upon who you ask...  therefore... there is Bel Canto-isms in EVERY good training program... (which is your point).

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Hi all,

 

For the past couple months, I've been working with a vocal instructor who teaches Bel Canto. I enjoy working with her but I am wondering if the technique we're working with is going to be suitable with the goals I have for my voice.

 

Ultimately, I am interested in singing pop and r&b. However, the Bel Canto method is mostly opera oriented from what I understand.

 

So far I've made progress with our lessons, and have learned how to properly sing from the diaphragm, but I'm wondering if it's time to explore other techniques.

 

Is there anybody familiar with Bel Canto who can offer their opinion?

 

Thanks for any future responses,

 

 

 

 

I've read a few of the responses, my personal take. If we are speaking about what would be considered " Original True Bel Canto" and you are going to sing Pop& R&B I would recommend some and mix with other speech level technique. Real Bel Canto does lead itself well to certain styles of Jazz, R&B( the fuller darker styles) & Rock/Metal. I don't think it would be great if you mean something like Janet Jackson. Bel Canto can be too heavy for the whispery styles. I also agree with Rob, many people call many things Bel Canto, which does mean beautiful singing, but was/is also a very specific technique and style of vocalizing. The breathing and registration from these techniques can help ALL singing styles. The lyrical, melodic and very rounded vowel sound and placement, may or may not work depending on what type of sound your trying to produce. My advice however is, if your voice teacher is trying to push you in a direction your not happy with find another one, otherwise use as much as benefits you and move on towards other applications that help you. If you are going to sing Opera, Classical or more Classical Style Broadway ( Sarah Brightmen, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable style music) Than this is a great technique to use and master. It is especially beneficial if used in the romantic languages.. Italian, French, Spanish etc.. German styles/music might required a heavier registration , more guttural however this technique will mix well with that as well.

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I've read a few of the responses, my personal take. If we are speaking about what would be considered " Original True Bel Canto" and you are going to sing Pop& R&B I would recommend some and mix with other speech level technique. Real Bel Canto does lead itself well to certain styles of Jazz, R&B( the fuller darker styles) & Rock/Metal. I don't think it would be great if you mean something like Janet Jackson. Bel Canto can be too heavy for the whispery styles. I also agree with Rob, many people call many things Bel Canto, which does mean beautiful singing, but was/is also a very specific technique and style of vocalizing. The breathing and registration from these techniques can help ALL singing styles. The lyrical, melodic and very rounded vowel sound and placement, may or may not work depending on what type of sound your trying to produce. My advice however is, if your voice teacher is trying to push you in a direction your not happy with find another one, otherwise use as much as benefits you and move on towards other applications that help you. If you are going to sing Opera, Classical or more Classical Style Broadway ( Sarah Brightmen, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable style music) Than this is a great technique to use and master. It is especially beneficial if used in the romantic languages.. Italian, French, Spanish etc.. German styles/music might required a heavier registration , more guttural however this technique will mix well with that as well.

 

Darius, great response.. thanks... I enjoy your understanding of Classical singing. Your a good resource for such matters... 

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Sorry Rob, I guess I didn't understand

 

Bob, no problems... I was in a hurry this morning when I responded, so it was kinda to the point and direct... and amp'd up on my 2nd latte...  I appreciate Darius jumping in and letting us all know what the benefits might be, that was cool... 

 

I realize now I may of been a bit hasty in my response. Of course there are benefits, but Im not exactly clear what they are. In any case, it may be that it just means for your teacher... Classical voice training... which means, you may fall into some configurations and vowels and ideas about your voice that can be a distraction to your desire to sing R&B, pop and probably some rock music. 

 

That is a better response.  

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OK gotta chime in here as this is in my ballpark.

There is NO specific pedagogy called "Bel Canto" - it is a style of singing not a technique. In the past couple of decades it has become associated with classical voice training. There are a couple of schools of classical voice training that will train one to sing "Bel Canto".

I do say in some of my videos that I was initially taught a form of "Bel Canto singing" from one of the 4 teachers I've had over the years. Technically he taught "Open Throat" technique, but that is a lesser known "buzz word" to most singers.

I was also taught by someone who was taught from an early age the old Italian school of "One Register/Appoggio" voice training, but since he was now singing Rock, he took out the things that make classical singers sound, well... classical. Namely vibrato, vowel enunciation and embellishment. By stripping away the "style" of what defines classical singing, he was able to keep the best parts of "One Register" singing without sounding like Pavarotti doing Black Sabbath.

This is the basis from which I teach. It's a classical approach of open throat/one register/appoggio technique without all the stylization of classical singing.

I've had many Skype conversations with Maestro Franco Tenelli on my type of minimalist classical approach. He gave me some great ideas on how to teach from a classical perspective but keeping it sounding contemporary. He himself sings Jazz and loves Led Zeppelin, so he understands the differences in stylistic approaches.

To answer a previous question - yes I firmly believe that a classical approach has awesome benefits for the Pop/Rock/R&B singer. Why? because good technique is good technique regardless of the genre(s) you sing. As long as the underlying technique is solid and healthy, use whatever you can to achieve your vocal goals.

Now go out there and great.

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Here is a great video on Bel Canto with three of the greatest voices in classical singing at that time.

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Not fair!! I made a thread about the video like a day ago. xD JK awesome video

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@WhiteTan

 

My background is mostly based on the italian classical technique, and it works well. As they said however Bel Canto is not a technique but a set of ideals and practices that are related to the interpretation of songs.

 

 

To be objective about your question, its simple:

 

If you are training the technical side and applying what you learn on your repertoire, and it sounds good/getting results, great.

 

If you are training and learning to sing classical arias instead of the songs you want... Then you have a problem.

 

 

Hope it helps.

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Dang it, Kevin, now you have a visual stuck in my head. Pavarotti singing Black Sabbath. Of course we see that as dichotomous. then I started wondering what "Paranoid" would sound like sung as an aria.

 

The only thing saving me is "Moving On" by Bad Company.

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My background is mostly based on the italian classical technique, and it works well. As they said however Bel Canto is not a technique but a set of ideals and practices that are related to the interpretation of songs.

 

Good point of clarification... and how you assessed the problem, is smart on... nice post Felipe. 

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Thank you all for taking the time to give me such in-depth feedback, it's much appreciated. At this point, I'll play it by ear and see how my results are for the next month. If I find that my lessons aren't constructive, I'll figure out where to go from there.

 

Thanks again everybody!

 

WhiteTan

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  • 5 months later...
  • 2 months later...

I am unsure if I can agree with all of the previous statements about Bel Canto as meaning purely "beautiful singing." But, I do certainly agree that Bel Canto is a term open to a great deal of interpretation outside of the confines of classical music. But the Bel Canto schooling which I had grown up in was vastly different than the notions which I have seen largely online. Bel Canto was viewing the voice as an instrument. You had to learn music with your voice first. Then you had to learn interpretation. You then were required to learn styles, then you were required to learn acrobatics, fioritiura, melismata, staccato, tremolo, vocalizing, harmonizing, So one was to serve music with your voice, it wasn't enough alone to have a beautiful voice.

The voice was broken down in many, many ways, so that it could serve the music from phrases, to coloratura, to cadenza, to expressions which are demanded by the text of the operetta, because they are written, therefore they must be done. You had to learn to read music in Bel Canto, you treated the voice as a piano, as a violin, and as an instrument. The basis of singing in Bel Canto was about learning to read music, and then to translate that text through the instrument of your voice. The Bel Canto is the same schooling that all instrumentalists go through only with the voice as the instrument rather than the drums, saxophone, clarinet, etc. It is not, in any way, "beautiful singing." The voice must do exactly what an instrument is required to do with any given text whether it be Ponchielli, Donizetti, or Catalani.

In relation to whether or not Bel Canto translates into popular music, I am unsure. For me, absolutely not. This is the entire reason that I decided to step away from the Victorian world of opera. My instructor despised any commercial or contemporary sound as it is not considered beautiful in an operatic sense. Contemporary sounds, at least, where I had learned, actually were very much abhorred. Too, there is a great argument within the operatic world about chest vocalizing. Many consider it an operatic sin of the first order to vocalize from the chest, as often, operatic sounds are accomplished in a headier range.

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