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Complete Vocal Technique

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Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Aarhus School of Music, Royal Danish Academy of Music

Cathrine sadolin tv interview about complete vocal technique

Complete Vocal Technique (CVT) is a singing method developed by Danish singer, vocal coach and vocal researcher Cathrine Sadolin and forms the basis for teaching at school Complete Vocal Institute. Since the 1980s she has been researching all the sounds the human voice is able to produce. She came up with a new terminology and visual representation for her findings, which can be found in the book Complete Vocal Technique. The first edition was published in 2000, and the latest revised edition was published in 2012. The book has been published in English, Dutch, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and French. The technique covers all the sounds the human voice can produce. The method is not perceived as complete in the sense that there is always room for improvement. Research is still going on and techniques are updated regularly.


Complete Vocal Technique CVT charts Complete Vocal Institute

In 2005 Cathrine Sadolin started the Complete Vocal Institute in the center of Copenhagen, where singers can enroll in several courses, like the 3-year Singer/Teacher Diploma Course, or the Vocal Academy.

Complete Vocal Technique CVT charts Complete Vocal Institute

Some basic principles of CVT:

  • CVT is based on anatomy and physiology instead of myths. Its goal is to use the voice in a healthy and unharmful manner.
  • CVT can be used in all musical genres.
  • The applied technique must work at once. If not, the singer is doing something wrong.
  • Singing is not difficult: anyone can learn how to sing.
  • Singing should always feel comfortable and never hurt: trust your own sensation.
  • All sounds can be made in a healthy way.
  • In teaching: separate taste and technique. The singer makes the artistic choices, not the teacher.

  • Complete Vocal Technique CVT Dirk Hoppe

    This means CVT is one of few singing techniques claiming that sounds which sound hazardous, like grunting or screaming, are perfectly healthy to the voice as long as they are performed correctly.

    Complete Vocal Technique Complete Vocal Technique CVT Ausbildung gestartet AnnKathrin

    Complete Vocal Technique is divided into four main topics and by combining parts of these topics singers can put together the exact sound they want. This also makes it possible to pinpoint and correct specific problems and errors without having to change the parts the singer is happy with.

    Complete Vocal Technique CVT charts Complete Vocal Institute

    Complete vocal technique cvt masterclass

    The Three Overall Principles

    Complete Vocal Technique About Complete Vocal Technique

    The three overall principles are the three conditions the voice must always abide to in order to sing in a healthy way:

    Complete Vocal Technique Complete Vocal Technique Amazoncouk Cathrine Sadolin Henrik

  • Support (to hold back the breath whilst singing)
  • Necessary twang (to bring the lower part of the epiglottis and the arytenoid cartilages closer to each other, resulting in a sharper sound)
  • Avoid protruding the jaw and tension of the lips
  • Support - This means working against the natural urge of the diaphragm to release the air that has been inhaled. This is achieved by resisting its movement. During singing, the waist muscles and solar plexus are pushed outwards whilst the abdomen around the navel is gradually pulled in with a constant and sustained manner and the back muscles are tightened.

    The muscles in the loin try to pull the pelvis backwards, while the muscles in the abdomen try to pull the pelvis up under the body. This battle created between the abdominal muscles and the muscles in the loin is a valuable and important part of support. However, the support must happen in a sustained and continuous manner as though working against a resistance for as long as a sound is being produced. When the muscle contractions stop being sustained and continuous, for instance if the singer cannot pull the abdomen around the navel inwards any further or push the muscles of the waist or solar plexus outwards any further, then there is usually no more support. It is important to conserve the support energy so the singer does not waste it or use it at the wrong point in time.

    Do not use support before it is necessary. Save it for when the singing gets difficult, such as on high notes or at the end of a phrase. Support is hard physical work so the singer should be in good physical condition.

    Necessary Twang - The area above the vocal cords forms a funnel, this is called the ‘epiglottic funnel’. When twanging, the opening of the epiglottic funnel is made smaller by bringing the arytenoid cartilages closer to the lower part of epiglottis (the petiole). As a result, the sound gets clearer and non-breathy, and the singer can increase the volume.

    The singer always needs to use necessary twang in order to have correct technique and achieve easy and unhindered use of the voice regardless of the mode, sound colour and effect used. Necessary twang makes it easier to sing in all ways. For many this necessary twang does not sound twanged at all.

    Avoid protruding the jaw and tightening the lips as it often produces constriction around the vocal cords. The lower jaw should be pulled backwards relative to the upper jaw. Be sure to open the mouth wider on high and low notes than on notes in the middle part of the voice. Whilst avoiding tightening the lips, it is also important to form vowels with the tongue without altering the shape of the mouth too much. Consonants on the other hand are usually produced by narrowing the vocal tract and by tension in the lips, but as the singer does not stay on them for very long in singing they do not impair singing. It is important to be able to release the tension immediately going from consonants to vowels.

    The Four Vocal Modes

    The vocal modes are the four ways the human voice can produce sound. The modes have their own sound, character and rules. The modes are made in anatomically different ways and can be distinguished from each other by sound and vision (by endoscope in the larynx and by the wave form of the mode).

  • Neutral: an often low volume mode with a soft character
  • Curbing: a medium volume mode with a restrained character
  • Overdrive: a loud mode with a shouting character
  • Edge: a loud mode with a screaming character
  • Neutral is the only non-metallic mode. There is no ‘metal’ in the sound. The character is usually soft, like singing a lullaby. Neutral is the only mode where the singer can perform using a breathy quality voice without causing damage.

    The two extremes of Neutral are called ‘Neutral with air' and ‘Neutral without air'. For the sake of clarity, both extremes are sometimes shown individually. Neutral is found by establishing a loose jaw.

    In popular music Neutral with air is used for quiet passages when a breathy sound is wanted. In classical music Neutral with air is only used as a rare effect. In everyday life Neutral with air is used when you speak in a breathy voice or whisper.

    Neutral without air is often used in popular music when the singer wants a sound without metal and yet be clear and non-breathy. In classical music Neutral without air is used by both men and women when singing quietly, i.e. in pianissimo and ‘thinning’ (the volume of the note is gradually decreased without the note losing its quality). Women use Neutral without air in classical music when they sing in the high part of their voice, regardless of volume. In everyday life Neutral without air is used when you speak quietly with no breathiness.

    All parts of the voice, all vowels and all sound colours can be used in Neutral by both men and women. Generally, Neutral is a mode with a quiet volume from very quiet (pp) to medium loud (mf). Very powerful volumes (ff) can only be obtained in Neutral without air in the high part of the voice. In the West, Neutral is the most commonly taught mode in singing tuition (for women), and is often used in church and school choirs.

    Curbing is the only half-metallic mode. There is a slight ‘metal’ on the notes. Curbing is the mildest of the metallic modes. It sounds slightly plaintive or restrained, like when you moan because of a stomach ache. Curbing can be found by establishing a ‘hold’.

    Curbing is used in popular music when the volume is around medium and when a certain amount of metal is wanted on the notes such as in soft soul or R ‘n B. Curbing is used in classical music by men when singing medium volume (mf) in their entire range and when women singing loud (f) in the middle part of the voice and sometimes in the low part of the voice. Curbing is used in everyday life when you wail, moan, or whine.

    Men and women use Curbing through all the various parts of the voice. The sound colour can be altered quite a lot. All vowels can be used. However, in the high part of the voice, the vowels have to be directed towards ‘O’ (as in ‘woman’), ‘UH’ (as in ‘hungry’), and ‘I’ (as in ‘sit’) to stay in the mode. The volume in Curbing stays more or less in medium compared to the other modes, ranging from medium quiet (mp) to medium loud (mf). It is not possible to sing very quietly and very loudly in this mode.

    Overdrive is one of two full-metallic modes. There is a great amount of metal in the notes. The character of Overdrive is often direct and loud, like when you shout ‘hey’ at somebody in the street. Overdrive can be found in the beginning by establishing a ‘bite’. It is usually used when speaking or singing loudly in the low part and middle part of the voice.

    Overdrive is used in popular music when the volume is loud and when a great amount of metal is wanted on the notes, such as in rock music. In classical music it is used by men when they sing medium loud to very loud (f-ff), and women use Overdrive in classical singing only in the low part of the voice if at all. Overdrive is used in everyday life, for example when shouting.

    Overdrive is the most limited mode in terms of pitch, especially for women. The upper limit for women is D2/Eb2 and for men is C2(Helmholtz Pitch Notation). There is no lower limit. All vowels can be used in the low part of the voice, but in the high part of the voice the singer can only use ‘EH’ (as in ‘stay’) and ‘OH’ (as in ‘so’). The sound colour can, however, be altered to some extent.

    Although the volume in Overdrive is mostly loud, relatively quiet volumes can be obtained in the lower part of the voice. The higher the notes, the more distinct the loud, shouting character becomes.

    Edge (formerly ‘Belting’) is the other full-metallic mode. There is a great amount of metal in the notes. The character of Edge is light, aggressive, sharp, and screaming, like when you imitate a diving airplane. Edge can be found by twanging the epiglottic funnel (e.g. sounding like a duck).

    Edge is used in popular music in some styles, and mostly in the high part of the voice when the volume needs to be very loud and with a great amount of metal on the notes, such as in heavy rock and gospel music. Edge is used in classical music when men sing very loudly (ff) often in the high part of the voice such as the high C of a tenor. Women do not use Edge in classical music. Edge is used in everyday life when you scream.

    Both men and women can use Edge in all parts of the voice. Only twanged vowels can be used as the twanged epiglottic funnel is a condition of Edge. This means that in the high part of the voice you can only use ‘I’ (as in ‘sit’), ‘A’ (as in ‘and’), ‘EH’ (as in ‘stay’), and ‘OE’ (as in ‘herb’). The sound colour can only be altered a little. In the high part of the voice you must not alter the light and sharp sound colour. The volume in Edge stays mostly loud. The higher the notes, the more distinct the screaming character becomes.

    Sound Colour

    All modes can be lightened or darkened, though some more than others. The sound colour is created in the vocal tract, which is the space above the vocal cords extending to the lips and including the nasal passages. The form and size of the vocal tract is of great importance to the sound colour. All singers have different vocal tracts so all singers have their own personal sound colour. If the vocal tract is large, the sound colour will be darker with more ‘body’ to it. If it is small, the sound will be lighter and thinner. The shape of the vocal tract can be altered in many directions so there are many ways of changing the sound colour of the singer’s voice.

    The modes can be altered in sound by either widening or narrowing the vocal tract. The result is a lighter or darker sound colour. The following aspects have influence on the sound colour:

  • The shape of the mouth
  • The shape of the tongue
  • The position of the larynx
  • Shape of the epiglottic funnel
  • Opening or closing of the nasal passages
  • The position of the soft palate
  • Vocal Effects

    On top of the modes and sound colours, a vocal effect can be added:

  • Distortion
  • Creak and Creaking
  • Rattle
  • Growl
  • Grunt
  • Screams
  • Vocal Breaks
  • Air added to the voice
  • Vibrato
  • Technique for ornamentation
  • References

    Complete Vocal Technique Wikipedia