#8  Chiaroscuro, the balance of light and dark

When speaking of tone color in the singing voice, the impression of richness, as well as brilliance, is referred to as chiaroscuro, quite literally light-dark in translation.  This Italian term first appeared as a description of a painting and drawing technique in the 15th and 16th Century which was the contrast of light and dark. Later the expression reemerged as a descriptive phrase for the voice in the bel canto period of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Personal choice as to how bright or how dark a voice may be, and still be beautiful covers quite a wide range, yet if a voice is excessively bright or excessively dark, we know that to some degree functional adjustments can be made to balance the sound and retrain the singer. 

Two parts of the vocal mechanism contribute to making either the bright or dark qualities of a tone.  As James McKinney writes in his book The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults “the tweeters and the woofers” are respectively the mouth and the pharynx.  If there is too much mouth in a tone and not enough pharynx we have an overly bright (tweeter) tone, if there is too much pharynx in a tone and not enough mouth we have an overly dark (woofer) tone.  Ideally we want both parts of the vocal mechanism incorporated in the making of a balanced sound. 

Try This:

For correcting too bright a tone:

Notice that the initial step of letting the larynx rest comfortably low on the inhalation will draw awareness to the throat naturally opening.  This engages more of your “woofers” right off the bat.

Sing:  Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb on a descending scale pattern 5-4-3-2-1

For correcting too dark a tone:

Notice if the larynx is being depressed too low by tension at the root of the tongue.

To loosen the tongue root and draw the larynx into the correct position, let the tip of the tongue loll forward over the bottom lip and sing on an [i] a glide ascending and descending in pattern; 1-3-1’ 1-5-1’ 1-8-1 

To engage more of your “tweeters” do quick articulator exercises. 

Sing: Leather, lather, leather, lather, etc. on the melodic pattern 1-3-2-4-3-5-4-6-5-7-6-8-7-2-8-8


Have a very fine week,






Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Oppenheim-Beggs