A musical journey begins…

 

I was raised in a family of gifted singers

My grandfather had a wonderful high tenor. My father was called a “young Caruso” when at the age of nine he began to sing in the big temple in Kiev (Ukraine). My aunt had a soulful contralto voice that would move listeners to tears. I was the first professional musician in this family and since my childhood I was an enthusiastic accompanist — playing piano for my gifted relatives during our home recitals. At the age of twenty-five, I married Mikhail Niks, who possessed an amazing bass-baritone voice. I became his lifetime admiring accompanist.

Since my youth I had a goal to investigate the most effective way to play piano and to sing. I had an innate, refined sense of the quality of sound and an intuition to perceive the inner work of muscles. My husband had the same abilities while also possessing an engineering mind. My son inherited similar abilities, while choosing science as his profession. Both research projects together lasted more than thirty years. Tremendous intellectual effort from each of us contributed to the completion of this research.

Singing voice is a very influential gift

The beauty of voice combined with the expressive power of words make singers very influential artists capable of moving people deeply and elevating their spirit to the point of ecstasy. The quality of smooth legato singing also serves as an inspiration for the production of sound for all instrumentalists. In my case while studying piano I was always striving to achieve a ‘singing’ tone. This special quality became a  milestone of our future research in piano playing.

Speaking and singing are a natural phenomenon

Nevertheless, effective singing is a refined art. While speaking we take air between words without even noticing. A singer has to sing long phrases on a single breath or hold a single note without interruption. When people speak they do not need to have a wide range as singers do. During speaking we definitely do not produce very high frequencies. There are also no problems of blending of registers and evenness of sound while speaking. However, for singers these qualities are professional requirements.

Vocal cords — the source of the voice

It is hard to imagine that the larynx contains tiny folds that collide with each other creating sound. Doctors and voice teachers did not see the vocal cords until the famous voice pedagogue, Manual Garcia II first visualized them in 1854. It is self-evident that vocal cords should work with minimal strain. In reality quite often vocal cords work with difficulties. If breathing is not efficient it affects negatively the activity of the vocal cords. Tension of the throat and excessive activation of the larynx make the work of vocal cords very difficult. As a result singers have episodes of hoarseness and experience tiredness of voice. Singers also sadly notice premature aging of the voice and sometimes even have serious medical problems like polyps of vocal folds and temporary loss of the voice. At the same time throughout the history of the vocal art we have so many examples of long and successful careers among singers who preserved their voice in its youthful state. This contradiction haunted me throughout my youth. The answers came much later after years of my and my husband’s vocal study, after reading many books on the subject, after my experience with my vocal students, and following the completion of our research in piano playing.

 
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