Chiaroscuro: Union Of Brightness And Darkness

In classical singing the term chiaroscuro (ital.) is used to describe a sound ideal when both the brightness (chiaro) and the darkness (oscuro) are present at the same time. Combining these two extremes creates a rich sound with a broad spectrum of overtones. In classical singing the ideal goal is to find a perfect balance of chiaroscuro.

In a way in chiaroscuro there are two forces acting against each other: necessary narrowing in the vocal tract to create brightness, but also lowering of the larynx and expansion of the pharynx required that are required in order to gain the darkness or depth needed.

Chiaro, Brightness

Chiaro represents the part of the voice that is bright and “ringy” – that which projects over an orchestra.

The Singer’s Formant Creates The Ring In The Ear

The singer’s formant is an acoustic phenomenon that can be heard when a narrowing is created above the vocal folds (epilaryngeal space) without allowing it to interrupt the free vibration of the vocal folds. This phenomenon has many names: in classical tradition terms such as ring, in the mask, brightness, squillo are often used, whereas contemporary singers often refer to it as twang.

Good Closure Of The True Vocal Folds Enables Higher Overtones To Be Present

A balanced vibration of the vocal folds creates a clear overtone series. Higher frequencies are easier to be produced if the overtone series is free and balanced.

Oscuro, Darkness

Oscuro represents the darkness and the depth of the voice.

Lowering of the Larynx, Opening of the Pharynx

Lowering the larynx amplifies the lower frequencies making the voice darker in color. It is essential not to force the larynx to go down – in stead lowering of the larynx is seen (from the point of view of chiaroscuro) as a dynamic consequence of preparing the vocal tract to expand. This dynamic event, in addition to lowering of the larynx, also results in expansion of the pharynx. (Think about beginning to yawn.)

Breath support enables the tracheal pull to happen, which lowers the larynx and widens the pharynx. This is often heard as darkening of the voice (larynx lowering and pharynx expansion) and a clearer harmonic series (pharynx expansion).

Hence, the larynx lowers already during the preparation for inhalation. The larynx shouldn’t be pressed down; if done so, the voice loses the chiaro, brightness.

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