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The Applicability of the KTVA Method to Operatic Singing

René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
edited February 2014 in Off Topic

Hello my dear divas and dudes,

In another thread Bob asked me about the applicability of the KTVA method to operatic singing.

I decided to answer his question in depth as some people have asked similar questions.

So if some might believe that I am getting ahead of myself, just bear with me a little ;)

The objects of this post are going to be the following:

- The definition and anatomical explanations of the "appoggio technique" and it´s use in operatic singing

- The use of the "appoggio technique" in contemporary singing

- The KTVA method and operatic singing

As some of you might already know I am very fond of  "pure appoggio technique" when it comes down to operatic singing but not a big supporter of it regarding the dimensionally correct singing styles of contemporary music.

I am going to write from the way the voice is anatomically designed to work and will in the course of that naturally leave any bias, which is often evident when other classical singers discuss contemporary singing at the door as I have experience in both sides of the (respectively very same) coin.

I would like to make something very clear beforehand. When I refer to operatic singing I mean the old art of belcanto singing without the use of microphones as one of the major reasons for the implementation of the „appoggio technique“ is the need to powerfully and consistently project the voice. This is why I would like to discuss the use of the „appoggio technique“ in the context of operatic singing .

At first I would like to clarify what I mean when using the term of "appoggio technique".

To keep it simple one could define it as the way of singing that enables the individual to sing in one single register

through a specific use of support that makes it possible to entertain the balanced chiaroscuro quality of the sound throughout that register while maintaining the natural placement of one´s voice.

Of course to really understand that definition one needs to understand the information that underlies it and for that matter I would like to take the freedom to explain it´s terms in detail.

First I would like to elucidate the ever illusive term of "supporting the APPOGGIO way".

I have a basic understanding and knowledge of the italian language, which leads me to feel unbearable headaches whenever I read or hear the term "supporting the appoggio way" as "appoggiare" by itself means "to lean upon" or simply "support", which makes that term a logical mistake in itself (supporting the support way...... does not make any sense). The broad term of "appoggio technique" has it´s practical use, though, as it stands for using the support mechanism as the sole way of controlling the voice.

Without going into the specifics, appoggio directly refers to the "sandwich effect" Bob has talked about.

This effect occurs when the inward push of the lower abdominals is balanced by the diaphragm (the area of the solar plexus moves outward) while the expanded ribcage stays expanded (Ken pragmatically refers to it as a pillar). Some of you might ask yourself where the explanation of "pushing down" comes from when the objectively correct movement of proper support is multi directional.

The explanation is a simple implementation of cause and effect.


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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014

    When we inhale the diaphragm, which is a dome shaped muscle that is located beneath the ribcage, moves downwards (cause). When we sing we have to control the rise of the diaphragm by applying the support movement as described (effect). That action of support is a very subjective feeling as some might refer to it for example as a downward movement of the innards (Greetings Bob), like going to the bathroom (Glass shattering vocal coach and Pavarotti) or a downward sensation of the sides and lower back (Me). Our goal naturally is to prevent the diaphragm from coming up too quickly while singing as that would lead to an uncontrolled exhalation which in turn would be the cause of an unbalanced breath flow and inevitably lead to a badly supported voice, which anatomically allows the conclusion that proper breath support is the proper control of the exhalation. It should although be noted that the diaphragm itself cannot support the voice as it is a muscle of inhalation. The rise of the diaphragm is therefore controlled by the lower abdominals while the diaphragm itself only balances the push of the lower abdominals while the expanded ribcage acts as a brake. Ken simply refers to it as pushing down on the diaphragm which is actually better suited for teaching a person how to support. It would not be a good idea to sacrifice pragmatic simplicity for anatomical correctness.

    Proper appoggio leads to NATURAL PLACEMENT.

    Natural placement is the one placement that is created by the use of pure appoggio technique and most likely again a very subjective feeling, much like every individuals voice is unique in it´s nature like a finger print. Pavarotti for instance talked about him feeling his voice on the hard palate while others described it as a rumbling sensation in the soft palate or the feeling of the resonance in the majority of face cavities which leads me to the conclusion, one that I have outlined before and will be even further outlined later, that the subjectivity in regards of proper singing technique must under no circumstances be objectified as the natural placement is caused by the very individual structure of the characteristics of the face (also cavities) and is therefore individual by nature in concreto. 

    I personally feel it as a strong resonant sensation right at the roof of my mouth.

    As soon as somebody is able to jump between notes through purely controlling her/his support without experiencing a change of placement, the person has found it´s natural placement.

    Natural placement leads to CHIAROSCURO TONE.

    Chiaroscuro is the italian term for a balance of bright (chiaro) and dark (scuro) qualities of the voice.

    Some singers have a natural range in which proper support and therefore natural placement and the balance of chiaroscuro occur by itself. As the untrained singer leaves that range one can most of the time hear a change of sound (darker or brighter) of the voice as the larynx changes it´s position, which leads to a loss of natural placement and balance of chiaroscuro. Therefore the proper support actually leads to a neutral position of the larynx, which in turn allows for the implementation of a natural placement and balance of chiaroscuro.

    Please click on the following link for a demonstration of a masterful chiaroscuro tone. (At 0:40)


    Now that I have hopefully clarified the definition of the "appoggio technique" and it´s importance to operatic singing, I would like to discuss it´s use to contemporary singing styles.

    The status quo of contemporary singing itself is the use of microphones to enable the singer to be heard in a much bigger area as the increasingly bigger crowds in therefore bigger areas call for more sophisticated sound engineering.

    As the artist does not need to project as one had to in the golden times of belcanto (19th century up until the 1930s) to be heard by the audience a full appoggio approach is neither necessary nor suited for contemporary singing as it leads to a round sound (this will be explained later) which simply does not match with the expactations of the listeners (and also artists) of contemporary music and does not fit therefor. The ceasing of the problem of being heard also makes room for a bigger diversity of singing styles. Some singers prefer to sound nasal (Myles Kennedy), small (Bob Dylan) or airy (Adele), some also like to make their upper registers more frontal (James LaBrie) and it is their right to sound however they want, which is made possible by the usage of microphones on stage that enables them to be heard.

    At last I would like to discuss the differences of the applicabillity of the KTVA method in operatic singing while keeping a clear context to the already discussed contemporary singing.

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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014

    Although I personally do not believe in the usage of pure „appoggio technique“ in contemporary singing, it should be quite clear that the human voice only works one way: the way the human voice works. The differences between operatic and contemporary singing are predominantly differences of sound and not of technique but it should also be clear that certain changes in technique are necessary to allow a certain type of sound, which makes me an advocate of a contemporary appoggio hybrid which KTVA managed to accomplish masterfully!

    From my point of view KTVA is most likely the best contemporary vocal course there is today and because of that Ken is very wise to not teach full „appoggio technique“.

    Which is the reason why I unfortunately cannot unrestrictedly recommend KTVA for classical singers that seek to have a career on stage.

    One of the major differences is the use of vowel modifications.

    Pure „appoggio technique“ does not use vowel modifications as it leads to a round sound throughout the whole range. For the purpose of clarification I recommend you watch the following video:


    Beniamino Gigli himself once said in an interview that he did not modify his vowels but just supported them well. Sharp ears will still hear a very slight change of vowels as he sings but if one listens very closely the person might realize that the vowels do not modify but de facto rather become rounder, which is normal in appoggio. The purity of the vowels is of immense importancy to belcanto wherefore a full appoggio approach keeps them pure through the use of a round sound throughout the whole range. In italian opera the modification of vowels is sometimes even despised as bad diction.

    I have to point out though that many famous and great opera singers modify their vowels just like Ken teaches it. A prime example was the "operatic singer" Mario Lanza, who happens to be one of my most favourite singers of all time, who audibly modified toward „o“ at 3:04 and slightly toward „u“ at 3:17.


    Mario Lanza had some strange habits, though as he always seemed to alter his approach between close to pure appoggio and modification.

    An opera star who consciously modified was Maestro Alfredo Kraus, who nonetheless sang beautifully.


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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014
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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014

    Another difference between KTVA and full „appoggio technique“ is that you do not smile into the sound in the later as it would hinder the balance of chiaroscuro.

    Although one is still going to witness this habit to a much lesser degree in full appoggio singers like an older Luciano Pavarotti (who was a most naturally gifted singer, though).

    It is also worth pointing out that full appoggio singers do not hold back the air as it is taught in KTVA. Remember when Ken introduced Glottal Compression in Volume 3? He explicitly tells us that compressing the sound that way is going reduce the volume. An opera singer who cuts back the air that much is not going to project well and will also produce a too compressed sound for operatic singing. When it comes down to contemporary singing, though, I can assure you that the concept of holding back the air is absolutely necessary for a healthy vocal tone and is also going to be an immense aid to vowel modifications, which are obligatory in contemporary singing if you do not want to sound too pharyngeally forward. James LaBrie for instance does not really have to modify much as he is heavily relying on masking the sound while Bruce Dickinson actually audibly modifies to mantain a full sound, who is also a great example for a perfectly modified appoggio technique. Another prime example in that regard is our´s truly Ken Tamplin, who really practices what he preaches at 7:42 in the following song.


    I therefore come to the conclusion that if one wants to sing opera like Beniamino Gigli, Jussi Björling or Fritz Wunderlich KTVA is not going to teach that as it clearly and understandably has not been designed to do so.

    If one just wants to sing contemporary music KTVA is the one vocal course I would definately recommend as vowel modifications are an inevitable necessity for dimensionally correct singing in contemporary music and KTVA itself is perhaps the best structured vocal course I have ever seen in my life, which only contributes to the student´s success.

    But if one would like to sing opera like Alfredo Kraus or José Carreras, meaning one has no intend of learning the full appoggio approach, KTVA is actually going to work very well, so well that I would even recommend it to aspiring opera singers who would like to achieve such a sound. 

    As the proof is in the singing in KTVA, I am also going to record a video of me singing operatically and contemporary (in my case Hard Rock) to underlie the differences more clearly. I also plan to write more about topics of operatic in context to contemporary singing, so stay tuned :)

    All the very best,


    PS: As English is not my mother tongue, I am unfortunately most likely not able to ensure an impeccable formal english grammar in such a long post ;)

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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014
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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359

    Thank you, René!

    I enjoyed your post very much!



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    nigellonigello Member Posts: 6
    that was amazing!

    thanks René, I really appreciate you taking the time to give this really full exposé of appoggio and an analysis of the possible intersection of KTVA with more classical singing. Looking forward to your voice posts!!

    and hey - grammar? your writing in English is excellent, and anyway I'm interested in substance, and there was tons! just curious, are you a French speaker? (only going on the name...)


    PS thanks highmtn for the heads up!
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    René RennerRené Renner Enrolled Posts: 36
    edited February 2014
    @ highmtn

    Thank you, Bob! I very much enjoyed my post as well ;-)

    @ nigello

    Thank you for your kind words!
    Although my first name is french I am actually from Austria (Renner is a german name).
    Mais je parle un peu de français ;)
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    EnglishTea123EnglishTea123 Enrolled Posts: 80
    Found this more than a year later. I still wanted to thank you for such detailed description. Took away a lot of questions I had regarding breath support. Thank you again!
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