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Rudolf Vašek

Background

Rudolf Vašek was was born in 1896 in Ostrava, in Moravia which was then a part of the Austrian Empire. He was 22 years old in 1918 when the republic of Czechoslovakia was established. (Until then German was the official language.)

Vasek

Rudolf Vašek became a teacher in Ostrava and had a great passion for singing and music. He had very limited vocal range and went to different teachers asking for help with his troubled voice – but without results. As German was his second language , he studied publications about voice training in German and came across articles published by MUDr. Wilhelm Reinecke (1870–1959). He liked it so much that he went to Leipzig and became his student. This was the time of German opera in crises when the Wagner operas were impossible to sing without screaming and therefore caused singers to ruin their voices. Therefore the artistic world had to ask the scientific world for help and get some very clear answers for how to prevent vocal damage and how to develop a superior vocal instrument that could take on such demands and stay healthy.

He moved there in 1924 and after a few years of training he started his singing and teaching career there as a tenor with a vocal range of 4 octaves. Unfortunately, he had to move back to Ostrave, when Hitler came to power and stayed there till his death in 1962. During that time he trained hundreds of singers. In every Czech opera house there were his students singing the leading parts and some of them became world famous  (Rudolf Asmus, Přemysl Kočí, Ivo Źídek, Lubomír Havlák, Dalibor Jedlička,   etc.) He also made an impact on the coming generation of voice coaches. Two of them Leo Jehne and Fratišek Tugendlieb coached many singers of popular music to successful and long lasting careers.

Method

His method of coaching was based on a set of special vocal exercises that helped him to develop a great voice out of an average inherited  vocal disposition. He learned these exercises from dr Reinecke and dr Brunse. These voice doctors spent 2 years studying the old Bel-Canto school in Italy, then combined it with their scientific findings and some good principles of the German singing school. Mister Vašek adopted the method to the Czech language and systematized it. The core exercises of his method are directed towards:

integration of vocal registers = exercises for elimination of vocal breaks + developing upper register dominance (falsetto method)

flexibility of vocal cords = exercises based on minimal Ng tones, partial tones and making a double sound in octave

NG resonance = the voice never looses its ring and elasticity because it is anchored in the pharyngeal space

minimum breath = singing doesn’t need more air than speaking – the “Minimalluft” approach

clear diction = exercises for integrating the speech and vocal functions of vocal cords, singing pure vowels and clear consonants

fitness of vocal cords = being able to handle hours of singing without tiring the voice

prevention and rehabilitation = understanding when to stop singing and how to correct voice problems

How I Use This Method

Mr Vasek’s method is meant for developing a superior voice that can handle the most difficult operatic repertoire. I use his exercises to help my clients to overcome vocal problems caused by wrong vocal technique. I also use some of the exercises to help people with their speaking voice and with great results. I teach these principles to the clients who come to me and believe they cannot sing and enjoy hearing some amazing vocal quality! (How sad for people who stick with the false belief they cannot sing.)

In a nutshell, this method gave me great tools in the process of finding and developing once true voice, especially the first three processes:

1. Natural Breathing

2. Resonance

3. Flow

The Limitations

However, this method doesn’t work on its own because people often suffer from other physical and psychological blockages which need to be taken care of. I will never forget the day I heard a man (who was taught the same method by my voice teacher Mr Dvorak) singing all the exercises with 100 % accuracy but when asked to sing a song he closed his throat and sang with the most unpleasant shrilling voice I ever heard. He didn’t recognized what his problem was because the method didn’t  address psychological issues and he believed singing was about “engineering” of vocal cords. He wasn’t one with his body and voice, so he couldn’t feel his throat was closed. His teacher wasn’t brave enough to tell him either as he believed some voices don’t have an appealing colour.

The Missing Part…

I am sure singing is “an inside out job” and it is an expression of our soul while using our body as an instrument. I share this idea with the great Swedish singer and teacher Valborg Werbeck Svärdström. However, this is the missing part in Rudolf Vasek’s approach to singing. Therefore the Werbeck school complements perfectly the rather too scientific and physiological method of Prof Vasek.

Singing Isn’t A Vocal Production

You won’t find words like “vocal production” on this website and neither you will hear much about the physiology of the human voice. There are great resources on the Internet about it with some amazing video shots of the movements of vocal folds (cords). I believe that as the detailed knowledge of how the brain works cannot help you to think more creatively, so knowing the physiology of your voice won’t help you to sing better. At the same time it might help you to understand why you shouldn’t abuse your voice!

Human voice isn’t a commodity, it is a process and expression of the invisible part of us – called soul. Let’s end this with a quotation by Clara Kathleen RogersThe Philosophy Of Singing (1893)

Those who regard the art of singing as anything more than a means to an end, do not comprehend the true purpose of that art, much less can they hope ever to fulfill that purpose. The true purpose of singing is to give utterance to certain hidden depths in our nature which can be adequately expressed in no other way. The voice is the only vehicle perfectly adapted to this purpose; it alone can reveal to us our inmost feelings, because it is our only direct means of expression. If the voice, more than any language, more than any other instrument of expression, can reveal to us our own hidden depths, and convey those depths to other souls of men, it is because voice vibrates directly to the feeling itself, when it fulfills its natural mission. By fulfilling its natural mission, I mean, when voice is not hindered from vibrating to the feeling by artificial methods of tone -production, which methods include certain mental processes which are fatal to spontaneity. To sing should always mean to have some definite feeling to express.[11]