The Birth Of Czechoslovakian Singing School
Rudolf Vašek 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 – see the map on the image above.
Rudolf Vašek became a teacher in Ostrava and had a great passion for singing and music. He had a 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 a book with the title The Art of Ideal Toning (1906) published by MUDr. Wilhelm Reinecke (1870–1959). He liked it so much that he went to Leipzig and became Reinecke’s 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 world of art 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 Ostrava, when Hitler came to power and stayed there till his death in 1969. 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.
The Principles Of Rudolf Vasek’s Singing School
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 the elimination of vocal breaks + developing upper register dominance (falsetto method)
the flexibility of vocal cords = exercises based on minimal Ng tones, partial tones and making a double sound in octave
NG resonance = the voice never loses 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
the 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
The Role Of Vasek’s Method For Singing For Happiness
Mr Vasek’s method is meant for developing a superior voice that can handle the most difficult operatic repertoire. In other words, it’s meant to help singers who want to PERFORM. However, this method includes universal principles that can be used for anybody who wants to release her voice and enjoy speaking or singing with free, healthy and resonant voice. Therefore, I use the exercises for all types of singers – and especially people who believe they cannot sing! Ironically, these types of students enjoy Vasek’s vocal exercises the most! Why? Because they are based on 1) open and relaxed throat 2) small tones 3) healthy breath support. Together, these exercises cause wonderful feelings in the throat and the rest of the body. It’s a joyful experience – not hard work!
In a nutshell, this method gave me great tools in the process of finding and developing a natural, authentic voice (in contrast to a forced and artificially manipulated voice). Authenticity is important for happy singing as well as for confident singing. Also, I am speaking about SINGING WITHOUT MICROPHONE here. Microphone singing can take away all the health benefits of singing that are based on these three singing processes:
1. Natural Breathing
The Vasek’s Method provides unique exercises and tools to develop any type of voice, whether it’s a singer or a non-singer. The only limitation of this method is that it doesn’t address psycho-somatic blocks that people can suffer from and which affect their ability to sing and breathe properly.
The Limitations Of Vasek’s Singing Method
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 recognize what his problem was because the method didn’t address psychological issues and he believed singing was about “engineering” of vocal cords. This person was obviously using only the left side of his brain. 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. A voice that is forced because of tension cannot sound great. As you cannot fake a genuine smile there is no way you can sound good if your voice isn’t relaxed!
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!
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.