According to his own report, what Garcia was looking for was a precise, instantaneous and clean-cut tone quality that emerged at the moment of tonal inception rather than “settling in.” While this kind of tonal initiation is most desirable, it does not occur because of a precise setting of the vocal folds, although that is a definite factor, but because the entire vocal mechanism, particularly a proper laryngeal suspension, has taken form simultaneously. Unless the vocal muscles are inhibited in their movement because of psychological rigidities that arrest their motility, it can be demonstrated that the coup de glotte is an instantaneous movement from rest to balanced tension which finds the larynx being positioned with the utmost speed and precision, much like the skilled violinist who touches the bow to the string without having to ease into the correct stroking.
The problem with the coup de glotte, apart from Garcia’s poor choice of words, is that it has always been judged from a “how do you do it” viewpoint. For this reason it has been rightfully condemned almost from the time the idea was first promulgated. The misconception of singing as something one “does” is dramatically illustrated when attempting to execute a trill on an interval of a second. Physically and neurologically this is impossible unless the mechanism is precisely tuned and the action is reflexive. All singing should be of this kind. To “do” in the form of “acting upon” implies foreknowledge, and this knowledge in a practical sense is secreted within the organic systems.
Reid, Cornelius L. Essays on the Nature of Singing. Recital Publications, 1992.
11 thoughts on “Another View on Garcia’s Coup de Glotte”
Hi Justin, Daniela has asked me to reply to your article as she is temporarily laid up at the moment and hopefully this was Corny Reid singing and not you because he is not doing the coup de glotte as it was meant. If you read Henderson describing the coup de glotte of Melba he exclaimed that you couldn’t hear it, and that is precisely the point, It is an automatic action of the throat and doesn’t need to be emphasised with an accent as Reid does it, Everyone uses the coup de glotte unconsciously, it is a silent but firm and quick release into sound, can you imagine if everyone spoke with such pushed out burp-like accents, which incidentally on the recording are far too slowly done then he/she would get some very funny looks. Garcia described the coup de glotte as “sec et vigoreux” which has been mistranslated from the beginning, the term is correct dry, without breath and done quickly totally the opposite of the recording of Reid.Unfortunately the misunderstanding about the coup de glotte has led to much misery in the world of singing.
Hi Brian, and thanks for your always insightful feedback. Perhaps I am in error in my thinking and demonstration on the recording. I was taking my examples from my understanding of the maneuver as taken from not only Daniela’s book, but also, James Stark’s chapter on coup de glotte.
I will continue to investigate this phenomenon and welcome your insights.
Hi Justin, thanks for your reply, the coup de glotte is one of the most natural phenomena known to man but one that through the years has been misunderstood. I know many people who have been told to speak more quietly or not to sing at all or that their voice is too big to be a choral singer etc. In some cases it was because their voice was naturally placed and they hadn’t learnt how to be its master though in many cases it was cultural. You know the old saying “children should be seen and not heard” well childrens voices are generally extremely powerful if you let them. This repressive attitude is fatal for a singer as they appear to forget what a natural attack is and seek to produce sound without the body and volume that they produced when a lot younger.
Babies have no problems with screaming their heads off all day and night so they must be doing something right as their vocal chords are unharmed by all their exertions.
I suggest you observe a baby when it starts to cry, notice the intake of breath and how a moment before they pierce the silence there is a pauze and then whoosh, ear-shattering sounds without any breathiness or pushing. Babies are not aware of what they are doing it is a natural act. They are in fact makng a perfect coup de glotte, the secret if you like is in the pauze, that is when the vocal chords come together and are then released into the sound which has been created behind the chords without any pushing other than the build up of pressure behind the chords, it is the pressure that projects the sound not the breath. A good coup de glotte can be repeated like a machine gun, the Reid method (I have read all of his books) cannot, it takes too much time to bring the sound into the world. Try yourself to sound like a machine gun or a typewriter A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A etc.without using any breath and do it as fast as possible, You will feel that there is only a constant stream of sound punctuated by silences without any accents. Did your mother never say to you “A-A don’t do that” wagging a finger in your direction, that unaccented A-A was most likely a perfect coup de glotte. I hope I have set you thinking about your own experiences and you will find the perfect coup de glotte, of that I am sure.
Thank you again, Brian! I will continue explore these wonderful ideas, and perhaps send you some audio examples of my attempts. Daniela’s work continues as my inspiration! Thank you for for your wonderful descriptions and explanations. Heartfelt wishes to you and Daniela! – Justin
Perhaps citings from “The Old Italian School” will help expand our dialogue as well. Kelsey was the last writer of the 20th Century who advocated it. I think we need to know what it really is, so that we can revive the idea in the 21st Century!
We have our fingers crossed for you and we will help as much as we can.
Absolutely. And in the interim, perhaps someone in Daniela’s circle of students could post an audio example of the coup de glotte? I would be happy to post it on my blog as an example of what it is. If we disagree over words, we can do that forever. Ultimately, the sound is the thing that matters in the long run.
Yes, I think it’s time that we shared the actual sound of doing it. We have the technology at our fingertips easily to define this.
Agree, Brian. Aural documentation of the concept is too easily won with both video and audio examples.
I understand you have had a telephone lesson from Daniela and there is a prospect that you come over to Holland in the summer, that will be great. I know for certain that with a couple of days of intensive instruction you will be executing the coup de glotte as silently as Melba and with the trumpet-like clarity she also had. You will aso realise then how easy in fact it is and how complicated the scientists made it become. I look forward to transforming you from “ugly”‘ duckling into a swan.
The old saying is “What begins well, tends to end well.” (Or something close to that.) The manner in which we initiate a vocal emission is of vital importance, because it effects the entire PROCESS which runs from “attack” (onset) through sustention to release (offset[???]). As to the term “STROKE” of the glottis….When I stroke either of our two cats or two dogs, I do in fact stroke her or him, but I do not bop, thump, or give a whack. I PET them…(because they’re pets.) Check the definitions of “stroke” as a NOUN at (e.g.) Merriam-Webster Online, and you’ll know precisely how NOT to stroke de glotte. But check the definitions of “stroke” as a VERB, and you’ll be ready to stroke de glotte like a gentle genius. The whole thing is enough to drive you “coup-coup”…if you let it…so don’t. [By the way, do a little reading in the books by Frank E. Miller, Joseph Smith, and/or Louis Arthur Russell for some good words on the coup de glotte/stroke of the glottis.]