How Do Opera Singers Sing So Loud?
How do opera singers sing so loud?
Opera is one of my favorite art forms. I was already a fan of classical music a long time before I discovered opera. I more or less stumbled across this genera of music by accident and I was immediately enchanted. The singers, the set design, the story, the costumes all fascinated me. The talent of the singers themselves, along with the orchestra, was the most important thing for me.
But how do these singers sing so loudly? How can their voice travel across the orchestra and many meters across a massive opera house, all without a microphone? It has to do with science and a whole lot of talent.
How Do Opera Singers Sing So Loud?
A pet peeve of mine is seeing an opera singer with a microphone. While most ordinary singers need a microphone to have their voices heard, true opera singers should not need one. Opera singing was invented in the late 1500s, long before microphones ever existed. This art evolved over the centuries into the art we know it as today.
Part of the magic is that opera houses and most theaters are constructed to amplify sounds that come from the stage. This has been done since the time of the ancient Greeks who built many amphitheaters in the same way, many of which can still be found today. But this construction alone is not enough to make opera singers so loud. The big challenge is that opera singers need to sing over the orchestra.
This is difficult because orchestras can be very loud. It all has to do with the intense training that opera singers must undergo to sing in a particular way. This training often takes years and many professional singers have to begin while they are very young. Let’s consider a normal speaking voice which is 100 to 220 hertz, determined by how many times a person’s vocal cords vibrate per second. For example, 220 hertz means your vocal cords are vibrating that many times per second.
It sounds like a lot, right? But it really isn’t that much. A professional soprano’s voice can reach 1,500 hertz. Due to the nature of science, higher frequencies are able to overshadow lower frequencies. This is one of the reasons opera singers can be heard over the orchestra and over other opera singers who sing at a lower pitch.
Male opera singers with lower voices actually have to work harder to get their voices heard over the orchestral music. Tenors have a better chance at doing this since they can sing in the highest male register. Soprano singers use a unique technique called resonance tuning. This forces the voice to become louder based on its resonance.
This turns the body into its own microphone. The way an opera singer breathes, moves, and controls their chest, lungs, and throat all contribute to the resulting sound. This is what makes an opera singer’s voice so powerful. Controlling the resonance by singing through the throat, nasal passages, and chest in the right way creates a very powerful, enhanced sound.
Once you get your voice bouncing around in your nasal passages, throat, and mouth, it should sound much louder and more powerful. Amazingly, when done properly, it won’t sound like you’re shouting either. Instead, the tone produce will be perfectly melodious. This can take a lot of practice. This is why most people need to train for years before they can sing opera.
Keep in mind that opera singers have to do this for hours at a time too. This because most operas are between 2 and 4 hours. Opera singers also need to act and feed their emotions through their words (which are most likely in another language).
This art of resonance combined with the construction of the opera house allows a singer’s voice to be heard crystal-clear even at the very back of the theater. This is why professional opera singers don’t need microphones. The fact that so much effort goes into this form of singing is very impressive to me. There are no shortcuts or crutches to be used in opera.
You have to rely on the power of your own voice and talent to succeed. You have to be able to turn your entire body into a potent, breathing instrument. If you can’t do that, your voice isn’t going anywhere.
Microphones in live opera and theatre are also my pet peeve!!!!
This is unique and precious information. Thanks for sharing.