How to sing legato
© Tim Schmidt 1999
[Re: Legato Singing]
One of the ideas I use in my own singing to achieve legato line is the concept of "muscle economy." See how little you can change the mouth/throat/airflow from vowel to vowel while still getting to the correct, differentiated sounds you need. For instance, if you're going from an [a] to an [o] without changing pitches, the jaw doesn't need to change position, just the lips and a slight adjustment of the tongue. Similarly with consonants, if you have to sing an [l] consonant between to vowels, if you let the jaw close as you do the consonant rather than letting just the tongue do the work, even though there is constant sound going, it will sound less legato than if the jaw stays relaxed and out of the way. The "chewed" effect interrupts the flow of the sound.
Don't misunderstand me and think I'm saying the jaw should never move. There are also times when the jaw should be moving while the tongue position remains constant. I'm just saying make sure you're not not engaging more muscle groups than you actually need for any given sound. It's kind of like playing basketball while wearing a backpack...one could probably do it, but it would complicate things more than if you didn't have it on!
Really thinking of a vowel-to-vowel connection can also help in creating legato lines; English speakers tend to be very consonant-oriented. Try singing the text of the song without any of the consonants. Does the throat stay open and the breath support remain steady as you sing on just the vowels? How even-feeling can you make the sensation in the throat if you sing it on just one vowel (pick your easiest vowel)? Go back to singing just the vowels of the actual text, and try to match that feeling to what you felt when you were singing just one vowel. Finally, start dropping the consonants back in, thinking of them as part of the line, rather than interruptions to it.
You also might do some vocalising on some voiced consonants, like [z] and the voiced [th]. Does your breath support remain steady as you do those consonants? I find that many people just starting to concentrate on legato sinigng may support their vowels well, but let the support drop a bit when they sing consonants (in the context of a melodic line), which means that they have to "re-engage" the support when they get to the next vowel. If you can keep it even on all the sounds you are making, though it takes a great deal more (and different) concentration while you're getting used to it, it's a lot less work in the long run.