The Voccal Tradtion in BFM

Decades ago, Bulgarian songs are fascinating the world audience. In the article “BFM – Different Kinds of Interpretation” we already talked about the various ways for presenting BFM, considering solo and ensemble performing. Of course, this is regarding the vocal practice too.
The songs can be performed:
– solo (a cappella or with an arrangement);
– in a chamber formations (duets, trios, quartets);
– as a compositions for a female folk choir.
Doesn’t matter which kind is more attractive to you – the vocal course could be quite helpful for acquiring specific features, regarding the sound extraction and the typical ornaments. Adding ornaments to the main melody is one of the most important elements, which makes this style so interesting and impressive. This is a special manner, that requires technical preparation and it’s not so easy for performing. Furthermore, some Bulgarian songs are so full of ornaments that should be performed and in a fast tempo (often it doesn’t depends of the tempo of the main melody because we can find them even in the slow unmeasured songs). I believe that using the right methodic and precise exercises everyone can reach some success, depending of the individual abilities. That’s exactly what we’re trying to offer as we use: video lessons, hearing examples, precisely prepared note materials and exercises for training the most typical, specific and often used ornaments.

1. Timbre and sound extraction
The timbre is an individual characteristic of every human voice, but we also know that some people have the ability to imitate different timbres. This is not compulsory condition for learning BFM, because in the last decades the practice in Bulgaria shows that folk singing may sound beautiful with different timbres, contrary to the perception from the past, when people thought that if you sing folk songs you should own certain qualities. Yes, the voices of a few famous singers from the past were also different, but in the educating process in folk singing at the National Schools of Folk Arts in Bulgaria in the second half of the last century, a certain stereotype were imposed from the teachers. All of them were working in a same way with their students. The sound extraction deeply from the chest were quite typical for the folk singers and the voice should have been clear, strident, with open vocals and always in the maximum loud dynamic. In the last few years, dew to all the transformations that we see in this folk tradition, we notice that some singers are approving a new style of performing that’s different in regard to the timbre. In this vocal style, we started to use resonance from the nose and the sinuses, “closing” some of the vocals and more dynamic variety. Today everyone can use his own timbre without trying to change it because he wants to put himself in the shape of some certain stylistic. In the same time everyone can reach quite good results.
The ornaments are getting more complicated the last few years, because BFM is accepting some outer influence and we added ornaments that are typical for the folk tradition of our neighbor countries like Serbia, Greece and Turkey. That is a logical consequence, considering: the free access to all kind of information (including musical); the possibilities for new projects with international participation and the influence of different ethnic groups, that we are living with. The dynamic shades are also infusing the timbre nuances. Keeping the stylistic features is a priority of some performers and this is quite precious for saving the old, ancient, authentic traditions, but we can’t stand against to the new modern tendencies. This music is also in progress, no matter we are agree with its direction, or not. Today every performer is completely free to offer his own vision and only the time will show us which music and personal style will be highly appreciated by the audience. In the online course, these features will be distinguished and explain. The point is to master the basic techniques that makes this music different and recognizable as typical Bulgarian folk style.

2. Vibrato
The vibrato is also strictly individual capability of the human voices. If you want to perform BFM it is not required, but if you have it – it cannot prevent the esthetic standards for beautiful interpretation. It is important to notice that in the last few decades in Bulgaria musicians are using a certain slang and very often the “thrill” (which is quite typical for some regions of the country) is called “vibrato”. This is terminological contradiction and we should not do this mistake, mixing these two terms. These features are going to be explained in details in the online course for vocal music. It is important to understand the difference. In my opinion, the vibrato has never been an obstacle for a stylish interpretation of Bulgarian folk songs and it depends of strictly individual aptitude of the performer.

3. Range (diapason)
Due to the typical chest sounding – in Bulgarian folk songs the range is limited in not more than an octave. I should notice that the old authentic folk tradition is characterizing with not more that quint or sext. In certain regions of the country, we can find songs with a range about septima or octave. In the past, the singers used the most comfortable register without using too low or too high tones. Opposite of the world tendency in all the popular genres that uses very wide range and that shows the exclusive aptitude of a certain performer – in Bulgarian folk traditions this has never been a sign for a great mastery or huge talent. Here a new tendency has its influence. After bringing that traditional art on the stage of a concert hall and the occurrence of the choir composes on the base of folk material – the range is spreading with a few tones up and down. The singers began to use what we call “mixed singing” which allows getting to higher register. This is imposed from the composers, who are expanding the range because they need to develop their works, using different polyphonic techniques and in reference to the harmonization too. These new tendencies doesn’t change the whole shape of music so much, because anyway the point is to keep the typical sound and stylistic. Actually, the range reaches maximum two octaves and we can find it mostly in the choir compositions, but not so often in the solo performing. Maybe this will never change, because it is unconceivable to sing a folk song in third octave for example – it just wouldn’t belong to this vocal genre anymore.

4. Technical skills
When I say “technical skills”, I mean the strictly individual abilities of every human voice. If you want to sing Bulgarian folk songs – agility and quickness of the vocal chords and the tongue is required. That is necessary because we use a huge variety of ornaments, as I mentioned before, and we perform them in really fast tempo. Of course, this is a skill that can be train with adequate exercises, but still the level of assimilation depends of some physical qualities. If I do not have a voice with wide range, abilities to sing in high octaves and beautiful vibrato – probably I am not supposed to be an opera diva. In BFM the situation is quite similar – if I don’t master a certain level of performing the typical ornaments and specific way of sound extraction – so this music is going to sound totally different. Our goal in the online course is definitely to offer specially developed exercises for training your technical skills, so to let the student reach a maximum closer style to the original manner of Bulgarian folk singing.

In case if you are interested to a similar information I suggest to take a look at the article “The Necessity of the Local Specific”.
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