A hallmark of an effective vocal technique is that it coordinates your voice to respond to your thoughts, emotions, and musicianship in real time. Everything I teach is designed to free you up to express yourself, unfettered by technical concerns.
Learning such a technique necessitates drawing on a base level of expressive intent while practicing the exercises that develop this coordination. We all vocalize on vowels and nonsense syllables. But if you vocalize without any communicative intent, you're reduced to mechanically manipulating the components of your instrument and, likely, listening to yourself while you do it. That may serve to develop some categories of skill, but it also instills habits of singing without communicating, manipulating your voice, and assessing yourself while you're singing, all of which are detrimental to expressive performing.
While my technique isolates and then incorporates the process of phonation, or speech, into vocal exercises, harnessing expressive intent while performing nonsense syllables is still a real challenge for most of my students. So lately I've been getting a lot of mileage from this clip:
There's no mistaking Bugs Bunny's meaning despite the fact that he's spouting gibberish.
There are a variety of ways to incorporate expressive intent into vocal exercises. They'll differ according to what you're working on and how you conceive of technique. My intention here is emphasizing the necessity of so doing, and to share Bugs' example that you can say an awful lot without saying anything at all!
Of course, the cartoon also exemplifies a crucial principle for those of you who sing in languages you don't speak fluently, i.e. most of you. You have a strong working knowledge of Italian, French and German grammar and vocabulary and perhaps some basic facility communicating in those languages, but for the most part you still must learn your aria and song texts phonetically. When that's the case, a dramatically and emotionally committed performance depends on connecting to preverbal feelings and images and then channeling them through your foreign phonemes. "Se guardi in alto, bada alla frustata" is hopefully not quite as far removed from your native speech as "Unga bunga bunga", but if you're not fluent in Italian there will be some degree of separation, and to sing with immediacy and authenticity there needs to be none.
Bugs Bunny also sets a fine example for those who find it challenging to keep your passion alive in the face of the intimidating professional music world. For me, that's the lesson at the heart of Long-Haired Hare - enjoy!
Don't take this cartoon to be in any way a condemnation of classical music; the studios producing these cartoons provided regular employment for a full studio orchestra, and at the time this was released they must have expected that most everyone in their viewing audience would have known of Leopold Stokowski – among his many significant contributions, he is the conductor who appears in Disney's Fantasia.
The uncredited baritone who good-naturedly gave voice to Giovanni Jones is rumored to be a guy named Nicolai Shutorov, about whom little else is known.