A Cappella in the Red Dot
Learning from the Masters: Tine Fris

Posted by Derrick ( The leader and tenor of Acappuccino, a Singapore-based A Cappella group. He spends time teaching, reading, writing, and singing. He occasionally wishes he could still sing a decent Alto range like he used to. )

This year, I am immensely glad to have the chance to learn from Tine Fris while she was in town for Vocal Edge two weeks ago.

Also, to be part of the pop choir this year is an honour, having missed Tobius Hug last year and not making the cut a year earlier with Deke Sharon. In a nutshell, Vocal Edge brings selected vocalists together in workshop with an expert in the A Cappella domain and put up the feature concert directed by the expert.

Being part of the rehearsal process prior to Tine’s arrival was hectic, having the need to put together a set of songs that would be different in previous years, as well as working with Urban Harmony on a few combined numbers, and also reading up on the Complete Vocal Technique (CVT), something which Christine of Voco Novo has touched on when Acappuccino visited Taipei last year.

Working with Tine was an experience – she is an A Cappella soldier, a trooper to getting things right and understanding how the root of things. She helps us understand singing expressions better through the use of the Complete Vocal Technique.

Developed by Danish singer and voice researcher Cathrine Sadolin, CVT is a well-researched science in vocal music that expunges certain myths.

Shouting and screaming in singing? A restrained sound? Most of these are common major no-nos, especially by those who were brought up in the singing community filled with Bel Canto or various other classical schools of thought for singing. One should note that with CVT, the voice is given parameters and limits to sing by with four different modes: Neutral, Curbing, Overdrive, Edge.

One should also note that the word “Complete” in its title is a reference to the style and genres one can sing, not in its technicality as CVT is continuously researched on and updated at the Complete Vocal Institute. The book, first written in 2000 has gone through many changes.

Tine was very detailed when sharing with us the modus operandi of CVT, sharing the parameters that one has to understand and abide by before entering into singing through the modes.

A lot of thought has gone into the delivery of the parameters, where one has to understand the character of the sound, the amount of air one uses, the volume range effective in each mode, followed by the effective vowels one can employ in the modes, the amount of metal one can add to the sound, the method to reach into the center of the mode, and one should understand the range of the voice one can go into while in the modes.

At the open workshop, Tine emphasized the 3 principles:
◎Breath Support – how we breathe out, using as little power in the throat,
◎No unnecessary tension in the lips and jaw,
◎Necessary twang 

Of the three principles, there were personal challenges. For me, singing with “necessary twang” is relatively new, but one can imagine as having a conversation with a cat – a method taught to me from Angie and it worked!

The chart below shows the different parameters for the various modes: The chart

With that chart, we were also encourage to treat each mode as a dartboard, ensuring that we sing as close to the “centre of the mode” as we can to avoid damage to the voice, keeping in mind that various parameters we need to work with.

Just a personal note I made that I would share is that most classical singers are already singing in Neutral (interchangeably with and without air), and the occasional curbing for tenors on the high end of their tessitura.

What I personally found helpful for me as an Asian A Cappella singer is that it works even with Mandarin (my mother tongue), the slight change of vowel to fit the mode I am on, paired with proper support still allowed clarity and understanding of the text to my audience, and I am able to express myself even better instead of relying on mere subjective descriptions, e.g. “Happy”, “Depressive angst”.

As part of the rehearsal process with the pop choir, Tine has proven to be very helpful in ensuring that we understand what we were singing, even as harmony, or moving lines within the chord.

The lines in a song is not coloured by just mere root and fifths, but also the various moving lines that shape the phrasing and each character, singing through Vocal Line’s cover of Viva La Vida after understand the text and the movement made the gravity of what Napoleon has done even more felt and heavier as we sang the refrains – something which I used to struggle to get everybody to feel/sound the same way.

We have wonderful groups in Asia, and I believe the next step for Asian A Cappella groups would be to understand the sciences behind the voice and achieve vocal production that is expressive and technical, because we have a huge voice and we should continue to pursue the beauty in the music and lyrics that our cultures provide.

Right here in Singapore, we are indeed blessed by Tine’s arrival and her very approachable introduction to CVT and I hope that that there are plans for further development in the A Cappella community with a common vernacular to achieve a bigger sense of the word “community” for ourselves.

I’d like to thank the dear Tine Fris for coming down to Singapore and share your passion with us, and also as well as The A Cappella Society for allowing me the chance to be a performer and learning from each other during the production period. Let’s give it a go and soar further for A Cappella!

The CVT notes made in this article are the author’s own, through trial and errors during the sessions with Tine Fris while rehearsing for Vocal Edge, and also reading notes from various sources including handouts given out after the workshop in Singapore on 20th May.

For more information and accurate presentation of the Complete Vocal Technique, one can visit the Complete Vocal Institute at Vocal Edge is an annual programme produced by The A Cappella Society (



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