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The Great Scale
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Connection Of Vowels





How do I connect them with each other? If I wish to connect closely
together two vowels that lie near to or far from each other, I must
first establish the muscular contractions for [=a], and introduce
between the two vowels, whether they lie near together or far apart, a
very well-defined y. Then (supposing, for instance, that I want to
connect [=a] and [=e]) I must join the [=a] closely to the y,
and the y closely to the [=e], so that there is not the least
resonating space between the two that is not filled during the changes
in the position of the organs, however carefully this is undertaken.
There must be no empty space, no useless escape of breath, between any
two of the sounds.



At first only two, then three and four, and then all the vowels in
succession must be so practised:--

A-ye, a-ye-yu, a-ye-yoo-yue, a-ye-yo-yue-yu-ye-yah.

But there must be never more than so much breath at hand as is needed
to make the vowel and the tone perfect. The more closely the vowels
are connected with the help of the y, the less breath is emitted
from the mouth unused, the more intimate is the connection of tone,
and the less noticeable are the changes of the position of the organs
in relation to each other.

When I pass from y[=a]-y[=e] to yoo, I am compelled to develop
very strongly the muscular contraction of the lips, which are formed
into a long projecting spout; and this movement cannot be sufficiently
exaggerated. With every new y I must produce renewed muscular
contractions of the vocal organs, which gradually, through continuous
practice, are trained to become almost like the finest, most pliable
steel, upon which the fullest reliance may be placed. From yoo it
is best to go to yue, that lies still farther forward and requires of
the lips an iron firmness; then to yo, touching slightly on the e
that lies above the o; then return to y[=a], and not till then
going to ye-ah, which must then feel thus:--

e
oo-o ah-[=a]
y

The y is taken under the ah, that the word may not slide under;
for usually the thought of ah relaxes all the organs: the tongue
lies flat, the larynx becomes unsteady, is without definite position,
and the palate is not arched and is without firmness. In this way ah
becomes the most colorless and empty vowel of the whole list.

With every change of vowel, or of any other letter, there are changes
in the position of the organs, since tongue, palate, and larynx must
take different positions for different sounds.

With [=a] and [=e] the larynx stands higher, the palate is sunk,
or in its normal position.

With oo, o, and ah the larynx stands low, the palate is arched.

With a, e, and ah the lips are drawn back.

With oo, o, ue, and oe they are extended far forward.

The auxiliary sound y connects them all with each other, so that the
transitions are made quite imperceptibly. Since it is pronounced with
the tongue drawn high against the palate, it prevents the base of the
tongue from falling down again.

This should be practised very slowly, that the sensations may be
clearly discerned, and that no vibration that gives the vowel its
pitch and duration may escape attention.

The muscular contraction described comprises the chief functions of
the vocal organs, and is as necessary for singing as the breath is for
the tone. Year in and year out every singer and pupil must practise it
in daily exercises as much as possible, on every tone of the vocal
compass.

In the lowest as well as in the highest range the sharpness of the
a is lost, as well as the clear definition of all single vowels. A
should be mingled with oo, ah, and e. In the highest range, the
vowels are merged in each other, because then the principal thing is
not the vowel, but the high sound.

Even the thought of [=a] and [=e], the latter especially, raises
the pitch of the tone. The explanation of this is that [=a] and
[=e] possess sympathetic sounds above the palate that lead the
breath to the resonance of the head cavities.

For this reason tenors often, in high notes, resort to the device of
changing words with dark vowels to words with the bright vowel e.
They could attain the same end, without changing the whole word, by
simply thinking of an e.


Without over-exertion, the singer can practise the exercises given
above twenty times a day, in periods of ten to fifteen minutes each,
and will soon appreciate the advantage of the muscular strengthening
they give. They make the voice fresh, not weary, as doubtless many
will suppose.

What, then, can be expected of an untrained organ? Nothing!

Without daily vocal gymnastics no power of endurance in the muscles
can be gained. They must be so strong that a great operatic role can
be repeated ten times in succession, in order that the singer may
become able to endure the strain of singing in opera houses, in great
auditoriums, and make himself heard above a great orchestra, without
suffering for it.

When I, for instance, was learning the part of Isolde, I could
without weariness sing the first act alone six times in succession,
with expression, action, and a full voice. That was my practice with
all my roles. After I had rehearsed a role a thousand times in my own
room, I would go into the empty theatre and rehearse single scenes, as
well as the whole opera, for hours at a time. That gave me the
certainty of being mistress of my resonances down to the last note;
and very often I felt able to begin it all over again. So must it be,
if one wishes to accomplish anything worth while.

Another end also is attained by the same exercise,--the connection,
not only of the vowels, but of all letters, syllables, words, and
phrases. By this exercise the form for the breath, tone, and word, in
which all the organs are adjusted to each other with perfect
elasticity, is gradually established. Slowly but surely it assures
greatest endurance in all the organs concerned in speaking and
singing, the inseparable connection of the palatal resonance with the
resonance of the head cavities. In this way is gained perfection in
the art of singing, which is based, not on chance, but on knowledge;
and this slow but sure way is the only way to gain it.

By the above-described method all other alphabetical sounds can be
connected, and exercises can be invented to use with it, which are
best adapted to correct the mistakes of pupils, at first on one, then
step by step on two and three connected tones, etc.

At the same time it is necessary to learn to move the tongue freely,
and with the utmost quickness, by jerking it back, after pronouncing
consonants, as quick as a flash, into the position in which it
conducts the breath to the resonating chambers for the vowels. With
all these movements is connected the power of elastically contracting
and relaxing the muscles.





Next: The Lips

Previous: The Position Of The Mouth (contraction Of The Muscles Of Speech)



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