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The Great Scale
Nasal Nasal Singing
Resonant Consonants
The Head Voice
The Vowel-sound _ah_
The Cure
Practical Exercises
My Title To Write On The Art Of Song
The Tongue
Singing Covered


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Preparation For Singing
Development And Equalization
The Highest Head Tones
The Sensations Of The Palate
White Voices
Concerning Expression
Extension Of The Compass And Equalization Of Registers
The Position Of The Mouth (contraction Of The Muscles Of Speech)
Before The Public
Italian And German


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Nasal Nasal Singing
Preparation For Singing
Connection Of Vowels
Theodor Wachtel
Concerning Expression
The Tongue
The Vowel-sound _ah_
Equalizing The Voice; Breath; Form
The Highest Head Tones
On Vocal Registers



Development And Equalization





Naturally, a singer can devote more strength to the development of one
or two connected ranges of his voice than to a voice perfectly
equalized in all its accessible ranges. For this are required many
years of the most patient study and observation, often a
long-continued or entire sacrifice of one or the other limit of a
range for the benefit of the next-lying weaker one; of the head voice
especially, which, if unmixed, sounds uneven and thin in comparison
with the middle range, until by means of practised elasticity of the
organs and endurance of the throat muscles a positive equalization can
take place.

Voices which contain only one or two registers are called short
voices, for their availability is as limited as they are themselves.

Yet it must be remembered that all voices alike, whether short or
long, even those of the most skilful singers, when age comes on, are
apt to lose their highest ranges, if they are not continually
practised throughout their entire compass with the subtlest use of the
head tones. Thence it is to be concluded that a singer ought always to
extend the compass of his voice as far as possible, in order to be
certain of possessing the compass that he needs.

On the formation of the organs depends much of the character of the
voice. There are strong, weak, deep, and high voices by nature; but
every voice, by means of proper study, can attain a certain degree of
strength, flexibility, and compass.

Unfortunately, stubbornness enters largely into this question, and
often works in opposition to the teacher. Many, for instance, wish to
be altos, either because they are afraid of ruining their voices by
working for a higher compass, or because it is easier for them, even
if their voices are not altos at all.

Nowadays operas are no longer composed for particular singers and the
special characteristics of their voices. Composers and librettists
express what they feel without regard to an alto singer who has no
high C or a soprano who has no low A flat or G. But the artist will
always find what he needs.

Registers exist in the voices of almost all singers, but they ought
not to be heard, ought not, indeed, to exist. Everything should be
sung with a mixed voice in such a way that no tone is forced at the
expense of any other. To avoid monotony the singer should have at his
disposal a wealth of means of expression in all ranges of his voice.
(See the Varieties of Attack and Dynamic Power.) Before all else he
should have knowledge of the advantages in the resonance of certain
tones, and of their connection with each other. The soul must
provide the color; skill and knowledge as to cause and effect,
management of the breath, and perfection of the throat formation must
give the power to produce every dynamic gradation and detail of
expression. Registers are, accordingly, produced when the singer
forces a series of tones, generally ascending, upon one and the same
resonating point, instead of remembering that in a progression of
tones no one tone can be exactly like another, because the position of
the organs must be different for each. The palate must remain elastic
from the front teeth to its hindmost part, mobile and susceptible,
though imperceptibly, to all changes. Very much depends on the
continuous harmony of action of the soft and hard palate, which must
always be in full evidence, the raising and extension of the former
producing changes in the tone. If, as often happens when the registers
are sharply defined, tones fall into a cul de sac, escape into
another register is impossible, without a jump, which may lead to
disaster. With every tone that the singer has to sing, he must always
have the feeling that he can go higher, and that the attack for
different tones must not be forced upon one and the same point.

The larynx must not be suddenly pressed down nor jerked up, except
when this is desired as a special effect. That is, when one wishes to
make a transition, legato, from a chest tone to a tone in the middle
or head register, as the old Italians used to do, and as I, too,
learned to do, thus:--

In this case the chest tone is attacked very nasal, in order that the
connection may remain to the upper note, and the larynx is suddenly
jerked up to the high tone. This was called breaking the tone; it was
very much used, and gave fine effects when it was well done. I use it
to-day, especially in Italian music, where it belongs. It is an
exception to the rule for imperceptible or inaudible change of
position of the organs,--that it should not be made suddenly.

The scale proceeds from one semitone to another; each is different;
each, as you go on, requires greater height, wherefore the position of
the organs cannot remain the same for several different tones. But, as
there should never be an abrupt change audible in the way of singing,
so should there never be an abrupt change felt in the sensations of
the singer's throat. Every tone must be imperceptibly prepared in an
elastic channel and must produce an easy feeling in the singer, as
well as an agreeable impression upon the listener.

The small peak indicated in the illustration is enormously extensible
and can be shifted into infinite varieties of position. However
unimportant its raising and lowering may appear, they are nevertheless
of great importance for the tone and the singer. The focal point of
the breath, that forms simultaneously the attack and the body of the
tone, by the operation of the abdominal breath pressure against the
chest, is always firmly placed on, beneath, or behind the nose.
Without body even the finest pianissimo has no significance. The very
highest unmixed head tones are an exception, and they can express
nothing. There can be no body expected in them. Their soaring quality
of sound endures no pressure, and consequently gives no expression,
which is possible only through an admixture of palatal resonance.
Their only significance is gained through their pure euphony.

All vowels, too, must keep their point of resonance uninterruptedly on
the palate. All beauty in the art of song, in cantilena as well as in
all technique, consists chiefly in uninterrupted connection between
the tone and the word, in the flexible connection of the soft palate
with the hard, in the continually elastic adjustment of the former
to the latter. This means simply the elastic form, which the breath
must fill in every corner of resonating surface without interruption,
as long as the tone lasts.

If the singer will control his tone,--and in practising he must always
do so,--he needs only to test it to see whether he can easily make it
softer without perceptible change in the position of the organs, and
carry it higher toward the nose and the cavities of the forehead; that
is, prepare a form for its continuation upward.

In this way he can learn how much height a tone needs without being
too high, and how much it often lacks in height and duration to sound
high enough.

In this way remarkable faults become evident! The reason why a tone
sounds too low--the so-called transition tones from the lower to the
middle range and from this to the higher, come up for consideration
chiefly--is that the pillars of the fauces are raised too high toward
the back, preventing the head tones from sounding at the same time; or
the soft palate is lowered too far under the nose, which results in
pressing the tone too long and too far toward the teeth. This fault is
met with in very many singers, in all kinds of voices, and in almost
the same places. It comes only from an unyielding retention of the
same resonating point for several tones and a failure to bring in the
resonance of the head cavities. The propagation form, or continuing
form,[2] must always be prepared consciously, for without it artistic
singing is not to be thought of.

[Footnote 2: Fortpflanzungsform: the preparation made in the vocal
organs for taking the next tone before leaving the one under
production, so that the succeeding tones shall all be of like
character and quality.]

The neglect of this most important principle usually results in
overstraining the vocal cords and throat muscles. This is followed
first by singing flat, and later by the appearance of the hideous
tremolo (see Tremolo) to which so many singers fall victims. The
cause of a tone's being too sharp is the dwelling too long on the
resonance of the head cavities, where the tone should already have
been mixed with palatal resonance. With very young voices this can
easily happen, and can also result from weariness, when the bodily
strength is not developed sufficiently to endure the fatigue of
practising. A very circumspect course must then be followed.





Next: White Voices

Previous: On Vocal Registers



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