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The Great Scale
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Preparation For Singing
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Nasal Nasal Singing
The Position Of The Mouth (contraction Of The Muscles Of Speech)
Extension Of The Compass And Equalization Of Registers
The Head Voice
Concerning Expression
Interpretation
The Vowel-sound _ah_
Italian And German
Trill
The Lips



Equalizing The Voice; Breath; Form





Through the lowering of the pillars of the fauces, which is the same
as raising the soft palate, the outflowing breath is divided into two
parts.

I have sketched the following representation of it:--

Division of the breath.

By raising the pillars of the fauces, which closes off the throat from
the cavities of the head, the chest voice is produced; that is, the
lowest range of all kinds of voices. This occurs when the main stream
of breath, spreading over against the high-arched palate, completely
utilizes all its resonating surfaces. This is the palatal resonance,
in which there is the most power (Plate A).



When the soft palate is raised high behind the nose, the pillars of
the fauces are lowered, and this frees the way for the main stream of
breath to the head cavities. This now is poured out, filling the nose,
forehead, and head cavities. This makes the head tone. Called head
tone in women, falsetto in men, it is the highest range of all classes
of voices, the resonance of the head cavities (Plate C).


The singer must always have in his mind's eye a picture of this
divided stream of breath.

As I have already said, in the lowest tones of all voices the main
stream of breath is projected against the palate; the pillars of the
fauces, being stretched to their fullest extent, and drawn back to the
wall of the throat, allow almost no breath to reach the head
cavities.

I say almost none, for, as a matter of fact, a branch stream of
breath, however small, must be forced back, behind and above the
pillars, first into the nose, later into the forehead and the cavities
of the head. This forms the overtones (head tones) which must vibrate
with all tones, even the lowest. These overtones lead over from the
purest chest tones, slowly, with a constantly changing mixture of both
kinds of resonance, first to the high tones of bass and baritone, the
low tones of tenor, the middle tones of alto and soprano, finally, to
the purest head tones, the highest tones of the tenor-falsetto or
soprano. (See the plates.)

The extremely delicate gradation of the scale of increase of the
resonance of the head cavities in ascending passages, and of increase
of palatal resonance in descending, depends upon the skill to make the
palate act elastically, and to let the breath, under control of the
abdominal and chest pressure, flow uninterruptedly in a gentle stream
into the resonating chambers. Through the previous preparation of the
larynx and tongue, it must reach its resonating surfaces as though
passing through a cylinder, and must circulate in the form previously
prepared for it, proper for each tone and vowel sound. This form
surrounds it gently but firmly. The supply of air remains continuously
the same, rather increasing than diminishing, notwithstanding the
fact that the quantity which the abdominal pressure has furnished the
vocal cords from the supply chamber is a very small one. That it may
not hinder further progression, the form must remain elastic and
sensitive to the most delicate modification of the vowel sound. If the
tone is to have life, it must always be able to conform to any vowel
sound. The least displacement of the form or interruption of the
breath breaks up the whirling currents and vibrations, and
consequently affects the tone, its vibrancy, its strength, and its
duration.

In singing a continuous passage upward, the form becomes higher and
more pliant; the most pliable place on the palate is drawn upward.
(See Plate A.)

When I sing a single tone I can give it much more power, much more
palatal or nasal resonance, than I could give in a series of ascending
tones. In a musical figure I must attack the lowest note in such a way
that I can easily reach the highest. I must, therefore, give it much
more head tone than the single tone requires. (Very important.) When
advancing farther, I have the feeling on the palate, above and behind
the nose, toward the cavities of the head, of a strong but very
elastic rubber ball, which I fill like a balloon with my breath
streaming up far back of it. And this filling keeps on in even
measure. That is, the branch stream of the breath, which flows into
the head cavities, must be free to flow very strongly without
hindrance. (See Plate B.)

I can increase the size of this ball above, to a pear shape, as soon
as I think of singing higher; and, indeed, I heighten the form
before I go on from the tone just sung, making it, so to speak,
higher in that way, and thus keep the form, that is, the
propagation form, ready for the next higher tone, which I can now
reach easily, as long as no interruption in the stream of breath
against the mucous membrane can take place. For this reason the breath
must never be held back, but must always be emitted in a more and
more powerful stream. The higher the tone, the more numerous are the
vibrations, the more rapidly the whirling currents circulate, and the
more unchangeable must the form be.

Catarrh often dries up the mucous membrane; then the tones are
inclined to break off. At such times one must sing with peculiar
circumspection, and with an especially powerful stream of breath
behind the tone: it is better to take breath frequently. In a
descending scale or figure I must, on the contrary, preserve very
carefully the form taken for the highest tone. I must not go higher,
nor yet, under any circumstances, lower, but must imagine that I
remain at the same pitch, and must suggest to myself that I am
striking the same tone again. The form may gradually be a little
modified at the upper end: that is, the soft palate is lowered very
carefully behind the nose: keeping almost always to the form employed
for the highest tone, sing the figure to its end, toward the nose,
with the help of the vowel oo. (This auxiliary vowel oo means
nothing more than that the larynx is slowly lowered in position.)

When this happens, the resonance of the head cavities is diminished,
that of the palate increased; for the soft palate sinks, and the
pillars of the fauces are raised more and more. Yet the head tone must
not be entirely free from palatal resonance. Both remain to the last
breath united, mutually supporting each other in ascending and
descending passages, and alternately but inaudibly increasing and
diminishing.

These things go to make up the form:--

The raising and lowering of the soft palate, and the corresponding
lowering and raising of the pillars of the fauces.

The proper position of the tongue: the tip rests on the lower front
teeth--mine even as low as the roots of the teeth.

The back of the tongue must stand high and free from the throat, ready
for any movement. A furrow must be formed in the tongue, which is
least prominent in the lowest tones, and in direct head tones may even
completely disappear. As soon as the tone demands the palatal
resonance, the furrow must be made prominent and kept so. In my case
it can always be seen. This is one of the most important matters, upon
which too much emphasis can hardly be laid. As soon as the furrow in
the tongue shows itself, the tone must sound right; for then the mass
of the tongue is kept away from the throat, and, since its sides are
raised, it is kept out of the way of the tone.


It lies flattest in the lowest tones because the larynx then is in
a very low position, and thus is out of its way.


Furthermore, there is the unconstrained position of the larynx, which
must be maintained without pressure of the throat muscles. From it the
breath must stream forth evenly and uninterruptedly, to fill the form
prepared for it by the tongue and palate and supported by the throat
muscles.

This support must not, however, depend in the least upon
pressure,--for the vibrating breath must float above,--but upon the
greatest elasticity. One must play with the muscles, and be able to
contract and relax them at pleasure, having thus perfect mastery over
them. For this incessant practice is required, increasing control of
the breath through the sense of hearing and the breath pressure.

At first a very strong will power is needed to hold the muscles tense
without pressure; that is, to let the tone, as it were, soar through
the throat, mouth, or cavities of the head.

The stronger the improper pressure in the production of the tone, the
more difficult it is to get rid of. The result is simply, in other
words, a strain. The contraction of the muscles must go only so far
that they can be slowly relaxed; that is, can return to their normal
position easily. Never must the neck be swelled up, or the veins in
it stand out. Every convulsive or painful feeling is wrong.





Next: The Attack

Previous: The Singer's Physiological Studies



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