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The Alto Voice In Male Choirs
General Remarks
Mutation Of The Voice
Vowels Consonants Articulation
Registers Of The Voice
Physiology Of The Voice
Compass Of The Child-voice
How To Secure Good Tone
Position Breathing Attack Tone Formation

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Position Breathing Attack Tone Formation
How To Secure Good Tone
Compass Of The Child-voice
Physiology Of The Voice
Registers Of The Voice
Vowels Consonants Articulation
Mutation Of The Voice
General Remarks
The Alto Voice In Male Choirs

Compass Of The Child-voice

There is the greatest diversity of opinion upon this subject among those
who have any opinion at all. It might be supposed that, among the
thousands of educators who are interested in school music and in the
singing of children generally, many might be found who have given the
subject careful attention, but such does not appear to be the case. If
we consult the musical literature published for children, the prevalence
of songs suited to the contralto voice is noticeable, indicating
apparently that the compass of infant voices at least is about the same
as that of the adult contralto. If there is any generally recognized
theory upon the subject, it would seem to be this; but from a
physiological standpoint the voices of children are totally unlike the
woman contralto, and especially is this true of children of from six to
eight years of age whose songs are usually written so low in range. An
error, started anywhere or at any time, of theory or of practice, if it
once become incorporated into the literature of a subject, is liable to
be frequently copied, and enjoy a long and useless life. So with this
treatment of the child-voice. The error is in supposing that it consists
of a limited number of quite low tones. It has its origin in the sole
use of the so-called chest-voice of the child, and when the evident
strain under which a child of six or seven years labors to sing up is
observed, the conclusion seems safe that they cannot sing high. While,
on the other hand, they manage with apparent ease to sing down even as
low as

[Music: a]

This conception has in divers ways so imbedded itself into the musical
literature for little children, that all efforts to uproot it have so
far been apparently futile. There are, however, very many supervisors of
school music, and the number is growing, who have recognized that this
treatment of little children's voices is a vocal barbarity, and the
device of pitching songs higher than they are written to overcome the
difficulty is more common than might be supposed. There can be no doubt
that in a short time the practice of carrying the tones of little
children three and four notes below the first line of the staff will not
be tolerated.

The common, even universal, tendency of primary classes to drop in pitch
when singing with the usual thick tone might show anyone that the voice
was being used in an abnormal manner. Furthermore, the intonation of
children of any age is something horrible when the thick voice is used.
Even carefully-selected and trained boy choristers, if they use this
voice, are frequently off the key even when supported by men's voices
and the organ. So in addition to other reasons for using the thin
register may be added this, that habits of faulty intonation are surely
fostered by the use of the thick voice.

Picture to yourself the short, thin, weak vocal bands of a child of six
or seven years attached to cartilaginous walls so devoid of rigidity
that in that dreaded disease of childhood-- croup-- they often collapse.
That is not an instrument for the production of tones in the contralto
compass. No wonder the pitch is wavering. If infant classes are to sing
with the usual tones, the common advice to make the singing-exercise
short is extremely judicious. It would be better to omit it.

The intimation that the last word can now be said on this subject is not
for a moment intended, but experience has given some tolerably safe
hints in reference to the compass of the child-voice in the thin
register at the ages mentioned, and it is advised never to carry the
compass lower than E first line, nor higher than F fifth line of the
staff, and the upper extreme must be sung sparingly. The easiest tones
lie from

[Music: f' d'']

The injunction to sing very softly need hardly be repeated.

Passing now to children who range in age from nine to eleven years, who
are found in the fourth and fifth years of school-life, it may be
observed that there is quite a marked increase in the evenness and
firmness of their tones. It is quite possible, especially at the age of
about eleven years, to extent the compass to G above the staff and to D
or C below; but if it does no harm, it serves no particular good end
either, and unless care is taken, the children will push the highest
tones. All of the necessary music drill can be kept within the suggested
range, and it is just as well to keep on the safe side. Then again, the
extremes in age between children of the same class grow farther apart as
we ascend in grade, and the compass must be kept within the vocal powers
of the youngest, and, from a voice-standpoint, weakest pupils. Protect
the voice, and nature will attend to its development.

From the time children pass the age of twelve years on to the period of
puberty, the child-voice is at its best, and if the use of the thin
register has been faithfully adhered to in the lower grades, the
singing-tone will now be both pure and brilliant. It will be found not
at all difficult to carry the same voice as low or lower than middle C
without any perceptible change in tone-quality, and G above the staff
will be sung with absolute ease. How much higher, if any, the compass
may be carried is open to discussion. It is not at all necessary in
school music to go any higher, for, even where it is deemed best to
raise the pitch of the song or exercise to avoid too low tones, the
pitch of the highest note will seldom be above G-- space above.

Still, it is the practice of choirmasters to carry the tone of soprano
boys much higher in vowel-practice, as high even as

[Music: c''']

and although that is a pretty altitudinous pitch, there are very few
choir-boys who, when taught to breathe properly, etc., will not take it
occasionally with perfect ease. The head-register, even in woman's
voice, is capable of great expansion, if good habits of tone-production
are followed. But again it is well to be on the safe side; and
choir-boys, who are selected because they have good vocal organs, and
who are drilled far more than school children, are hardly a criterion to
go by.

It must not be forgotten that the thin voice can be pushed and forced.
Good judgment must be exercised in controlling the power of voice, or
children will strain the vocal mechanism in trying to outsing each other
on high tones.

The question, How high may boys or girls sing who have passed twelve
years of age and whose voices show no signs of break, is not so very
important after all, for if they have been well trained in soft tone, no
danger of vocal strain need be feared even if an occasional high A or B
flat is struck.

The reason for the ease with which children sing the high head-tones is
found in the structure of the vocal bands. They are thin.
Consequently, there is, compared to the entire substance of the vocal
bands, a larger portion proportionately set in vibration than for the
production of the head-tone in woman's voice. And when the child-voice
is so used that no strain of the laryngeal structure is occasioned, that
is, when the vocal ligaments are exercised in a normal manner, it cannot
but happen that the muscles controlling the vocal bands will increase in
strength, and that the bands themselves, composed as they are of
numberless elastic fibres, will improve in general tone and elasticity.

The suggestions made in regard to the compass of voice are, be it said,
simply suggestions based on experimental teaching and are such as it is
believed may be followed with safety in school singing. If they do not
square with the music of books and charts, why, as before said, it is a
very simple matter to give a higher key for any exercise, than the one
in which it is written. A supervisor, by marking the exercises in the
desk copy, can ensure the use of the key he desires. If it is objected
that the tones then sung will not represent the real pitch of the
written notes, why that is at once admitted. What then? The idea of
teaching absolute pitch is a chimera. Pianos are not alike in pitch,
neither are tuning-forks. Classes will often for one cause or another
end a half tone or a tone lower than they began even if the pitch as
written is given. It may not be desirable to sing in one key music that
is read in another, but it certainly is less objectionable in every way
than is an unsafe use of the voice. The correct use of the voice must
transcend all considerations in vocal music, and no sort of practice
which misuses the vocal organs can be excused for a moment.

Next: Position Breathing Attack Tone Formation

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