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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

Vowels Consonants Articulation

Sound-vibrations generated at the larynx are modified as to their form,
by the size and shape of the resonating cavities of the mouth and
pharynx. Through the movements of the soft-palate, tongue, lower jaw and
lips, the shape and size of the mouth can, within certain limits, be
changed at will. As every vowel-sound requires a peculiar form of the
resonating cavity for its production, it will be easily understood that
each vowel-sound of which the human voice is capable can be made by a
proper adjustment of the movable parts of the vocal organs. As all
singing-tone is vocal or vowel in its character, the production of the
various vowel-sounds takes precedence in the study of vocal music. Just
how much of this study can be carried on in school music will depend
upon circumstances, the chief of which is the time assigned for music.
It is very easy to suggest that if the time given is not enough, that
longer lesson periods be demanded; but it is quite probable that, owing
to the pressure of elaborate courses of study, the request would be
seldom granted. It remains, then, for those in charge of school music to
expedite their work by means of simple and direct methods.

Each division of the music work must be carried so as to secure unity of
result. The vocal drill, oral or written, will train the eye and ear for
sight-singing, and the sight-singing be a practical application of
correct vocal drill.

The study and practice of the different vowel-sounds must then fit in
with the scheme of study. The practice of singing the vowels by name as,
a, e, i, o, u, is not to be recommended, as only one, namely
e, stands for a single sound-element; nor is it probable that the
results will justify extensive drill upon the more obscure
vowel-elements, if the term may be applied to those sounds which are
differentiated only slightly from the more pronounced vowel-sounds.

There are some twenty vowel-sounds that are used in English speech, but
for various reasons a less number are employed in song. For, while it is
desirable to give to each word and syllable its correct vowel-sound in
singing, those which are unfavorable to good tone are usually
approximated to the sound of those more favorable to good tone.

If too marked distinctions in the vowel-sounds are made by the singer,
the result is disagreeable; while if the voice preserves a similar hue
or tone-color throughout, the effect is pleasing.

The listener is unaware of the slight deviations from the spoken
vowel-sound which the singer makes, that the requirements of tonal
beauty may be met.

It is advisable in vowel-practice to avoid letters or symbols which
represent two sounds, an initial and a vanish; and to use simple vowel
elements instead. The combinations of different elements represented by
certain letters and diphthongs may easily be explained when they appear
in the words of a song, if, indeed, the study of phonics has not already
cleared away all difficulties.

In singing, however, it is necessary to understand which of the two
sounds, the initial or the vanish, is to be sustained. In [-a], for
instance, which is eh+e, if the vanish e is sustained in a word
like day the effect is deh-ee. The first sound should be sustained,
and the vanish e be heard only slightly as the mouth partly closes at
the end of the tone. [-I], again, which is equivalent to ah+e,
is often sung by prolonging the e instead of the initial ah, as
light--li-eet. [-O] is a compound sound [-o]+[-o][-o], but the
tendency to sing the first sound short and prolong the second is very
slight usually. O, then, can be used to represent a simple element.
[-U], which equals e+oo, is best sung by making the initial
sound short and the vanish the longer tone.

It will thus be seen that of the five vowel names, a, e, i, o,
u, e only stands for one sound, though the two sounds of o are so
closely allied that the vanish is often imperceptible. The sound of [-a]
in [)a]t is the most unfavorable sound for song in the language, and
those extremely consistent singers who wish to use it can do so.

The nasal twang of Yankeedom is a plant that needs no nourishing. Its
roots are grown wide and deep; so much so, that those who love it need
not fear that it will pine away and die, if it bears no fruit of song,
but only that of speech.

The sound of [)a] will survive even if it is unused in song. It should
in singing be broadened nearly to the sound of ah.

A number of simple elements are suggested which may be used in various
ways in vocal drill. They are [-e], [)i], [)e], [:a], [a:],
[-o], [)oo]. Or [-e] (as in be), [)i] (as in it), eh,
ah, aw, [-o] (as in go), [)oo]. The vowel-elements remaining
are each so closely allied to some of those indicated that the attempt
to differentiate them from the above in vowel-drill is hardly worth
while. In fact, the use of [)i]-- i as in it-- may be omitted if
pupils have learned to sing [-e] with fair breadth of sound, and oo
may be dropped in grades above the primary. It is the final sound of
[-o], as before said. This leaves five vowel-elements.


This vowel is often badly sung, and its form is none too favorable to
good tone even when made as large as distinctness will allow. The lips
must be drawn a little away from the teeth as in a smile, but don't
overdo it, and the teeth slightly parted. The lips should not be drawn
back, exposing the teeth and gums, nor should they be contracted and
pressed against the teeth. In e and in all vowel singing the lips
should be relaxed, not contracted, and kept about as far from the teeth
as they are in repose. If the opening of the mouth, that is, if the
cavity back of the teeth is kept too small and narrow, the tone will be
nasal and twangy. The mouth must be opened enough to permit purity of
tone and free emission. The sound should verge toward i in it.


This sound is [-e] broadened. The teeth may be a little farther apart
than when [-e] is sung.

[)E] or EH.

This is the sound of e in the word get. It is also the initial sound
of the vowel [-a] or long a. It is true that this sound is not
usually so given, but if [-a] is sung with this sound as its initial
sound, and the one to be prolonged, the very best vocal results can be
obtained. The vowel [)a] is more often poorly sung than otherwise.
This is, perhaps, for the reason that comparatively few singers
recognize that long a stands for two sounds, and that the first, which
may be spelled eh, can be sung with large form and placed well forward
in the mouth, while the second sound [-e] is small in form, and not
adapted to the finest tone-effects. In singing this element, the jaw
should drop much lower than for [)i] and nearly as low as for ah.

[:A] or AH.

This is the tone universally accepted as the best for voice-development;
but in school-singing it is not permissible to use the voice except in
the lightest manner, therefore purity of tone must content our
ambitions; power can come later in life. The mouth opens widely for this
tone and the whole throat is expanded.

[A:] or AW.

This element is formed very much like ah. It is ah broadened a
little. The jaw drops to a lower point and the mouth-cavity deepens,
while at the same time the extension from side to side narrows a little.

[-O] and OO.

These sounds are better adapted to securing the use of the thin voice,
where pupils have been accustomed to the use of the thick voice, than
any other vowel-element. The mouth is well opened back of the lips,
which should not be puckered as if to whistle, but relaxed instead.

In actual practice there may be observed a tendency, more or less
marked, but pretty sure to manifest itself if practice on one sound is
continued too long at a time, to deviate from any one toward some other
vowel-element, as [)i] to [-e], eh to [)i], ah to er or er
or uh, aw to uh, [-o] to oo.

If this tendency to deviate from the right tone be permitted, the most
slovenly habits will be formed, and all distinctions in vowel-sound
disappear. Vowel-practice had better be omitted from class-work unless
carefully and conscientiously taught.

If the course of music embraces drill upon scales, vowel-practice may be
incorporated into the course easily. For instance, the drill outlined
upon p. 70 may one day be given with e for a few moments, then with
o. On another day the drill may be upon ah, followed by eh, and
so on. It is unnecessary to particularize. Every teacher will at once
see how to apply practically vowel-singing to his music course. The
exercises and songs may be sung with vowel-sounds. Nearly all books
advise the use of la, lo, etc., in vocal exercises; but while that
method of singing is unobjectionable, the vocalization of solfeggii, it
may be observed, is established by the sanction of time and the
experience of thousands of voice-trainers the world over.

The advantages which flow from vocalizing exercises and songs on a
single vowel-sound are too many to be described in a word. No supervisor
or teacher of music can afford to use do, re, mi, exclusively.

Another class of exercises is now suggested which may be sung upon one
breath. They will be found especially adapted to develop flexibility and
a ready adjustment of the movable parts of the vocal tube to the
positions suited to the formation of the different vowel-sounds. If
three sounds are used as here given, they must be sung quite slowly, the
change from one sound to the next being made by a quick, easy change of
position of the jaw, tongue, etc., but without interrupting the
continuity of the tone.

Sufficient pause to obtain a new breath must be made at the end of each
group, and the mouth opened properly for the production of the first
sound of the next group before it is attacked. The time should be

[Music: f' f' f' {sung on o, e, o}]

quite slow and as in illustration, or the breath will not be used, and
at each succeeding group of tones the lungs will become too full of air.
The attack will then be explosive, and the tone too loud, if, indeed,
the effort to control the breath does not contract and pinch the throat.

Eight groups are given for ascending a scale and eight for descending:

[-o] [-e] [-o] [-o] [-e] [)i]
[-o] [)i] [-o] [-o] [-e] oo
[-o] ah [-o] o ah e
[-o] eh [-o] [-o] ah eh
[-o] aw [-o] [-o] ah aw
[-o] [-e] eh [-o] ah [)i]
[-o] [-e] ah [-o] ah oo
[-o] [-e] aw [-o] eh [-e]

It will be observed that a certain system of arrangement of the
vowel-elements is followed. First, there are five groups, of which o
is the first and last sound, the others being placed between. Then o
is the first tone with e as the second, the other sounds in turn
ending the group. Next ah is the second sound, then eh, i, oo
and ah might be used as the second vowel-element, making thirty-five
combinations with o as the initial sound of each group. The same
number of combinations can be made with ah as the first tone, and so
on with each of the seven vowel-elements.

Sixteen of these groups, changed from time to time as may be desired,
can be written upon the blackboard and sung by the class in the way set
forth, the teacher meanwhile keeping time for and directing the class.

It may be observed in this connection, that, as the voice ascends in
pitch, there is a tendency to blend the various vowel-sounds into one
sound. As the tones grow higher the sound-waves are focused at higher
points upon the hard-palate, the sounding-board of the resonance
cavities, and more difficulty is experienced in moulding these
sound-waves into the forms characteristic of the different
vowel-elements. As the parts concerned in tone-formation gain in
flexibility, the result appears in the ease with which the alterations
in shape of the resonance tube are made at higher pitches.

Fads and devices which divert attention from the subject and retard
rather than accelerate the progress of pupils are common enough in
schools, but the following simple illustrations of different vowel-forms
may be found useful:

{mouth shapes}
[-e] [)i] eh
{mouth shapes}
ah aw o oo]

The base line represents the floor or base of the mouth-cavity, and the
arch, the height and width of the mouth for each sound; the depth is not
indicated. The width of the mouth from side to side is represented as
greatest in [-e], [)i] and eh, while the height is greater in
ah and aw, o is pictured as nearly round, and oo the same,
only small.

It is not contended that these diagrams picture the actual form assumed
by the resonance cavities very accurately. The various positions which
the tongue and the soft-palate assume are not shown at all, nor,
perhaps, is it necessary; for if the pupil is taught to drop the lower
jaw to the right position for each sound, and to keep the tongue prone
in the mouth, a mental picture of each tone will be formed, and the
thought will regulate the action. When the pupil can think the sound
desired, the conditions for its formation will be met by the vocal
organs. The usefulness of diagrams will then cease.

Consonants and Articulation.

"Consonants are the bones of speech. By means of consonants we
articulate our words; that is, we give them joints. We utter vowels, we
articulate consonants. If we utter a single vowel-sound and interrupt it
by a consonant, we get an articulation. Consonants, then, not only give
speech its articulation or joints, but they help words to stand and have
form, just as a skeleton keeps the animal from falling into a shapeless
mass of flesh; therefore, consonants are the bones of speech. The
consonant is the distinguishing element of human speech. Man has been
defined in various ways according to various attributes, functions and
habits. He might well be called the consonant-using animal. He alone of
all animals uses consonants. It is the consonant which makes the chief
difference between the cries of beasts and the speech of man."
--Richard Grant White.

Consonants are not to be sung. The effort so common among singers to
pronounce, by sustaining consonant sounds, is entirely misdirected.
M, n and ng, which are made by shutting off the escape of the
air-current at either the lips or the hard-palate, and so forcing it
through the nose, are often sustained to the detriment of beauty of tone
and clear pronunciation as well.

Articulation, which is the pronunciation of a consonantal sound, is
accomplished by interrupting the air-current, whether vibratory or not,
at certain points. The interruptions are made by the meeting of the lips
with each other or with the teeth, by the tongue with the teeth or
hard-palate, and the root of the tongue with the soft-palate. The
interruption may be complete, as in p or t, or only partial, as in
th. The sound of the consonant results from the slight explosion or
puff which follows the recoil of the movable parts from the point of

All consonants may for singing purposes be considered as preceding or
following some vowel-sound. If preceding, then after the sound is made
the vocal organs must be adjusted at once for the proper formation of
the succeeding vowel. If the consonant sound follows a vowel-tone, the
movement of the vocal organs to the interrupting point must be quick and
vocalization at once cease; for if the vowel-sound is prolonged after
the production of the consonant, the effect will be an added syllable to
the word as at-at-er, up-up-pah, etc. The movements of the organs of
speech for both contact and recoil must be more rapid in singing to
produce distinct articulation than in spoken language.

Slovenly habits of articulation in speech will reappear in song, and the
converse is also true. The study and practice of phonics, which is now
general in schools, is of the highest practical importance in singing,
as well as in reading or speaking. As consonant sounds cannot be sung,
they are best taught in spoken language. The application of the
knowledge and skill thus gained is readily applied to the pronunciation
of words in singing. If the vowel-elements have been carefully practiced
in vocalizes, there will be little effort required to secure the correct
formation of all the vowel-sounds of words.

The nasal twang must, however, be ruthlessly suppressed. As before
suggested, this will frequently appear in words containing the sound of
a as in at, past, fast, etc. It is recommended that such words be
sung with a as in father, or if not quite as broadly, at least
approaching the sound of ah.

If the movements of the vocal organs are quick, flexible and without
muscular tension or stiffness, and if the mouth opens neither too much
nor too little for each vowel-sound, words may be sung and understood
while beauty of tone is not sacrificed.

Next: Mutation Of The Voice

Previous: Position Breathing Attack Tone Formation

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