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 unmixe
, 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.