How To Hold One's Self When Practising

In practising the singer should always stand, if possible, before a

large mirror, in order to be able to watch himself closely. He should

stand upright, quietly but not stiffly, and avoid everything that

looks like restlessness. The hands should hang quietly, or rest

lightly on something, without taking part in the interpretation of the

expression. The first thing needed is to bring the body under control,

that is, to
emain quiet, so that later, in singing, the singer can do

everything intentionally.

The pupil must always stand in such a way that the teacher can watch

his face, as well as his whole body. Continual movements of the

fingers, hands, or feet are not permissible.

The body must serve the singer's purposes freely and must acquire no

bad habits. The singer's self-possession is reflected in a feeling of

satisfaction on the part of the listener. The quieter the singer or

artist, the more significant is every expression he gives; the fewer

motions he makes, the more importance they have. So he can scarcely be

quiet enough. Only there must be a certain accent of expression in

this quietude, which cannot be represented by indifference. The

quietude of the artist is a reassurance for the public, for it can

come only from the certainty of power and the full command of his task

through study and preparation and perfect knowledge of the work to be

presented. An artist whose art is based on power cannot appear other

than self-possessed and certain of himself. An evident uneasiness is

always inartistic, and hence does not belong where art is to be

embodied. All dependence upon tricks of habit creates nervousness and

lack of flexibility.

Therefore the singer must accustom himself to quietude in practising,

and make his will master of his whole body, that later he may have

free command of all his movements and means of expression.

The constant playing of single tones or chords on the piano by the

teacher during the lesson is wrong, and every pupil should request its

discontinuance. The teacher can hear the pupil, but the latter cannot

hear himself, when this is done; and yet it is of the utmost

importance that he should learn to hear himself. I am almost driven

distracted when teachers bring me their pupils, and drum on the piano

as if possessed while they sing. Pupils have the same effect on me

when they sit and play a dozen chords to one long note.

Do they sit in the evening when they sing in a concert?

Do they hear themselves, when they do this? Unfortunately, I cannot

hear them.

Poor pupils!

It is enough for a musical person to strike a single note on the piano

when he practises alone, or perhaps a common chord, after which the

body and hands should return to their quiet natural position. Only in

a standing posture can a free deep breath be drawn, and mind and body

be properly prepared for the exercise or the song to follow.

It is also well for pupils to form sentences with the proper number of

syllables upon which to sing their exercises, so that even such

exercises shall gradually gain a certain amount of expressiveness.

Thus the exercises will form pictures which must be connected with the

play of the features, as well as with an inner feeling, and thus will

not become desultory and soulless and given over to indifference. Of

course not till the mere tone itself is brought under complete

control, and uncertainty is no longer possible, can the horizon of the

pupil be thus widened without danger.

Only when a scene requires that a vocal passage be sung kneeling or

sitting must the singer practise it in his room long before the

performance and at all rehearsals, in accordance with dramatic

requirements of the situation. Otherwise the singer should always

STAND. We must also look out for unaccustomed garments that may be

required on the stage, and rehearse in them; for instance, hat,

helmet, hood, cloak, etc. Without becoming accustomed to them by

practice, the singer may easily make himself ridiculous on the stage.

Hence comes the absurdity of a Lohengrin who cannot sing with a

helmet, another who cannot with a shield, a third who cannot with

gauntlets; a Wanderer who cannot with the big hat, another who cannot

with the spear, a Jose who cannot with the helmet, etc. All these

things must be practised before a mirror until the requirements of a

part or its costume become a habit. To attain this, the singer must be

completely master of his body and all his movements.

It must be precisely the same with the voice. The singer must be quite

independent of bad habits in order consciously to exact from it what

the proper interpretation of the work to be performed requires.

He should practise only so long as can be done without weariness.

After every exercise he should take a rest, to be fresh for the next

one. After the great scale he should rest at least ten minutes; and

these resting times must be observed as long as one sings.

Long-continued exertion should not be exacted of the voice at first;

even if the effects of it are not immediately felt, a damage is done

in some way. In this matter pupils themselves are chiefly at fault,

because they cannot get enough, as long as they take pleasure in it.

For this reason it is insane folly to try to sing important roles on

the stage after one or two years of study; it may perhaps be endured

for one or two years without evil results, but it can never be

carried on indefinitely.

Agents and managers commit a crime when they demand enormous exertions

of such young singers. The rehearsals, which are held in abominably

bad air, the late hours, the irregular life that is occasioned by

rehearsals, the strain of standing around for five or six hours in a

theatre,--all this is not for untrained young persons. No woman of

less than twenty-four years should sing soubrette parts, none of less

than twenty-eight years second parts, and none of less than

thirty-five years dramatic parts; that is early enough. By that time

proper preparation can be made, and in voice and person something can

be offered worth while. And our fraternity must realize this sooner or

later. In that way, too, they will learn more and be able to do more,

and fewer sins will be committed against the art of song by the