There are no magic cures for the singer. Only slowly, vibration upon
vibration, can the true pitch be won back. In the word soaring lies
the whole idea of the work. No more may the breath be allowed to flow
uncontrolled through the wearied vocal cords; it must be forced
against the chest, always, as if it were to come directly out thence.
The throat muscles must lie fallow until they have lost the habit of
action; until the overtones again soar as they should,
and are kept soaring long, though quite piano. At first this seems
quite impossible, and is indeed very difficult, demanding all the
patient's energy. But it is possible, and he cannot avoid it, for it
is the only way to a thorough cure. The patient has an extremely
disagreeable period to pass through. If he is industrious and careful,
he will soon find it impossible to sing in his old way; but the new
way is for the most part quite unfamiliar to him, because his ear
still hears as it has previously been accustomed to hear. It may be
that years will pass before he can again use the muscles, so long
maltreated. But he should not be dismayed at this prospect. If he can
no longer use his voice in public as a singer, he certainly can as a
teacher--for a teacher must be able to sing well. How should he
describe to others sensations in singing which he himself never felt?
Is it not as if he undertook to teach a language that he did not speak
himself? or an instrument that he did not play himself? When he
himself does not hear, how shall he teach others to hear?
The degree of the evil, and the patient's skill, naturally have much
to do with the rapidity of the cure. But one cannot throw off a habit
of years' standing like an old garment; and every new garment, too, is
uncomfortable at first. One cannot expect an immediate cure, either of
himself or of others. If the singer undertakes it with courage and
energy, he learns to use his voice with conscious understanding, as
should have been done in the beginning.
And he must make up his mind to it, that even after a good cure, the
old habits will reappear, like corns in wet weather, whenever he is
not in good form physically. That should not lead to discouragement;
persistence will bring success.
As I have already said, singers with disabled voices like best to try
magic cures; and there are teachers and pupils who boast of having
effected such magic cures in a few weeks or hours.
Of them I give warning! and equally, of unprincipled physicians
who daub around in the larynx, burn it, cut it, and make everything
worse instead of better.
I cannot comprehend why singers do not unite to brand such people
publicly and put an end to their doings once for all.
There is no other remedy than a slow, very careful study of the
causes of the trouble, which in almost all cases consist in lack of
control of the stream of breath through the vocal cords, and in
disregard of the head tones, that is, of the overtones; as well as in
forcing the pitch and power of the tone upon a wrong resonating point
of the palate, and in constricting the throat muscles. In these points
almost invariably are all mistakes to be looked for; and in the
recognition of them the proper means for correcting them are already
The cure is difficult and tedious. It needs an endless patience on the
part of the sufferer as well as of the physician--that is, of the
pupil and the singing teacher (the only proper physician for this
disease)--because the nerves of the head are already sufficiently
unstrung through the consciousness of their incapacity; yet they
should be able to act easily and without effort in producing the head
The repairing of a voice requires the greatest sympathetic
appreciation and circumspection on the part of the teacher, who should
always inspire the pupil with courage; and on the part of the pupil,
all his tranquillity, nervous strength, and patience, in order to
reach the desired goal.
Where there is a will there is a way!