The Tongue

Since it is the function of the tongue to conduct the column of breath

above the larynx to the resonance chambers, too much attention cannot

be given to it and its position, in speaking as well as in singing. If

it lies too high or too low, it may, by constricting the breath,

produce serious changes in the tone, making it pinched or even

shutting it off entirely.

It has an extremely delicate and difficult
task to perform. It must be

in such a position as not to press upon the larynx. Tongue and larynx

must keep out of each other's way, although they always work in

cooeperation; but one must not hamper the other, and when one can

withdraw no farther out of the way, the other must take it upon

itself to do so. For this reason the back of the tongue must be raised

high, the larynx stand low.

The tongue must generally form a furrow. With the lowest tones it lies

relatively flattest, the tip always against and beneath the front

teeth, so that it can rise in the middle.

As soon as the furrow is formed, the mass of the tongue is put out of

the way, since it stands high on both sides. It is almost impossible

to make drawings of this; it can best be seen in the mirror. As soon

as the larynx is low enough and the tongue set elastically against the

palate and drawn up behind (see plate a), the furrow is formed of

itself. In pronouncing the vowel ah (which must always be mixed with

[=oo] and o), it is a good idea to think of yawning.

The furrow must be formed in order to allow the breath to resonate

against the palate beneath the nose, especially in the middle range;

that is, what a bass and a baritone (whose highest range is not now

under consideration) would call their high range, all other voices

their middle.

Without the furrow in the tongue, no tone is perfect in its resonance,

none can make full use of it. The only exception is the very highest

head and falsetto tones, which are without any palatal resonance and

have their place solely in the head cavities. Strong and yet delicate,

it must be able to fit any letter of the alphabet; that is, help form

its sound. It must be of the greatest sensitiveness in adapting itself

to every tonal vibration, it must assist every change of tone and

letter as quick as a flash and with unerring accuracy; without

changing its position too soon or remaining too long in it, in the

highest range it must be able almost to speak out in the air.

With all its strength and firmness this furrow must be of the utmost

sensitiveness toward the breath, which, as I have often said, must not

be subjected to the least pressure above the larynx or in the larynx

itself. Pressure must be limited to the abdominal and chest muscles;

and this might better be called stress than pressure.

Without hindrance the column of breath, at its upper end like

diverging rays of light, must fill and expand all the mucous membranes

with its vibrations equally, diffuse itself through the resonance

chambers and penetrate the cavities of the head.

When the back of the tongue can rise no higher, the larynx must be

lowered. This often happens in the highest ranges, and one needs only

to mingle an oo in the vowel to be sung, which must, however, be

sounded not forward in the mouth but behind the nose. When the

larynx must stand very low, the tongue naturally must not be too

high, else it would affect the position of the larynx. The mass of the

tongue must then be disposed of elsewhere; that is, by the formation

of a furrow (see plate). One must learn to feel and hear it. To keep

the larynx, the back of the tongue, and the palate always in

readiness to offer mutual assistance, must become a habit. I feel the

interplay of tongue and larynx in my own case as shown in the plates.

As soon as we have the tongue under control,--that is, have acquired

the habit of forming a furrow,--we can use it confidently as a support

for the breath and the tone, and for vowels.

On its incurving back it holds firmly the vowels; with its tip, many

of the consonants. With all its elasticity, it must be trained to

great strength and endurance.

I, for instance, after every syllable, at once jerk my tongue with

tremendous power back to its normal position in singing; that is, with

its tip below the front teeth and the base raised. That

goes on constantly, as quick as a flash. At the same time my larynx

takes such a position that the tongue cannot interfere with it, that

is, press upon it. By quickly raising the tongue toward the back, it

is taken out of the way of the larynx, and the mass of the tongue is

cleared from the throat. In the middle range, where the tongue or the

larynx might be too high or too low, the furrow, which is of so much

importance, is formed, in order to lead the vocalized breath first

against the front of the palate beneath the nose, then slowly along

the nose and behind it. Then when the highest point (the peak, which

is extremely extensible) is reached, the pillars of the fauces are

lowered, in order to leave the way for the head tones to the head

cavities entirely free. In doing this, the sides of the tongue are

raised high. Every tongue should occupy only so much space as it can

occupy without being a hindrance to the tone.

The bad, bad tongue! one is too thick, another too thin, a third too

long, a fourth much too short.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are nothing but the excuses of the