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
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