General Remarks

In the preceding chapters, dealing as they do with special subjects or

subdivisions of the main topic, the effort has been to point out and to

suggest some ways in which good vocal habits may be taught, and simple

and effective vocal training carried on with whatever materials there

may be at hand in the shape of books, charts, blackboards, staves, etc.

The leading idea is the correct use of the voice; the particular song or
br /> exercise which maybe sung is of no special importance; the way in which

it is sung is everything.

The benefits of teaching music reading in the schools are a matter of

daily comment. Is it, then, likely that the good resulting from the

formation of correct habits in the use of the voice will fail of

recognition? Not so. For the effect of good vocal training in school

music would be so general and so beneficent that even unfriendly critics

might be silenced.

The first effect upon singing when the thick tone is forbidden and the

attempt made to substitute the use of the voice in the thin or head

register may be disappointing. It will seem to take away all life and

vigor from the singing. Teachers who enjoy hearty singing will get

nervous; they will doubt the value of the innovation. In those grades

where children range in age from twelve to fourteen years, the apparent

loss in vocal power will disconcert the pupils even. Never mind; the

use of the thin register will demonstrate its excellences, and it

will, if slowly yet surely, increase in brilliance and telling quality

of tone.

Again, the compass downward needs to be more restricted at first than

after the children have become habituated to its use. As long as there

is any marked tendency to break into the chest-voice at certain pitches,

the compass should be kept above them; as the tendency weakens, the

voice may with due caution be carried to the lower tones, in higher

grades be it understood. The tone should grow softer as the voice

descends when the lower notes will sound mellow and sweet. At first they

may be quite breathy, but as the vocal bands become accustomed to the

new action, the breathiness will disappear. One thing at a time is

enough to attempt in music, and while a change in the use of the voice

is being sought, it may happen that sacrifices must be made in other

directions; part-singing, until the voices become equalized, that is, of

a similar tone-quality throughout the entire compass, may, as it

requires the singing of tones so low as to occasion easy recurrence to

the thick voice, be so antagonistic to the desired end that it must be

dropped for a time. After the use of the thin voice has become firmly

established, part-singing may be resumed. How low in pitch the lower

part may with safety be carried depends partly upon the age of the

pupils; but until the chest-voice begins to develop at puberty, all

part-singing must be sung very lightly as to the lower part or voice.

There is a class of pupils always to be found in our schools who cannot

sing in tune; they vary in the degree of their inability from those who

can sing only in monotone, to those who can sing in tune when singing

with those whose sense of pitch is good, but alone, cannot. While the

number of entire or partial monotone voices decreases under daily drill

and instruction, yet there always remains a troublesome few, insensible

to distinctions in pitch; it is, in view of the possible improvement

they may make, a difficult matter to deal with them; for if they are

forbidden to sing, the chance to improve is denied them, and if they

sing and constantly drag down the pitch, why the intonation of those who

would otherwise sing true is injuriously affected.

Many who sing monotone when the thick voice is used, do so because the

throat is weak and cannot easily sustain the muscular strain; if they

are trained to the use of the light, thin tone, they can sing in tune.

After children have been under daily music drill for two or three years

in school, if they still sing monotone, it would seem inadvisable to let

them participate with the class in singing. They do themselves no good,

and they certainly injure the singing of the others; for, as before

suggested, constant falling from pitch will in time dull the musical

perceptions of those most gifted by nature.

During the early years of school-life the pupils may often sing out of

tune because the vocal bands and controlling muscles are very weak.

It is an excellent idea to separate the pupils into two classes: First,

those who can sing with reasonably good intonation; and second, those

who can sing only a few tones, or only one.

Let the second class frequently listen while the others sing. They will

thus be taught to note both tone and pitch, and if any musical sense is

dormant, this should arouse it; but, if after long and patient effort a

pupil cannot sing, let him remain silent during the singing period.

Every possible effort should certainly be put forth to teach children to

sing in tune, but yet it is now, and will doubtless remain true, that a

small per cent. cannot be so taught.

The primary causes of monotone singing may be physical or mental; in

many cases, weak vocal organs and feeble nervous power, in others lack

of pitch-perception-- tonal blindness.

The secondary causes include the influences of environment and heredity.

The contempt in which music has been held by a portion of the

English-speaking people from the time of the Reformation until quite

recently, or shall we say until even now, has made its powerful impress

upon opinions, tastes, and natural powers. Singing, with a part of our

population, is literally a lost art, lost through generations of disuse.

It is often urged by educators that each study must help other studies.

The various subjects which are taught must move along, as it were, like

the parts in a musical composition, dependent upon, sustaining, and

harmonious with each other. Now, while it is not within the scope of

this work to discuss the relation of music to other studies in all of

its bearings, it is yet clearly in line with its general tenor to

suggest that the tone in singing will react upon the speaking-voice, and

vice versa.

Now, if pupils recite and speak with a noisy, rough tone, it will not be

easy to secure sweet, pure tone from them when they sing; but, on the

other hand, while they may be specially trained in good singing-tone, it

will not, as a result, follow that the speaking-voice will be similarly

modified. Special attention must be given to this also; but if children

invariably sing with pure tone, it must be very easy to direct them into

good vocal habits in speaking and reading.

It is no more necessary for children to recite in that horrible, rasping

tone sometimes heard, than it is to sing with harsh tone; and if the

same principles are applied to the speaking-voice as are herein given

for the management of the singing-voice, in so far as they may be

applicable, this harshness and coarseness may be avoided. It is the

pushed, forced tone in speech or song that is disagreeable.

If teachers will consign to well-merited oblivion those two phrases,

"speak up" and "sing out," and will, instead, secure purity and easy

production of tone, with distinctness of articulation, they will do

wisely. Let us not hesitate to teach our pupils to know and to feel that

which is beautiful, and good, and true, that our schools may promote the

growth of good taste, and stand for the highest morality and the best