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Title: The Child-Voice in Singing - treated from a physiological and a practical standpoint - and especially adapted to schools and boy choirs
Author: Howard, Francis E.
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

                THE CHILD-VOICE
                  IN SINGING

                 Treated From

   A Physiological and a Practical Standpoint
       and Especially Adapted to Schools
                 and Boy Choirs

               FRANCIS E. HOWARD

   Supervisor of Music in the Public Schools
         and Choirmaster of St. John’s
             and Trinity Churches,
               Bridgeport, Conn.


          New York: The H. W. Gray Co.
                Sole Agents For
          NOVELLO & CO., Ltd., London
      Made in the United States of America

    Copyright, 1895
    By F. E. HOWARD

    Copyright, 1898

    Copyright renewed, 1923


One of the most encouraging signs of the growth of musical taste and
understanding at the present time as regards the singing of children,
is the almost unanimous acquiescence of choirmasters, supervisors,
teachers, and others in the idea that children should sing softly, and
avoid loud and harsh tones; and the author ventures to hope that the
first edition of this book has helped, in a measure at least, to bring
about this state of opinion.

It is true that for a long time the art of training children’s voices
has been well understood by choirmasters of vested choirs, and by many
others, but its basis was purely empirical.

Something more, however, than the dictum of individual taste and
judgment is needed to convince the educators of our schools of the
wisdom of any departure from established customs and practices. The
primary end, then, of the author has been to show a scientific basis for
the use of what is herein called the head-voice of the child, and to
adduce, from a study of the anatomy and physiology of the larynx and
vocal organs, safe principles for the guidance of those who teach
children to sing.

The conditions under which music is taught in schools call for an appeal
to the understanding first, and taste afterward. These conditions are:

First, the actual teaching of music is done by class-room or grade
teachers. The special teacher, who usually supervises also, visits each
room, it may be as often as once a week, but in most towns and cities
not oftener than once in three or four weeks. At any rate the class form
their ideals and habits from the daily lessons, which are given by their
grade teacher.

Second, these teachers in the great majority of cases acquire their
knowledge of music through teaching it, and must also, it can easily be
understood, develop a sense of discrimination in musical matters in the
same way. There is a strong natural tendency in the school-rooms to
emphasize the _teaching_ of music, or teaching about music, as
contrasted with actual singing. The importance of using the voice
properly will not suggest itself to many teachers.

It is necessary, then, that this, which is the essence of all
instruction in vocal music, should be brought to the attention of the
vast army of instructors in our public schools in as convincing a way as
is possible. Now the best, and in fact the only way to secure the assent
of our educators to a new idea in school work, is to prove its truth.
“It is useless to dispute about tastes,” and so the less said about
harsh tone to a teacher accustomed to hear it daily, and to like it,
the better; but prove to this teacher that the harsh tone is physically
hurtful to the child, and that for physiological reasons the voice
should be used softly and gently, and you have won a convert, one, too,
who will quickly recognize the æsthetic phase of the change in voice
use. The author knows from observation and experience that children in
the public schools can, under existing conditions, be taught good habits
of voice use. There are wonderful possibilities of musical development,
in the study of music in schools, and the active interest of every
musician and music lover should be exercised to the end that its
standard may be kept high.


It will be generally admitted by those who are able to judge, that the
singing of children is more often disagreeable than pleasant, and yet
the charm of childhood and the effect of custom are so potent that many
who are keenly alive to any deficiency in the adult singer, listen with
tolerance, and it would seem with a degree of pleasure even, to the
harsh tones of children.

This tolerance of rough, strident singing by children is as strange as
the singing. It cannot be right for children to sing with the coarse,
harsh tone that is so common, and it is not right, although there is a
prevalent idea that such singing is natural, that is, unavoidable.

This idea is false. The child singing-voice is not rough and harsh
unless it is misused. The truth of this statement can be easily
demonstrated. If it were not true it would be difficult to justify the
teaching of vocal music in schools, or the employment of boy sopranos in
church choirs.

It seems to the author that the chief difficulty experienced by teachers
and instructors of singing, in dealing with children, lies in the
assumption, expressed or implied, that their voices are to be treated as
we treat the voices of adults-- adult women; but the vocal organs of the
child differ widely from those of the adult in structure, strength and
general character. As a consequence, there is a marked difference in

Vocal music has been very generally introduced into the schools of our
country during the past few years, and there is evidently a very general
and earnest desire that children be taught to sing. It is also the wish
of those who are teachers to do their work well.

While there are many books to aid educators upon every other subject
taught in public schools, the literature on the voice, particularly the
singing-voice, is meagre, and it is believed that some direct, practical
hints on this topic may be welcome.

The following pages are the result of several years’ experience in
teaching, and of careful study of children’s voices. The author has
attempted to describe the physiological characteristics of the
child-voice and to give some practical hints regarding its management.
It is sincerely hoped that what is herein written may be useful and
helpful to those engaged in teaching children to sing.

  Bridgeport, Conn.
  December, 1895


  Preface to the Second Edition,                    3

  Preface,                                          7

  Physiology of the Voice,                         13

  Registers of the Voice,                          25

  How To Secure Good Tone,                         44

  Compass of the Child-Voice,                      72

  Position, Breathing, Attack, Tone-Formation,     81

  Vowels, Consonants, Articulation,                95

  Mutation of the Voice,                          112

  The Alto Voice in Male Choirs,                  125

  General Remarks,                                132



In former times the culture of the singing-voice was conducted upon
purely empirical grounds. Teachers followed a few good rules which had
been logically evolved from the experience of many schools of singing.

We are indebted to modern science, aided by the laryngoscope, for many
facts concerning the action of the larynx, and more especially the vocal
cords in tone-production. While the early discoveries regarding the
mechanism of the voice were hopefully believed to have solved all
problems concerning its cultivation, experience has shown the futility
of attempting to formulate a set of rules for voice-culture based alone
upon the incomplete data furnished by the laryngoscope. This instrument
is a small, round mirror which is introduced into the throat at such an
angle, that if horizontal rays of light are thrown upon it, the larynx,
which lies directly beneath, is illuminated and reflected in the mirror
at the back of the mouth-- the laryngoscope. Very many singers and
teachers, of whom Manuel Garcia was the first, have made use of this
instrument to observe the action of their vocal bands in the act of
singing, and the results of these observations are of the greatest
value. Still, as before said, the laryngoscope does not reveal all the
secrets of voice-production. While it tells unerringly of any departure
from the normal, or of pathological change in the larynx, it does not
tell whether the larynx belongs to the greatest living singer or to one
absolutely unendowed with the power of song. Also, the subject of vocal
registers is as vexing to-day as ever.

While, then, we may confidently expect further and more complete
elucidation of the physiology of the voice, there is yet sufficient data
to guide us safely in vocal training, if we neglect not the empirical
rules which the accumulated experience of the past has established.

The organ by which the singing-voice is produced is the larynx. It forms
the upper extremity of the windpipe, which again is the upper portion
and beginning of the bronchial tubes, which, extending downward, branch
off from its lower part to either side of the chest and continually
subdivide until they become like little twigs, around which cluster the
constituent parts of the lungs, which form the bellows for the supply of
air necessary to the performance of vocal functions. Above, the larynx
opens into the throat and the cavities of the pharynx, mouth, nose, and
its accessory cavities, which constitute the resonator for vocal
vibrations set up within the larynx.

The larynx itself consists of a framework of cartilages joined by
elastic membranes or ligaments, and joints. These cartilages move freely
toward and upon each other by means of attached muscles. Also the larynx
as a whole can be moved in various directions by means of extrinsic
muscles joined to points above and below.

The vocal bands are two ligaments or folds of mucous membrane attached
in front to the largest cartilage of the larynx, called the thyroid, and
which forms in man the protuberance commonly called Adam’s apple; and,
extending horizontally backward, are inserted posteriorly into the
arytenoid cartilages, the right vocal band into the right arytenoid
cartilage and the left band into the left cartilage. These arytenoid
cartilages, by means of an articulation or joint, move freely upon the
cricoid, the second large cartilage of the larynx, forming its base, and
sometimes called the ring cartilage, from its resemblance in shape to a
seal ring. The vocal bands are composed of numberless elastic fibres
running in part parallel to each other, and in part interwoven in
various directions with each other. The fibres also vary in length; some
are inserted into the extending projections, called processes of the
arytenoid cartilages, and some extend further back and are inserted into
the body of the cartilages. The vocal bands, then, lie opposite each
other, on a level, raised a little in front, and with a narrow slit
between, called the glottis.

The muscles controlling the action of the vocal bands, and which
regulate the mechanism producing sound, are of three groups, viz.,
abductors (drawing-apart muscles), adductors (drawing-together muscles),
and tensors.

The abductors act to keep the bands apart during respiration, while the
function of the adductors and tensors is to bring the bands into
position for speech or singing. They are, since phonation is at will,
voluntary muscles; but it is an interesting fact that the laryngeal
muscles of either side invariably act together. It has been shown that
it is not possible to move one vocal cord without the other at the same
time executing the same movement. It is thus shown that the laryngeal
muscles are, to a less extent, under the control of the will than are
those of either hand or eye. The rational training of the singing-voice
cannot, therefore, proceed upon any theory based upon the voluntary
training of the muscles controlling the movements of the vocal cords.

The mucous membrane which lines the larynx is liberally supplied with
secreting glands, whose function is to keep the parts moist. Above the
vocal bands, another pair of membranous ligaments are stretched across
the larynx forming, with its sides and the vocal bands, a pouch or
pocket. The upper ligaments are sometimes called the false vocal cords,
but are more properly termed ventricular bands. Their function has
occasioned much speculation, but whatever modification of tone they may
be supposed to produce, they no doubt protect the true vocal bands and
permit their free vibration. The larynx, in the production of sound, may
be compared to an organ-pipe. The two vocal cords which act
simultaneously and are anatomically alike, when set in vibration by the
blast of air coming from the lungs, correspond to the reed of the
organ-pipe; the vibration of the cords, producing sound, which is
communicated to the air enclosed in the cavities of the chest and head.
Pitch of tone is determined by the rapidity of vibrations of the bands,
according to acoustical law, and the length, size, and tension of the
cords will determine the number of vibrations per second, _i.e._, their

Strength or loudness of tone is determined primarily by the width or
amplitude of the vibrations of the vocal membrane, and quality or timbre
is determined by the form of the vibration.

The infinitely varying anatomical divergencies in the form and structure
of the nasal, pharyngeal and throat cavities, and possibly the
composition of the vocal bands, modifies, in numberless ways, the
character of tone in speech or song. It is a fascinating topic, but must
be dismissed here with the remark that, as those anatomical differences
in structure are far less marked in children than in adults, their
voices are, in consequence, more alike in quality and strength. It takes
long, patient training to blend adult voices, but children’s voices,
when properly used, are homogeneous in tone.

The voices of boys and girls, prior to the age of puberty, are alike.
The growth of the larynx, which in each is quite rapid up to the age of
six years, then, according to all authorities with which the writer is
conversant, ceases, and the vocal bands neither lengthen nor thicken, to
any appreciable extent, before the time of change of voice, which occurs
at the age of puberty.

It is scarcely possible, however, that the larynx literally remains
_unchanged_ through the period of the child’s life, extending from the
age of six to fourteen or fifteen years. In point of fact, authorities
upon the subject refer only to the lack of growth and development in
_size_ of the larynx during the period; but _undoubtedly, during these
years, there is a constant gaining of firmness and strength, in both the
cartilages and their connecting membranes and muscles_. None of the
books written upon the voice have even mentioned this most important
fact. It bears with great significance upon questions relating to the
capacities of the child’s voice at different ages, and explains that
phenomenon called the “movable break,” which has puzzled so many in
their investigations of the registers of the child’s voice. The
constant, though of course extremely slow, hardening of the
cartilaginous portions of the larynx, and the steady increase in the
strength of its muscles and ligaments is not in the least inconsistent
with the previously noted fact, that the vocal bands during this time
increase to no appreciable extent in length; for, it may be observed,
after the change of voice, which often occurs with great rapidity, and
during which the vocal bands increase to double their previous length in
males, that, though the pitch of the voice, owing to increased length of
the bands, suddenly lowers, yet not until full maturity is reached, do
the laryngeal cartilages attain that rigidity, or the vocal bands that
ready elasticity essential to the production of pure, resonant voice.
Yet, during these years, while the voice is developing, the vocal bands
remain unchanged in _length_. Even in those cases where the voice
changes slowly in consequence of the slow growth in length and thickness
of the vocal cords, it takes several years, after laryngeal development
has ceased, for the voice to attain its full size and resonance.

Furthermore, the continual increase in strength and firmness of the
larynx from six years onward to puberty, is consistent with the constant
growth in strength and firmness of tissue characterizing the entire
body. It is again proven by the continual improvement in the power and
timbre of the tone through this period, always premising, be it
understood, that the voice is used properly, and never forced beyond its
natural capabilities. The voice, at the age of eleven or twelve, is far
stronger, and is capable of more sustained effort than at the age of six
or seven years, and, for the year or two preceding the break of voice,
the brilliance and power of boys’ voices, especially in the higher
tones, is often phenomenal, and in all cases is far superior to that of
previous years.

The resemblance between the voices of boys and girls, a resemblance
which amounts to identity, save that the voices of boys are stronger and
more brilliant in quality, disappears at puberty.

Among the physical changes which occur at this period is a marked growth
of the larynx, sufficient to alter entirely the pitch and character of
the boy’s voice. As a female larynx is affected to a lesser extent, the
voices of girls undergo little change in pitch, but become eventually
more powerful, and richer in tone.

This break of the voice, as it is called, occurs at about the age of
fifteen years in this climate, but often a year or two earlier, and not
infrequently a year or two later. The growth of the larynx goes on, with
greater or less rapidity, varying in different individuals, for from six
months to two or three years, until it attains its final size. In boys,
the larynx doubles in size, and the vocal bands increase in the
proportion of five to ten in length. This great gain in the length of
the vocal cords is due to the lateral development of the larynx, for the
male larynx, in its entirety, increases more in depth than in height.
The result is a drop of an octave in the average boy’s voice, the longer
bands producing lower tones. The change in size in the female larynx is
in the proportion of five to seven, and the increase is in height
instead of depth or width as in the male larynx. The vocal cords of
women are, therefore, shorter, thinner and narrower than are those of

The reason assigned for the peculiar antics of the boy’s voice, during
the break, is unequal rapidity in the growth and development of the
cartilages and of the muscles of the larynx. The muscles develop more
slowly than do the cartilages, and so abnormal physical conditions
produce abnormal results in phonation.

No further changes occur in the laryngeal structure until middle life,
when ossification of the cartilages commences. The thyroid is first
affected, then the cricoid, and the arytenoids much later.

The consequent rigidity of the larynx occasions diminished compass of
the singing-voice, the notes of the upper register being the first to
disappear. In some few cases of arrested development, the voice of the
man retains the soprano compass of the boy through life.



It may be observed, in listening to an ascending series of tones sung by
an untrained or by a badly-trained adult voice, that at certain pitches
the tone-quality undergoes a radical change; while a well-trained singer
will sing the same series of tones without showing any appreciable break
or change in tone-quality, although the highest note will present a
marked contrast in timbre to the lowest. The breaks or changes in
register so noticeable in the untrained voice are covered or equalized
in the voice trained by correct methods. These breaks in both male and
female voices occur at certain pitches where the tone-producing
mechanism of the larynx changes action, and brings the vocal bands into
a new vibratory form. “A register consists of a series of tones produced
by the same mechanism.”-- Emil Behnke in “Voice, Song, and Speech.”
G. Edward Stubbs, in commenting upon the above definition, says:

“By mechanism is meant the action of the larynx which produces
_different sets of vibrations_, and by register is meant the range of
voice confined to a given set of vibrations. In passing the voice from
one register to another, the larynx changes its mechanism and calls into
play a different form of vibration.”

The number of vocal registers, or vibratory forms, which the vocal bands
assume, is still a matter of dispute, and their nomenclature is equally
unsettled. The old Italian singing-masters gave names to parts of the
vocal compass corresponding to the real or imaginary bodily sensations
experienced in singing them; as chest-voice, throat-voice, head-voice.
Madame Seiler, in “The Voice in Singing,” gives as the result of
original investigations with the laryngoscope five different actions of
the vocal bands which she classifies as “first and second series of the
chest-register,” “first and second series of the falsetto register” and
“head-register.” Browne and Behnke, in “Voice, Song, and Speech,” divide
the male voice into three registers, and the female into five. They are
termed “lower thick,” “upper thick,” “lower thin,” “upper thin” and
“small.” Other writers speak of three registers, “chest,” “medium” and
“head,” and still others of two only, viz., the chest and the head.

Modern research has shown what was after all understood before, that, if
the vibratory form assumed by the vocal bands for the natural production
of a certain set of tones is pushed by muscular exertion above the point
where it should cease, inflammation and weakening of the vocal organs
will result, while voice-deterioration is sure to follow.
A physiological basis has reinforced the empirical deductions of the old
Italian school. In dealing with children’s voices, it is necessary to
recognize only two registers, the thick, or chest-register, and the
thin, or head-register. Further subdivisions will only complicate the
subject without assisting in the practical management of their voices.
Tones sung in the thick or chest-register are produced by the full, free
vibration of the vocal bands in their entire length, breadth and
thickness. The tones of the thin or head-register result from the
vibration of the vocal bands along their inner edges alone.

We may then conclude from the foregoing that _children up to the age of
puberty, at least in class or chorus singing, should use the thin or
head-register only_.

1st. It is from a physiological standpoint entirely safe. The use of
this register will not strain or overwork the delicate vocal organs of

2d. Its tones are musical, pure and sweet, and their use promotes the
growth of musical sensibility and an appreciation of beauty in tone.

3d. The use of the thick or chest-voice in class-singing is dangerous.
It is wellnigh impossible to confine it within proper limits.

It is unnecessary to discuss the second point. Anyone who has noted the
contrast between the harsh quality of tone emitted from childish throats
when using the chest-voice, and the pure, flute-like sound produced when
the head-tones are sung will agree that the last is music and the first
noise, or at any rate very noisy, barbaric music.

The third point, if true, establishes the first, for, if the chest-voice
cannot be safely used, it follows that children must use the
head-register or stop singing. It must be said, before proceeding
further, that it is not denied that the thick voice can be used by
children without injury, if properly managed; that is, if the singing be
not too loud, and if it be not carried too high. It is also fully
recognized, that, when theoretically the head-voice alone is used, it
yet, when carried to the lower tones, insensibly blends into the thick
register; but if this equalization of registers is obtained so
completely that no perceptible difference in quality of voice can be
observed, why then the whole compass is practically the thin or

Now, can the thick voice be used in school-singing, and confined to the
lower notes? And is it fairly easy to secure soft and pure vocalizations
in this register? Let the experience of thousands of teachers in the
public schools of this and other lands answer the last question.

It would be as easy to stop the growth of the average boy with a word,
or to persuade a crowd of youngsters to speak softly at a game of
baseball, as to induce them, or girls either for that matter, to use the
voice gently, when singing with that register in which it is possible to
push the tone and shout.

There should be some good physiological reason for the habitual recourse
to the strident chest-voice so common with boys, and nearly as usual
with girls. And there is a good reason. It is _lack of rigidity in the
voice-box or larynx_. Its cartilages harden slowly, and even just before
the age of puberty the larynx falls far short of the firmness and
rigidity of structure, that characterize the organ in adult life. It is
physically very difficult for the adult to force the chest-voice beyond
its natural limits, which become fixed when full maturity of bodily
development is reached, but the child, whose laryngeal cartilages are
far more flexible, and move toward and upon each other with greater
freedom, can force the chest-voice up with great ease. The altitude of
pitch which is attained before breaking into the thin register is with
young children regulated by the amount of muscular exertion they put
forth. Even up to the change of voice, boys can often force the thick
register several notes higher than women sopranos.

It must be borne in mind that the thick voice is produced by the full,
free vibrations of the vocal bands in their entire length, breadth and

Imagine children six years of age carrying tones formed in this manner
to the extreme limit of their voice; yet they do it. The tone of infant
classes in Sunday-schools, and the tone of the primary schools, as they
sing their morning hymns or songs for recreation, is produced in nine
hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand in exactly the way set
forth. If the vocal bands of children were less elastic, if they were
composed of stronger fibres, and protected from undue exertion by firm
connecting cartilage; in short, if children were not children, such
forcing would not be possible. If it were not for the wonderful
recuperative power of childhood, serious effects would follow such vocal

We are now prepared to understand that common phenomenon of the
child-voice, termed the “movable break.” Every public school teacher who
has had experience in teaching singing must be familiar with the meaning
of the term, though possibly unaware of it. Allusion has already been
made to the fact that, in primary grades, the thick quality, if
permitted, will be carried as high as the children sing, to

    [Music: e'']

for example. If they are required to sing the higher tones lightly, then
the three or four tones, just below the pitch indicated, will be sung in
a thin quality of voice. The place of the break or the absence of any
break at all will depend upon the degree of loudness permitted.

Pass now to a grade in which the pupils average eleven years of age.
These can use the thick tones as high as

    [Music: d'' e'']

only with great exertion, and, if required to sing softly, will pass
into the thin register at a lower pitch than the primary class. Now, go
to a room where the children range in age from thirteen to fifteen
years. The girls will still use thick tones up to

    [Music: b' c'' d'']

The pitch at which the break occurs will vary in individual cases
according to physique or ambition to sing well; but the boys (excluding
those whose voices have begun to break) will manifest the utmost
repugnance to singing the higher notes. “Can’t sing high” will be the
reply when you ask them why they do not sing. And they are correct. They
cannot, not with the thick voice. Even when putting forth considerable
exertion, they will pass to the thin voice at

    [Music: g' {or} a']

and lower, if they sing softly. This phenomenon, then, is the “movable
break” of the child-voice. The pitch at which the child-voice passes
from the thick to the thin voice depends first upon the age; second,
upon the amount of physical energy employed, and third, upon the bodily
vigor of the child.

It may also be added that boys’ voices break lower than girls’ during
the year or two preceding change of voice. When, now, it is remembered
that the adult female voice leaves the chest-register at

    [Music: f' f#']

it will be admitted by everyone who has had actual experience in class
singing in schools or elsewhere, that the facts set forth in reference
to the ability of the child to carry the thick voice from one to eight
tones higher than the adult, has a very important bearing on the subject
of training children’s voices.

But, is it physically injurious? It may be said that, as regards upward
forcing of the vocal register, authorities upon the adult voice are
united. Leo Kofler, in “The Art of Breathing,” p. 168, says: “I have met
female trebles that used this means of forcing up the chest-tones as
high as middle A, B, C, and (one can hardly conceive of the physical
possibility of so doing) even as far as D and E flat. The reason why
this practice is so dangerous lies in the unnatural way in which the
larynx is held down in the throat, and in the force that is exercised by
the tension muscles of the vocal ligaments and the hard pressure of the
muscles of the tongue-bone.... I have examined with the laryngoscope
many ladies who had the habit of singing the chest-tones too high, and,
without exception, I have found their throats in a more or less diseased
condition. Laryngitis, either alone or complicated with pharyngitis,
relaxation of the vocal ligaments, and sometimes paralysis of one of
them, are the most frequent results of this bad habit. If a singer is
afflicted with catarrhal trouble, it is always aggravated by this
abominable method of singing.”

Emma Seiler, in “The Voice in Singing,” p. 54, after describing the
action of the vocal ligaments in the production of the chest-voice and
alluding to the fact that such action can be continued several tones
higher than the proper transitional point, goes on: “But such tones,
especially in the female voice, have that rough and common timbre, which
we are too often compelled to hear in our female singers. The glottis
also in this case, as well as parts of the larynx near the glottis,
betrays the effort very plainly; as the tones ascend, they grow more and
more red. _Thus, as at this place in the chest-register, there occurs a
visible and sensible straining of the organs, so also is it in all the
remaining transitions, as soon as the attempt is made to extend the
action by which the lower tones are formed beyond the given limits of
the same_.” And again: “In the ignorance existing concerning the natural
transitions of the registers, and in the unnatural forcing of the voice,
is found a chief cause of the decline in the art of singing, and the
present inability to preserve the voice is the consequence of a method
of teaching unnatural, and, therefore, imposing too great a strain upon
the voice.” Quotations innumerable might be made, to give more emphasis,
were it needed, to the evils of register forcing.

The only point remaining is the one very often raised. Is it not
_natural for children_ to use the chest or thick voice? If their vocal
organs are so flexible, may they not carry such tones higher than
adults, and younger children higher than those a little older, and
so on?

It is quite obvious, for reasons herein set forth, that children do not
experience the same degree of difficulty in continuing the use of the
thick voice to their higher tones as do adults, but as to the effect
upon their vocal organs there need be no reasonable doubt. A. B. Bach,
in “Principles of Singing,” p. 142, says: “If children are allowed to
sing their higher notes forte, before the voice is properly equalized,
it will become hard, harsh and hoarse, and they will fail in correct
intonation. A mistake in this direction not only ruins the middle
register but destroys the voice altogether. The consequence of
encouraging forte singing is to change a soprano rapidly to an alto; and
they will generally sing alto equally forte because their vocal cords
have lost their elasticity through overstraining and the notes will no
longer answer to piano. . . . . The fact is that reckless singing often
breaks tender voices and breaks them forever.” It may be observed that
the writer cited evidently accepts the same classification in register
for children and adult women’s voices, but this does not make the above
extract any less applicable. The baneful effects of forcing the voice is
clearly set forth. How to avoid it is another matter.

Leo Kofler, in the work previously mentioned, p. 168, refers to this
point as follows: “It frequently happens that the tones of the lower
range, or the so-called chest-tones, are forced up too high into the
middle range. This bad habit is often contracted while the singers are
quite young. Boy trebles have this habit to an unendurable degree,
usually screaming those horrible chest-tones up to middle C. Of all bad
habits, this one is the most liable to injure a voice and to detract
from artistic singing.”

To cite Madame Seiler once more, p. 176: “While it often happens that at
the most critical age while the vocal organs are being developed,
children sing with all the strength they can command. Boys, however, in
whom the larynx at a certain period undergoes an entire transformation,
reach only with difficulty the higher soprano or contralto tones, but
are not assigned a lower part until perceiving themselves the
impossibility of singing in this way, they beg the teacher for the
change, often too late, unhappily, to prevent an irreparable injury.
Moderate singing without exertion, and above all things, within the
natural limits of the voice and its registers, would even during the
period of growth be as little hurtful as speaking, laughing or any other
exercise which cannot be forbidden to the vocal organs.”

Browne and Behnke, who separately and together have given most valuable
additions to the literature of the voice, in a small book entitled “The
Child-Voice,” have collated a large number of answers from distinguished
singers, teachers and choir-trainers to various questions relating to
the subject. The following citation is from this interesting work,
p. 39: “The necessity of limiting the compass of children’s voices is
frequently insisted upon, no attention whatever being paid to
_registers_; and yet in finitely more mischief is done by forcing the
registers than would be accomplished by allowing children to exceed the
compass generally assigned to them, always provided that the singing be
the result of using the mechanism set apart by nature for different
parts of the voice.”

There can really be no doubt that the use of the chest or thick voice
upon the higher tones is injurious to a child of six years, or ten
years, or of any other age. The theory that in the child-voice the
breaks occur at higher fixed pitches than in the adult is shown to be
untenable. The fact would seem to be that comparisons between the
registers of the child and the adult voice are misleading, since the
adult voice has fixed points of change in the vocal mechanism, which can
be transcended only with great difficulty, while the child-voice has _no
fixed points of change in its vocal registers_. This point must not be
overlooked. It is the most important fact connected with the child-voice
in speech or song. It is the fundamental idea of this work and is the
basis for whatever suggestions are herein contained upon the management
of the child-voice. The rigidity of the adult larynx, the strength of
the tensor and adductor muscles and the elastic firmness of the vocal
ligaments, are to those of the child as the solid bony framework and
strongly set muscles of maturity are to the imperfectly hardened bones
and soft muscles of childhood. Nature makes no fixed limits of the vocal
registers until full maturity is reached. A fixed register in a childish
throat involving a completely developed larynx would be a startling
anomaly. The laryngeal muscles of childhood are not strong. They are
weak. Most of the talk about strength of voice in children is utter
nonsense. When the muscles and other parts concerned in tone-production
perform their physiological functions in a healthy manner, that is, in
such a way that no congestion, or inflammation or undue weariness will
result, the singing-tone of the child will never be loud. High or low,
under these conditions it must perforce be soft, and if proper
directions be followed the quality will be as good as the voice is
capable of.

Everyone who has observed has also noticed the contrast in the lower
tones of children and women. The chest-voice of the woman, which she
uses in singing her lower register, is normally very beautiful in its
quality. Its tones are the product of a perfectly developed, full-grown
organ. The chest-voice of the child is an abnormal product of a weak,
growing, undeveloped organ. It possesses, even when used carefully,
little of the tone tints of the adult voice. The chest-voice belongs to
adult life, not to childhood. The so-called chest-voice of children is
only embryonic. It cannot be musical, for the larynx has not reached
that stage of growth and development where it can produce these tones
musically. The constant use of this hybrid register with children is
injurious in many ways. Its use is justified in schools merely through
custom, and it can not be doubted that as soon as the attention of
teachers is called to its evils, they will no longer tolerate its use.

The usual analogies then which are drawn between the adult female voice
and the child-voice, in so far as they imply a similar physiological
condition of the vocal organ and similar vocal training, are not only
useless, but misleading. He who tries to train the average child-voice
on the theory of two, three or five clearly-defined breaks, or natural
changes in the forms for vocal vibration assumed by the vocal bands will
get very little help from nature.

With due consideration it is said that it is a harder task to train
children’s voices properly than to train the voices of adults. Where
nature is so shifty in her ways, it requires keen penetration to
discover her ends.

The child-voice is a delicate instrument. It ought not to be played upon
by every blacksmith.



The practical application of the teaching of the two preceding chapters
may at first thought seem to be difficult. On the contrary, it is quite
easy. We have favorable conditions in schools; graded courses in music,
regular attendance, discipline, and women and men in charge who are
accustomed to teach. No more favorable conditions for teaching vocal
music exist than are to be found in a well-organized and
well-disciplined school. The environments of both pupils and teachers
are exactly adapted to the ready reception of ideas, on the one hand,
and the skilful imparting of them, on the other.

The abilities of the trained teachers of to-day are not half
appreciated. They often possess professional skill of the highest order,
and the supervisor of music in the public schools may count himself
exceedingly fortunate in the means he has at hand for carrying on his
work. But knowledge of voice is no more evolved from one’s inner
consciousness than is knowledge of musical notation, or of the Greek
alphabet; therefore, if regular teachers in the school permit singing
which is unmusical and hurtful, it is chiefly because they are following
the usual customs, and their ears have thereby become dulled, or it may
be that even if the singing is unpleasant to them, that they do not
_know how_ to make it better. As before said, all energies have so far
been directed to the teaching of music reading. Tone has been neglected,
forgotten, or at most its improvement has been sought spasmodically. The
carelessness regarding tone, which is so prevalent, is due to an almost
entire absence of good teaching on the subject of the child-voice-- to
ignorance, let us say-- not altogether inexcusable.

Now and then, when listening to the soprani of some well-trained
boy-choir, sounding soft and mellow on the lower notes and ringing clear
and flutey on the higher, it may have dimly occurred to the teacher of
public school music that there might be things as yet unheard of in his
musical philosophy, a vague wonder and dissatisfaction, which has slowly
disappeared under the pressure of routine work.

When one reflects upon the results which the patience and skill of our
regular teachers have accomplished in teaching pupils to read music; it
can never be reasonably doubted that the same patience and skill, if
rightly directed, will be equally successful in teaching a correct use
of the voice.

Two principles form the basis of good tone-production as applied to
children’s voices.

1st. _They must sing softly._

2d. _They must be restricted in compass of voice._

If these two rules are correctly applied in each grade, if pupils sing
_softly enough_, and carry their tones neither too high nor too low,
always taking into account the grade or average age of the class, then
the voice will be used _only in the thin or head-register_, and the
tones of the thick or chest-register will never be heard. But the two
rules must be as one, for if soft singing be carried too low with infant
voices, they are forced to use the thick tones; and children of all
ages, even if singing within the right compass of voice, will use the
thick register if permitted to sing too loud.

There is nothing particularly original in insisting upon soft singing
from children. The writer has never seen a book of school music that
does not mention its desirability, nor hardly a reference to the
child-voice in the standard works or writings of the day of which this
idea has not formed a part.

The general direction “Sing softly” is good so far as it goes, but is,
first, indefinite. Softly and loudly are relative terms, and subject to
wide diversity of interpretation. The pianissimo of a cultivated singer
is silence compared to the tone emitted by vocalists of the main
strength order, when required to produce soft tone. Secondly, the
direction is seldom or never found coupled with instruction upon the
vocal compass of children. Hence, it does not seem very strange that the
injunction “Sing softly” has not corrected vocal errors in school

It is not easy, it is even impossible, to accurately define soft
singing, and no attempt will be made further than to describe as clearly
as may be the degree of softness which it is necessary to insist upon if
we would secure the use of the thin or head register.

The subject of register has already been discussed, but it may not be
amiss to repeat just here that in the child larynx as in the adult the
head-register is that series of tones which are produced by the
vibration of the thin, inner edges of the vocal band. If breathing is
natural, and if the throat is open and relaxed, no strain in singing
this tone is possible. It is evident in a moment that children with
their thin, delicate vocal ligaments can make this tone even more easily
than adult sopranos, whose vocal ligaments are longer and thicker; and
it is also perfectly evident that no danger of strain to the vocal bands
is incurred when this voice is used, for all the muscles and ligaments
of the larynx are under far less tension than is required for the
production of tones in the thick register.

It must also be remembered in connection with this fact, that children
often enter school at five years of age, and that according to
physiologists the larynx does not reach the full growth in _size_,
incidental to childhood until the age of six years. We must then be
particularly careful with infant classes-- for the vocal bands of
children prior to six years of age are very, very weak. Speaking of
infant voices, Mr. W. M. Miller, in Browne and Behnke’s afore-mentioned
work, “The Child-Voice,” is quoted as saying; “Voice-_training_ cannot
be attempted, but voice-_destruction_ may be prevented. Soft singing is
the cure for all the ills of the vocal organs.” It would be hard to find
a more terse or truthful statement than the first sentence of the above
as regards the voices of little children from five to seven or eight
years of age. It is unmitigated foolishness to talk about vocal training
as applied to children of that age. The voice-culture which is suited to
little children is that sort of culture which promotes growth-- food and
sleep and play. As well train a six months’ old colt for the race track,
as attempt to develop the voice of a child of six or seven years with
exercises on _o_, and _ah_, _pianissimo_ and _fortissimo_, _crescendo_,
_diminuendo_ and _swell_. Their voices must be used in singing as
_lightly as possible_. This answers the question, how softly should they

Children during the first two or three years of school-life may be
permitted to sing from

    [Music: e' e'']

or if the new pitch is used from

    [Music: f' f'']

Two or three practical difficulties will at once occur to the teacher
with reference to songs and exercises which range lower than E first
line, and with reference to the customary teaching of the scale of C as
the initial step in singing.

The subject of compass of children’s voices will be discussed at some
length in a following chapter, but for the present it may be said that
the difficulty with songs and exercises ranging below the pitch
indicated may be overcome easily by pitching the songs, etc., a tone or
two higher. If they then range too high, don’t sing them, sing something
else. In teaching the scale, take E or F as the keynote, and sing either
one or the other of those scales first. The children must sing as softly
as possible in all their singing exercises, whether songs or note drill.
They should be taught to open their mouths well, to sit or stand erect
as the case may be, and under no circumstances should the instructor
sing with them. Too much importance can hardly be given to this last
statement. If teachers persist in leading the songs with their own
voices and in singing exercises with the children, they can and most
probably will defeat all efforts to secure the right tone in either the
first, or any grade up to that in which changed voices are found. This
sounds rather cynical, and might seem to imply that instructors cannot
sing well. The meaning, however, is quite different.

The quality or timbre of the adult woman’s voice is wholly unlike that
of the child’s thin register. Her medium tones, even when sung softly,
have a fuller and more resonant quality, and if she lead in songs, etc.,
the pupils, with the proverbial aptitude for imitation, will inevitably
endeavor to imitate her tone-quality. They can only do so by using the
thick register, which it is so desirable to utterly avoid. It is worse
yet for a man to lead the singing. Neither should one of the pupils be
allowed to lead, for not only will the one leading force the voice in
the effort, but a chance is offered to any ambitious youngster to pitch
in and outsing the leader; from all of which follows naturally the idea
that all prominence of individual voice must be discouraged, forbidden
even. The songs and exercises must be led, it is true, but by the
teacher and _silently_. Then, again, unless the teacher is silent she
cannot be a good critic. Think of a voice-trainer singing each solfeggio
and song with his pupil during the lesson.

Certainly it is often necessary for the teacher to sing, but only to
illustrate or correct, or to teach a song. In the last, if the teacher
will remain silent while the class repeat the line sung to them, and
will proceed in the same way until the whole is memorized by the class,
not only will time be economized, but the tone can be kept as soft as is
desired and individual shouters checked. Once more it must be insisted
that soft, very soft singing only, can be allowed. And this applies to
the entire compass used. Children of the ages mentioned can, as has
already been shown, break from the thin to the thick voice at any pitch,
it only requiring a little extra push for the upper tones.

Finally, as an excellent test to settle if the tone is soft enough to
ensure the use of the thin register beyond doubt, require the class to
sing so that no particular voice can be distinguished from the others,
which will make the tone as that of one voice, and perhaps lead you to
doubt if all are singing, until convinced by the movement of their
mouths. The tone will seem pretty light and thin, but will be sweet as
the trill of a bird.

_To Distinguish Registers._

The difficulty which may be experienced in attempting to distinguish
between the two registers must not be disregarded. If the voices of
children were never entrusted to any save professional voice-teachers,
a very few hints upon their management would perhaps suffice, for the
ear of the teacher of voice and singing is presumably trained in the
differentiation in tone-quality occasioned by changes in the action of
the vocal mechanism. When, however, we reflect that of the thousands of
teachers in our public schools very few, indeed, have ever heard of
voice-registers, and much less been accustomed to note distinctions in
tone-timbre between them, the need of a detailed plan of procedure is

It is safe to assert that anyone with a musical ear can with a little
patience learn to distinguish one register from another. There is no
vocal transition so marked as the change from thick to thin register in
the child-voice, unless it be the change from the chest to the head or
falsetto in the man’s voice. Suppose we take a class of say twelve from
the fourth year averaging nine years of age. Give them the pitch of C.

    [Music: c']

Require them to sing up the scale loudly. As they reach the upper tone

    [Music: c'']

stop them and ask them to sing that, and the two tones above _very
softly_. The change in tone will be quite apparent. The tone used in
ascending the scale of C, singing loudly, will be reedy, thick and
harsh-- the thick register. The tone upon

    [Music: c'' d'' e'']

singing very softly, will be flute-like, thin and clear-- the thin
register. Again, let them sing E first line with full strength of voice
and then the octave lightly, or have them sing G second line, first
softly and then loudly, or, again, let them ascend the scale of E
singing as light a tone as possible, and then descend singing as loud as
they can. In each case the change from thick to thin voice, or vice
versa, will be illustrated; and in singing the scale of E as suggested,
the break of voice a little higher or lower in individual cases will be
noticed. It is quite possible that some members of the class may use the
thick voice on each tone of the descending scale beginning with the

Care must always be taken that in singing softly the mouth be well
opened. The tendency will be to close it when required to sing lightly,
but the tone, then, will be nothing but a humming noise. It may as well
be said here that a great deal of future trouble and labor may be
avoided, if, from the first, pupils are taught to keep the mouth fairly
well opened, and the lips sufficiently apart to permit the free emission
of tone. Let the lower jaw have a loose hinge, so to speak. It is well
enough to point out also that when the lower jaw drops, the tongue goes
down with it, and should remain extended along the floor of the mouth
with the tip against the teeth while vowel-sounds are sung.

There are many other ways than those already suggested, in which the
distinction between the registers may be shown. Let the whole class sing

    [Music: d'' c'' b']

softly, and then the next lower tone or tones loudly. The thick quality
will be heard easily enough. Or from the room select a pupil, one of the
class who has, in the phraseology of the schoolroom, a good voice, to
sing the scale of D ascending and descending. If the pupil be not timid,
and the kind referred to are not usually, and if loud singing has been
customary, the tone will be coarse and reedy throughout. Now let another
pupil who has what is called a light voice, and who daily sits modestly
in the shade of his boisterous brother, sing the same scale. The tone in
all likelihood will be pure and flutey, at least upon the higher notes.

Take the scale of E now and have each pupil in the room sing it alone.
There may certainly be some who cannot sing the scale, and if the daily
singing has been harsh, the number may be large, but postponing the
consideration of these so-called monotones and directing the attention
wholly to the quality or timbre of tone used by the different pupils, it
may be observed that some use the thick voice only, some use the thin
voice, others break from the thick voice into the thin at one pitch as
they ascend, and from the thin to thick voice at a lower pitch as they
descend; and if required to sing again, may perhaps pass from one voice
to the other at different pitches. Others again may exhibit a blending
of the two voices at certain pitches. In fact, unless the degree of
power is suddenly changed, a break from the thick tone upon one note to
the thin tone upon the next note or vice versa seldom occurs.

The same illustrative tests may be applied to children of any grade, or
of any age up to the period when the voice changes, only the break will
occur lower with older pupils. Suppose, now, the teacher has obtained a
tolerably clear idea of the differences between the registers; she
should then arouse a perception of tone-quality in her pupils. Let the
beauty of soft, light tone as contrasted with loud, harsh tone be once
clearly demonstrated to a class, and the interest and best efforts of
every girl or boy who has the germ of music within them will be
enlisted. Those who grumble because they may not sing out good and loud
may be disregarded, and with a clear conscience. The future will most
likely reveal such incipient lovers of noisy music as pounders of drums
and blowers of brass.

Select now a number of the class who upon trial have been found to have
light, clear voices and who are not prone to shout. Let them sing

    [Music: e'' {or} f'']

and then slowly descend the scale of E or F, singing each tone softly,
and those below C

    [Music: c'']

very lightly. This will insure the uninterrupted use of the thin
register to the lowest note. Let them now sing up and down the scale
several times, observing the same caution when notes below C or B are
sung, and also insisting that no push be given to the upper notes. Now,
first excusing monotones, let the other pupils in the room sing first
down the scale and then up, imitating the quality and softness of tone
of the picked class. Recollect, you are asking something of your pupils
which it is perfectly easy for them to do. It may be that the strength
of well-formed habits stands opposed to the change, but, on the other
hand, every musical instinct latent, or partly awakened, is becoming
alert and proving the truth of your teaching better and faster than can
any finespun reasoning. Illustrate the difference in tone-quality
between the thick and thin register as often as it is necessary, to show
your pupils what you wish to avoid and how you wish them to sing. When
in doubt whether or not the thin quality is being sung, require softer
singing until you are sure. It is better to err upon the side of soft
singing than to take any chances.

In time teachers will become quick to detect the change in register, and
in time also the pupils who are trained to sing in the thin voice will
yield to the force of good habit, as they once did to bad habit, and
seldom offend by too loud or too harsh tone.

The inquiry may naturally have arisen ere this: Are syllables, i.e.,
_do_, _re_, _mi_, etc., to be used, or the vowel-sounds? It is
immaterial from the standpoint of tone-production, whether either or
both are used. Until children are thoroughly accustomed to sing softly,
they will be kept upon the thin register more easily when singing with a
vowel-sound, than when using the syllables. The reason is that the
articulation of the initial consonants of the syllables requires
considerable movement of the organs of speech, viz., the tongue, lips,
etc., and these movements are accompanied by a continually-increasing
outrush of air from the lungs, occasioning a corresponding increase in
the volume of sound. Adult voices show the same tendency to increase the
volume of tone when first applying words to a passage practiced
pianissimo with a vowel-sound. It is advisable then to sing scales and
drill upon them with a vowel-sound, and to recur to the same drill for a
corrective, when a tendency to use the thick voice in singing note
exercises appears.

Scale drill may be carried on as follows: If the scales are written upon
a blackboard staff, they may from day to day be in different keys. It is
a very easy matter to extend the scale neither above nor below the
pitches within which it is desired to confine the voice. For example,
the scale of E or F may be written complete, that of G as follows:

    [Music: {scale in G running down to e' and up to e''}]

or A

    [Music: {scale in A running down to e' and up to f#''}]

or B♭

    [Music: {scale in B♭ running down to e♭' and up to f''}]

and so on. Now let the teacher with a pointer direct the singing of the
class upon the selected scale in such a manner as to secure the desired
result in tone, and incidentally a familiarity with pitch relations,
etc. Of course, if charts are used the trouble of writing scales is
saved, only it is advised that the notes lying outside the prescribed
compass be omitted in the lower grades entirely, and in the upper until
the habit of good tone is established, when, of course, the tones may be
carried below E with safety. The extent and variety of vocal drill which
can be given with a pointer and a scale of notes is wonderful; but
nothing more need be now suggested, than those exercises which are
peculiarly intended to secure good tone, and fix good vocal habits,
although it must be evident that all such drill is very far-reaching in
its effects.

A few exercises which are very simple are here suggested. First, taking
the scale of

    [Music: {scale in F running down to e' and up to f''}]

for example. Let the teacher, after the pitch of the keynote is given to
the class, place the pointer upon F, and slowly moving it from note to
note, ascend and descend the scale, the class singing a continuous tone
upon some vowel, _o_ for instance. The pointer should be passed from
note to note in such a manner that the eye can easily follow it. If the
notes are indicated to the class by a series of dabs at the chart or
blackboard, the pointer each time being carried away from the note
several inches, and then aimed at the next note and so on, the eye
becomes weary in trying to follow its movements, and the mental energy
of the pupils, which should be concentrated upon tone, is wasted in
watching the gyrations of the pointer. If, on the other hand, the
pointer is made to glide from note to note, passing very quickly over
intervening spaces, then the eye is not wearied in trying to follow it.
These directions may seem pretty trivial, but practical experience has
proved their importance. The vowel _o_ is suggested because it has been
found easier to secure the use of the head-register with this vowel than
with _ah_, when it is sought to break up the habit of singing loudly and

The term continuous tone used to describe the style of singing desired
is meant literally. If the class in this scale-drill all stop and take
breath at the same time, making frequent breaks in the continuity of the
tone, there will be found with each new attack a tendency to increase in
volume of sound. For certain reasons, which will be explained in the
chapter on breath-management, the attack of tone will become more and
more explosive, demanding constant repression. This irritating tendency
may, in a short time, be almost entirely overcome, if, instead of
letting the class take breath and attack simultaneously, each pupil is
told to take breath only when he or she is obliged to, and then at once
and softly to join again with the others. This will effect the
continuous tone, useful not alone as a corrective for the tendencies to
loud singing, but also to establish good breathing-habits.

This same swift, silent breath-taking and succeeding soft attack of tone
must be insisted upon in _all_ school singing.

The exercise already suggested is slow singing or rapid singing of the
scale with the vowel _o_ softly, and with continuous tones. Other simple
exercises are obtained by repetitions of the following exercise figures
at higher or lower pitches throughout an entire scale, or parts of a
scale, ascending and descending progressively:

  [Transcriber’s Note:

  The exercises in Figure I are in the key of F in 4/4 time; those in
  Figure II are in E, 6/8 time; and those in Figure III are in B♭,
  4/4 time on eighth notes. All text is from the original.]


    [Music: Ascending.
    (Same figure tone higher.)
    (Again raised.) etc.]

    [Music: Descending.
    (Same figure tone lower.)
    (Again lowered) etc.]

The next figure, in which the voice ascends or descends four tones at
each progressive repetition, has a different rhythm.


    [Music: Ascending.
    (Same figure raised.)
    (Again raised.) etc.]

    [Music: Descending.
    (Same, tone lower.)
    (Still lower.) etc.]

Another exercise figure is to use five ascending and descending tones.

In the illustration which follows, in the key of B flat, it is shown how
the exercises may be sung, beginning upon the keynote, and keeping
within the voice-compass.

    [Music: FIGURE III. etc.]

    [Music: (Same Ex. inverted.) etc.]

These exercises are to be sung with vowel-sounds, softly, four measures
with one breath, if possible, and in strict time.

Only so many of these tone-groups may be sung in any one scale, as lie
within the extremes of pitch set for the grade, but if different scales
and upward and downward extensions of the same be used, then all
possible combinations of tones in the major scale may be sung, that is,
these exercise figures may upon a piano be repeated seven times in _any_
key, in phrases of four measures each, both ascending and descending,
but, owing to the limitations of the vocal compass, only a certain
number of ascending or descending phrases can be _sung_ in any one key.

While it is suggested that drill upon these musical figures or groups of
tones may be given from scales, the teacher tracing out the tones with a
pointer with a rhythmical movement, yet it is still better to practice
these groups or some of them from memory, the teacher keeping time for
and directing the class.

    [NOTE.--The directions given are for rooms in which the teacher
    has only a pitch pipe or tuning-fork to get pitch from. If there
    is a piano the drill work for tone will be conducted a little

Pages of musical phrases adapted to vocal drill might be given, but to
what end except to produce confusion. Our greatest singers use but few
exercises to keep their voices in good condition, but they practice them
very often. The exercises suggested are intended for daily practice, and
the fewer in number and simpler in form they are, the better will be the
results in tone. This vocal drill which should precede or begin the
daily music lesson must not be for over five minutes at most. Half of
that time is enough, if it be spent in singing, and not frittered away
in useless talk, and questions and answers. A practical application of
the vocal drill is to be made to the note-singing from the book and
chart, and to the school repertoire of songs.

The phrases voice-culture, voice-training, voice-development, etc., have
been avoided in treating the subject of children’s voices, because of
possible misapprehension of their intended meaning. The terms are not,
of course, inapplicable to children’s voices, but they must convey quite
a different significance than they do when applied to the adult voice.
In each case, the end of voice-culture is the formation of correct vocal
habits; but it would seem, that while it is possible to develop the
adult voice very considerably in power, range and flexibility, we ought,
in dealing with children’s voices, to adopt those methods which will
protect weak and growing organs. The aim is not more power, but beauty
and purity rather. It should not be inferred that beauty of tone is not
equally the aim in culture of the adult voice, but in that case it is
consistent with development of strength and brilliancy of voice, while
with young children it is not. If the tone is clear, beautiful, well
poised, and under the singer’s control, then the training is along safe
lines. If the tone is bad, harsh, pinched or throaty, then the training
is along unsafe lines. When the parts act harmoniously together, and
there is a proper and normal adjustment of all the organs concerned in
the production of tone, the result is good. Bad tone follows from the
ill-adjustment of the parts concerned in voice production. It is the
office of the teacher to correct this ill-adjustment and bring about a
perfect, or nearly perfect functional action. The teacher must judge of
the proper or improper action of the parts concerned in tone production
by the sense of hearing. No accumulation of scientific knowledge can
take the place of a careful and alert critical faculty in training
voice. Tone color must guide the school teacher in determining register
as it does the professional voice trainer. But we can also call the
mental perceptions of the child to our aid, and will find a more lively
sense of discrimination in tone quality than the average adult shows. We
can encourage the growth of high ideals of tone-beauty. We can cultivate
nice discrimination. We can, in short, use music in our schools not to
dull, but to quicken, the musical sensibilities of childhood.



There is the greatest diversity of opinion upon this subject among those
who have any opinion at all. It might be supposed that, among the
thousands of educators who are interested in school music and in the
singing of children generally, many might be found who have given the
subject careful attention, but such does not appear to be the case. If
we consult the musical literature published for children, the prevalence
of songs suited to the contralto voice is noticeable, indicating
apparently that the compass of infant voices at least is about the same
as that of the adult contralto. If there is any generally recognized
theory upon the subject, it would seem to be this; but from a
physiological standpoint the voices of children are totally unlike the
woman contralto, and especially is this true of children of from six to
eight years of age whose songs are usually written so low in range. An
error, started anywhere or at any time, of theory or of practice, if it
once become incorporated into the literature of a subject, is liable to
be frequently copied, and enjoy a long and useless life. So with this
treatment of the child-voice. The error is in supposing that it consists
of a limited number of quite low tones. It has its origin in the sole
use of the so-called chest-voice of the child, and when the evident
strain under which a child of six or seven years labors to sing up is
observed, the conclusion seems safe that they cannot sing high. While,
on the other hand, they manage with apparent ease to sing down even as
low as

    [Music: a]

This conception has in divers ways so imbedded itself into the musical
literature for little children, that all efforts to uproot it have so
far been apparently futile. There are, however, very many supervisors of
school music, and the number is growing, who have recognized that this
treatment of little children’s voices is a vocal barbarity, and the
device of pitching songs higher than they are written to overcome the
difficulty is more common than might be supposed. There can be no doubt
that in a short time the practice of carrying the tones of little
children three and four notes below the first line of the staff will not
be tolerated.

The common, even universal, tendency of primary classes to drop in pitch
when singing with the usual thick tone might show anyone that the voice
was being used in an abnormal manner. Furthermore, the intonation of
children of any age is something horrible when the thick voice is used.
Even carefully-selected and trained boy choristers, if they use this
voice, are frequently off the key even when supported by men’s voices
and the organ. So in addition to other reasons for using the thin
register may be added this, that habits of faulty intonation are surely
fostered by the use of the thick voice.

Picture to yourself the short, thin, weak vocal bands of a child of six
or seven years attached to cartilaginous walls so devoid of rigidity
that in that dreaded disease of childhood-- croup-- they often collapse.
That is not an instrument for the production of tones in the contralto
compass. No wonder the pitch is wavering. If infant classes are to sing
with the usual tones, the common advice to make the singing-exercise
short is extremely judicious. It would be better to omit it.

The intimation that the last word can now be said on this subject is not
for a moment intended, but experience has given some tolerably safe
hints in reference to the compass of the child-voice in the thin
register at the ages mentioned, and it is advised never to carry the
compass lower than E first line, nor higher than F fifth line of the
staff, and the upper extreme must be sung sparingly. The easiest tones
lie from

    [Music: f' d'']

The injunction to sing very softly need hardly be repeated.

Passing now to children who range in age from nine to eleven years, who
are found in the fourth and fifth years of school-life, it may be
observed that there is quite a marked increase in the evenness and
firmness of their tones. It is quite possible, especially at the age of
about eleven years, to extent the compass to G above the staff and to D
or C below; but if it does no harm, it serves no particular good end
either, and unless care is taken, the children will push the highest
tones. All of the necessary music drill can be kept within the suggested
range, and it is just as well to keep on the safe side. Then again, the
extremes in age between children of the same class grow farther apart as
we ascend in grade, and the compass must be kept within the vocal powers
of the youngest, and, from a voice-standpoint, weakest pupils. Protect
the voice, and nature will attend to its development.

From the time children pass the age of twelve years on to the period of
puberty, the child-voice is at its best, and if the use of the thin
register has been faithfully adhered to in the lower grades, the
singing-tone will now be both pure and brilliant. It will be found not
at all difficult to carry the same voice as low or lower than middle C
without any perceptible change in tone-quality, and G above the staff
will be sung with absolute ease. How much higher, if any, the compass
may be carried is open to discussion. It is not at all necessary in
school music to go any higher, for, even where it is deemed best to
raise the pitch of the song or exercise to avoid too low tones, the
pitch of the highest note will seldom be above G-- space above.

Still, it is the practice of choirmasters to carry the tone of soprano
boys much higher in vowel-practice, as high even as

    [Music: c''']

and although that is a pretty altitudinous pitch, there are very few
choir-boys who, when taught to breathe properly, etc., will not take it
occasionally with perfect ease. The head-register, even in woman’s
voice, is capable of great expansion, if good habits of tone-production
are followed. But again it is well to be on the safe side; and
choir-boys, who are selected because they have good vocal organs, and
who are drilled far more than school children, are hardly a criterion to
go by.

It must not be forgotten that the thin voice can be pushed and forced.
Good judgment must be exercised in controlling the power of voice, or
children will strain the vocal mechanism in trying to outsing each other
on _high_ tones.

The question, How high may boys or girls sing who have passed twelve
years of age and whose voices show no signs of break, is not so very
important after all, for if they have been well trained in soft tone, no
danger of vocal strain need be feared even if an occasional high A or B
flat is struck.

The reason for the ease with which children sing the high head-tones is
found in the structure of the vocal bands. They are _thin_.
Consequently, there is, compared to the entire substance of the vocal
bands, a larger portion proportionately set in vibration than for the
production of the head-tone in woman’s voice. And when the child-voice
is so used that no strain of the laryngeal structure is occasioned, that
is, when the vocal ligaments are exercised in a normal manner, it cannot
but happen that the muscles controlling the vocal bands will increase in
strength, and that the bands themselves, composed as they are of
numberless elastic fibres, will improve in general tone and elasticity.

The suggestions made in regard to the compass of voice are, be it said,
simply suggestions based on experimental teaching and are such as it is
believed may be followed with safety in school singing. If they do not
square with the music of books and charts, why, as before said, it is a
very simple matter to give a higher key for any exercise, than the one
in which it is written. A supervisor, by marking the exercises in the
desk copy, can ensure the use of the key he desires. If it is objected
that the tones then sung will not represent the real pitch of the
written notes, why that is at once admitted. What then? The idea of
teaching absolute pitch is a chimera. Pianos are not alike in pitch,
neither are tuning-forks. Classes will often for one cause or another
end a half tone or a tone lower than they began even if the pitch as
written is given. It may not be desirable to sing in one key music that
is read in another, but it certainly is less objectionable in every way
than is an unsafe use of the voice. The correct use of the voice must
transcend all considerations in vocal music, and no sort of practice
which misuses the vocal organs can be excused for a moment.



One way to secure good position is to require the pupils to stand.
Unless the singing-period directly follows a recess, or the drill in
physical exercises, the pupils will welcome the opportunity. As soon as
standing becomes irksome resume the seats. No further direction in
regard to sitting position is necessary than that the body should be
held not stiffly, but easily erect and self-supporting, resting neither
upon the back of chair nor upon the desk in front. A doubled-up, cramped
position is, of course, all wrong, and may be avoided if the pupils are
permitted to alternate between sitting and standing positions; but, if
required to sit as suggested for too long a time, the rule will soon “be
honored more in the breach than in the observance.” This brings us to
the consideration of


for the latter in its relations to vocalization depends much upon
position. The breath is the motive power of the voice in speech or song,
and the fundamental importance of managing it aright has been understood
by every teacher of voice since the time of Porpora.

How for singing purposes breath shall be taken, how exhaled, how managed
in short, is not yet entirely settled and presumably never will be, for
people are not born wise, and some never acquire wisdom, of whom a few
teach music. Browne and Behnke, in “Voice, Song, and Speech,” p.
138-142, describe the process of breathing as follows:

“There are three ways of carrying on the process of respiration, namely,
midriff breathing, rib-breathing, and collar-bone breathing. These three
ways are not wholly independent of one another. They overlap or partly
extend into one another. Nevertheless, they are sufficiently distinct
and it is a general and convenient practice to give to each a separate
name, according to the means by which it is chiefly called into
existence. The combined forms of midriff and of rib-breathing constitute
the right way, and collar-bone breathing is totally wrong and vicious,
and should not in a state of health be made under any circumstances.
When enlarging our chests by the descent of the midriff, we inflate our
lungs where they are largest and where consequently we can get the
largest amount of air into them. When expanding our chests by raising
the shoulders and collar-bones, we inflate the lungs where they are
smallest and where, consequently, we get the smallest amount of air into
them. _The criterion of correct inspiration is an increase of size of
the abdomen and the lower part of the chest. Whoever draws in the
abdomen and raises the upper part of the chest breathes wrongly._”

In normal breathing the body at inspiration increases in girth at the
waist, and the abdomen moves slightly outward as the viscera are forced
downward by the descent of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large
muscle which serves as a partition between the thorax or chest-cavity
and the abdomen. When relaxed its middle portion is extended upward into
the chest-cavity, presenting a concave surface to the abdomen. At
inspiration it contracts, descending so as to assume very nearly a plane
figure. At expiration the process is reversed, the diaphragm relaxes and
the abdominal viscera, released from its pressure and forced by the
abdominal muscles which contract as the diaphragm relaxes, moves upward
and inward.

This kind of breathing in which the muscular contraction of the
diaphragm calls in operation atmospheric pressure, supplies the body,
when tranquil, with nearly or quite enough air. When for any reason a
larger quantity of air is demanded, it may be secured by raising the
ribs, thereby increasing the chest-cavity.

In singing, the breath must be managed so that the air passing through
the larynx at expiration shall be set into vibration at the vocal bands.
Expiration, then, which ordinarily occurs very quickly must be retarded
by slowly relaxing the muscles which contract at inspiration. At the
same time the throat must be open, and the muscles surrounding the
resonance cavities relaxed to allow free movement of the sound-waves set
up at the vocal bands. Any upward movement of the shoulders and chest at
inspiration involving the contraction of many powerful muscles of back
and neck will occasion a stiffening of the throat, which prevents free
vibration of the vocal bands and seriously interferes with the resonance
of tone.

The conclusion of the whole matter is, that in singing we should take
breath exactly as in the ordinary quiet respiration, and avoid any
lifting of the shoulders. This is at least enough to say to a class of
children upon the subject.

The means adopted in education should be as simple and direct as
possible. It will be found unnecessary to say very much about breathing
in dealing with classes of children. In the first place, the moment the
subject is broached and the direction “take a good breath” or a similar
one given, each child will draw up the chest and shoulders prepared for
a mighty effort; while, if nothing is said about it, position alone
being attended to, the breathing will be all right. And again, while
adult singers for various reasons, one of which may be the supposition
that the more energy put forth the better the tone, often present
themselves to the voice-teacher with a fine assortment of bad
breathing-habits, children, on the contrary, are sent to school at so
young an age that a little watchfulness on the part of the teacher only
is necessary to avoid improper ways of taking breath and establish good
habits. If young children, then, are not permitted to raise the
shoulders, they will perforce breathe properly.

It seems inadvisable also to give any instruction regarding the emission
of air from the lungs in singing. None but cultivated singers, after
long practice and through a complete command of the muscles concerned,
can vocalize _all_ the air at the vocal bands. The absolute purity of
tone which is thus secured is a result that may or may not be reached in
any particular case. It depends upon the mental and physical
organization of the pupil as well as upon the method of the teacher.

Exercises which are adapted to the formation of good breathing-habits
are much more to the point in practical teaching than efforts at
explanation. Therefore, a few hints are given, which, it is hoped, may
be of practical value, for it is very important that good
breathing-habits be formed in school singing.

The change in structure which the larynx undergoes at puberty,
demolishing as it does the boy-voice, and rendering of no avail the
training of childhood in so far as it affects the larynx, does not
extend in its effects to the breathing-apparatus. So, a habit of
breath-management, good or bad, formed in school may continue through
adult life. Special breathing-exercises are sometimes recommended, but
their efficacy may be doubted, even if the length of time devoted to the
music lesson permits them. The inclination of pupils in such exercises
is to raise the chest and fill the lungs too full of air. The result is
too much air pressure at the vocal bands, and a stiffening of throat and
jaw muscles. The tone then will be loud; in fact, strong pressure of air
at the vocal bands is almost sure to force them into the fullest
vibration; that is, into the thick register, and, as a result of
contracted throat, the tone will be pinched, or throaty. It is
recognized, however, that it is just as easy to teach good habits of
breathing as bad.

This exercise may occasionally be given: The pupils first standing,
shoulders well set, but with no pushing out of chest, place hands at the
waist so that the movements of normal breathing may be felt. Now let the
pupils take a little breath _quickly_. The movement at the waist must be
outward and downward, never inward, at inspiration. The breath may be
held a few seconds by keeping the waist expanded-- keeping an imaginary
belt filled, for instance-- and then let go by relaxing at the waist.
If, however, there is any stiffening of the throat, as if it were
thought to cork up the air in the lungs, the object of the exercise, in
so far as it relates to the formation of good breathing-habits suitable
for easy vocalization, is defeated. Every teacher must use his judgment
in this matter of breath-management in singing. If pupils are, unguided,
using correct, easy methods, there is then no need to interfere. If some
are inclined to take too much breath and lift the shoulders, a few hints
may put them on the right track. _Loud singing and had breathing-habits
go together._ If the first is desired, the lungs must work at full
capacity, and hard blowing from the lungs forces the voice. On the
contrary, soft singing promotes quiet habits of breathing; and, if the
pressure of air at the larynx is moderate, soft tone is possible. If
thin, soft singing alone be allowed, quiet deep breathing will be
practiced instinctively.

The easy control of the muscles whose relaxation permits the exhalation
of air from the lungs is, as already said, gained by their proper
exercise in speaking and singing, for the same mechanism is called into
operation in speech as in song. In childhood the lungs can neither hold
as much, nor retain it so long and easily as in adult life.

There is no better way, perhaps, to acquire the ability to regulate the
air-pressure at the vocal bands than by soft, sustained singing. The
“continuous tone” described in a preceding chapter, secured in scale
drill by letting each child breathe at will, is an excellent exercise
for developing good breathing-habits. As there is no nervous tension
whatever, each pupil will naturally sustain tone until the need of
another breath is felt, when it will be taken quickly and the tone at
once resumed.

To sum up: Sit or stand in good position, the chest neither pushed out
nor in a state of collapse. Avoid any, even the slightest, upward
movement of the shoulders. Point out the movements at waist occurring at
inspiration and at expiration if necessary, not otherwise. Let the
breath be taken quickly, not too much at a time, and as often as need
be, and sing softly.


The beginning of each tone is called attack. The common faults of attack
in class-singing are sliding to the pitch instead of striking it
accurately, and beginning to sing with the mouth still closed, or only
partly open. When the attack presents the combined effects of these two
common habits, a quite realistic caterwaul is the result.

Both faults may be generally overcome or prevented by calling attention
to them. Good mental attention is the most infallible cure for slovenly
habits of attack. It may be that there are in all schools a certain
proportion of the pupils who have very weak and imperfect vocal organs;
in their cases, even good attention cannot overcome physical inability.

In repose the vocal bands are separated to allow the free passage of air
to and from the lungs. At phonation the bands are drawn toward each
other, meeting just as it commences. There need be no preliminary escape
of air. Also the resonance cavities above should be open, that the
vibrations generated at the vocal bands may find expansion and
resonance. The mouth and throat should then be opened a moment before
tone is attacked, when, if the pitch to be sung is clearly pictured in
the mind, both the “slide” and “hum” will be avoided.


Beauty of tone implies absence of disagreeable qualities, and freedom
from unpleasant sounds. Faulty tones are called nasal, guttural,
palatal, throaty, muffled, and so on, the peculiar timbre of each
suggesting the name. If the throat is relaxed, and if the soft parts of
the vocal tube lying between the larynx and the teeth are kept out of
the way, most of the disagreeable qualities of voice enumerated
disappear. Certain requisites are necessary to good tone-formation.

First, a movable lower jaw.

It is astonishing that so many of young and old will, when they wish to
open the mouth for song, try to keep it closed. Paradoxical as the
statement is, it nevertheless describes a very common phenomenon-- the
“fixed jaw,” it may be called. As soon as the teeth are parted slightly,
the muscles of the face and neck which control the movement of the lower
jaw contract, holding it in a fixed position, and incidentally
tightening the muscles of the throat until the larynx is in a grip as of
rubber bands. The mouth must not be held open as if the jaws were pried
apart. It is opened by the relaxation of the closing muscles and should
hang by its own weight, as it were. If then the lower jaw drops easily,
and with no accompanying muscular contraction of face or throat, the
tone may be formed or shaped well forward in the mouth, unless the soft
parts referred to obstruct it.

These soft parts are the tongue and the soft-palate. The soft-palate is
a structure which hangs from the posterior edge of the hard-palate. The
uvula, the pillars of the palate, and the tonsils are parts of the

The tongue which, when the mouth is closed, nearly fills it, should in
vocalization lie as much out of the way as is possible. If the tip be
pressed against the lower teeth and its sides upon the molars, it forms
a floor to the cavity of the mouth. If the tip turns toward the roof of
the mouth, or if it is drawn back and under, so as to arch the tongue,
tone is seriously interfered with, while if the root of the tongue is
drawn backward, the tone is shut in.

If the soft-palate is not raised in singing, the tone is diverted into
the cavities of the nose, and that color given to the tone called nasal.
If the lower jaw is held too high, the tone is again forced through the
nose. A nasal quality can be modified by opening the mouth. The muffled
voice is sometimes the result of the tongue’s unruly behavior. The
throaty, pinched voice, due to a stiff and pinched throat, will hardly
appear if good conditions as regards position, breathing, soft tone,
open mouth, etc., are maintained. The tone should not be swallowed nor,
on the other hand, blown out of the mouth. It should be formed in the
mouth and kept vibrating within it. When the right conditions are hit
upon, the tone seems to sing itself. Whether soft or loud, the tone
should fill the mouth, so to speak.

It must now be remembered that beauty of tone improves along with growth
of thought and feeling. Encourage discrimination in tone-quality and
help in any way advisable the growth of good ideals, and verily shalt
thou be rewarded.



Sound-vibrations generated at the larynx are modified as to their form,
by the size and shape of the resonating cavities of the mouth and
pharynx. Through the movements of the soft-palate, tongue, lower jaw and
lips, the shape and size of the mouth can, within certain limits, be
changed at will. As every vowel-sound requires a peculiar form of the
resonating cavity for its production, it will be easily understood that
each vowel-sound of which the human voice is capable can be made by a
proper adjustment of the movable parts of the vocal organs. As all
singing-tone is vocal or vowel in its character, the production of the
various vowel-sounds takes precedence in the study of vocal music. Just
how much of this study can be carried on in school music will depend
upon circumstances, the chief of which is the time assigned for music.
It is very easy to suggest that if the time given is not enough, that
longer lesson periods be demanded; but it is quite probable that, owing
to the pressure of elaborate courses of study, the request would be
seldom granted. It remains, then, for those in charge of school music to
expedite their work by means of simple and direct methods.

Each division of the music work must be carried so as to secure unity of
result. The vocal drill, oral or written, will train the eye and ear for
sight-singing, and the sight-singing be a practical application of
correct vocal drill.

The study and practice of the different vowel-sounds must then _fit in_
with the scheme of study. The practice of singing the vowels by name as,
_a_, _e_, _i_, _o_, _u_, is not to be recommended, as only one, namely
_e_, stands for a single sound-element; nor is it probable that the
results will justify extensive drill upon the more obscure
vowel-elements, if the term may be applied to those sounds which are
differentiated only slightly from the more pronounced vowel-sounds.

There are some twenty vowel-sounds that are used in English speech, but
for various reasons a less number are employed in song. For, while it is
desirable to give to each word and syllable its correct vowel-sound in
singing, those which are unfavorable to good tone are usually
approximated to the sound of those more favorable to good tone.

If too marked distinctions in the vowel-sounds are made by the singer,
the result is disagreeable; while if the voice preserves a similar hue
or tone-color throughout, the effect is pleasing.

The listener is unaware of the slight deviations from the spoken
vowel-sound which the singer makes, that the requirements of tonal
beauty may be met.

It is advisable in vowel-practice to avoid letters or symbols which
represent two sounds, an initial and a vanish; and to use simple vowel
elements instead. The combinations of different elements represented by
certain letters and diphthongs may easily be explained when they appear
in the words of a song, if, indeed, the study of phonics has not already
cleared away all difficulties.

In singing, however, it is necessary to understand which of the two
sounds, the initial or the vanish, is to be sustained. In _ā_, for
instance, which is _eh_+_e_, if the vanish _e_ is sustained in a word
like _day_ the effect is _deh-ee_. The first sound should be sustained,
and the vanish _e_ be heard only slightly as the mouth partly closes at
the end of the tone. _Ī_, again, which is equivalent to _ah_+_e_, is
often sung by prolonging the _e_ instead of the initial _ah_, as
_light--li-eet_. _Ō_ is a compound sound _ō_+_ōō_, but the tendency to
sing the first sound short and prolong the second is very slight
usually. _O_, then, can be used to represent a simple element. _Ū_,
which equals _e_+_oo_, is best sung by making the initial sound short
and the vanish the longer tone.

It will thus be seen that of the five vowel names, _a_, _e_, _i_, _o_,
_u_, _e_ only stands for one sound, though the two sounds of _o_ are so
closely allied that the vanish is often imperceptible. The sound of ā
in ăt is the most unfavorable sound for song in the language, and those
extremely consistent singers who wish to use it can do so.

The nasal twang of Yankeedom is a plant that needs no nourishing. Its
roots are grown wide and deep; so much so, that those who love it need
not fear that it will pine away and die, if it bears no fruit of song,
but only that of speech.

The sound of _ă_ will survive even if it is unused in song. It should in
singing be broadened nearly to the sound of _ah_.

A number of simple elements are suggested which may be used in various
ways in vocal drill. They are _ē_, _ĭ_, _ĕ_, _ä_, _a̤_, _ō_, _o͡o_. Or
_ē_ (as in _be_), _ĭ_ (as in _it_), _eh_, _ah_, _aw_, _ō_ (as in _go_),
_o͡o_. The vowel-elements remaining are each so closely allied to some
of those indicated that the attempt to differentiate them from the above
in vowel-drill is hardly worth while. In fact, the use of _ĭ_-- _i_ as
in _it_-- may be omitted if pupils have learned to sing _ē_ with fair
breadth of sound, and _oo_ may be dropped in grades above the primary.
It is the final sound of _ō_, as before said. This leaves five


This vowel is often badly sung, and its form is none too favorable to
good tone even when made as large as distinctness will allow. The lips
must be drawn a little away from the teeth as in a smile, _but don’t
overdo it_, and the teeth slightly parted. The lips should not be drawn
back, exposing the teeth and gums, nor should they be contracted and
pressed against the teeth. In _e_ and in all vowel singing the lips
should be relaxed, not contracted, and kept about as far from the teeth
as they are in repose. If the opening of the mouth, that is, if the
cavity back of the teeth is kept too small and narrow, the tone will be
nasal and twangy. The mouth must be opened enough to permit purity of
tone and free emission. The sound should verge toward _i_ in _it_.


This sound is _ē_ broadened. The teeth may be a little farther apart
than when _ē_ is sung.

_Ĕ or EH._

This is the sound of _e_ in the word _get_. It is also the initial sound
of the vowel _ā_ or long _a_. It is true that this sound is not usually
so given, but if _ā_ is sung with this sound as its initial sound, and
the one to be prolonged, the very best vocal results can be obtained.
The vowel _ă_ is more often poorly sung than otherwise. This is,
perhaps, for the reason that comparatively few singers recognize that
long _a_ stands for two sounds, and that the first, which may be spelled
_eh_, can be sung with large form and placed well forward in the mouth,
while the second sound _ē_ is small in form, and not adapted to the
finest tone-effects. In singing this element, the jaw should drop much
lower than for _ĭ_ and nearly as low as for _ah_.

_Ä or AH._

This is the tone universally accepted as the best for voice-development;
but in school-singing it is not permissible to use the voice except in
the lightest manner, therefore purity of tone must content our
ambitions; power can come later in life. The mouth opens widely for this
tone and the whole throat is expanded.

_A̤ or AW._

This element is formed very much like _ah_. It is _ah_ broadened a
little. The jaw drops to a lower point and the mouth-cavity deepens,
while at the same time the extension from side to side narrows a little.

_Ō and OO._

These sounds are better adapted to securing the use of the thin voice,
where pupils have been accustomed to the use of the thick voice, than
any other vowel-element. The mouth is well opened back of the lips,
which should not be puckered as if to whistle, but relaxed instead.

In actual practice there may be observed a tendency, more or less
marked, but pretty sure to manifest itself if practice on one sound is
continued too long at a time, to deviate from any one toward some other
vowel-element, as _ĭ_ to _ē_, _eh_ to _ĭ_, _ah_ to _er_ or _er_ or _uh_,
_aw_ to _uh_, _ō_ to _oo_.

If this tendency to deviate from the right tone be permitted, the most
slovenly habits will be formed, and all distinctions in vowel-sound
disappear. Vowel-practice had better be omitted from class-work unless
carefully and conscientiously taught.

If the course of music embraces drill upon scales, vowel-practice may be
incorporated into the course easily. For instance, the drill outlined
upon p. 70 may one day be given with _e_ for a few moments, then with
_o_. On another day the drill may be upon _ah_, followed by _eh_, and
so on. It is unnecessary to particularize. Every teacher will at once
see how to apply practically vowel-singing to his music course. The
exercises and songs may be sung with vowel-sounds. Nearly all books
advise the use of _la_, _lo_, etc., in vocal exercises; but while that
method of singing is unobjectionable, the vocalization of solfeggii, it
may be observed, is established by the sanction of time and the
experience of thousands of voice-trainers the world over.

The advantages which flow from vocalizing exercises and songs on a
single vowel-sound are too many to be described in a word. No supervisor
or teacher of music can afford to use _do_, _re_, _mi_, exclusively.

Another class of exercises is now suggested which may be sung upon one
breath. They will be found especially adapted to develop flexibility and
a ready adjustment of the movable parts of the vocal tube to the
positions suited to the formation of the different vowel-sounds. If
three sounds are used as here given, they must be sung quite slowly, the
change from one sound to the next being made by a quick, easy change of
position of the jaw, tongue, etc., but without interrupting the
continuity of the tone.

Sufficient pause to obtain a new breath must be made at the end of each
group, and the mouth opened properly for the production of the first
sound of the next group before it is attacked. The time should be

    [Music: f' f' f' {sung on o, e, o}]

quite slow and as in illustration, or the breath will not be used, and
at each succeeding group of tones the lungs will become too full of air.
The attack will then be explosive, and the tone too loud, if, indeed,
the effort to control the breath does not contract and pinch the throat.

Eight groups are given for ascending a scale and eight for descending:

  ō  ē   ō   ō   ē    ĭ
  ō  ĭ   ō   ō   ē    oo
  ō  ah  ō  _o_  ah  _e_
  ō  eh  ō   ō   ah   eh
  ō  aw  ō   ō   ah   aw
  ō  ē   eh  ō   ah   ĭ
  ō  ē   ah  ō   ah   oo
  ō  ē   aw  ō   eh   ē

It will be observed that a certain system of arrangement of the
vowel-elements is followed. First, there are five groups, of which _o_
is the first and last sound, the others being placed between. Then _o_
is the first tone with _e_ as the second, the other sounds in turn
ending the group. Next _ah_ is the second sound, then _eh_, _i_, _oo_
and _ah_ might be used as the second vowel-element, making thirty-five
combinations with _o_ as the initial sound of each group. The same
number of combinations can be made with _ah_ as the first tone, and so
on with each of the seven vowel-elements.

Sixteen of these groups, changed from time to time as may be desired,
can be written upon the blackboard and sung by the class in the way set
forth, the teacher meanwhile keeping time for and directing the class.

It may be observed in this connection, that, as the voice ascends in
pitch, there is a tendency to blend the various vowel-sounds into one
sound. As the tones grow higher the sound-waves are focused at higher
points upon the hard-palate, the sounding-board of the resonance
cavities, and more difficulty is experienced in moulding these
sound-waves into the forms characteristic of the different
vowel-elements. As the parts concerned in tone-formation gain in
flexibility, the result appears in the ease with which the alterations
in shape of the resonance tube are made at higher pitches.

Fads and devices which divert attention from the subject and retard
rather than accelerate the progress of pupils are common enough in
schools, but the following simple illustrations of different vowel-forms
may be found useful:

  {mouth shapes}
  ē  ĭ  eh
  {mouth shapes}
  ah  aw  o  oo]

The base line represents the floor or base of the mouth-cavity, and the
arch, the height and width of the mouth for each sound; the depth is not
indicated. The width of the mouth from side to side is represented as
greatest in _ē_, _ĭ_ and _eh_, while the height is greater in _ah_ and
_aw_, _o_ is pictured as nearly round, and _oo_ the same, only small.

It is not contended that these diagrams picture the actual form assumed
by the resonance cavities very accurately. The various positions which
the tongue and the soft-palate assume are not shown at all, nor,
perhaps, is it necessary; for if the pupil is taught to drop the lower
jaw to the right position for each sound, and to keep the tongue prone
in the mouth, a mental picture of each tone will be formed, and the
thought will regulate the action. When the pupil can think the sound
desired, the conditions for its formation will be met by the vocal
organs. The usefulness of diagrams will then cease.

_Consonants and Articulation._

“Consonants are the bones of speech. By means of consonants we
articulate our words; that is, we give them joints. We utter vowels, we
articulate consonants. If we utter a single vowel-sound and interrupt it
by a consonant, we get an articulation. Consonants, then, not only give
speech its articulation or joints, but they help words to stand and have
form, just as a skeleton keeps the animal from falling into a shapeless
mass of flesh; therefore, consonants are the bones of speech. The
consonant is the distinguishing element of human speech. Man has been
defined in various ways according to various attributes, functions and
habits. He might well be called the consonant-using animal. He alone of
all animals uses consonants. It is the consonant which makes the chief
difference between the cries of beasts and the speech of man.”
--_Richard Grant White_.

Consonants are not to be sung. The effort so common among singers to
pronounce, by sustaining consonant sounds, is entirely misdirected.
_M_, _n_ and _ng_, which are made by shutting off the escape of the
air-current at either the lips or the hard-palate, and so forcing it
through the nose, are often sustained to the detriment of beauty of tone
and clear pronunciation as well.

Articulation, which is the pronunciation of a consonantal sound, is
accomplished by interrupting the air-current, whether vibratory or not,
at certain points. The interruptions are made by the meeting of the lips
with each other or with the teeth, by the tongue with the teeth or
hard-palate, and the root of the tongue with the soft-palate. The
interruption may be complete, as in _p_ or _t_, or only partial, as in
_th_. The sound of the consonant results from the slight explosion or
puff which follows the recoil of the movable parts from the point of

All consonants may for singing purposes be considered as preceding or
following some vowel-sound. If preceding, then after the sound is made
the vocal organs must be adjusted at once for the proper formation of
the succeeding vowel. If the consonant sound follows a vowel-tone, the
movement of the vocal organs to the interrupting point must be quick and
vocalization at once cease; for if the vowel-sound is prolonged after
the production of the consonant, the effect will be an added syllable to
the word as _at-at-er_, _up-up-pah_, etc. The movements of the organs of
speech for both contact and recoil must be more rapid in singing to
produce distinct articulation than in spoken language.

Slovenly habits of articulation in speech will reappear in song, and the
converse is also true. The study and practice of phonics, which is now
general in schools, is of the highest practical importance in singing,
as well as in reading or speaking. As consonant sounds cannot be sung,
they are best taught in spoken language. The application of the
knowledge and skill thus gained is readily applied to the pronunciation
of words in singing. If the vowel-elements have been carefully practiced
in vocalizes, there will be little effort required to secure the correct
formation of all the vowel-sounds of words.

The nasal twang must, however, be ruthlessly suppressed. As before
suggested, this will frequently appear in words containing the sound of
_a_ as in _at, past, fast_, etc. It is recommended that such words be
sung with _a_ as in _father_, or if not quite as broadly, at least
approaching the sound of _ah_.

If the movements of the vocal organs are quick, flexible and without
muscular tension or stiffness, and if the mouth opens neither too much
nor too little for each vowel-sound, words may be sung and understood
while beauty of tone is not sacrificed.



The anatomical and physiological changes which occur in the larynx at
puberty have been described in the chapter on “Physiology of the Voice.”
It may be added that at this period the resonance cavities also undergo
considerable alteration in size and form.

As childhood is left behind the individual emerges. Divergences in face,
in form and in mental characteristics become emphasized. The traits of
race and family are manifested and self-consciousness becomes more
acute. This period of development, bringing as it does so much
disturbance to the vocal organs, is particularly inimical to singing;
and yet public school music is expected to produce its most elaborate
results in those grades where the pupils are just about to enter, or are
passing through this period of rapid growth and change. The singing in
such grades may be discussed with reference first to the singing of
girls and then to that of boys.

The vocal organs of girls often develop so gradually in size, and with
so little congestion of the laryngeal substance, that no aversion is
manifested to singing. In other cases the inflamed condition of the
vocal organs is shown by the hoarseness which follows their use, and the
huskiness of the singing-tone. The voices of nearly all during the
mutation period show more volume of tone on the lower tones and
evidences of strain at the higher tones.

It is a good plan to put girls who show throat-weakness, characteristic
of their age, upon that part which requires only a medium range of
tones, and to repress all inclination to force and push the voice. The
desire which girls often express to sing the upper soprano need not
affect the teacher to any great extent. A multitude of strong and
constantly-shifting ambitions are thronging through their minds. Some
wish to sing the highest part because it seems to them to be the most
prominent part; some wish to sing it because they can do so with the
least mental effort, and so on. These whims and wishes must be treated
tactfully, but if the teacher is sure that a certain course is right,
there is no alternative but to carry it out, with as little friction as
may be. Large voices, that is, voices that proceed from large resonance
cavities, are often badly strained at this period of life by too loud
and too high singing. It must not for a moment be forgotten that the age
is a critical one for vocal effort, and a strain that the adult woman’s
voice will endure with apparent impunity may produce lasting evil
effects on the voice of a girl of from fourteen to sixteen years of age.

If the requirements of the music are such that pitches above F, the
fifth line G clef, must be occasionally sung, let the voices upon the
part sing lightly. If some of the girls are put upon the lower of three
parts, do not let them use the chest-voice, which is just beginning to
develop, otherwise than lightly also.

The boy’s voice may change from the soprano to a light bass of eight or
twelve tones in compass in a few months, or the change may extend over
two or three years; that is, two or three years may elapse after the
first distinct break before there is any certainty of vocal action in
the newly-acquired compass. When the voice changes rapidly, all singing
should be stopped. Really, in such cases, boys cannot sing even if they
attempt to do so.

They are so hoarse, and the pitch alternates so unexpectedly between an
“unearthly treble and a preternatural bass” that a boy can usually sing
only in monotone, if, with courage proof against the ridicule occasioned
by his uncontrollable vocal antics, he tries to join in. In those cases,
where the larynx undergoes a slow change in growth, it is often possible
for the boy to sing all through the period of change. The upper tones
may be lost, while there is a corresponding gain of lower tones. This
process, in many cases, goes on slowly and with so little active
congestion of the larynx that the voice changes from soprano to alto,
and thence to tenor almost imperceptibly. Voices which change in this
way often become tenor, but not invariably.

The question now arises, Should those boys who can sing while the voice
is breaking be required to take part in school singing exercises?

In Browne and Behnke’s work, “The Child Voice,” to which allusion has
been made, there is given a resumé of 152 replies to the question: Have
you ever known of boys being made to sing through the period of puberty,
and, if so, with what result?

The answers were:

Forty correspondents have no knowledge.

Five think the voice is improved by the experiment.

Ten quote _solitary instances_ where no harm has arisen.

Ten know of the experiment having been made, and consider it has caused
no harm to the voice.

Eight mention results so variable as to admit of no conclusion.

Seventy-nine say the experiment causes _certain injury_, deterioration
or ruin to the after voice, and of this number ten observe that they
have suffered disastrous effects _in their own person_.

These answers were from English choirmasters, organists, music teachers,
singers, etc. It will be noticed that only fifteen of those who give a
positive opinion upon the subject think that boys can sing through the
period of break safely; while seventy-nine are positive that the result
is unsafe. The other replies are vague.

It must be remembered that many of the opinions are those of instructors
in cathedral schools, where one or two rehearsals and a daily church
service means a great deal of singing; while other answers come from
choirmasters who require of their boys equally hard work, though less in

Every individual voice must be judged by itself, if such demands as
choir-singing are made upon it; and, while there are some cases, as
every choirmaster will probably agree, where no perceptible injury
results from singing during the change, the rule is that even when
possible, it is very unsafe.

But the daily time given to singing in schools is very short; the work
bears no comparison with choir-singing. It might almost be thought as
necessary to forbid reading and talking during the break of voice as to
forbid its use in a daily drill of fifteen or twenty minutes in singing.

Certainly it is absurd to advocate entire non-use of the voice at this
period in either speech or song. It is rather correct to guard against
its misuse. If boys have up to this time used only the thick register,
they will in singing through the break intensify their bad habits;
throatiness, harshness, nasality will become chronic. This would be bad
enough, but each bad vocal habit results from the abnormal use of the
vocal organs, and occasions hoarseness, chronic sore throat, catarrh,

It is quite customary in school music to assign the boys to the lower
part, in part music. This practice continued from the time part-singing
begins in the music course, compels the boys to use the thick register.
As the larynx gains in firmness from year to year, they experience more
and more difficulty with their upper tones-- those lying from F to C.
Having used only the thick voice in all their school singing, they know
of no other, and very likely consider the thin voice which they are now
obliged to use in singing the higher tones as altogether too girlish for
the prospective heirs of manly bass tones.

The reluctance of boys to sing the soprano would be amusing were it not,
in the light of utterly false training, so pitiful.

School music is educational; its scope is controlled by those in charge.
The public expects good educational, rather than show work, and employs
those to supervise and teach who are supposed to know what good
educational work is in vocal music.

The supposition that children’s voices can, owing to individual
differences analogous to those existing among adults, be divided into
alto and soprano voices, is erroneous; children can most assuredly sing
in parts, but the quality of tone which in the woman’s voice is called
alto or contralto cannot be secured for certain physical reasons
previously explained; and the use of the chest-tone, which resembles the
adult woman’s chest-voice as a clarinet resembles a viola, is wholly

If, however, the voices have been trained in the use of the thin
register only, the management of the boy’s voice during the change is
simplified; the influence of good vocal habits will be felt; the vocal
bands which have never been strained will respond when their condition
admits of tone-production. The boy who has been accustomed to sing with
an easy action of the vocal ligaments and with open throat will at once
become conscious of any unusual strain or wrong adjustment in the vocal
organs. If he has learned to sing well, he has also learned not to sing

The test to apply to the subject of boys’ singing in school during the
break may be: Can they sing without strain or push? Can they sing
easily, or does it hurt? There is a certain amount of humbug in boys
that must be allowed for, but it does not affect calculations as to
their singing-powers more than upon their other abilities, if singing is
well taught.

The speaking-voice also indicates the state of the vocal organs, and
shows the effect of the break sooner than does the singing-voice. If the
tones in speech are steady in pitch, singing is possible in all
probability. If, on the contrary, the speaking-voice is croaky and
wavering, singing is difficult, if not impossible. As the object of the
study of vocal music in the public schools, in so far as it relates to
the treatment of the voice, is to develop good vocal habits, not bad
ones, it follows that if boys sing during the break it must be only upon
those tones which lie within their compass at any time, and that the
vocal organs must be used lightly, and without strain.

In nearly every upper grade room there will be a percentage of boys
whose voices are in a transition stage, some of whom can sing and others
of whom cannot. It requires judgment and tact to handle these voices,
but if boys have sung as they should up to this period, and have taken
pleasure in it, the mutual good understanding between them and their
teacher need not be disturbed. They are likely to do their best.

In this connection it should be said, that really it may be doubted if
the common practice of assigning all boys, whose voices show signs of
breaking, to the bass part, is right.

If boys have been kept upon the lower part, in all part singing and have
never used other than the thick chest voice, then, when the voice begins
to break up, it may be that they must sing bass or not sing at all. Boys
trained in this way have never used the soprano head register and so if
they sing alto, it will be with the thick chest voice of boyhood, which
will now be the upper tones of the developing man’s voice.

Singing alto at the mutation period in _this_ manner, strains the vocal
bands beyond reason, and should not under any circumstances be allowed.
It must be understood then in what follows, that singing alto in this,
the chest voice, either before or during the break, is unqualifiedly

But we will suppose now that boys have been permitted to sing only in
the head register, that they have been assigned to the upper part in
part singing, for notwithstanding that usage is to the contrary, this is
what should be done. As has already been suggested the voices of girls
change less, and at a younger age than do boys, and they begin to show
weight of tone and increased volume, at an age when boys are at their
best as sopranos. Girls at this period should sing the middle and lower
parts, but it must be said in passing that much of the music contained
in our text-books ranges too low in pitch for them, or any voice except
a low contralto or a tenor. They must not be permitted to use their
voices at full strength, and special care should be taken of those who
at this age show hoarseness. With girls as with boys, the change is
accompanied with periods of great relaxation of the vocal bands, and
during these periods the singing tone is either very light, or very

Returning to the subject of treatment of boys’ voices during mutation,
and premising that they have sung only in the head voice during
childhood, the question arises whether they are not in many cases set to
singing bass prematurely. It is obvious that during this period the
voice is actually _broken_, divided in two. The lower notes are produced
in the chest or man’s register, while more or less of the boy’s voice
remains as upper tones. These tones, by the way, never are lost, they
remain as the falsetto or head voice of the man.

Now the vibratory action of the vocal ligaments is much larger for the
chest voice than for the head, or as we ordinarily call it, the
falsetto. There is then no question that during mutation a boy can
confine himself to the use of his old voice, or so much of it as is
available at any time with very little strain. The tone will be light,
in fact, during the active periods of laryngeal growth which
characterize mutation, there will perhaps be no voice at all, owing to
the congestion of the parts, but in the periods of rest separating the
periods of growth, the vocal bands will respond. The compass of the head
voice at this time varies largely, but it corresponds pretty closely to
that of the second soprano, in three part exercises, or from C to C. If
it is attempted to carry the voice down it changes to the chest register
unless used very lightly.

Without attempting then to lay down positive rules for treating a voice
which consists of fragments of voices, the above suggestions are made in
the hope that they may receive the consideration of teachers and



The suggestions of the preceding chapters are addressed directly to
those who teach vocal music in public or private schools, but the
general principles and rules are equally applicable to the training of
soprano choir boys.

The results in beauty and power of tone which may be obtained from
carefully selected choir boys can seldom be equalled in the school-room,
first, because training is required to develop voices in strength and
purity of tone, and the time devoted generally to school singing, one
hour a week possibly, is no more than that given to a single rehearsal
of choristers.

Again school singing includes all members of the class, and while it is
true that there may be but few pupils in each room who cannot sing, yet
there are likely to be some.

These voices, which we call monotones disappear almost entirely when
pupils are trained to use the head voice. Still, there is a percentage
in every class in school, whose inherited musical perceptions are very
feeble, and their slowness cannot but retard the general progress.

Many of the difficulties that beset the teacher of music in schools,
then, are eliminated at the start by the choir trainer, when he selects
boys with good voices, who sing in tune naturally.

The increase in the number of vested choirs in this country has been
very rapid during the past few years, and fortunately, the ideas which
have prevailed among the majority of choir-masters on the subject of the
boy voice, have been just. This is easily understood when we reflect
that we have made the best English standards our ideal.

The leaven of sound doctrine on the boy voice is working rapidly, and
there are many choirs both in our large and small cities that are
excellent examples of well-trained soprano boys.

There is, however, one problem of male choir training which is not yet
satisfactorily solved, at least it is troublesome to those choirs which
have a small or moderate appropriation for music.

Boy sopranos are plentiful, basses and tenors are easily obtained, but
good male altos, men, not boys, are almost unknown outside of a few
large cities. This state of affair has led, in many cases, to the
employment of boys as altos, and they have of course sung with the thick
or chest voice. It is an unmanageable and unmusical voice, it is harsh,
unsympathetic, hard to keep in tune, its presence in a choir is a
constant menace to the soprano tone, and were it not for the idea that
there is no recourse from this voice, save in the employment of woman
altos, it would not be tolerated by musicians.

There is a recourse, however, and it is at the command of every choir
trainer whose sopranos have been taught to sing with the head voice
alone. It is to select certain sopranos, and when the voice breaks, let
them pass to the alto part, and _continue to use the head voice_.

The objection which will naturally occur, is, that no singing should be
permitted during the break. Well, let us consider. The period during
which the voice, in common parlance, is breaking, is a period of
laryngeal growth, just as inevitable and natural, as is the growth of
the body generally. The voice may be fractured, but the larynx is not.

Every choir trainer must have observed the preliminaries to this period.
A boy for instance, shows all at once a sudden increase of volume and
finds it difficult to sing unless quite loudly or softly.

This shows that the vocal bands are relaxed. Following this, the
speaking voice will lower in pitch, and show hoarseness at times. As
soon though, as this hoarseness passes away, that is, when the
congestion at the larynx has passed, the voice is better perhaps than
before. Then comes another break, as we say, that is, a period of sore
throat and hoarseness.

After this has passed, it may be that the boy has lost his upper notes,
but can sing the lower ones with ease; the tone too, is changed in
timbre. It has the color of the man’s head voice; or it may be that the
boy can still sing his high notes, but that the lower ones are
uncertain. Voice mutation is not one continuous period of growth of
vocal bands and laryngeal cartilages. On the contrary, the periods of
vocal disturbance are separated by intervals when the throat is
comparatively free from irritation. These intervals may be long or
short. It evidently depends upon the rapidity or slowness of the general
growth and development.

There can be no doubt now, that during a time when the voice is
uncertain and hoarse from the irritation of the vocal bands and
surrounding parts, that singing is positively harmful, but during the
intervals separating these periods, especially where they extend, as in
many cases, over several months, it would seem that the singing voice
might be used.

Each individual case must be observed and judged by itself. This is
entirely possible in choirs. If then the choir-master is careful to
observe and to humor the changing voice at all critical times; if he
will insist that the boy sing very lightly or not at all if it hurts
him, and if he will resolutely check any tendency to break into the
tenor or chest quality, he can train in a short time a good alto force
from his choir, and these young men so trained may become efficient male
alto singers.

It is true that in many cases boys may be carried through the mutation
period, and at the end show such light tone upon the falsetto or head
voice as to be of no value. The strength and timbre of the male falsetto
depends partly upon the character of the vocal bands and partly of
course upon the size and shape of the resonance cavities.

Men who have voices of wide range and good volume in the chest or usual
singing voice, generally possess strong head or falsetto tones, and it
may be that soprano boys who possess large voices, that is those which
show volume of tone along with purity, whose resonance cavities are
large, will prove to develop a better falsetto, as men, than those boys
whose voices are thinner. One other point remains to be disposed of.
Will the use of this voice by youth or adult, injure his other voice, be
it naturally bass, baritone, or tenor? No, it will not, and yet the
average choir-master will most assuredly be met with this objection or
fear. It is surprising that so many of those who are in the business of
trying to teach voice, should be ignorant of the character and range of
the male falsetto or head voice, but in spite of this ignorance, and
more or less prejudice against its use, the fear that by using it one
impairs the tones of the chest register or the usual singing voice, is
utterly unfounded. It is produced with far less effort and tension of
the vocal bands than is the chest voice, and is physiologically
perfectly safe. The mechanism which the larynx employs to produce the
falsetto is just as natural as the mechanism employed to produce the
chest voice. That it is an unusual voice with us is due to circumstances
of musical development. The advent of the male vested choir has,
however, created a demand for it, and it may be met as indicated, by
keeping boys upon the head voice during mutation or so much of the time
as is safe, and afterward, when the age of adolescence is past, even if
some prefer to sing bass or tenor, the number of those available for the
alto parts will be sufficient to meet all requirements.



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
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

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

Errors and Inconsistencies:

  to justify the teaching of vocal music in schools  [is schools]
  inserted posteriorly into the arytenoid cartilages  [aryteniod]
  forth. Even up to the change of voice  [comma for period]
  to sing the higher tones lightly  [to sing the the]
  _Ī_, again, which is equivalent to _ah_+_e_  [_I_ not italicized]
    [_text unchanged: error for “lah-eet”?_]
  _ah_ to _er_ or _er_ or _uh_
    [_text unchanged: one “er” may be an error for “eh”_]
  the vocalization of solfeggii  [spelling unchanged]
  he tries to join in  [trys]

  The question, How high may boys or girls sing
    [paragraph not indented]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Child-Voice in Singing - treated from a physiological and a practical standpoint - and especially adapted to schools and boy choirs" ***

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