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Title: How to Sing - [Meine Gesangskunst]
Author: Lehmann, Lilli, 1848-1929
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MY PURPOSE                                                           1

MY TITLE TO WRITE ON THE ART OF SONG                                 5


PRELIMINARY PRACTICE                                                11


OF THE BREATH                                                       19


OF THE BREATH AND WHIRLING CURRENTS                                 27


THE SINGER'S PHYSIOLOGICAL STUDIES                                  35


EQUALIZING THE VOICE; BREATH; FORM                                  45


THE ATTACK                                                          69


NASAL. NASAL SINGING                                                73


SINGING TOWARD THE NOSE. HEAD VOICE                                 78


THE HEAD VOICE                                                      86


SENSATION AND POSITION OF THE TONGUE                                99


THE SENSATIONS OF THE PALATE                                       102




SINGING COVERED                                                    123


ON VOCAL REGISTERS                                                 133


DEVELOPMENT AND EQUALIZATION                                       142


WHITE VOICES                                                       154


THEODOR WACHTEL                                                    158


THE HIGHEST HEAD TONES                                             162




THE TREMOLO                                                        170


THE CURE                                                           176


THE TONGUE                                                         181


PREPARATION FOR SINGING                                            189




CONNECTION OF VOWELS                                               196


THE LIPS                                                           212


THE VOWEL SOUND _AH_                                               214


ITALIAN AND GERMAN                                                 219


AUXILIARY VOWELS                                                   226


RESONANT CONSONANTS                                                229


PRACTICAL EXERCISES                                                232


THE GREAT SCALE                                                    239


VELOCITY                                                           245


TRILL                                                              251


HOW TO HOLD ONE'S SELF WHEN PRACTISING                             256


CONCERNING EXPRESSION                                              263


BEFORE THE PUBLIC                                                  265


INTERPRETATION                                                     270


IN CONCLUSION                                                      279



My purpose is to discuss simply, intelligibly, yet from a scientific
point of view, the sensations known to us in singing, and exactly
ascertained in my experience, by the expressions "singing open,"
"covered," "dark," "nasal," "in the head," or "in the neck,"
"forward," or "back." These expressions correspond to our sensations
in singing; but they are unintelligible as long as the causes of those
sensations are unknown, and everybody has a different idea of them.
Many singers try their whole lives long to produce them and never
succeed. This happens because science understands too little of
singing, the singer too little of science. I mean that the
physiological explanations of the highly complicated processes of
singing are not plainly enough put for the singer, who has to concern
himself chiefly with his sensations in singing and guide himself by
them. Scientific men are not at all agreed as to the exact functions
of the several organs; the humblest singer knows something about them.
Every serious artist has a sincere desire to help others reach the
goal--the goal toward which all singers are striving: to sing well and

The true art of song has always been possessed and will always be
possessed by such individuals as are dowered by nature with all that
is needful for it--that is, healthy vocal organs, uninjured by vicious
habits of speech; a good ear, a talent for singing, intelligence,
industry, and energy.

In former times eight years were devoted to the study of singing--at
the Prague Conservatory, for instance. Most of the mistakes and
misunderstandings of the pupil could be discovered before he secured
an engagement, and the teacher could spend so much time in correcting
them that the pupil learned to pass judgment on himself properly.

But art to-day must be pursued like everything else, by steam. Artists
are turned out in factories, that is, in so-called conservatories, or
by teachers who give lessons ten or twelve hours a day. In two years
they receive a certificate of competence, or at least the diploma of
the factory. The latter, especially, I consider a crime, that the
state should prohibit.

All the inflexibility and unskilfulness, mistakes and deficiencies,
which were formerly disclosed during a long course of study, do not
appear now, under the factory system, until the student's public
career has begun. There can be no question of correcting them, for
there is no time, no teacher, no critic; and the executant has learned
nothing, absolutely nothing, whereby he could undertake to distinguish
or correct them.

The incompetence and lack of talent whitewashed over by the factory
concern lose only too soon their plausible brilliancy. A failure in
life is generally the sad end of such a factory product; and to
factory methods the whole art of song is more and more given over as a

I cannot stand by and see these things with indifference. My artistic
conscience urges me to disclose all that I have learned and that has
become clear to me in the course of my career, for the benefit of art;
and to give up my "secrets," which seem to be secrets only because
students so rarely pursue the path of proper study to its end. If
artists, often such only in name, come to a realization of their
deficiencies, they lack only too frequently the courage to acknowledge
them to others. Not until we artists all reach the point when we can
take counsel with each other about our mistakes and deficiencies, and
discuss the means for overcoming them, putting our pride in our
pockets, will bad singing and inartistic effort be checked, and our
noble art of singing come into its rights again.


Rarely are so many desirable and necessary antecedents united as in my

The child of two singers, my mother being gifted musically quite out
of the common, and active for many years not only as a dramatic
singer, but also as a harp virtuoso, I, with my sister Marie, received
a very careful musical education; and later a notable course of
instruction in singing from her. From my fifth year on I listened
daily to singing lessons; from my ninth year I played accompaniments
on the pianoforte, sang all the missing parts, in French, Italian,
German, and Bohemian; got thoroughly familiar with all the operas, and
very soon knew how to tell good singing from bad. Our mother took
care, too, that we should hear all the visiting notabilities of that
time in opera as well as in concert; and there were many of them every
year at the Deutsches Landestheater in Prague.

She herself had found a remarkable singing teacher in the Frankfort
basso, Föppel; and kept her voice noble, beautiful, young, and strong
to the end of her life,--that is, till her seventy-seventh
year,--notwithstanding enormous demands upon it and many a blow of
fate. She could diagnose a voice infallibly; but required a probation
of three to four months to test talent and power of making progress.

I have been on the stage since my eighteenth year; that is, for
thirty-four years. In Prague I took part every day in operas,
operettas, plays, and farces. Thereafter in Danzig I sang from
eighteen to twenty times a month in coloratura and soubrette parts;
also in Leipzig, and later, fifteen years in Berlin. In addition I
sang in very many oratorios and concerts, and gave lessons now and

As long as my mother lived she was my severest critic, never
satisfied. Finally I became such for myself. Now fifteen years more
have passed, of which I spent eight very exacting ones as a dramatic
singer in America, afterward fulfilling engagements as a star, in all
languages, in Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, England, and Sweden.
My study of singing, nevertheless, was not relaxed. I kept it up more
and more zealously by myself, learned something from everybody,
learned to _hear_ myself and others.

For many years I have been devoting myself to the important questions
relating to singing, and believe that I have finally found what I have
been seeking. It has been my endeavor to set down as clearly as
possible all that I have learned through zealous, conscientious study
by myself and with others, and thereby to offer to my colleagues
something that will bring order into the chaos of their methods of
singing; something based on science as well as on sensations in
singing; something that will bring expressions often misunderstood
into clear relation with the exact functions of the vocal organs.

In what I have just said I wish to give a sketch of my career only to
show what my voice has endured, and why, notwithstanding the enormous
demands I have made upon it, it has lasted so well. One who has sung
for a short time, and then has lost his voice, and for this reason
becomes a singing teacher, has never sung consciously; it has simply
been an accident, and this accident will be repeated, for good or for
ill, in his pupils.

The talent in which all the requirements of an artist are united is
very rare. Real talent will get along, even with an inferior teacher,
in some way or another; while the best teacher cannot produce talent
where there is none. Such a teacher, however, will not beguile people
with promises that cannot be kept.

My chief attention I devote to artists, whom I can, perhaps, assist in
their difficult, but glorious, profession. One is never done with
learning; and that is especially true of singers. I earnestly hope
that I may leave them something, in my researches, experiences, and
studies, that will be of use. I regard it as my duty; and I confide it
to all who are striving earnestly for improvement.

GRÜNEWALD, Oct. 31, 1900.



It is very important for all who wish to become artists to begin their
work not with practical exercises in singing, but with serious
practice in tone production, in breathing in and out, in the functions
of the lungs and palate, in clear pronunciation of all letters, and
with speech in general.

Then it would soon be easy to recognize talent or the lack of it. Many
would open their eyes in wonder over the difficulties of learning to
sing, and the proletariat of singers would gradually disappear. With
them would go the singing conservatories and the bad teachers who, for
a living, teach everybody that comes, and promise to make everybody a
great artist.

Once when I was acting as substitute for a teacher in a conservatory,
the best pupils of the institution were promised me,--those who needed
only the finishing touches. But when, after my first lesson, I went to
the director and complained of the ignorance of the pupils, my mouth
was closed with these words, "For Heaven's sake, don't say such
things, or we could never keep our conservatory going!"

I had enough, and went.

The best way is for pupils to learn preparatory books by heart, and
make drawings. In this way they will get the best idea of the vocal
organs, and learn their functions by sensation as soon as they begin
to sing. The pupil should be subjected to strict examinations.

_In what does artistic singing differ from natural singing?_

In a clear understanding of all the organs concerned in voice
production, and their functions, singly and together; in the
understanding of the sensations in singing, conscientiously studied
and scientifically explained; in a gradually cultivated power of
contracting and relaxing the muscles of the vocal organs, that power
culminating in the ability to submit them to severe exertions and keep
them under control. The prescribed tasks must be mastered so that they
can be done without exertion, with the whole heart and soul, and with
complete understanding.

How is this to be attained?

Through natural gifts, among which I reckon the possession of sound
organs and a well-favored body; through study guided by an excellent
teacher _who can sing well himself_,--study that must be kept up for
at least six years, without counting the preliminary work.

Only singers formed on such a basis, after years of work, deserve the
title of artist; only such have a right to look forward to a lasting
future, and only those equipped with such a knowledge ought to teach.

_Of what consists artistic singing?_

Of a clear understanding, first and foremost, of breathing, in and
out; of an understanding of the form through which the breath has to
flow, prepared by a proper position of the larynx, the tongue, and the
palate. Of a knowledge and understanding of the functions of the
muscles of the abdomen and diaphragm, which regulate the breath
pressure; then, of the chest-muscle tension, against which the breath
is forced, and whence, under the control of the singer, after passing
through the vocal cords, it beats against the resonating surfaces and
vibrates in the cavities of the head. Of a highly cultivated skill and
flexibility in adjusting all the vocal organs and in putting them into
minutely graduated movements, without inducing changes through the
pronunciation of words or the execution of musical figures that shall
be injurious to the tonal beauty or the artistic expression of the
song. Of an immense muscular power in the breathing apparatus and all
the vocal organs, the strengthening of which to endure sustained
exertion cannot be begun too long in advance; and the exercising of
which, as long as one sings in public, must never be remitted for a
single day.

As beauty and stability of tone do not depend upon excessive
_pressure_ of the breath, so the muscular power of the organs used in
singing does not depend on convulsive rigidity, but in that snakelike
power of contracting and loosening,[1] which a singer must consciously
have under perfect control.

[Footnote 1: In physiology when the muscles resume their normal state,
they are said to be _relaxed_. But as I wish to avoid giving a false
conception in our vocal sensations, I prefer to use the word

The study needed for this occupies an entire lifetime; not only
because the singer must perfect himself more and more in the rôles of
his repertory--even after he has been performing them year in and year
out,--but because he must continually strive for progress, setting
himself tasks that require greater and greater mastery and strength,
and thereby demand fresh study.

_He who stands still, goes backward._

Nevertheless, there are fortunately gifted geniuses in whom are
already united all the qualities needed to attain greatness and
perfection, and whose circumstances in life are equally fortunate; who
can reach the goal earlier, without devoting their whole lives to it.
Thus, for instance, in Adelina Patti everything was united,--the
splendid voice, paired with great talent for singing, and the long
oversight of her studies by her distinguished teacher, Strakosch. She
never sang rôles that did not suit her voice; in her earlier years she
sang only arias and duets or single solos, never taking part in
ensembles. She never sang even her limited repertory when she was
indisposed. She never attended rehearsals, but came to the theatre in
the evening and sang triumphantly, without ever having seen the
persons who sang and acted with her. She spared herself rehearsals
which, on the day of the performance, or the day before, exhaust all
singers, because of the excitement of all kinds attending them, and
which contribute neither to the freshness of the voice nor to the joy
of the profession.

Although she was a Spaniard by birth and an American by early
adoption, she was, so to speak, the greatest Italian singer of my
time. All was absolutely good, correct, and flawless, the voice like a
bell that you seemed to hear long after its singing had ceased.

Yet she could give no explanation of her art, and answered all her
colleagues' questions concerning it with an "Ah, je n'en sais rien!"

She possessed, unconsciously, as a gift of nature, a union of all
those qualities that all other singers must attain and possess
_consciously_. Her vocal organs stood in the most favorable relations
to each other. Her talent, and her remarkably trained ear, maintained
control over the beauty of her singing and of her voice. The fortunate
circumstances of her life preserved her from all injury. The purity
and flawlessness of her tone, the beautiful equalization of her whole
voice, constituted the magic by which she held her listeners
entranced. Moreover, she was beautiful and gracious in appearance.

The accent of great dramatic power she did not possess; yet I ascribe
this more to her intellectual indolence than to her lack of ability.



The breath becomes voice through the operation of the will, and the
instrumentality of the vocal organs.

To regulate the breath, to prepare a passage of the proper form
through which it shall flow, circulate, develop itself, and reach the
necessary resonating chambers, must be our chief task.

Concerning the breath and much more besides there is so much that is
excellent in Oscar Guttmann's "Gymnastik der Stimme" that I can do no
better than to refer to it and recommend it strongly to the attention
of all earnest students.

How do I breathe?

Very short of breath by nature, my mother had to keep me as a little
child almost sitting upright in bed. After I had outgrown that and as
a big girl could run around and play well enough, I still had much
trouble with shortness of breath in the beginning of my singing
lessons. For years I practised breathing exercises every day without
singing, and still do so with especial pleasure, now that everything
that relates to the breath and the voice has become clear to me. Soon
I had got so far that I could hold a swelling and diminishing tone
from fifteen to eighteen seconds.

I had learned this: to draw in the abdomen and diaphragm, raise the
chest and hold the breath in it by the aid of the ribs; in letting out
the breath _gradually_ to relax the body and to let the chest fall
slowly. To do everything _thoroughly_ I doubtless exaggerated it all.
But since for twenty-five years I have breathed in this way almost
exclusively, with the utmost care, I have naturally attained great
dexterity in it; and my abdominal and chest muscles and my diaphragm,
have been strengthened to a remarkable degree. Yet I was not

A horn player in Berlin with the power of holding a very long breath,
once told me in answer to a question, that he drew in his abdomen and
diaphragm very strongly, but immediately relaxed his abdomen again as
soon as he began to play. I tried the same thing with the _best
results_. Quite different, and very naïve, was the answer I once got
from three German orchestral horn players in America. They looked at
me in entire bewilderment, and appeared not to understand in the least
my questions as to how they breathed. Two of them declared that the
best way was not to think about it at all. But when I asked if their
teachers had never told them how they should breathe, the third
answered, after some reflection, "Oh, yes!" and pointed in a general
way to his stomach. The first two were right, in so far as too violent
inhalation of breath is really undesirable, because thereby _too much_
air is drawn in. But such ignorance of the subject is disheartening,
and speaks ill for the conservatories in which the players were
trained, whose performances naturally are likely to give art a black

Undoubtedly I took in too much air in breathing, and thereby stiffened
various organs, depriving my muscles of their elasticity. Yet, with
all my care and preparation, I often, when I had not given special
thought to it, had too little breath, rather than too much. I felt,
too, after excessive inhalation, as if I must emit a certain amount of
air before I began to sing. Finally I abandoned all superfluous
drawing in of the abdomen and diaphragm, inhaled but little, and began
to pay special attention to emitting the smallest possible amount of
breath, which I found very serviceable.

How do I breathe now?

My diaphragm I scarcely draw in consciously, my abdomen never; I feel
the breath fill my lungs, and my upper ribs expand. Without raising
my chest especially high, I force the breath against it, and hold it
fast there. At the same time I raise my palate high and prevent the
escape of breath through the nose. The diaphragm beneath reacts
against it, and furnishes pressure from the abdomen. Chest, diaphragm,
the closed epiglottis, and the raised palate all form a supply chamber
for the breath.

Only in this way is the breath under the control of the singer,
through the pressure against the chest tension muscles. (_This is very
important._) From now on the breath must be emitted from the supply
chamber very sparingly, but with unceasing uniformity and strength,
without once being held back, to the vocal cords, which will further
regulate it as far as possible. The more directly the breath pressure
is exerted against the chest,--one has the feeling, in this, of
singing the tone against the chest whence it must be _pressed_
out,--the less breath flows through the vocal cords, and the less,
consequently, are these overburdened.

In this way, under control, in the passage formed for it above the
tongue by that organ, it reaches the resonance chambers prepared for
it by the raising and lowering of the soft palate, and those in the
cavities of the head. Here it forms whirling currents of tone; these
now must circulate uninterrupted for as long as possible and fill all
the accessible resonating surfaces, which must be maintained in an
elastic state. This is necessary to bring the tone to its perfect
purity. Not till these currents have been sufficiently used up and
passed through the "bell," or cup-shaped resonating cavity, of the
mouth and lips, may it be allowed to stream from the mouth unimpeded.
Yet the _sensation_ must be as if the breath were constantly escaping
from the mouth.

To observe and keep under control these many functions, singly or in
conjunction, forms the ceaseless delight of the never failing fountain
of song study.

Thus, in shaping the passage for the breath, the larynx, tongue, and
palate, which can be placed at will, are employed. The vocal cords,
which can best be imagined as inner lips, we have under control
neither as beginners nor as artists. _We do not feel them._ We first
become conscious of them through the controlling apparatus of the
breath, which teaches us to _spare_ them, by emitting breath through
them in the least possible quantity and of even pressure, whereby a
steady tone can be produced. I even maintain that all is won, when--as
Victor Maurel says--we regard them directly as the breath regulators,
and relieve them of all overwork through the controlling apparatus of
the chest-muscle tension.

Through the form prepared by the larynx, tongue, and palate, we can
direct the breath, previously under control and regulation, toward the
particular resonating surfaces on the palate, or in the cavities of
the head, which are suitable to each tone. This rule remains the same
for all voices.

As soon as the breath leaves the larynx, it is divided. (Previously,
in inhalation, a similar thing happens; but this does not concern us
immediately, and I prefer to direct the singer's chief attention to
the second occurrence.) One part may press toward the palate, the
other toward the cavities of the head. The division of the breath
occurs regularly, from the deepest bass to the highest tenor or
soprano, step for step, vibration for vibration, without regard to sex
or individuality. Only the differing size or strength of the vocal
organs through which the breath flows, the breathing apparatus, or the
skill with which they are used, are different in different
individuals. The seat of the breath, the law of its division, as well
as the resonating surfaces, are always the same and are differentiated
at most through difference of habit.




The veriest beginner knows that in order to use the breath to the
fullest advantage, it must remain very long diffused back in the
mouth. A mistaken idea of "singing forward" misleads most to _press_
it forward and thus allow it to be speedily dissipated.

The column of breath coming in an uninterrupted stream from the
larynx, must, as soon as it flows into the form prepared for it
according to the required tone, by the tongue and palate, fill this
form, soaring through all its corners, with its vibrations. It makes
whirling currents, which circulate in the elastic form surrounding it,
and it must remain there till the tone is high enough, strong enough,
and sustained enough to satisfy the judgment of the singer as well as
the ear of the listener. Should there be lacking the least element of
pitch, strength, or duration, the tone is imperfect and does not meet
the requirement.

Learning and teaching to hear is the first task of both pupil and
teacher. One is impossible without the other. It is the most difficult
as well as the most grateful task, and it is the only way to reach

Even if the pupil unconsciously should produce a flawless tone, it is
the teacher's duty to acquaint him clearly with the _causes_ of it. It
is not enough to sing well; one must also know how one does it. The
teacher must tell the pupil constantly, making him describe clearly
his sensations in singing, and understand fully the physiological
factors that coöperate to produce them.

The sensations in singing must coincide with mine as here described,
if they are to be considered as correct; for mine are based logically
on physiological causes and correspond precisely with the operation of
these causes. Moreover, all my pupils tell me--often, to be sure, not
till many months have passed--how exact my explanations are; how
accurately, on the strength of them, they have learned to feel the
physiological processes. They have learned, slowly, to be sure, to
become conscious of their errors and false impressions; for it is very
difficult to ascertain such mistakes and false adjustments of the
organs. False sensations in singing and disregarded or false ideas of
physiological processes cannot immediately be stamped out. A long time
is needed for the mind to be able to form a clear image of those
processes, and not till then can knowledge and improvement be
expected. The teacher must repeatedly explain the physiological
processes, the pupil repeatedly disclose every confusion and
uncertainty he feels, until the perfect consciousness of his
sensations in singing is irrevocably impressed upon his memory, that
is, has become a habit.

Among a hundred singers hardly one can be found whose single tones
meet every requirement. And among a thousand listeners, even among
teachers, and among artists, hardly one hears it.

I admit that such perfect tones sometimes, generally quite
unconsciously, are heard from young singers, and especially from
beginners, and never fail to make an impression. The teacher hears
that they are good, so does the public. Only a very few know why, even
among singers, because only a very few know the laws governing perfect
tone production. Their talent, their ear perchance, tell them the
truth; but the causes they neither know nor look for.

On such "unconscious singing" directors, managers, and even
conductors, build mistakenly their greatest hopes. No one hears what
is lacking, or what will soon be lacking, and all are surprised when
experienced singers protest against it.

They become enthusiastic, properly, over beautiful voices, but pursue
quite the wrong path in training them for greater tasks. As soon as
such persons are obtained, they are immediately bundled into _all_
rôles; they have hardly time to learn one rôle by heart, to say
nothing of comprehending it and working it up artistically. The stars
must shine _immediately_! But with what resources? With the fresh
voice alone? Who is there to teach them to use their resources on the
stage? Who to husband them for the future? The manager? the director?
Not at all. When the day comes that they can no longer perform what,
not they themselves, but the directors, expected of them, they are put
to one side, and if they do not possess great energy and strength,
often entirely succumb. They could not meet the demands made upon
them, because they did not know how to use their resources.

I shall be told that tones well sung, even unconsciously, are enough.
But that is not true. The least unfavorable circumstance,
over-exertion, indisposition, an unaccustomed situation, anything can
blow out the "unconscious" one's light, or at least make it flicker
badly. Of any self-help, when there is ignorance of all the
fundamentals, there can be no question. Any help is grasped at. Then
appears the so-called (but false) "individuality," under whose mask so
much that is bad presents itself to art and before the public.

This is not remarkable, in view of the complexity of the phenomena of
song. Few teachers concern themselves with the fundamental studies;
they often do not sing at all themselves, or they sing quite wrongly;
and consequently can neither describe the vocal sensations nor test
them in others. Theory alone is of no value whatever. With old singers
the case is often quite the contrary--so both seize whatever help they
can lay hold of. The breath, that vibrates against the soft palate,
when it is raised, or behind it in the cavities of the head, produces
whirling currents through its continuous streaming forth and its
twofold division. These currents can circulate only in unbroken
completeness of form. The longer their form remains unimpaired, and
the more economically the continuous breath pressure is maintained,
the less breath do these currents need, the less is emitted unused
from the mouth.

If an elastic form is found in the mouth in which the currents can
circulate untouched by any pressure or undue contraction or expansion
of it, the breath becomes practically unlimited. That is the simple
solution of the paradox that without deep breathing one may often have
much breath, and, after elaborate preparations, often none at all;
because the chief attention is generally directed to inhalation,
instead of to the elastic forming of the organs for the breath, sound
currents, and tone. The one thing needed is the knowledge of the
causes, and the necessary skill in preparing the form, avoiding all
pressure that could injure it, whether originating in the larynx,
tongue, or palate, or in the organs that furnish the breath pressure.

The singer's endeavors, consequently, must be directed to keeping the
breath as long as possible sounding and vibrating not only forward but
back in the mouth, since the resonance of the tone is spread upon and
above the entire palate, extends from the front teeth to the wall of
the throat. He must concern himself with preparing for the vibrations,
pliantly and with mobility, a powerful, elastic, almost floating
envelope, which must be filled entirely, with the help of a continuous
vocal mixture,--a mixture of which the components are indistinguishable.



Science has explained all the processes of the vocal organs in their
chief functions, and many methods of singing have been based upon
physiology, physics, and phonetics. To a certain extent scientific
explanations are absolutely necessary for the singer--as long as they
are confined to the sensations in singing, foster understanding of the
phenomenon, and summon up an intelligible picture. This is what
uninterpreted sensations in singing cannot do; of which fact the
clearest demonstration is given by the expressions, "bright," "dark,"
"nasal," "singing forward," etc., that I began by mentioning and that
are almost always falsely understood. They are quite meaningless
without the practical teachings of the sensations of such singers as
have directed their attention to them with a knowledge of the end in
view, and are competent to correlate them with the facts of science.

The singer is usually worried by the word "physiology"; but only
because he does not clearly understand the limits of its teachings.
The singer need, will, and must, know a little of it. We learn so much
that is useless in this life, why not learn that which is of the
utmost service to us? What, in brief, does it mean? Perfect
consciousness in moving the vocal organs, and through the aid of the
ear, in placing them at will in certain relations with each other; the
fact that the soft palate can be drawn up against the hard palate;
that the tongue is able to take many different positions, and that the
larynx, by the assistance of the vocal sound oo, takes a low position,
and by that of the vowel [=a] a high one; that all muscles contract in
activity and in normal inactivity are relaxed; that we must strengthen
them by continued vocal gymnastics so that they may be able to
sustain long-continued exertion; and must keep them elastic and use
them so. It includes also the well-controlled activity of diaphragm,
chest, neck, and face muscles. This is all that physiology means for
the vocal organs. Since these things all operate together, one without
the others can accomplish nothing; if the least is lacking, singing is
quite impossible, or is entirely bad.

[Illustration: Cavity of the forehead, high range.

Nasal cavity, middle range.

Palatal resonance, low range.

Soft palate laid back against the wall of the throat in low tones,
lowered in high tones.

Red lines denote the resonance.]

Physiology is concerned also with muscles, nerves, sinews, ligaments,
and cartilage, all of which are used in singing, but all of which we
cannot feel. We cannot even feel the vocal cords. Certainly much
depends for the singer upon their proper condition; and whether as
voice producers or breath regulators, we all have good reason always
to spare them as much as possible, and never to overburden them.

Though we cannot feel the vocal cords, we can, nevertheless, hear, by
observing whether the tone is even,--in the emission of the breath
under control,--whether they are performing their functions properly.
Overburdening them through pressure, or emitting of the breath without
control, results in weakening them. The irritation of severe coughing,
thoughtless talking or shouting immediately after singing may also set
up serious congestion of the vocal cords, which can be remedied only
through slow gymnastics of the tongue and laryngeal muscles, by the
pronunciation of vowels in conjunction with consonants. Inactivity of
the vocal organs will not cure it, or perhaps not till after the lapse
of years.

A good singer can _never_ lose his voice. Mental agitation or severe
colds can for a time deprive the singer of the use of his vocal
organs, or seriously impair them. Only those who have been singing
without consciously correct use of their organs can become
disheartened over it; those who know better will, with more or less
difficulty, cure themselves, and by the use of vocal gymnastics bring
their vocal organs into condition again.

For this reason, if for no other, singers should seek to acquire
accurate knowledge of their own organs, as well as of their functions,
that they may not let themselves be burnt, cut, and cauterized by
unscrupulous physicians. Leave the larynx and all connected with it
alone; strengthen the organs by daily vocal gymnastics and a healthy,
_sober_ mode of life; beware of catching cold after singing; do not
sit and talk in restaurants.

Students of singing should use the early morning hours, and fill their
days with the various branches of their study. Sing every day only so
much, that on the next day you can practise again, feeling fresh and
ready for work, as _regular_ study requires. Better one hour every day
than ten to-day and none tomorrow.

The public singer should also do his practising early in the day, that
he may have himself well in hand by evening. How often one feels
indisposed in the morning! Any physical reason is sufficient to make
singing difficult, or even impossible; it need not be connected
necessarily with the vocal organs; in fact, I believe it very rarely
is. For this reason, in two hours everything may have changed.

I remember a charming incident in New York. Albert Niemann, our heroic
tenor, who was to sing _Lohengrin_ in the evening, complained to me in
the morning of severe hoarseness. To give up a rôle in America costs
the singer, as well as the director, much money. My advice was to

_Niemann._ What do you do, then, when you are hoarse?

_I._ Oh, I practise and see whether it still troubles me.

_Niem._ Indeed; and what do you practise?

_I._ Long, slow scales.

_Niem._ Even if you are hoarse?

_I._ Yes; if I want to sing, or have to, I try it.

_Niem._ Well, what are they? Show me.

_The great scale, the infallible cure._

I showed them to him; he sang them, with words of abuse in the
meantime; but gradually his hoarseness grew better. He did not send
word of his inability to appear in the evening, but sang, and better
than ever, with enormous success.

I myself had to sing _Norma_ in Vienna some years ago, and got up in
the morning quite hoarse. By nine o'clock I tried my infallible
remedy, but could not sing above A flat, though in the evening I
should have to reach high D flat and E flat. I was on the point of
giving up, because the case seemed to me so desperate. Nevertheless, I
practised till eleven o'clock, half an hour at a time, and noticed
that I was gradually getting better. In the evening I had my D flat
and E flat at my command and was in brilliant form. People said they
had seldom heard me sing so well.

I could give numberless instances, all going to show that you never
can tell early in the day how you are going to feel in the evening. I
much prefer, for instance, not to feel so very well early in the day,
because it may easily happen that the opposite may be the case later
on, which is much less agreeable. If you wish to sing only when you
are in good form, you must excuse yourself ninety-nine times out of a
hundred. You must learn to know your own vocal organs thoroughly and
be able to sing; must do everything that is calculated to keep you in
good condition. This includes chiefly rest for the nerves, care of the
body, and gymnastics of the voice, that you may be able to defy all
possible chances.

Before all, never neglect to practise every morning, regularly, proper
singing exercises through the whole compass of the voice. Do it with
_painful_ seriousness; and never think that vocal gymnastics weary the
singer. On the contrary, they bring refreshment and power of endurance
to him who will become master of his vocal organs.



Through the lowering of the pillars of the fauces, which is the same
as raising the soft palate, the outflowing breath is divided into two

I have sketched the following representation of it:--

Division of the breath.

By raising the pillars of the fauces, which closes off the throat from
the cavities of the head, the chest voice is produced; that is, the
lowest range of all kinds of voices. This occurs when the main stream
of breath, spreading over against the high-arched palate, completely
utilizes all its resonating surfaces. This is the palatal resonance,
in which there is the most power (Plate A).

[Illustration: A

Red lines denote division of the breath in palatal resonance, lower
range of male and female voices.]

When the soft palate is raised high behind the nose, the pillars of
the fauces are lowered, and this frees the way for the main stream of
breath to the head cavities. This now is poured out, filling the nose,
forehead, and head cavities. This makes the head tone. Called head
tone in women, falsetto in men, it is the highest range of all classes
of voices, the resonance of the head cavities (Plate C).

[Illustration: C

Resonance of the cavity of the forehead.

Red lines denote division of the breath in the resonance of the head
cavity, high range.]

Between these two extreme functions of the palate and breath, one
stream of breath gives some of its force to the other; and when
equally divided they form the medium range of all classes of voices
(Plate B).

[Illustration: B

Red lines denote division of the breath in the middle range.]

The singer must always have in his mind's eye a picture of this
divided stream of breath.

As I have already said, in the lowest tones of all voices the main
stream of breath is projected against the palate; the pillars of the
fauces, being stretched to their fullest extent, and drawn back to the
wall of the throat, allow _almost_ no breath to reach the head

I say _almost_ none, for, as a matter of fact, a branch stream of
breath, however small, must be forced back, behind and above the
pillars, first into the nose, later into the forehead and the cavities
of the head. This forms the overtones (head tones) which must vibrate
with all tones, even the lowest. These overtones lead over from the
purest chest tones, slowly, with a constantly changing mixture of both
kinds of resonance, first to the high tones of bass and baritone, the
low tones of tenor, the middle tones of alto and soprano, finally, to
the purest head tones, the highest tones of the tenor-falsetto or
soprano. (See the plates.)

The extremely delicate gradation of the scale of increase of the
resonance of the head cavities in ascending passages, and of increase
of palatal resonance in descending, depends upon the skill to make the
palate act elastically, and to let the breath, under control of the
abdominal and chest pressure, flow uninterruptedly in a gentle stream
into the resonating chambers. Through the previous preparation of the
larynx and tongue, it must reach its resonating surfaces as though
passing through a cylinder, and must circulate in the form previously
prepared for it, proper for each tone and vowel sound. This form
surrounds it gently but firmly. The supply of air remains continuously
the same, _rather increasing than diminishing_, notwithstanding the
fact that the quantity which the abdominal pressure has furnished the
vocal cords from the supply chamber is a very small one. That it may
not hinder further progression, the form must remain elastic and
sensitive to the most delicate modification of the vowel sound. If the
tone is to have life, it must always be able to conform to any vowel
sound. The least displacement of the form or interruption of the
breath breaks up the whirling currents and vibrations, and
consequently affects the tone, its vibrancy, its strength, and its

In singing a continuous passage upward, the form becomes higher and
more pliant; the most pliable place on the palate is drawn upward.
(See Plate A.)

When I sing a single tone I can give it much more power, much more
palatal or nasal resonance, than I could give in a series of ascending
tones. In a musical figure I must attack the lowest note in such a way
that I can easily reach the highest. I must, therefore, give it much
more head tone than the single tone requires. (Very important.) When
advancing farther, I have the feeling on the palate, above and behind
the nose, toward the cavities of the head, of a strong but very
elastic rubber ball, which I fill like a balloon with my breath
streaming up far back of it. And this filling keeps on in even
measure. That is, the branch stream of the breath, which flows into
the head cavities, must be free to flow very strongly without
hindrance. (See Plate B.)

I can increase the size of this ball above, to a pear shape, as soon
as I think of singing higher; and, indeed, I heighten the form
_before_ I go on from the tone just sung, making it, so to speak,
_higher_ in that way, and thus keep the form, that is, the
"propagation form," ready for the next higher tone, which I can now
reach easily, as long as no interruption in the stream of breath
against the mucous membrane can take place. For this reason the breath
must _never be held back_, but must always be emitted in a more and
more powerful stream. The higher the tone, the more numerous are the
vibrations, the more rapidly the whirling currents circulate, and the
more unchangeable must the form be.

Catarrh often dries up the mucous membrane; then the tones are
inclined to break off. At such times one must sing with peculiar
circumspection, and with an especially powerful stream of breath
behind the tone: it is better to take breath frequently. In a
descending scale or figure I must, on the contrary, preserve very
carefully the form taken for the highest tone. I must not go higher,
nor yet, under any circumstances, lower, but must imagine that I
remain at the same pitch, and must suggest to myself that I am
striking the same tone again. The form may gradually be a little
modified at the upper end: that is, the soft palate is lowered very
carefully behind the nose: keeping almost always to the form employed
for the highest tone, sing the figure to its end, toward the nose,
with the help of the vowel _oo_. (This auxiliary vowel _oo_ means
nothing more than that the larynx is slowly lowered in position.)

When this happens, the resonance of the head cavities is diminished,
that of the palate increased; for the soft palate sinks, and the
pillars of the fauces are raised more and more. Yet the head tone must
not be entirely free from palatal resonance. Both remain to the last
breath united, mutually supporting each other in ascending and
descending passages, and alternately but inaudibly increasing and

These things go to make up the form:--

The raising and lowering of the soft palate, and the corresponding
lowering and raising of the pillars of the fauces.

The proper position of the tongue: the tip rests on the lower front
teeth--mine even as low as the roots of the teeth.

The back of the tongue must stand high and free from the throat, ready
for any movement. A furrow must be formed in the tongue, which is
least prominent in the lowest tones, and in direct head tones may even
completely disappear. As soon as the tone demands the palatal
resonance, the furrow must be made prominent and kept so. In my case
it can always be seen. This is one of the most important matters, upon
which too much emphasis can hardly be laid. As soon as the furrow in
the tongue shows itself, the tone must sound right; for then the mass
of the tongue is kept away from the throat, and, since its sides are
raised, it is kept out of the way of the tone.

[Illustration: Side of the tongue kept high.


[Illustration: Red line denotes:

Sensation in raising the soft palate for high notes.

Sensation of the form in rapid upward passages.

Division of the breath favors the resonance of head cavities.]

It lies flattest in the lowest tones because the larynx then is in
a very low position, and thus is out of its way.

[Illustration: Red line denotes sensation of the form in slow
progression of tones.]

[Illustration: Red line denotes sensation for the propagation form.]

Furthermore, there is the unconstrained position of the larynx, which
must be maintained without pressure of the throat muscles. From it the
breath must stream forth evenly and uninterruptedly, to fill the form
prepared for it by the tongue and palate and supported by the throat

This support must not, however, depend in the least upon
_pressure_,--for the vibrating breath must float above,--but upon the
greatest elasticity. One must play with the muscles, and be able to
contract and relax them at pleasure, having thus perfect mastery over
them. For this incessant practice is required, increasing control of
the breath through the sense of hearing and the breath pressure.

At first a very strong will power is needed to hold the muscles tense
without pressure; that is, to let the tone, as it were, soar through
the throat, mouth, or cavities of the head.

The stronger the improper pressure in the production of the tone, the
more difficult it is to get rid of. The result is simply, in other
words, a strain. The contraction of the muscles must go only so far
that they can be slowly relaxed; that is, can return to their normal
position _easily_. Never must the neck be swelled up, or the veins in
it stand out. Every convulsive or painful feeling is wrong.



To attack a tone, the breath must be directed to a focal point on the
palate, which lies under the critical point for each different tone;
this must be done with a certain decisiveness. There must, however, be
no pressure on this place; for the overtones must be able to soar
above, and sound with, the tone. The palate has to furnish, besides,
the top cover against which the breath strikes, also an extremely
elastic floor for the breath sounding above it against the hard palate
or in the nose.

This breath, by forming the overtones, makes certain the connection
with the resonance of the head cavities.

In order to bring out the color of the tone the whirling currents must
vivify all the vowel sounds that enter into it, and draw them into
their circles with an ever-increasing, soaring tide of sound.

The duration of the tone must be assured by the gentle but
uninterrupted outpouring of the breath behind it. Its strength must be
gained by the breath pressure and the focal point on the palate, by
the complete utilization of the palatal resonance; without, however,
injuring the resonance of the head cavities. (See plate, representing
the attack.)

[Illustration: Sensation of pitch.

Red line denotes sensation in the attack.]



By raising the back of the tongue toward the soft palate and lowering
the soft palate toward the tongue, we produce nasal sound, such as is
heard in the pronunciation of the word "hanger," for instance. The air
is then expelled chiefly through the nose. The nasal sound can be much
exaggerated--something that very rarely happens; it can be much
neglected--something that very often happens. Certain it is that it is
not nearly enough availed of. That is my own everyday experience.

We Germans have only small opportunity to make the acquaintance of the
nasal sound; we know it in only a few words: "E_ng_el," "la_ng_e,"
"ma_ng_el," etc.,--always where _ng_ occurs before or after a vowel.

The French, on the contrary, always sing and speak nasally, with the
pillar of the fauces raised high, and not seldom exaggerate it. On
account of the rounding up of the whole soft palate, which, through
the power of habit, is cultivated especially by the French to an
extraordinary degree, and which affords the breath an enormous space
as a resonating surface to act upon, their voices often sound
tremendous. The tenor Silva is a good example of this. Such voices
have only the one drawback of easily becoming monotonous. At first
the power of the organ astonishes us; the next time we are
disappointed--the tone color remains always the same. The tone often
even degenerates into a hollow quality.

[Illustration: Red lines denote movement of the tongue and palate for
the nasal tone.]

On the other hand, voices that are not sufficiently nasal sound clear
and expressionless. Madame Melba, for instance, whose voice is
cultivated to favor the head tones, and sounds equally well in all its
ranges, apparently lowers the pillars of the fauces too much, and
has her chief resonance in the head cavities; she cannot draw upon the
palatal resonance for single accents of expression. Consequently she
loses in vocal color. This procedure, as soon as it becomes a habit,
results in monotony.

In the first case somewhat less, in the second somewhat more, nasal
resonance would help to a greater variety of effect.

There are singers, too, who pursue the middle path with consummate
art. Thus Madame Sembrich, in recent years, appears to have devoted
very special study to nasal tones, whereby her voice, especially in
the middle register, has gained greatly in warmth.

To fix the pupil's attention on the nasal tone and the elasticity of
the palate, he should often be given exercises with French words.



When the peak of the softest part of the palate is placed forward
toward the nose, instead of being drawn up high behind the nose, as in
the head voice (see plate, head voice and nasal tone), it forms a kind
of nasal production which, as I have already said, cannot be studied
enough, because it produces very noble tonal effects and extraordinary
connections. It ought always to be employed. By it is effected the
connection of tones with each other, from the front teeth back to a
point under the nose; from the lower middle tones to the head tones.
In truth, all the benefit of tonal connection depends upon this
portion of the soft palate; that is, upon its conscious employment.

This is all that singers mean when they speak of "nasal
singing"--really only singing toward the nose. The soft palate placed
toward the nose offers a resonating surface for the tone.

The reason why teachers tell their pupils so little of this is that
many singers are quite ignorant of what nasal singing means, and are
tormented by the idea of "singing toward the nose," when by chance
they hear something about it. They generally regard the voice as one
complete organ acting by itself, which is once for all what it is.
What can be made of it through knowledge of the functions of all the
coöperating organs they know nothing of.

Blind voices are often caused by the exaggerated practice of closing
off the throat too tightly from the head cavities; that is, drawing
the pillars of the fauces too far toward the wall of the throat. The
large resonating chamber thus formed yields tones that are powerful
close at hand, but they do not carry, because they are poor in
overtones. The mistake consists in the practice of stretching the
pillars too widely in the higher vocal ranges, also. In proportion as
the pillars are extended, the breath spreads over the entire palate,
instead of being concentrated on only one point of it, and bringing at
the same time the resonance of the head cavities into play. The soft
palate must first be drawn up to, then behind, the nose, and the
attack of the higher tones be transferred thither. The pillars of the
fauces must necessarily be relaxed by this action of the soft palate.
Thereby breath is introduced into the cavities of the head to form the
overtones, which contribute brilliancy and freshness to the voice.

Many singers persist in the bad habit here described, as long as
nature can endure it; in the course of time, however, even with the
most powerful physiques, they will begin to sing noticeably flat; with
less powerful, the fatal tremolo will make its appearance, which
results in the ruin of so many singers.

[Illustration: Red lines denote vocal sensations of soprano and tenor

[Illustration: The singer's nasal tone.

Red line denotes:

The soft palate raised high in the back, for further progression with
the head tone.

Vocal sensation.

Red line denotes:

Soft palate drawn toward the nose, for a descending progression.

Vocal sensation.]



The head tone signifies, for all voices, from the deepest bass to the
highest soprano,--excepting for the fact that it furnishes the
overtones for each single tone of the whole vocal gamut,--youth. A
voice without vibrancy is an _old_ voice. The magic of youth,
freshness, is given by the overtones that sound with every tone.

So to utilize the head voice (resonance of the head cavities) that
every tone shall be able to "carry" and shall remain high enough to
reach higher tones easily, is a difficult art, without which, however,
the singer cannot reckon upon the durability of his voice. Often
employed unconsciously, it is lost through heedlessness, mistaken
method, or ignorance; and it can hardly ever be regained, or, if at
all, only through the greatest sacrifice of time, trouble, and

The _pure_ head voice (the third register) is, on account of the
thinness that it has by nature, the neglected step-child of almost all
singers, male and female; its step-parents, in the worst significance
of the word, are most singing teachers, male and female. It is
produced by the complete lowering of the pillars of the fauces, while
the softest point of the palate--behind the nose--is thrown up very
high, seemingly, almost into the head; in the highest position, as it
were, above the head.

The rear of the tongue stands high, but is formed into a furrow, in
order that the mass of the tongue may not be in the way, either in the
throat or in the mouth. In the very highest falsetto and head tones
the furrow is pretty well filled out, and then no more breath at all
reaches the palatal resonance.

The larynx stands high--mine leans over to one side. (See plates of



Normal position of the larynx.


The position of my larynx in the high range.]

The vocal cords, which we cannot feel, now approach very near each
other. The pupil should not read about them until he has learned to
hear correctly. I do not intend to write a physiological work, but
simply to attempt to examine certain infallible vocal sensations of
the singer; point out ways to cure evils, and show how to gain a
correct understanding of that which we lack.

Up to a certain pitch, with tenors as well as with sopranos, the head
tones should be mixed with palatal resonance. With tenors this will be
a matter of course, though with them the chest tones are much abused;
with sopranos, however, a judicious mixture may be recommended because
more expression is required (since the influence of Wagner has become
paramount in interpreting the meaning of a composition, especially of
the words) than in the brilliant fireworks of former times. The head
voice, too, must not be regarded as a definite register of its own,
which is generally produced in the middle range through too long a
persistence in the use of the palatal and nasal resonance. If it is
suddenly heard alone, after forcing tones that have preceded it, which
is not possible under other circumstances, it is of course noticeably
thin, and stands out to its disadvantage--like every other sharply
defined register--from the middle tones. In the formation of the voice
no "register" should exist or be created; the voice must be made even
throughout its entire range. I do not mean by this that I should sing
neither with chest tones nor with head tones. On the contrary, the
practised artist should have at his command all manner of different
means of expression, that he may be able to use his single tones,
according to the expression required, with widely diverse qualities of
resonance. This, too, must be cared for in his studies. But these
studies, because they must fit each individual case, according to the
genius or talent of the individual, can be imparted and directed only
by a good teacher.

The head voice, when its value is properly appreciated, is the most
valuable possession of all singers, male and female. It should not be
treated as a Cinderella, or as a last resort,--as is often done too
late, and so without results, because too much time is needed to
regain it, when once lost,--but should be cherished and cultivated as
a guardian angel and guide, like no other. Without its aid all voices
lack brilliancy and carrying power; they are like a head without a
brain. Only by constantly summoning it to the aid of all other
registers is the singer able to keep his voice fresh and youthful.
Only by a careful application of it do we gain that power of endurance
which enables us to meet the most fatiguing demands. By it alone can
we effect a complete equalization of the whole compass of all voices,
and extend that compass.

This is the great secret of those singers who keep their voices young
till they reach an advanced age. Without it all voices of which great
exertions are demanded infallibly meet disaster. Therefore, the motto
must be always, practice, and again, practice, to keep one's powers
uninjured; practice brings freshness to the voice, strengthens the
muscles, and is, for the singer, far more interesting than any musical

If in my explanations I frequently repeat myself, it is done not
unintentionally, but deliberately, because of the difficulty of the
subject, as well as of the superficiality and negligence of so many
singers who, after once hastily glancing through such a treatise,--if
they consider it worth their while at all to inform themselves on the
subject,--think they have done enough with it.

One must read continually, study constantly by one's self, to gain
even a faint idea of the difficulty of the art of singing, of managing
the voice, and even of one's own organs and mistakes, which are one's
second self. The phenomenon of the voice is an elaborate complication
of manifold functions which are united in an extremely limited space,
to produce a single tone; functions which can only be heard, scarcely
felt--indeed, should be felt as little as possible. Thus, in spite of
ourselves, we can only come back again to the point from which we
started, as in an eddy, repeating the explanations of the single
functions, and relating them to each other.

Since in singing we sense none of the various activities of the
cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that belong to the vocal
apparatus, feel them only in their coöperation, and can judge of the
correctness of their workings only through the ear, it would be absurd
to think of them while singing. We are compelled, in spite of
scientific knowledge, to direct our attention while practising, to the
sensations of the voice, which are the only ones we can become aware
of,--sensations which are confined to the very palpable functions of
the organs of breathing, the position of the larynx, of the tongue,
and of the palate, and finally, to the sensation of the resonance of
the head cavities. The perfect tone results from the combined
operations of all these functions, the sensations of which I undertake
to explain, and the control of which the ear alone can undertake.

This is the reason why it is so important to learn to hear one's self,
and to sing in such a way that one can always so hear.

Even in the greatest stress of emotion the power of self-control must
never be lost; you must never allow yourself to sing in a slovenly,
that is, in a heedless, way, or to exceed your powers, or even to
reach their extreme limit. That would be synonymous with roughness,
which should be excluded from every art, especially in the art of
song. The listener must gain a pleasing impression from every tone,
every expression of the singer; much more may be given if desired.

Strength must not be confounded with roughness; and the two must not
go hand in hand together. Phenomenal beings may perhaps be permitted
to go beyond the strength of others; but to the others this must
remain forbidden. It cannot become a regular practice, and is best
limited to the single phenomenon. We should otherwise soon reach the
point of crudest realism, from which at best we are not far removed.
Roughness will never attain artistic justification, not even in the
case of the greatest individual singers, because it is an offence.

The public should witness from interpretative art only what is good
and noble on which to form its taste; there should be nothing crude or
commonplace put before it, which it might consider itself justified in
taking as an example.

Of the breath sensation I have already spoken at length. I must add
that it is often very desirable in singing to breathe through the
nose with the mouth closed; although when this is done, the raising of
the palate becomes less certain, as it happens somewhat later than
when the breath is taken with the mouth open. It has, however, this
disadvantage, that neither cold air nor dust is drawn into the larynx
and air passages. I take pleasure in doing it very often. At all
events, the singer should often avail himself of it.

We feel the larynx when the epiglottis springs up ("stroke of the
glottis," if the tone is taken from below upward). We can judge
whether the epiglottis springs up quickly enough if the breath comes
out in a full enough stream to give the tone the necessary resonance.
The low position of the larynx can easily be secured by pronouncing
the vowel _oo_; the high, by pronouncing the vowel _[=a]_. Often
merely thinking of one or the other is enough to put the larynx,
tongue, and palate in the right relations to each other. Whenever I
sing in a high vocal range, I can plainly feel the larynx rise and
take a diagonal position. (See plate.)

The movement is, of course, very slight. Yet I have the feeling in my
throat as if everything in it was stretching. I feel the pliability of
my organs plainly as soon as I sing higher.



We feel the placing of its tip against or beneath the front teeth; and
place the tip very low, so that it really curves over in front. (See

Its hinder part must be drawn back toward the palate, in the
pronunciation of every letter.

Furthermore, by looking in the mirror we can _see_ that the sides of
the tongue are raised as soon as we wish to form a furrow in it; that
is, as we _must_ do to produce the palatal resonance. (Only in the
head tone--that is, the use of the resonance of the head cavities
without the added palatal resonance--has the tongue no furrow; it
must, however, lie very high, since otherwise its mass, when it lies
flat, presses against the larynx and produces pinched or otherwise
disagreeable tones.)

The best way is to get the mass of the tongue out of the way by
forming the furrow in it. In high notes, when the larynx must stand as
high as possible, the back of the tongue also must stand very high;
but since there is a limit to this, we are often compelled to make the
larynx take a lower position.

[Illustration: Correct. Incorrect.]

The correct position of the tongue, preparatory to singing, is gained
by saying the vowel sound _aou_, as if about to yawn.

The tongue must not scrape around upward with its tip. As soon as the
tip has been employed in the pronunciation of the consonants _l_, _n_,
_s_, _t_, and _z_, in which its service is very short and sharp, it
must return to its former position, and keep to it.

It is best to watch the movements of the tongue in the mirror until we
have formed the correct habit permanently. The more elastic the tongue
is in preparing the form for the breath to pass through, the stiller
will it appear, the stiller will it feel to us. It is well, however,
for a considerable time to watch in a mirror all functions of the
organs that can be seen; the expression of the face, the position of
the mouth, and the movement of the lips.



The sensations of the palate are best made clear to us by raising the
softest part behind the nose. This part is situated very far back. Try
touching it carefully with the finger. This little part is of
immeasurable importance to the singer. By raising it the entire
resonance of the head cavities is brought into play--consequently the
head tones are produced. When it is raised, the pillars of the fauces
are lowered. In its normal position it allows the pillars to be
distended and to close the head cavities off from the throat, in order
to produce the chest tones; that is, to permit the breath to make
fullest use of the palatal resonance. As soon as the soft palate is
lowered under the nose, it makes a point of resonance for the middle
range of voice, by permitting the overtones to resound at the same
time in the nose. (See plate, middle range.)

[Illustration: Red lines denote middle range of soprano, contralto,
and tenor.

In the German names of the notes, _h_ represents _b_ in the English.]

[Illustration: Red line denotes peak, or softest point of the palate.]

Thus the palate performs the whole work so far as concerns the
different resonances, which can be united and separated by it, but
must _always work together in close relation, always bound together in
all tones, in all kinds of voices_.

The lowest chest tones of the bass, the highest head tones of the
soprano, are thus the two poles between which the entire gamut of all
voices can be formed. From this it can be perceived that with a
certain degree of skill and willingness to work, every voice will be
capable of great extension.



The sensation of the resonance of the head cavities is perceived
chiefly by those who are unaccustomed to using the head tones. The
resonance against the occipital walls of the head cavities when the
head tones are employed, at first causes a very marked irritation of
the nerves of the head and ear. But this disappears as soon as the
singer gets accustomed to it. The head tones can be used and directed
by the breath only with a clear head. The least depression such as
comes with headaches, megrim, or moodiness may have the worst effect,
or even make their use quite impossible. This feeling of oppression is
lost after regular, conscious practice, by which all unnecessary and
disturbing pressure is avoided. In singing very high head tones I have
a feeling as if they lay high above the head, as if I were setting
them off into the air. (See plate.)

Here, too, is the explanation of singing _in the neck_. The breath, in
all high tones which are much mixed with head tones or use them
entirely, passes very far back, directly from the throat into the
cavities of the head, and thereby, and through the oblique position of
the larynx, gives rise to the sensations just described. A singer who
inhales and exhales carefully, that is, with knowledge of the
physiological processes, will always have a certain feeling of
pleasure, an attenuation in the throat as if it were stretching itself
upward. The bulging out of veins in the neck, that can so often be
seen in singers, is as wrong as the swelling up of the neck, looks
very ugly, and is not without danger from congestion.

With rapid scales and trills one has the feeling of great firmness of
the throat muscles, as well as of a certain stiffness of the larynx.
(See "Trills.") An unsteady movement of the latter, this way and that,
would be disadvantageous to the trill, to rapid scales, as well as to
the cantilena. For this reason, because the changing movements of the
organs must go on quite imperceptibly and inaudibly, it must be more
like a shifting than a movement. In rapid scales the lowest tone must
be "placed" with a view to the production of the highest, and in
descending, the greatest care must be exercised that the tone shall
not tumble over each other single, but shall produce the sensation of
closely connected sounds, through being bound to the high tone
position and pressed toward the nose.

In this all the participating vocal organs must be able to keep up a
muscular contraction, often very rigid: a thing that is to be achieved
only gradually through long years of careful and regular study.
Excessive practice is of no use in this--only regular and
intelligent practice; and success comes only in course of time.

[Illustration: Red line denotes vocal sensation of soprano and tenor.]

Never should the muscular contractions become convulsive and produce
pressure which the muscles cannot endure for a long time. They must
respond to all necessary demands upon their strength, yet remain
elastic in order that, easily relaxing or again contracting, they may
promptly adapt themselves to every nuance in tone and accent desired
by the singer.

A singer can become and continue to be master of his voice and means
of expression only as long as he practises daily correct vocal
gymnastics. In this way alone can he obtain unconditional mastery over
his muscles, and, through them, of the finest controlling apparatus,
of the beauty of his voice, as well as of the art of song as a whole.

Training the muscles of the vocal organs so that their power to
contract and relax to all desired degrees of strength, throughout the
entire gamut of the voice, is always at command, makes the master

As I have already said, the idea of "singing forward" leads very many
singers to force the breath from the mouth without permitting it to
make full use of the resonating surfaces that it needs, yet it streams
forth from the larynx really very far back in the throat, and the
straighter it rises in a column behind the tongue, the better it is
for the tone. The tongue must furnish the surrounding form for this,
for which reason it must not lie flat in the mouth. (See plate, the

The whirling currents of tone circling around their focal point (the
attack) find a cup-shaped resonating cavity when they reach the front
of the mouth and the lips, which, through their extremely potent
auxiliary movements, infuse life and color into the tone and the word.
Of equal importance are the unimpeded activity of the whirling
currents of sound and their complete filling of the resonating
spaces in the back of the throat, the pillars of the fauces, and the
head cavities in which the vocalized breath must be kept soaring above
the larynx and _soaring undisturbed_.

In the lowest range of the voice the entire palate from the front
teeth to the rear wall of the throat must be thus filled. (See plate.)

[Illustration: Red lines denote division of the breath in the palatal
resonance: lower range of male and female voices.]

With higher tones the palate is lowered, the nostrils are inflated,
and above the hard palate a passage is formed for the overtones. (See

[Illustration: Red lines denote division of the breath in the middle
range and higher middle range.]

This air which soars above must, however, not be in the least
compressed; the higher the tone, the less pressure should there be;
for here, too, whirling currents are formed, which must be neither
interrupted nor destroyed. The breath must be carried along on the
wall of the throat without compression, in order to accomplish its
work. (See plate, high tones.)

[Illustration: Resonance of the cavity of the forehead.

Red lines denote division of the breath in the resonance of the head
cavities, high range.]

Singing forward, then, does not mean pressing the whole of the
_breath_ or the tone forward, but only part of it; that is, in the
middle register, finding a resonating focus in front, caused by the
lowering of the front of the palate. This permits a free course only
to that part of the breath which is used up by the whirling currents
in the resonant throat form, and serves to propagate the outer waves,
and carry them farther through space.



We sing covered as soon as the soft palate is lowered toward the nose
(that is, in the middle register), and the resonance and attack are
transferred thither so that the breath can flow over the soft palate
through the nose.

This special function of the palate, too, should be carefully prepared
for in the tones that precede it, and mingled with them, in order not
to be heard so markedly as it often is. In men's voices this is much
more plainly audible than in women's; but both turn it to account
equally on different tones. This often produces a new register that
should not be produced. This belongs to the chapter on registers.

[Music illustration]

The tone is concentrated on the front of the palate instead of being
spread over all of it--but this must not be done too suddenly. [See
illustrations on pages 127, 129, 131, 133.]

[Illustration: Red lines denote covered tones for contralto and

[Illustration: Red lines denote covered tones for bass and baritone.]

[Illustration: Red lines denote change of attack. (Soprano, contralto,
and tenor.)]

[Illustration: Red lines denote change of attack. (Bass and



What is a vocal register?

A series of tones sung in a certain way, which are produced by a
certain position of the vocal organs--larynx, tongue, and palate.
Every voice includes three registers--chest, middle, and head. But all
are not employed in every class of voice.

Two of them are often found connected to a certain extent in
beginners; the third is usually much weaker, or does not exist at all.
Only very rarely is a voice found naturally equalized over its whole

Do registers exist by nature? No. It may be said that they are created
through long years of speaking in the vocal range that is easiest to
the person, or in one adopted by imitation, which then becomes a
fixed habit. If this is coupled with a natural and proper working of
the muscles of the vocal organs, it may become the accustomed range,
strong in comparison with others, and form a register by itself. This
fact would naturally be appreciated only by singers.

If, on the other hand, the muscles are wrongly employed in speaking,
not only the range of voice generally used, but the whole voice as
well, may be made to sound badly. So, in every voice, one or another
range may be stronger or weaker; and this is, in fact, almost always
the case, since mankind speaks and sings in the pitch easiest or most
accustomed, without giving thought to the proper position of the
organs in relation to each other; and people are rarely made to pay
attention as children to speaking clearly and in an agreeable voice.
In the most fortunate instances the range thus practised reaches
limits on both sides, not so much those of the person's power, as
those set by his lack of skill, or practice. Limitations are put on
the voice through taking account only of the easiest and most
accustomed thing, without inquiring into the potentialities of the
organs or the demands of art.

[Illustration: Red lines denote a register is formed when as many
tones as possible are forced upon one and the same point of resonance.
(Bass and baritone.)]

[Illustration: Red lines denote a register is formed when as many
tones as possible are forced upon one and the same point of resonance.
(Soprano, contralto, and tenor.)]

Now, suppose such a peculiarity which includes, let us say, three or
four tones, is extended to six or eight, then, in the course of time,
in the worst cases, a break is produced at the outside limits. In the
most favorable cases the tones lying next beyond these limits are
conspicuously weak and without power compared with those previously
forced. This one way of singing can be used no farther; another must
be taken up, only, perhaps, to repeat farther the incorrect procedure.

Three such limits or ways of singing can be found and used. Chest,
middle, and head voice, all three form registers when exaggerated; but
they should be shaded off and melt into each other. The organs,
through the skilful training of the teacher, as well as by the
exercise of the pupil's talent and industry, must be accustomed to
taking such positions that one register leads into another
imperceptibly. In this way beauty, equality, and increased compass of
the voice will be made to enhance its usefulness.

When the three ways of singing are too widely different and too
sharply contrasted, they become separate registers. These are
everywhere accepted as a matter of course, and for years have been a
terror in the teaching of singing, that has done more than anything
else to create a dreadful bewilderment among singers and teachers. To
eradicate it is probably hopeless. Yet, these registers are nothing
more than three disconnected manners of using the vocal and resonating

With all the bad habits of singers, with all the complete ignorance of
cause and effect, that prevail, it is not surprising that some pretend
to tell us that there are two, three, four, or five registers,
although as a matter of fact there can be at most three in any voice.
It will be much more correct to call every tone of every voice by the
name of a new additional register, for in the end, every tone will and
_must_ be taken in a different relation, with a different position of
the organs, although the difference may be imperceptible, if it is to
have its proper place in the whole. People cling to the appellations
of chest, middle, and head _register_, confounding voice with
register, and making a hopeless confusion, from which only united and
very powerful forces can succeed in extricating them.

As long as the word "register" is kept in use, the registers will not
disappear. And yet, the register question must be swept away, to give
place to another class of ideas, sounder views on the part of
teachers, and a truer conception on the part of singers and pupils.



Naturally, a singer can devote more strength to the development of one
or two connected ranges of his voice than to a voice perfectly
equalized in all its accessible ranges. For this are required many
years of the most patient study and observation, often a
long-continued or entire sacrifice of one or the other limit of a
range for the benefit of the next-lying weaker one; of the head voice
especially, which, if unmixed, sounds uneven and thin in comparison
with the middle range, until by means of practised elasticity of the
organs and endurance of the throat muscles a positive equalization can
take place.

Voices which contain only one or two registers are called short
voices, for their availability is as limited as they are themselves.

Yet it must be remembered that all voices alike, whether short or
long, even those of the most skilful singers, when age comes on, are
apt to lose their highest ranges, if they are not continually
practised throughout their entire compass with the subtlest use of the
head tones. Thence it is to be concluded that a singer ought always to
extend the compass of his voice as far as possible, in order to be
certain of possessing the compass that he needs.

On the formation of the organs depends much of the character of the
voice. There are strong, weak, deep, and high voices by nature; but
every voice, by means of proper study, can attain a certain degree of
strength, flexibility, and compass.

Unfortunately, stubbornness enters largely into this question, and
often works in opposition to the teacher. Many, for instance, wish to
be altos, either because they are afraid of ruining their voices by
working for a higher compass, or because it is easier for them, even
if their voices are not altos at all.

Nowadays operas are no longer composed for particular singers and the
special characteristics of their voices. Composers and librettists
express what they feel without regard to an alto singer who has no
high C or a soprano who has no low A flat or G. But the _artist_ will
always find what he needs.

Registers exist in the voices of almost all singers, but they ought
not to be heard, ought not, indeed, to exist. Everything should be
sung with a mixed voice in such a way that no tone is forced at the
expense of any other. To avoid monotony the singer should have at his
disposal a wealth of means of expression in all ranges of his voice.
(See the Varieties of Attack and Dynamic Power.) Before all else he
should have knowledge of the advantages in the resonance of certain
tones, and of their connection with each other. The _soul_ must
provide the color; skill and knowledge as to cause and effect,
management of the breath, and perfection of the throat formation must
give the power to produce every dynamic gradation and detail of
expression. Registers are, accordingly, produced when the singer
forces a series of tones, generally ascending, upon one and the same
resonating point, instead of remembering that in a progression of
tones no one tone can be exactly like another, because the position of
the organs must be different for each. The palate must remain elastic
from the front teeth to its hindmost part, mobile and susceptible,
though imperceptibly, to all changes. Very much depends on the
continuous harmony of action of the soft and hard palate, which must
always be in full evidence, the raising and extension of the former
producing changes in the tone. If, as often happens when the registers
are sharply defined, tones fall into a _cul de sac_, escape into
another register is impossible, without a jump, which may lead to
disaster. With every tone that the singer has to sing, he must always
have the feeling that he _can_ go higher, and that the attack for
different tones must not be forced upon one and the same point.

The larynx must not be _suddenly_ pressed down nor jerked up, except
when this is desired as a special effect. That is, when one wishes to
make a transition, _legato_, from a chest tone to a tone in the middle
or head register, as the old Italians used to do, and as I, too,
learned to do, thus:--

[Music illustration]

In this case the chest tone is attacked very nasal, in order that the
connection may remain to the upper note, and the larynx is suddenly
jerked up to the high tone. This was called breaking the tone; it was
very much used, and gave fine effects when it was well done. I use it
to-day, especially in Italian music, where it belongs. It is an
exception to the rule for imperceptible or inaudible change of
position of the organs,--that it should not be made _suddenly_.

The scale proceeds from one semitone to another; each is different;
each, as you go on, requires greater height, wherefore the position of
the organs cannot remain the same for several different tones. But, as
there should never be an abrupt change audible in the way of singing,
so should there never be an abrupt change felt in the sensations of
the singer's throat. Every tone must be imperceptibly prepared in an
elastic channel and must produce an easy feeling in the singer, as
well as an agreeable impression upon the listener.

The small peak indicated in the illustration is enormously extensible
and can be shifted into infinite varieties of position. However
unimportant its raising and lowering may appear, they are nevertheless
of great importance for the tone and the singer. The focal point of
the breath, that forms simultaneously the attack and the body of the
tone, by the operation of the abdominal breath pressure against the
chest, is always firmly placed on, beneath, or behind the nose.
Without body even the finest pianissimo has no significance. The very
highest unmixed head tones are an exception, and they can express
nothing. There can be no body expected in them. Their soaring quality
of sound endures no pressure, and consequently gives no expression,
which is possible only through an admixture of palatal resonance.
Their only significance is gained through their pure euphony.

All vowels, too, must keep their point of resonance uninterruptedly on
the palate. All beauty in the art of song, in cantilena as well as in
all technique, consists chiefly in uninterrupted connection between
the tone and the word, in the flexible connection of the soft palate
with the hard, in the continually elastic adjustment of the former
to the latter. This means simply the elastic form, which the breath
must fill in every corner of resonating surface without interruption,
as long as the tone lasts.

[Illustration: Red line denotes softest point on the palate.]

If the singer will control his tone,--and in practising he must always
do so,--he needs only to test it to see whether he can easily make it
softer without perceptible change in the position of the organs, and
carry it higher toward the nose and the cavities of the forehead; that
is, prepare a form for its continuation upward.

_In this way he can learn how much height a tone needs without being
too high, and how much it often lacks in height and duration to sound
high enough._

In this way remarkable faults become evident! The reason why a tone
sounds too low--the so-called transition tones from the lower to the
middle range and from this to the higher, come up for consideration
chiefly--is that the pillars of the fauces are raised too high toward
the back, preventing the head tones from sounding at the same time; or
the soft palate is lowered too far under the nose, which results in
pressing the tone too long and too far toward the teeth. This fault is
met with in very many singers, in all kinds of voices, and in almost
the same places. It comes only from an unyielding retention of the
same resonating point for several tones and a failure to bring in the
resonance of the head cavities. The "propagation form," or continuing
form,[2] must always be prepared consciously, for without it artistic
singing is not to be thought of.

[Footnote 2: "Fortpflanzungsform": the preparation made in the vocal
organs for taking the next tone before leaving the one under
production, so that the succeeding tones shall all be of like
character and quality.]

The neglect of this most important principle usually results in
overstraining the vocal cords and throat muscles. This is followed
first by singing flat, and later by the appearance of the hideous
tremolo (see Tremolo) to which so many singers fall victims. The
cause of a tone's being too sharp is the dwelling too long on the
resonance of the head cavities, where the tone should already have
been mixed with palatal resonance. With very young voices this can
easily happen, and can also result from weariness, when the bodily
strength is not developed sufficiently to endure the fatigue of
practising. A very circumspect course must then be followed.



There are also singers, male and female, who use too much head tone
through their entire compass; such voices are called "white." Their
use of the palatal resonance being insufficient, they are not able to
make a deeper impression, because their power of expression is
practically nothing. Frau Wedekind and Madame Melba are instances of
this. In such cases it would be advisable to raise the pillars of the
fauces a little higher, and place the larynx somewhat lower, and to
mingle judiciously with all the other vowels, the vowel sound _oo_,
that requires a lower position of the larynx. The voices would become
warmer and would sound more expressive. As soon as the singer is able
to create easily and inaudibly on every tone the correct propagation
form for the next tone, all questions as to register must disappear.
He must not, however, be drilled on _registers_; several tones must
not be forced on one and the same point. Every tone should be put
naturally into its own place; should receive the pitch, duration, and
strength it needs for its perfection. And one master rules it
all,--the ear!

The goal is, unfortunately, so seldom reached because it can be
reached only through the moderation that comes from mastery; and,
alas! only true masters practise it.

It may be accepted as true that the lower ranges of the voice have the
greatest strength, the middle ranges the greatest power of expression,
the higher the greatest carrying power.

The best mixture--all three together--may be developed to the highest
art by the skill of the individual, often, indeed, only by a good ear
for it. Whenever expression of the word's significance, beauty of the
vocal material, and perfection of phrasing are found united in the
highest degree, it is due either to knowledge or to a natural skill in
the innumerable ways of fitting the sung word to the particular
resonance--connections that are suitable to realize its significance,
and hence its spirit. They are brought out by a stronger inclination
toward one or the other of the resonance surfaces, without, however,
injuring the connection or the beauty of the musical phrase. Here
aesthetic feeling plays the chief part, for whatever may be its power
and its truthfulness, the result must always be beautiful,--that is,
restrained within proper limits.

This law, too, remains the same for all voices. It is a question of
the entire compass of a voice trained for artistic singing, one that
is intrusted with the greatest of tasks, to interpret works of art
that are no popular songs, but, for the most part, human tragedies.
Most male singers--tenors especially--consider it beneath them,
generally, indeed, unnatural or ridiculous, to use the falsetto,
which is a part of all male voices, as the head tones are a part of
all female voices. They do not understand how to make use of its
assistance, because they often have no idea of its existence, or know
it only in its unmixed purity--that is, its thinnest quality. Of its
proper application they have not the remotest conception. Their
singing is generally in accordance with their ignorance.

The mixture is present by nature in all kinds of voices, but singers
must possess the skill and knowledge to employ it, else the natural
advantage goes for nothing.



The most perfect singer that I remember in my Berlin experience was
Theodor Wachtel in this respect, that with his voice of rare splendor,
he united all that vocal art which, as it seems, is destined quite to
disappear from among us. How beautiful were his coloratura, his
trills,--simply flawless! Phrasing, force, fulness of tone, and beauty
were perfect, musically without a blemish. If he did not go outside
the range of Arnold, G. Brown, Stradella, Vasco, the Postillion and
Lionel, it was probably because he felt that he was not equal to
interpreting the Wagnerian spirit. In this he was very wise. As one of
the first of vocal artists, whose voice was superbly trained and was
preserved to the end of his life, I have had to pay to Wachtel the
tribute of the most complete admiration and recognition, in contrast
to many others who thought themselves greater than he, and yet were
not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes.

Recently the little Italian tenor Bonci has won my hearty admiration
for his splendidly equalized voice, his perfect art, and his knowledge
of his resources; and notwithstanding the almost ludicrous figure that
he cut in serious parts, he elicited hearty applause. Cannot German
tenors, too, learn to sing _well_, even if they do interpret Wagner?
Will they not learn, for the sake of this very master, that it is
their duty not to use their voices recklessly?

Is it not disrespectful toward our greatest masters that they always
have to play hide and seek with the _bel canto_, the trill, and
coloratura? Not till one has fully realized the difficulties of the
art of song, does it really become of value and significance. Not till
then are one's eyes opened to the duty owed not only to one's self
but to the public.

The appreciation of a difficulty makes study doubly attractive; the
laborious ascent of a summit which no one can contest, is the
attainment of a goal.

Voices in which the palatal resonance--and so, power--is the
predominating factor, are the hardest to manage and to preserve. They
are generally called chest voices. Uncommon power and fulness of tone
in the middle ranges are extremely seductive. Only rarely are people
found with sense enough to renounce such an excess of fulness in favor
of the head tones,--that is, the least risky range to exploit and
preserve,--even if this has to be done only temporarily.

Copious vocal resources may with impunity be brought before the public
and thereby submitted to strain, only after long and regular study.

The pure head tone, without admixture of palatal resonance, is feeble
close at hand, but penetrating and of a carrying power equalled by no
other. Palatal resonance without admixture of the resonance of the
head cavities (head tones) makes the tone very powerful when heard
near by, but without vibrancy for a large auditorium. This is the
proof of how greatly _every_ tone needs the proper admixture.



As we have already seen, there is almost no limit to the height that
can be reached by the pure head tone without admixture of palatal
resonance. Very young voices, especially, can reach such heights, for
without any strain they possess the necessary adaptability and skill
in the adjustment to each other of the larynx, tongue, and pillars of
the fauces. A skill that rests on ignorance of the true nature of the
phenomenon must be called pure chance, and thus its disappearance is
as puzzling to teacher and listener as its appearance had been in the
first place. How often is it paired with a total lack of ability to
produce anything but the highest head tones! As a general rule such
voices have a very short lease of life, because their possessors are
exploited as wonders, before they have any conception of the way to
use them, of tone, right singing, and of cause and effect in general.
An erroneous pressure of the muscles, a wrong movement of the tongue
(raising the tip, for instance, [Illustration]), an attempt to
increase the strength of the tone,--all these things extinguish
quickly and for all time the wonder-singer's little light.

We Lehmann children in our youth could sing to the very highest pitch.
It was nothing for my sister Marie to strike the 4-line _e_ a hundred
times in succession, and trill on it for a long time. She could have
sung in public at the age of seven. But since our voices, through the
circumstances of our life and surroundings, were forced to early
exertions, they lost their remarkable high notes; yet enough was left
to sing the _Queen of Night_ (in Mozart's opera "Die Zauberflöte"),
with the high _f_.

After I had been compelled to use my lower and middle ranges much
more, in the study of dramatic parts, I omitted the highest notes from
my practice, but could not then always have relied on them. Now that I
know on what it all depends, it is very easy for me to strike high
_f_, not only in passing, but to combine it with any tone through
three octaves. But upon the least pressure by any organ, the head
resonance loses its brilliancy; that is, the breath no longer streams
into the places where it should, and can create no more whirling
currents of sound to fill the spaces.

But one should not suppose that the head tones have no power. When
they are properly used, their vibrancy is a substitute for any amount
of power.

As soon as the head tones come into consideration, one should _never_
attempt to sing an open _ah_, because on _ah_ the tongue lies
flattest. One should think of an _[=a]_, and in the highest range even
an _[=e]_; should mix the _[=a]_ and _[=e]_ with the _ah_, and thereby
produce a position of the tongue and soft palate that makes the path
clear for the introduction of the breath into the cavities of the

[Illustration: Red lines denote vocal sensation in the highest head
tones without mixture.]

Singers who, on the other hand, pronounce _[=a]_ and _[=e]_ too
sharply, need only introduce an admixture of _oo_; they thereby lower
the position of the larynx, and thus give the vowel and tone a darker

Since the stream of breath in the highest tones produces currents
whirling with great rapidity, the more rapidly the higher the tone is,
the slightest pressure that may injure the form in which they
circulate may ruin the evenness of the tone, its pitch, perhaps the
tone itself. Each high tone must _soar gently_, like the overtones.

The upper limits of a bass and baritone voice are

[Music illustration]

where, consequently, the tones must be mixed. Pure head tones, that
is, falsetto, are never demanded higher than this. I regard it,
however, as absolutely necessary for the artist to give consideration
to his falsetto, that he may include it among his known resources.
Neither a bass nor a baritone should neglect to give it the proper
attention, and both should learn to use it as one of their most
important auxiliary forces.

With what mastery did Betz make use of it; how noble and beautiful his
voice sounded in all its ranges; of what even strength it was, and how
infallibly fresh! And let no one believe that Nature gave it to him
thus. As a beginner in Berlin he was quite unsatisfactory. He had the
alternative given him either to study with great industry or to seek
another engagement, for his successor had already been selected. Betz
chose to devote himself zealously to study; he began also to play the
'cello; he learned to _hear_, and finally raised himself to be one of
our first singers, in many rôles never to be forgotten. Betz knew,
like myself, many things that to-day are neither taught nor learned.



The whole secret of both consists in the proper raising and lowering
of the soft palate, and the pillars of the fauces connected with it.
This divides into two resonating divisions the breath coming from the
source of supply, and forced against the chest, whereby it is put
under control, as it escapes vocalized from the larynx. It consists
also in the singer's natural adaptability and skill, in so placing the
palate and resonance of the head cavities, or keeping them in
readiness for every tone, as the pitch, strength, and duration of the
individual tones or series of connected tones, with their propagation
form, shall demand.



Big voices, produced by large, strong organs, through which the breath
can flow in a broad, powerful stream, are easily disposed to suffer
from the tremolo, because the outflow of the breath against the vocal
cords occurs too _immediately_. The breath is sent directly out from
the lungs and the body, instead of being driven by the abdominal
pressure forward against the chest and the controlling apparatus. Not
till this has been done, should it be admitted, in the smallest
amounts, and under control to the vocal cords. It does not pause, but
streams through them without burdening them, though keeping them
always more or less stretched, in which the muscular power of
contraction and relaxation assists. Streaming _gently_ out from the
vocal cords, it is now led, with the support of the tongue, to its
resonance chambers, all the corners of which it fills up equally. Even
the strongest vocal cords cannot for any length of time stand the
uncontrolled pressure of the breath. They lose their tension, and the
result is the tremolo.

In inhaling, the chest should be raised not at all or but very little.
(For this reason exercises for the expansion of the chest must be
practised.) The pressure of the breath _against_ the chest must be
maintained as long as it is desired to sustain a tone or sing a
phrase. As soon as the pressure of the abdomen and chest ceases, the
tone and the breath are at an end. Not till toward the very end of the
breath, that is, of the tone or the phrase, should the pressure be
slowly relaxed, and the chest slowly sink.

While I am singing, I must press the breath against the chest
_evenly_, for in this way alone can it be directed evenly against the
vocal cords, which is the chief factor in a steady tone and the only
possible and proper use of the vocal cords.

The uninterrupted control of the breath pressure against the chest
gives to the tone, as soon as it has found a focal point on the raised
palate at the attack, the basis, the body, which must be maintained
even in the softest pianissimo. Control of the breath should never
cease. The tone should never be made too strong to be kept under
control, nor too weak to be kept under control. This should be an
inflexible rule for the singer.

I direct my whole attention to the pressure against the chest, which
forms the door of the supply chamber of breath. Thence I admit to the
vocal cords uninterruptedly only just so much as I wish to admit. I
must not be stingy, nor yet extravagant with it. Besides giving
steadiness, the pressure against the chest (the controlling apparatus)
establishes the strength and the duration of the tone. Upon the
proper control depends the length of the breath, which, without
interruption, rises from here toward the resonating chambers, and,
expelled into the elastic form of the resonating apparatus, there must
obey our will.

[Illustration: Vocal Cords.]

It can now be seen how easily the vocal cords can be injured by an
uncontrolled current of breath, if it is directed against them in all
its force. One need only see a picture of the vocal cords to
understand the folly of exposing these delicate little bands to the
explosive force of the breath. They cannot be protected too much; and
also, they cannot be too carefully exercised. They must be spared all
work not properly theirs; this must be put upon the chest tension
muscles, which in time learn to endure an out-and-out thump.

Even the vibrato, to which full voices are prone, should be nipped in
the bud, for gradually the tremolo, and later even worse, is developed
from it. Life can be infused into the tone by means of the lips--that
is, in a way that will do no harm. But of that later.

Vibrato is the first stage, tremolo the second; a third and last, and
much more hopeless, shows itself in flat singing on the upper middle
tones of the register. Referable in the same way to the overburdening
of the vocal cords is the excessive straining of the throat muscles,
which, through continual constriction, lose their power of _elastic_
contraction and relaxation because pitch and duration of the tone are
gained in an incorrect way, by forcing. Neither should be forced;
pitch should be merely maintained, as it were, soaring; strength
should not be gained by a cramped compression of the throat muscles,
but by the completest possible filling with breath of the breath-form
and the resonance chambers, under the government of the controlling

_Neglect of the head tones (overtones) is paid for dearly._

The more violent exertions are made to force them, and to keep them,
the worse are the results. For most of the unhappy singers who do
this, there is but one result: the voice is lost. How pitiful!

If the first and second stages of tremolo are difficult to remedy,
because the causes are rarely understood and the proper measures to
take for their removal still more rarely, the repair of the last stage
of the damage is nothing less than a fight, in which only an
unspeakable patience can win the victory.



There are no magic cures for the singer. Only slowly, vibration upon
vibration, can the true pitch be won back. In the word "soaring" lies
the whole idea of the work. No more may the breath be allowed to flow
uncontrolled through the wearied vocal cords; it must be forced
against the chest, always, as if it were to come directly out thence.
The throat muscles must lie fallow until they have lost the habit of
cramped contraction; until the overtones again soar as they should,
and are kept soaring long, though quite _piano_. At first this seems
quite impossible, and is indeed very difficult, demanding all the
patient's energy. But it is possible, and he cannot avoid it, for it
is the only way to a thorough cure. The patient has an extremely
disagreeable period to pass through. If he is industrious and careful,
he will soon find it impossible to sing in his old way; but the new
way is for the most part quite unfamiliar to him, because his ear
still hears as it has previously been accustomed to hear. It may be
that years will pass before he can again use the muscles, so long
maltreated. But he should not be dismayed at this prospect. If he can
no longer use his voice in public as a singer, he certainly can as a
teacher--for _a teacher must be able to sing well_. How should he
describe to others sensations in singing which he himself never felt?
Is it not as if he undertook to teach a language that he did not speak
himself? or an instrument that he did not play himself? When he
himself does not hear, how shall he teach others to hear?

The degree of the evil, and the patient's skill, naturally have much
to do with the rapidity of the cure. But one cannot throw off a habit
of years' standing like an old garment; and every new garment, too, is
uncomfortable at first. One cannot expect an immediate cure, either of
himself or of others. If the singer undertakes it with courage and
energy, he learns to use his voice with conscious understanding, as
should have been done in the beginning.

And he must make up his mind to it, that even after a good cure, the
old habits will reappear, like corns in wet weather, whenever he is
not in good form physically. That should not lead to discouragement;
persistence will bring success.

As I have already said, singers with disabled voices like best to try
"magic cures"; and there are teachers and pupils who boast of having
effected such magic cures in a few weeks or hours.

_Of them I give warning!_ and _equally_, of unprincipled physicians
who daub around in the larynx, burn it, cut it, and make everything
worse instead of better.

I cannot comprehend why singers do not unite to brand such people
publicly and put an end to their doings once for all.

There is no other remedy than a slow, very careful study of the
_causes_ of the trouble, which in almost all cases consist in lack of
control of the stream of breath through the vocal cords, and in
disregard of the head tones, that is, of the overtones; as well as in
forcing the pitch and power of the tone upon a wrong resonating point
of the palate, and in constricting the throat muscles. In these points
almost invariably are all mistakes to be looked for; and in the
recognition of them the proper means for correcting them are already

The cure is difficult and tedious. It needs an endless patience on the
part of the sufferer as well as of the physician--that is, of the
pupil and the _singing teacher_ (the only proper physician for this
disease)--because the nerves of the head are already sufficiently
unstrung through the consciousness of their incapacity; yet they
should be able to act easily and without effort in producing the head

The repairing of a voice requires the greatest sympathetic
appreciation and circumspection on the part of the teacher, who should
always inspire the pupil with courage; and on the part of the pupil,
all his tranquillity, nervous strength, and patience, in order to
reach the desired goal.

_Where there is a will there is a way!_



Since it is the function of the tongue to conduct the column of breath
above the larynx to the resonance chambers, too much attention cannot
be given to it and its position, in speaking as well as in singing. If
it lies too high or too low, it may, by constricting the breath,
produce serious changes in the tone, making it pinched or even
shutting it off entirely.

It has an extremely delicate and difficult task to perform. It must be
in such a position as not to press upon the larynx. Tongue and larynx
must keep out of each other's way, although they always work in
coöperation; but one must not hamper the other, and when one can
withdraw no farther out of the way, the other must take it upon
itself to do so. For this reason the back of the tongue must be raised
high, the larynx stand low.

The tongue must generally form a furrow. With the lowest tones it lies
relatively flattest, the tip _always_ against and beneath the front
teeth, so that it can rise in the middle.

As soon as the furrow is formed, the mass of the tongue is put out of
the way, since it stands high on both sides. It is almost impossible
to make drawings of this; it can best be seen in the mirror. As soon
as the larynx is low enough and the tongue set elastically against the
palate and drawn up behind (see plate _a_), the furrow is formed of
itself. In pronouncing the vowel _ah_ (which must always be mixed with
_[=oo]_ and _o_), it is a good idea to think of yawning.

The furrow must be formed in order to allow the breath to resonate
against the palate beneath the nose, especially in the middle range;
that is, what a bass and a baritone (whose highest range is not now
under consideration) would call their high range, all other voices
their middle.

Without the furrow in the tongue, no tone is perfect in its resonance,
none can make full use of it. The only exception is the very highest
head and falsetto tones, which are without any palatal resonance and
have their place solely in the head cavities. Strong and yet delicate,
it must be able to fit any letter of the alphabet; that is, help form
its sound. It must be of the greatest sensitiveness in adapting itself
to every tonal vibration, it must assist every change of tone and
letter as quick as a flash and with unerring accuracy; without
changing its position too soon or remaining too long in it, in the
highest range it must be able almost to speak out in the air.

With all its strength and firmness this furrow must be of the utmost
sensitiveness toward the breath, which, as I have often said, must not
be subjected to the least pressure above the larynx or in the larynx
itself. Pressure must be limited to the abdominal and chest muscles;
and this might better be called stress than pressure.

Without hindrance the column of breath, at its upper end like
diverging rays of light, must fill and expand all the mucous membranes
with its vibrations equally, diffuse itself through the resonance
chambers and penetrate the cavities of the head.

When the back of the tongue can rise no higher, the larynx must be
lowered. This often happens in the highest ranges, and one needs only
to mingle an _oo_ in the vowel to be sung, which must, however, be
sounded not forward in the mouth but _behind the nose_. When the
larynx must stand very low, the tongue naturally must not be _too_
high, else it would affect the position of the larynx. The mass of the
tongue must then be disposed of elsewhere; that is, by the formation
of a furrow (see plate). One must learn to feel and hear it. To keep
the larynx, the back of the tongue, and the palate always in
readiness to offer mutual assistance, must become a habit. I feel the
interplay of tongue and larynx in my own case as shown in the plates.

As soon as we have the tongue under control,--that is, have acquired
the habit of forming a furrow,--we can use it confidently as a support
for the breath and the tone, and for vowels.

On its incurving back it holds firmly the vowels; with its tip, many
of the consonants. With all its elasticity, it must be trained to
great strength and endurance.

I, for instance, after every syllable, at once jerk my tongue with
tremendous power back to its normal position in singing; that is, with
its tip below the front teeth and the base raised [Illustration]. That
goes on constantly, as quick as a flash. At the same time my larynx
takes such a position that the tongue cannot interfere with it, that
is, press upon it. By quickly raising the tongue toward the back, it
is taken out of the way of the larynx, and the mass of the tongue is
cleared from the throat. In the middle range, where the tongue or the
larynx might be too high or too low, the furrow, which is of so much
importance, is formed, in order to lead the vocalized breath first
against the front of the palate beneath the nose, then slowly along
the nose and behind it. Then when the highest point (the peak, which
is extremely extensible) is reached, the pillars of the fauces are
lowered, in order to leave the way for the head tones to the head
cavities entirely free. In doing this, the sides of the tongue are
raised high. Every tongue should occupy only so much space as it can
occupy without being a hindrance to the tone.

The bad, bad tongue! one is too thick, another too thin, a third too
long, a fourth much too short.

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

[Illustration: Red lines denote that with the inspiration of breath:
I, the diaphragm is sensibly stretched backward; II, enlarges the
capacity of the chest by the drawing down of its floor; III, and so
forms the supply chamber for the breath; IV, indicates the pressure of
the breath against the chest tension muscles; V, the attack.]



No one can sing properly without first preparing for it, mentally and
physically, with all the organs concerned in the production of the

We have in this to perform three functions, simultaneously:--

_First_, to draw breath quietly, not too deeply; to force the breath
against the chest and hold it there firmly till the upward and outward
streaming--that is, singing--begins. (See plate, The Path of the

_Second_, to raise the soft palate at the same time toward the nose,
so that the breath remains stationary until the singing begins.

_Third_, to jerk the tongue backward at the same time, its back being
thus raised, and elastic, ready to meet all the wishes of the
singer,--that is, the needs of the larynx. The larynx must not be
pressed either too low or too high, but must work freely. The breath
is enabled to stream forth from it like a column, whose form is
moulded above the larynx by the base of the tongue.

When these three functions have been performed, all is ready. Now the
pitch of the tone is to be considered, as the singing begins.

The consummation (Höhepunkt) of the tone, above the palate, gives the
point of attack itself, under the palate.

Now further care must be given that the point of attack on the
palate--that is, the focal point of the breath--be not subjected to
pressure, and that the entire supply of breath be not expended upon
the palatal resonance.

For this the palate must remain elastic, for it has a twofold duty to
perform. It must not only furnish resistance for the focal point of
the breath,--except in the very highest head tones,--around which it
can be diffused; the same resistance, which stands against the stream
of breath from below, must also afford a firm, pliant, and elastic
floor for the overtones, which, soaring above the palate, shift, as is
needed, to or above the hard and soft palate, or are divided in the
nose, forehead, and head cavities. It can easily be seen how any
pressure in singing can be dangerous everywhere, and how careful the
singer is forced to be to avoid such mistakes.



What must my sensations be with the muscles of speech? How shall I
control them?

The best position of the mouth, the means of securing the proper use
of the muscles of speech and of the vocal organs, is established by
pronouncing the vowel _[=a]_, not too sharply, in the middle range of
the voice, and trying to retain the position of the muscles after the
sound has ceased.

This cannot be done without a _smiling_ position of the mouth,
consequently with a strong contraction of the muscles of the mouth,
tongue, and throat, which can be felt to be drawn up as far as the

In doing so the tongue--as far as the tip--lies of a pretty nearly
even height to the back [Illustration], the soft palate soars without
arching, but rather somewhat depressed over it.

In pronouncing the vowels _[=a]_ and _[=e]_, the bright vowels, the
full stream of the breath, in the given position, can only partly pass
between the tongue and the palate. The other part is forced--unless
the larynx stands too high and can choke it off--above the palate into
the nasal cavities, to seek its opportunity for resonance.

The path for _[=a]_ and _[=e]_ above the palate is worthy of all
attention as a place for the overtones of the middle voice. If the
soft palate, in the lower middle tones, is forced too far toward the
hard palate, the covered tones are without vibrancy. One must needs
secure the help of the nose especially, when the palate is sunk
beneath the nose, by inflating the nostrils and letting air stream in
and out of them.

I repeat the warning, not to force several tones upon the same
resonating point, but to see that upon each tone the form necessary
for succeeding tones is prepared. Neglect of this will sooner or later
be paid for dearly.

Notwithstanding the strong muscular contraction that the vocal organs
must undergo in pronouncing the vowel _[=a]_, the breath must be able
to flow gently and without hindrance through its form, in order
completely to fill up its resonance chambers. Again, and always,
attention must be given that in singing, and in speaking as well,
nothing shall be cramped or held tense, except the pressure of the
breath against the chest. It is of the utmost importance to maintain
this position for _all_ vowels, with the least possible perceptible

How can this be done? _A_ and _e_ are bright vowels, must be sung with
a pleasant, almost smiling, position of the mouth. _U_ and _o_, on the
contrary, are dark vowels, for which the lips must be drawn into a
sort of spout. Look at the position of the throat in these vowels: (1)
as they are usually sung and spoken; (2) as I feel it, in singing, as
I sing them, and as they must be sung and felt.



How do I connect them with each other? If I wish to connect closely
together two vowels that lie near to or far from each other, I must
first establish the muscular contractions for _[=a]_, and introduce
between the two vowels, whether they lie near together or far apart, a
very well-defined _y_. Then (supposing, for instance, that I want to
connect _[=a]_ and _[=e]_) I must join the _[=a]_ closely to the _y_,
and the _y_ closely to the _[=e]_, so that there is not the least
resonating space between the two that is not filled during the changes
in the position of the organs, however carefully this is undertaken.
There must be no empty space, no useless escape of breath, between any
two of the sounds.


oo [=e] o [=a] ah

oo o [=e] y ah y [=a] y]


Bad. oo [=e] o [=a] ah

Good. oo o [=e] ah [=a]]


Wrong. oo [=e] o [=a] ah

Right. oo o [=e] ah [=a]]

At first only two, then three and four, and then all the vowels in
succession must be so practised:--

_A-ye, a-ye-yu, a-ye-yoo-yü, a-ye-yo-yü-yu-ye-yah._

But there must be never more than so much breath at hand as is needed
to make the vowel and the tone perfect. The more closely the vowels
are connected with the help of the _y_, the less breath is emitted
from the mouth unused, the more intimate is the connection of tone,
and the less noticeable are the changes of the position of the organs
in relation to each other.

When I pass from _y[=a]-y[=e]_ to _yoo_, I am compelled to develop
very strongly the muscular contraction of the lips, which are formed
into a long projecting spout; and this movement cannot be sufficiently
exaggerated. With every new _y_ I must produce renewed muscular
contractions of the vocal organs, which gradually, through continuous
practice, are trained to become almost like the finest, most pliable
steel, upon which the fullest reliance may be placed. From _yoo_ it
is best to go to _yü_, that lies still farther forward and requires of
the lips an iron firmness; then to _yo_, touching slightly on the _e_
that lies above the _o_; then return to _y[=a]_, and not till then
going to _ye-ah_, which must then feel thus:--

oo-o ah-[=a]

The _y_ is taken under the _ah_, that the word may not slide under;
for usually the thought of _ah_ relaxes all the organs: the tongue
lies flat, the larynx becomes unsteady, is without definite position,
and the palate is not arched and is without firmness. In this way _ah_
becomes the most colorless and empty vowel of the whole list.

With every change of vowel, or of any other letter, there are changes
in the position of the organs, since tongue, palate, and larynx must
take different positions for different sounds.

With _[=a]_ and _[=e]_ the larynx stands higher, the palate is sunk,
or in its normal position.

With _oo_, _o_, and _ah_ the larynx stands low, the palate is arched.

With _a_, _e_, and _ah_ the lips are drawn back.

With _oo_, _o_, _ü_, and _ö_ they are extended far forward.

The auxiliary sound _y_ connects them all with each other, so that the
transitions are made quite imperceptibly. Since it is pronounced with
the tongue drawn high against the palate, it prevents the base of the
tongue from falling down again.

This should be practised very slowly, that the sensations may be
clearly discerned, and that no vibration that gives the vowel its
pitch and duration may escape attention.

The muscular contraction described comprises the chief functions of
the vocal organs, and is as necessary for singing as the breath is for
the tone. Year in and year out every singer and pupil must practise it
in daily exercises as much as possible, on every tone of the vocal

In the lowest as well as in the highest range the sharpness of the
_a_ is lost, as well as the clear definition of all single vowels. _A_
should be mingled with _oo_, _ah_, and _e_. In the highest range, the
vowels are merged in each other, because then the principal thing is
not the vowel, but the high sound.

Even the _thought_ of _[=a]_ and _[=e]_, the latter especially, raises
the pitch of the tone. The explanation of this is that _[=a]_ and
_[=e]_ possess sympathetic sounds above the palate that lead the
breath to the resonance of the head cavities.

For this reason tenors often, in high notes, resort to the device of
changing words with dark vowels to words with the bright vowel _e_.
They could attain the same end, without changing the whole word, by
simply _thinking_ of an _e_.

[Illustration: Pronounce in English [=a] [=e] üoo oah[=e]]

Without over-exertion, the singer can practise the exercises given
above twenty times a day, in periods of ten to fifteen minutes each,
and will soon appreciate the advantage of the muscular strengthening
they give. They make the voice fresh, not weary, as doubtless many
will suppose.

What, then, can be expected of an untrained organ? Nothing!

Without daily vocal gymnastics no power of endurance in the muscles
can be gained. They must be so strong that a great operatic rôle can
be repeated ten times in succession, in order that the singer may
become able to endure the strain of singing in opera houses, in great
auditoriums, and make himself heard above a great orchestra, without
suffering for it.

When I, for instance, was learning the part of _Isolde_, I could
without weariness sing the first act alone six times in succession,
with expression, action, and a full voice. That was my practice with
all my rôles. After I had rehearsed a rôle a thousand times in my own
room, I would go into the empty theatre and rehearse single scenes, as
well as the whole opera, for hours at a time. That gave me the
certainty of being mistress of my resonances down to the last note;
and very often I felt able to begin it all over again. So must it be,
if one wishes to accomplish anything worth while.

Another end also is attained by the same exercise,--the connection,
not only of the vowels, but of all letters, syllables, words, and
phrases. By this exercise the form for the breath, tone, and word, in
which all the organs are adjusted to each other with perfect
elasticity, is gradually established. Slowly but surely it assures
greatest endurance in all the organs concerned in speaking and
singing, the inseparable connection of the palatal resonance with the
resonance of the head cavities. In this way is gained perfection in
the art of singing, which is based, not on chance, but on knowledge;
and this slow but sure way is the only way to gain it.

By the above-described method all other alphabetical sounds can be
connected, and exercises can be invented to use with it, which are
best adapted to correct the mistakes of pupils, at first on one, then
step by step on two and three connected tones, etc.

At the same time it is necessary to learn to move the tongue freely,
and with the utmost quickness, by jerking it back, after pronouncing
consonants, as quick as a flash, into the position in which it
conducts the breath to the resonating chambers for the vowels. With
all these movements is connected the power of elastically contracting
and relaxing the muscles.



Of special importance for the tone and the word are the movements of
the lips, which are so widely different in the bright and in the dark
vowels. These movements cannot be too much exaggerated in practising.
The same strength and elasticity to which we have to train the muscles
of the throat and tongue must be imparted to the lips, which must be
as of iron. Upon their coöperation much of the life of the tone
depends, and it can be used in many shadings, as soon as one is able
to exert their power consciously and under the control of the will.

Every vowel, every word, every tone, can be colored as by magic in all
sorts of ways by the well-controlled play of the lips; can, as it
were, be imbued with life, as the lips open or close more or less in
different positions. The lips are the final cup-shaped resonators
through which the tone has to pass. They can retard it or let it
escape, can color it bright or dark, and exert a ceaseless and ever
varying influence upon it long before it ceases and up to its very

No attempt should be made to use the play of the lips until complete
mastery of the absolutely even, perfect tone, and of the muscular
powers, has been acquired. The effect must be produced as a result of
power and practice; and should not be practised as an effect _per



There is much discussion as to whether _ah_, _oo_, or some other vowel
is the one best adapted for general practice. In former times practice
was entirely on the vowel-sound _ah_. The old Italians taught it; my
mother was trained so, and never allowed her pupils to use any other
vowel during the first months of their instruction. Later, to be sure,
every letter, every word, was practised and improved continually, till
it was correct, and had impressed itself upon the memory, as well as
the ear, of the pupil for all time.

I explain the matter thus:--

The singer's mouth should always make an agreeable impression. Faces
that are forever grinning or showing fish mouths are disgusting and

The pleasing expression of the mouth requires the muscular
contractions that form the bright vowel _ah_.

Most people who are not accustomed to using their vocal resonance
pronounce the _ah_ quite flat, as if it were the vowel-sound lying
lowest. If it is pronounced with the position of the mouth belonging
to the bright vowels, it has to seek its resonance, in speaking as
well as in singing, in the same place as the dark vowels, on the
high-arched palate. To permit this, it must be mingled with _oo_. The
furrows in the tongue must also be formed, just as with _oo_ and _o_,
only special attention must be given that the back of the tongue does
not fall, but remains high, as in pronouncing _[=a]_. In this way _ah_
comes to lie between _oo-o'ah'y[=a]_, and forms at the same time the
connection between the bright and the dark vowels, and the reverse.

For this reason it was proper that _ah_ should be preferred as the
practice vowel, as soon as it was placed properly between the two
extremes, and had satisfied all demands. I prefer to teach it, because
its use makes all mistakes most clearly recognizable. It is the most
difficult vowel. If it is well pronounced, or sung, it produces the
necessary muscular contractions with a pleasing expression of the
mouth, and makes certain a fine tone color by its connection with _oo_
and _o_. If the _ah_ is equally well formed in all ranges of the
voice, a chief difficulty is mastered.

Those who have been badly taught, or have fallen into bad ways, should
practise the vocal exercise I have given above, with _ya-ye-yah_,
etc., slowly, listening to themselves carefully. Good results cannot
fail; it is an infallible means of improvement.

Italians who sing well never speak or sing the vowel sound _ah_
otherwise than mixed, and only the neglect of this mixture could have
brought about the decadence of the Italian teaching of song. In
Germany no attention is paid to it. The _ah_, as sung generally by
most Italians of the present day, quite flat, sounds commonplace,
almost like an affront. It can range itself, that is connect itself,
with no other vowel, makes all vocal connection impossible, evolves
very ugly registers; and, lying low in the throat, summons forth no
palatal resonance. The power of contraction of the muscles of speech
is insufficient, and this insufficiency misleads the singer to
constrict the throat muscles, which are not trained to the endurance
of it; thereby further progress is made impossible. In the course of
time the tone becomes flat at the transitions. The fatal tremolo is
almost always the result of this manner of singing.

Try to sing a scale upward on _ah_, placing the tongue and muscles of
speech at the same time on _[=a]_, and you will be surprised at the
agreeable effect. Even the thought of it alone is often enough,
because the tongue involuntarily takes the position of its own

I remember very well how Mme. Désirée Artot-Padilla, who had a low
mezzo-soprano voice, used to toss off great coloratura pieces,
beginning on the vowel-sound _ah_, and then going up and down on _a_,
_ee_, _aüoah_. At the time I could not understand why she did it; now
I know perfectly,--because it was easier for her. The breath is
impelled against the cavities of the head, the head tones are set into

Behind the _a_ position there must be as much room provided as is
needed for all the vowels, with such modifications as each one
requires for itself. The matter of chief importance is the position of
the tongue _in_ the throat, that it shall not be in the way of the
larynx, which must be able to move up and down, even though very
slightly, without hindrance.

All vowels must be able to flow into each other; the singer must be
able to pass from one to another without perceptible alteration, and
back again.



How easy it is for the Italians, who have by nature, through the
characteristics of their native language, all these things which
others must gain by long years of practice! A single syllable often
unites three vowels; for instance, "tuoi" (tuoy[=e]), "miei"
(myeay[=e]), "muoja," etc.

The Italians mingle all their vowels. They rub them into and color
them with each other. This includes a great portion of the art of
song, which in every language, with due regard to its peculiar
characteristics, must be learned by practice.

To give only a single example of the difficulty of the German words,
with the everlasting consonant endings to the syllables, take the
recitative at the entrance of Norma:--

"Wer lässt hier Aufruhrstimme_n_, Kriegsruf ertöne_n_, wollt Ihr die
Götter zwinge_n_, Eurem Wahnwitz zu fröhne_n_? Wer wagt vermesse_n_,
gleich der Propheti_n_ der Zukunft Nacht zu lichte_n_, wollt Ihr der
Götter Pla_n_ vorschnell vernichte_n_? Nicht Menschenkraft Könne_n_
die Wirre_n_ dieses Landes schlichte_n_."

Twelve endings on _n_!

"Sediziosi voci, voci di guerra, avvi [Transcriber's Note: corrected
"avoi" in original] chi alzar si attenta presso all'ara del Dio! V'ha
chi presume dettar responsi alla vegente Norma, e di Roma affrettar il
fato arcano. Ei non dipende, no, non dipende da potere umano!"

From the Italians we can learn the connection of the vowels, from the
French the use of the nasal tone. The Germans surpass the others in
their power of expressiveness. But he who would have the right to call
himself an artist must unite all these things; the _bel canto_, that
is, beautiful--I might say good--singing, and all the means of
expression which we cultivated people need to interpret master works
of great minds, should afford the public ennobling pleasure.

A tone full of life is to be produced only by the skilful mixture of
the vowels, that is, the unceasing leaning of one upon the others,
without, however, affecting any of its characteristics. This means, in
reality, only the complete use of the resonance of the breath, since
the mixture of the vowels can be obtained only through the elastic
conjunction of the organs and the varying division of the stream of
breath toward the palatal resonance, or that of the cavities of the
head, or the equalization of the two.

The larynx must rise and descend unimpeded by the tongue, soft palate
and pillars of the fauces rise and sink, the soft palate always able
more or less to press close to the hard. Strong and elastic
contractions imply very pliable and circumspect relaxation of the

I think that the feeling I have of the extension of my throat comes
from the very powerful yet very elastic contraction of my muscles,
which, though feeling always in a state of relaxability, appear to me
like flexible steel, of which I can demand everything,--because never
too much,--and which I exercise daily. Even in the entr'actes of grand
operas I go through with such exercises; for they refresh instead of
exhausting me.

The unconstrained coöperation of all the organs, as well as their
individual functions, must go on elastically without any pressure or
cramped action. Their interplay must be powerful yet supple, that the
breath which produces the tone may be diffused as it flows from one to
another of the manifold and complicated organs (such as the ventricles
of Morgagni), supporting itself on others, being caught in still
others, and finding all in such a state of readiness as is required in
each range for each tone. Everything must be combined in the right way
as a matter of habit.

The voice is equalized by the proper ramification of the breath and
the proper connection of the different resonances.

The tone is colored by the proper mixture of vowels; _oo_, _o_, and
_ah_ demanding more palatal resonance and a lower position of the
larynx, _a_ and _e_ more resonance of the head cavities and a higher
position of the larynx. With _oo_, _o_, _ü_, and _ah_ the palate is
arched higher (the tongue forming a furrow) than with _[=a]_, _[=e]_,
and _ü_, where the tongue lies high and flat.

There are singers who place the larynx too low, and, arching the
palate too high, sing too much toward _oo_. Such voices sound very
dark, perhaps even hollow; they lack the interposition of the
_[=a]_,--that is, the larynx is placed too low.

On the other hand, there are others who press it upward too high;
their _a_ position is a permanent one. Such voices are marked by a
very bright, sharp quality of tone, often like a goat's bleating.

Both are alike wrong and disagreeable. The proper medium between them
must be gained by sensitive training of the ear, and a taste formed by
the teacher through examples drawn from his own singing and that of

If we wish to give a noble expression to the tone and the word, we
must mingle its vocal sound, if it is not so, with _o_ or _oo_. If we
wish to give the word merely an agreeable expression, we mingle it
with _ah_, _[=a]_, and _[=e]_. That is, we must use all the qualities
of tonal resonance, and thus produce colors which shall benefit the
tone and thereby the word and its expression.

Thus a single tone may be taken or sung in many different ways. In
every varying connection, consequently, the singer must be able to
change it according to the expression desired. But as soon as it is a
question of a _musical phrase_, in which several tones or words, or
tones alone, are connected, the law of progression must remain in
force; expression must be sacrificed, partly at least, to the beauty
of the musical passage.

If he is skilful enough, the singer can impart a certain expression of
feeling to even the most superficial phrases and coloratura passages.
Thus, in the coloratura passages of Mozart's arias, I have always
sought to gain expressiveness by _crescendi_, choice of significant
points for breathing, and breaking off of phrases. I have been
especially successful with this in the _Entführung_, introducing a
tone of lament into the first aria, a heroic dignity into the second,
through the coloratura passages. Without exaggerating petty details,
the artist must exploit all the means of expression that he is
justified in using.



Like the auxiliary verbs "will" and "have," _[=a]_, _[=e]_, and _oo_
are auxiliary vowels, of whose aid we are constantly compelled to
avail ourselves. It will perhaps sound exaggerated when I present an
example of this, but as a matter of fact pronunciation is consummated
in this way; only, it must not become noticeable. The method seems
singular, but its object is to prevent the leaving of any empty
resonance space, and to obviate any interruptions that could affect
the perfection of the tone.

For example, when I wish to sing the word "Fräulein," I must first,
and before all else, think of the pitch of the tone, before I attack
the _f_. With the _f_, the tone must be there already, _before_ I have
pronounced it; to pass from the _f_ to the _r_ I must summon to my
aid the auxiliary vowel _oo_, in order to prevent the formation of any
unvocalized interstices in the sound. The _r_ must not now drop off,
but must in turn be joined to the _oo_, while the tongue should not
drop down behind, [Illustration] but should complete the vibrations
thus, [Illustration] in a straight line. (See plate.)


It is very interesting to note how much a word can gain or lose in
fulness and beauty of tone. Without the use of auxiliary vowels no
connection of the resonance in words can be effected; there is then no
beautiful tone in singing, only a kind of hacking. Since it must be
quite imperceptible, the use of auxiliary vowels must be very
artistically managed, and is best practised in the beginning very
slowly on single tones and words, then proceeding with great care to
two tones, two syllables, and so on. In this way the pupil learns to
_hear_. But he must learn to hear very slowly and for a long time,
until there is no failure of vibration in the tone and word, and it is
all so impressed upon his memory that it can never be lost. The
auxiliary vowels must always be present, but the listener should be
able to hear, from the assistance of the _oo_, only the warmth and
nobility of the tone, from the _a_ and _e_ only the carrying power and
brilliancy of it.



_K_, _l_, _m_, _n_, _p_, _s_, and _r_ at the end of a word or syllable
must be made resonant by joining to the end of the word or syllable a
rather audible _[)e]_ (_eh_); for instance, Wandel^e, Gretel^e,

A thing that no one teaches any longer, or knows or is able to do, a
thing that only Betz and I knew, and with me will probably disappear
entirely, is the dividing and ending of syllables that must be
effected under certain conditions. It may have originated with the
Italian school.

I was taught it especially upon double consonants. When two come
together, they must be divided; the first, as in Him-mel, being
sounded dull, and without resonance, the syllable and tone being kept
as nasal as possible, the lips closed, and a pause being made between
the two syllables; not till then is the second syllable pronounced,
with a new formation of the second consonant.

And this is done, not only in case of a doubling of one consonant, but
whenever two consonants come together to close the syllable; for
instance, win-ter, dring-en, kling-en, bind-en; in these the nasal
sound plays a specially important part.

The tediousness of singing without proper separation of the syllables
is not appreciated till it has been learned how to divide the
consonants. The nasal close of itself brings a new color into the
singing, which must be taken into account; and moreover, the word is
much more clearly intelligible, especially in large auditoriums, where
an appreciable length of time is needed for it to reach the listener.
By the nasal close, also, an uninterrupted connection is assured
between the consonant and the tone, even if the latter has to cease,
apparently, for an instant.

I teach all my pupils thus. But since most of them consider it
something unheard of to be forced to pronounce in this way, they very
rarely bring it to the artistic perfection which alone can make it
effective. Except from Betz, I have never heard it from any one. After
me no one will teach it any more. I shall probably be the last one. A



The practical study of singing is best begun with single sustained
tones, and with preparation on the sound of _ah_ alone, mingled with
_o_ and _oo_. A position as if one were about to yawn helps the tongue
to lie in the right place.

In order not to weary young voices too much, it is best to begin in
the middle range, going upward first, by semitones, and then, starting
again with the same tone, going downward. All other exercises begin in
the lower range and go upward.

The pupil must first be able to make a single tone good, and judge it
correctly, before he should be allowed to proceed to a second. Later,
single syllables or words can be used as exercises for this.

The position of the mouth and tongue must be watched in the mirror.
The vowel _ah_ must be mingled with _o_ and _oo_, and care must be
taken that the breath is forced strongly against the chest, and felt
attacking here and on the palate at the same time. Begin _piano_, make
a long _crescendo_, and gradually return and end on a well-controlled
_piano_. My feeling at the attack is as shown in the plate.

At the same instant that I force the breath against the chest, I place
the tone _under_ its highest point on the palate, and let the
overtones soar above the palate--the two united in one thought. Only
in the lowest range can the overtones, and in the highest range the
undertones (resonance of the head cavities and of the palate), be
dispensed with.

With me the throat never comes into consideration; I feel absolutely
nothing of it, at most only the breath gently streaming through it. A
tone should never be forced; _never press_ the breath against the
resonating chambers, but only against the chest; and NEVER hold it
back. The organs should not be cramped, but should be allowed to
perform their functions elastically.

The contraction of the muscles should never exceed their power to
relax. A tone must always be sung, whether strong or soft, with an
easy, conscious power. Further, before all things, sing always with
due regard to the pitch.

In this way the control of the ear is exercised over the pitch,
strength, and duration of the tone, and over the singer's strength and
weakness, of which we are often forced to make a virtue. In short, one
learns to recognize and to produce a perfect tone.



Red lines denote that with the inspiration of breath: I, the diaphragm
is sensibly stretched backward; II, enlarges the capacity of the chest
by the drawing down of its floor; III, and so forms the supply chamber
for the breath; IV, indicates the pressure of the breath against the
chest tension muscles; V, the attack.]

In all exercises go as low and as high as the voice will allow without
straining, and always make little pauses to rest between them, even if
you are not tired, in order to be all the fresher for the next one.
With a certain amount of skill and steady purpose the voice increases
its compass, and takes the proper range, easiest to it by nature.
The pupil can see then how greatly the compass of a voice can be
extended. For amateurs it is not necessary; but it is for every one
who practises the profession of a singer in public.

For a second exercise, sing connectedly two half-tones, slowly, on one
or two vowels, bridging them with the auxiliary vowels and the _y_ as
the support of the tongue, etc.

Every tone must seek its best results from all the organs concerned in
its production; must possess power, brilliancy, and mellowness in
order to be able to produce, before leaving each tone, the propagation
form for the next tone, ascending as well as descending, and make it

No exercise should be dropped till every vibration of every tone has
clearly approved itself to the ear, not only of the teacher, but also
of the pupil, as _perfect_.

It takes a long time to reach the full consciousness of a tone. After
it has passed the lips it must be diffused outside, before it can
come to the consciousness of the listener as well as to that of the
singer himself. So practise _singing_ slowly and _hearing_ slowly.



This is the most necessary exercise for all kinds of voices. It was
taught to my mother; she taught it to all her pupils and to us. But
_I_ am probably the only one of them all who practises it faithfully!
I do not trust the others. As a pupil one must practise it twice a
day, as a professional singer at least once.

[Music illustration]

The breath must be well prepared, the expiration still better, for the
duration of these five and four long tones is greater than would be
supposed. The first tone must be attacked not too _piano_, and sung
only so strongly as is necessary to reach the next one easily without
further crescendo, while the propagation form for the next tone is
produced, and the breath wisely husbanded till the end of the phrase.

The first of each of the phrases ends nasally in the middle range, the
second toward the forehead and the cavities of the head. The lowest
tone must already be prepared to favor the resonance of the head
cavities, by thinking of _[=a]_, consequently placing the larynx high
and maintaining the resonating organs in a _very_ supple and elastic
state. In the middle range, _ah_ is mingled particularly with _oo_,
that the nose may be reached; further, the auxiliary vowel _e_ is
added to it, which guides the tone to the head cavities. In descending
the attack must be more concentrated, as the tone is slowly directed
toward the nose on _oo_ or _o_, to the end of the figure.

When _oo_, _a_, and _e_ are auxiliary vowels, they need not be plainly
pronounced. (They form an exception in the diphthongs, "Trauuum,"
"Leiiid," "Lauuune," "Feuyer," etc.) As auxiliary vowels they are only
means to an end, a bridge, a connection from one thing to another.
They can be taken anywhere with any other sound; and thence it may be
seen how elastic the organs can be when they are skilfully managed.

The chief object of the great scale is to secure the pliant, sustained
use of the breath, precision in the preparation of the propagation
form, the proper mixture of the vowels which aid in placing the organs
in the right position for the tone, to be changed for every different
tone, although imperceptibly; further, the intelligent use of the
resonance of the palate and head cavities, especially the latter,
whose tones, soaring above everything else, form the connection with
the nasal quality for the whole scale.

The scale must be practised without too strenuous exertion, but not
without power, gradually extending over the entire compass of the
voice; and that is, if it is to be perfect, over a compass of two
octaves. These two octaves will have been covered, when, advancing the
starting-point by semitones, the scale has been carried up through an
entire octave. So much every voice can finally accomplish, even if the
high notes must be very feeble.

The great scale, properly elaborated in practice, accomplishes
wonders: it equalizes the voice, makes it flexible and noble, gives
strength to all weak places, operates to repair all faults and breaks
that exist, and controls the voice to the very heart. Nothing escapes

By it ability as well as inability is brought to light--something that
is extremely unpleasant to those without ability. In my opinion it is
the ideal exercise, but the most difficult one I know. By devoting
forty minutes to it every day, a consciousness of certainty and
strength will be gained that ten hours a day of any other exercise
cannot give.

This should be the chief test in all conservatories. If I were at the
head of one, the pupils should be allowed for the first three years to
sing at the examinations only _difficult_ exercises, like this great
scale, before they should be allowed to think of singing a song or an
aria, which I regard only as cloaks for incompetency.

For teaching me this scale--this guardian angel of the voice--I cannot
be thankful enough to my mother. In earlier years I used to like to
express myself freely about it. There was a time when I imagined that
it strained me. My mother often ended her warnings at my neglect of it
with the words, "You will be very sorry for it!" And I was very sorry
for it. At one time, when I was about to be subjected to great
exertions, and did not practise it every day, but thought it was
enough to sing coloratura fireworks, I soon became aware that my
transition tones would no longer endure the strain, began easily to
waver, or threatened even to become too flat. The realization of it
was terrible! It cost me many, many years of the hardest and most
careful study; and it finally brought me to realize the necessity of
exercising the vocal organs continually, and in the proper way, if I
wished always to be able to rely on them.

Practice, and especially the practice of the great, slow scale, is the
only cure for all injuries, and at the same time the most excellent
means of fortification against all over-exertion. I sing it every day,
often twice, even if I have to sing one of the greatest rôles in the
evening. I can rely absolutely on its assistance.

If I had imparted nothing else to my pupils but the ability to sing
this one great exercise well, they would possess a capital fund of
knowledge which must infallibly bring them a rich return on their
voices. I often take fifty minutes to go through it only once, for I
let no tone pass that is lacking in any degree in pitch, power, and
duration, or in a single vibration of the propagation form.



Singers, male and female, who are lacking velocity and the power of
trilling, seem to me like horses without tails. Both of these things
belong to the art of song, and are inseparable from it. It is a matter
of indifference whether the singer has to use them or not; he must be
able to. The teacher who neither teaches nor can teach them to his
pupils is a _bad teacher_; the pupil who, notwithstanding the urgent
warnings of his teacher, neglects the exercises that can help him to
acquire them, and fails to perfect himself in them, is a _bungler_.
There is no excuse for it but lack of talent, or laziness; and neither
has any place in the higher walks of art.

To give the voice velocity, practise first slowly, then faster and
faster, figures of five, six, seven, and eight notes, etc., upward
and downward.

If one has well mastered the great, slow scale, with the nasal
connection, skill in singing rapid passages will be developed quite of
itself, because they both rest on the same foundation, and without the
preliminary practice can never be understood.

Put the palate into the nasal position, the larynx upon _oe_; attack
the lowest tone of the figure with the thought of the highest; force
the breath, as it streams very vigorously forth from the larynx,
toward the nose, but allow the head current entire freedom, without
entirely doing away with the nasal quality; and then run up the scale
with great firmness.

In descending, keep the form of the highest tone, even if there should
be eight to twelve tones in the passage, so that the scale slides
down, not a pair of stairs, but a smooth track, the highest tone
affording, as it were, a guarantee that on the way there shall be no
impediment or sudden drop. The resonance form, kept firm and tense,
must adapt itself with the utmost freedom to the thought of every
tone, and with it, to the breath. The pressure of the breath against
the chest must not be diminished, but must be unceasing.

To me it is always as if the pitch of the highest tone were already
contained in the lowest, so strongly concentrated upon the whole
figure are my thoughts at the attack of a single tone. By means of
_ah-e-[=a]_, larynx, tongue, and palatal position on the lowest tone
are in such a position that the vibrations of breath for the highest
tones are already finding admission into the head cavities, and as far
as possible are in sympathetic vibration there.

The higher the vocal figures go the more breath they need, the less
can the breath and the organs be pressed. The higher they are, the
more breath must stream forth from the epiglottis; therefore the
_[=a]_ and the thought of _e_, which keep the passages to the head
open. But because there is a limit to the scope of the movement of
larynx and tongue, and they cannot rise higher and higher with a
figure that often reaches to an immense height, the singer must resort
to the aid of the auxiliary vowel _oo_, in order to lower the larynx
and so make room for the breath:

[Music illustration]

A run or any other figure must never sound thus:

[Music illustration]

but must be nasally modified above, and tied; and because the breath
must flow out unceasingly in a powerful stream from the vocal cords,
an _h_ can only be put in beneath, which makes us sure of this
powerful streaming out of the breath, and helps only the branch
stream of breath into the cavities of the head. Often singers hold the
breath, concentrated on the nasal form, firmly on the lowest tone of a
figure, and, without interrupting this nasal form, or the head tones,
that is, the breath vibrating in the head cavities, finish the figure
alone. When this happens the muscular contractions of the throat,
tongue, and palate are very strong.

[Music illustration: L'oiselet. Chopin-Viardat]

The turn, too, based on the consistent connection of the tonal figure
with the nasal quality,--which is obtained by pronouncing the _oo_
toward the nose,--and firmly held there, permits no interruption for
an instant to the vowel sound.

How often have I heard the _ha-ha-ha-haa_, etc.,--a wretched tumbling
down of different tones, instead of a smooth decoration of the
cantilena. Singers generally disregard it, because no one can do it
any more, and yet even to-day it is of the greatest importance. (See
_Tristan und Isolde_.)

The situation is quite the same in regard to the appoggiatura. In
this the resonance is made nasal and the flexibility of the
larynx,--which, without changing the resonance, moves quickly up and
down--accomplishes the task alone. Here, too, it can almost be
imagined that the _thought_ alone is enough, for the connection
of the two tones cannot be too close. But this must be practised, and
done _consciously_.

[Music illustration: Adelaide, by Beethoven

A-bend-lüft-chen im zar-ten Lau-be flü-stern]

[Transcriber's Note: Corrected "L'au-be" in original to "Lau-be"]



There still remains the trill, which is best practised in the
beginning as follows:--

[Music illustration]

The breath is led very far back against the head cavities by the
_[=a]_, the larynx kept as stiff as possible and placed high. Both
tones are connected as closely, as heavily as possible, upward
nasally, downward _on_ the larynx, for which the _y_, again, is
admirably suited. They must be attacked as high as possible, and very
strongly. The trill exercise must be practised almost as a scream.
The upper note must always be strongly _accented_. The exercise is
practised with an even strength, without decrescendo to the end; the
breath streams out more and more strongly, uninterruptedly to the

Trill exercises must be performed with great energy, on the whole
compass of the voice. They form an exception to the rule in so far
that in them more is given to the throat to do--always, however, under
the control of the chest--than in other exercises. That relates,
however, to the muscles.

The breath vibrates _above_ the larynx, but does not stick in it,
consequently this is not dangerous.

The exercise is practised first on two half, then on two whole, tones
of the same key (as given above), advancing by semitones, twice a day
on the entire compass of the voice. It is exhausting because it
requires great energy; but for the same reason it gives strength.
Practise it first as slowly and vigorously as the strength of the
throat allows, then faster and faster, till one day the trill
unexpectedly appears. With some energy and industry good results
should be reached in from six to eight weeks, and the larynx should
take on the habit of performing its function by itself. This function
gradually becomes a habit, so that it seems as if only _one_ tone were
attacked and held, and as if the second tone simply vibrated with it.
As a matter of fact, the larynx will have been so practised in the
minute upward and downward motion, that the singer is aware only of
the vibrations of the breath that lie _above_ it, while he remains
mindful all the time only of the pitch of the upper note.

One has the feeling then as of singing or holding only the _lower_
tone (which must be placed very high), while the upper one vibrates
with it simply through the habitude of the accentuation. The union of
the two then comes to the singer's consciousness as if he were
singing the lower note somewhat too high, halfway toward the upper
one. This is only an aural delusion, produced by the high vibrations.
But the trill, when fully mastered, should always be begun, as in the
exercise, on the _upper_ note.

Every voice must master the trill, after a period, longer or shorter,
of proper practice. Stiff, strong voices master it sooner than small,
weak ones. I expended certainly ten years upon improving it, because
as a young girl I had so very little strength, although my voice was
very flexible in executing all sorts of rapid passages.

To be able to use it anywhere, of course, requires a long time and
much practice. For this reason it is a good plan to practise it on
syllables with different vowels, such as can all be supported on
_[=a]_, and on words, as soon as the understanding needed for this is
in some degree assured.

If the larynx has acquired the habit properly, the trill can be
carried on into a _piano_ and _pianissimo_ and prolonged almost
without end with _crescendi_ and _decrescendi_, as the old Italians
used to do, and as _all Germans_ do who have learned anything.



In practising the singer should always stand, if possible, before a
large mirror, in order to be able to watch himself closely. He should
stand upright, quietly but not stiffly, and avoid everything that
looks like restlessness. The hands should hang quietly, or rest
lightly on something, without taking part in the interpretation of the
expression. The first thing needed is to bring the body under control,
that is, to remain quiet, so that later, in singing, the singer can do
everything intentionally.

The pupil must always stand in such a way that the teacher can watch
his face, as well as his whole body. Continual movements of the
fingers, hands, or feet are not permissible.

The body must serve the singer's purposes freely and must acquire no
bad habits. The singer's self-possession is reflected in a feeling of
satisfaction on the part of the listener. The quieter the singer or
artist, the more significant is every expression he gives; the fewer
motions he makes, the more importance they have. So he can scarcely be
quiet enough. Only there must be a certain accent of expression in
this quietude, which cannot be represented by indifference. The
quietude of the artist is a reassurance for the public, for it can
come only from the certainty of power and the full command of his task
through study and preparation and perfect knowledge of the work to be
presented. An artist whose art is based on power cannot appear other
than self-possessed and certain of himself. An evident uneasiness is
always inartistic, and hence does not belong where art is to be
embodied. All dependence upon tricks of habit creates nervousness and
lack of flexibility.

Therefore the singer must accustom himself to quietude in practising,
and make his will master of his whole body, that later he may have
free command of all his movements and means of expression.

The constant playing of single tones or chords on the piano by the
teacher during the lesson is wrong, and every pupil should request its
discontinuance. The teacher can hear the pupil, but the latter cannot
hear himself, when this is done; and yet it is of the utmost
importance that he should learn to hear himself. I am almost driven
distracted when teachers bring me their pupils, and drum on the piano
as if possessed while they sing. Pupils have the same effect on me
when they sit and play a dozen chords to one long note.

Do they sit in the evening when they sing in a concert?

Do they hear themselves, when they do this? Unfortunately, I cannot
hear them.

Poor pupils!

It is enough for a musical person to strike a single note on the piano
when he practises alone, or perhaps a common chord, after which the
body and hands should return to their quiet natural position. Only in
a standing posture can a free deep breath be drawn, and mind and body
be properly prepared for the exercise or the song to follow.

It is also well for pupils to form sentences with the proper number of
syllables upon which to sing their exercises, so that even such
exercises shall gradually gain a certain amount of expressiveness.
Thus the exercises will form pictures which must be connected with the
play of the features, as well as with an inner feeling, and thus will
not become desultory and soulless and given over to indifference. Of
course not till the mere tone itself is brought under complete
control, and uncertainty is no longer possible, can the horizon of the
pupil be thus widened without danger.

Only when a scene requires that a vocal passage be sung kneeling or
sitting must the singer practise it in his room long before the
performance and at all rehearsals, in accordance with dramatic
requirements of the situation. _Otherwise the singer should always_
STAND. We must also look out for unaccustomed garments that may be
required on the stage, and rehearse in them; for instance, hat,
helmet, hood, cloak, etc. Without becoming accustomed to them by
practice, the singer may easily make himself ridiculous on the stage.
Hence comes the absurdity of a Lohengrin who cannot sing with a
helmet, another who cannot with a shield, a third who cannot with
gauntlets; a Wanderer who cannot with the big hat, another who cannot
with the spear, a Jose who cannot with the helmet, etc. All these
things must be practised before a mirror until the requirements of a
part or its costume become a habit. To attain this, the singer must be
completely master of his body and all his movements.

It must be precisely the same with the voice. The singer must be quite
independent of bad habits in order consciously to exact from it what
the proper interpretation of the work to be performed requires.

He should practise only so long as can be done without weariness.
After every exercise he should take a rest, to be fresh for the next
one. After the great scale he should rest _at least_ ten minutes; and
these resting times must be observed as long as one sings.

Long-continued exertion should not be exacted of the voice at first;
even if the effects of it are not immediately felt, a damage is done
in some way. In this matter pupils themselves are chiefly at fault,
because they cannot get enough, as long as they take pleasure in it.

For this reason it is insane folly to try to sing important rôles on
the stage after one or two years of study; it may perhaps be endured
for one or two years without evil results, but it can never be
carried on indefinitely.

Agents and managers commit a crime when they demand enormous exertions
of such young singers. The rehearsals, which are held in abominably
bad air, the late hours, the irregular life that is occasioned by
rehearsals, the strain of standing around for five or six hours in a
theatre,--all this is not for untrained young persons. No woman of
less than twenty-four years should sing soubrette parts, none of less
than twenty-eight years second parts, and none of less than
thirty-five years dramatic parts; that is early enough. By that time
proper preparation can be made, and in voice and person something can
be offered worth while. And our fraternity must realize this sooner or
later. In that way, too, they will learn more and be able to do more,
and fewer sins will be committed against the art of song by the



When we wish to study a rôle or a song, we have first to master the
intellectual content of the work. Not till we have made ourselves a
clear picture of the whole should we proceed to elaborate the details,
through which, however, the impression of the whole should never be
allowed to suffer. The complete picture should always shine out
through all. If it is too much broken into details, it becomes a thing
of shreds and patches.

So petty accessories must be avoided, that the larger outline of the
whole picture shall not suffer. The complete picture must ever claim
the chief interest; details should not distract attention from it. In
art, subordination of the parts to the whole is an art of itself.
Everything must be fitted to the larger lineaments that should
characterize a masterpiece.

A word is an idea; and not only the idea, but how that idea in color
and connection is related to the whole, must be expressed. Therein is
the fearsome magic that Wagner has exercised upon me and upon all
others, that draws us to him and lets none escape its spell. That is
why the elaboration of Wagner's creations seems so much worth while to
the artist. Every elaboration of a work of art demands the sacrifice
of some part of the artist's ego, for he must mingle the feelings set
before him for portrayal with his own in his interpretation, and thus,
so to speak, lay bare his very self. But since we must impersonate
human beings, we may not spare ourselves, but throw ourselves into our
task with the devotion of all our powers.



In the wide reaches of the theatre it is needful to give an
exaggeration to the expression, which in the concert hall, where the
forms of society rule, must be entirely abandoned. And yet the picture
must be presented by the artist to the public from the very first
word, the very first note; the mood must be felt in advance. This
depends partly upon the bearing of the singer and the expression of
countenance he has during the prelude, whereby interest in what is
coming is aroused and is directed upon the music as well as upon the

The picture is complete in itself; I have only to vivify its colors
during the performance. Upon the management of the body, upon the
electric current which should flow between the artist and the
public,--a current that often streams forth at his very appearance,
but often is not to be established at all,--depend the glow and
effectiveness of the color which we impress upon our picture.

No artist should be beguiled by this into giving forth more than
artistic propriety permits, either to enhance the enthusiasm or to
intensify the mood; for the electric connection cannot be forced.
Often a tranquillizing feeling is very soon manifest on both sides,
the effect of which is quite as great, even though less stimulating.
Often, too, a calm, still understanding between singer and public
exercises a fascination upon both, that can only be attained through a
complete devotion to the task in hand, and renunciation of any attempt
to gain noisy applause.

To me it is a matter of indifference whether the public goes frantic
or listens quietly and reflectively, for I give out only what I have
undertaken to. If I have put my individuality, my powers, my love for
the work, into a rôle or a song that is applauded by the public, I
decline all thanks for it to myself personally, and consider the
applause as belonging to the master whose work I am interpreting. If I
have succeeded in making him intelligible to the public, the reward
therefor is contained in that fact itself, and I ask for nothing more.

Of what is implied in the intelligent interpretation of a work of art,
as to talent and study, the public has no conception. Only they can
understand it whose lives have been devoted to the same ideals. The
lasting understanding of such, or even of a part of the public, is
worth more than all the storm of applause that is given to so many.

All the applause in the world cannot repay me for the sacrifices I
have made for art, and no applause in the world is able to beguile me
from the dissatisfaction I feel over the failure of a single tone or
attempted expression.

What seems to me bad, because I demand the greatest things of myself,
is, to be sure, good enough for many others. I am, however, not of
their opinion. In any matter relating to art, only the best is good
enough for any public. If the public is uncultivated, one must make it
know the best, must educate it, must teach it to understand the best.
A naïve understanding is often most strongly exhibited by the
uncultivated--that is, the unspoiled--public, and often is worth more
than any cultivation. The cultivated public should be willing to
accept only the best; it should ruthlessly condemn the bad and the

It is the artist's task, through offering his best and most carefully
prepared achievements, to educate the public, to ennoble it; and he
should carry out his mission without being influenced by bad standards
of taste.

The public, on the other hand, should consider art, not as a matter of
fashion, or as an opportunity to display its clothes, but should feel
it as a true and profound enjoyment, and do everything to second the
artist's efforts.

Arriving late at the opera or in the concert hall is a kind of bad
manners which cannot be sufficiently censured. In the same way, going
out before the end, at unfitting times, and the use of fans in such a
way as to disturb artists and those sitting near, should be avoided by
cultivated people. Artists who are concentrating their whole nature
upon realizing an ideal, which they wish to interpret with the most
perfect expression, should not be disturbed or disquieted.

On the other hand, operatic performances, and concerts especially,
should be limited in duration and in the number of pieces presented.
It is better to offer the public a single symphony or a short list of
songs or pianoforte pieces, which it can listen to with attention and
really absorb, than to provide two or three hours of difficult music
that neither the public can listen to with sufficient attention nor
the artist perform with sufficient concentration.



Let us return to the subject of Expression, and examine a song; for

_"Der Nussbaum" by Schumann._

The prevailing mood through it is one of quiet gayety, consequently
one demanding a pleasant expression of countenance. The song picture
must rustle by us like a fairy story. The picture shows us the
fragrant nut tree putting forth its leaves in the spring; under it a
maiden lost in reverie, who finally falls asleep, happy in her
thoughts. All is youth and fragrance, a charming little picture, whose
colors must harmonize. None of them should stand out from the frame.
Only one single word rises above the rustling of the tree, and this
must be brought plainly to the hearing of the listening maiden--and
hence, also, of the public--the second "_next_" year. The whole song
finds its point in that one word. The nut tree before the house puts
forth its green leaves and sheds its fragrance; its blossoms are
lovingly embraced by the soft breezes, whispering to each other two by
two, and offer their heads to be kissed, nodding and bowing; the song
must be sung with an equal fragrance, each musical phrase in one
breath: that is, with six inaudible breathings, without ritenuto.

They whisper of a maiden who night and day is thinking, she knows not
of what herself. Between "selber" and "nicht was" a slight separation
of the words can be made, by breaking off the _r_ in "selber" nasally;
and holding the tone nasally, without taking a fresh breath, attacking
the "nicht" anew. In this way an expression of uncertainty is lent to
the words "nicht was."

But now all becomes quite mysterious. "They whisper, they
whisper"--one must bend one's thoughts to hear it; who can understand
so soft a song? But now I hear plainly, even though it be very
soft--the whisper about the bridegroom and the next year, and again
quite significantly, the _next_ year. That is so full of promise, one
can scarcely tear one's self away from the thoughts, from the word in
which love is imparted, and yet that, too, comes to an end!

Now I am the maiden herself who listens, smiling in happiness, to the
rustling of the tree, leaning her head against its trunk, full of
longing fancies as she sinks to sleep and to dream, from which she
would wish never to awaken.

_"Feldeinsamkeit" by Brahms._

This song interprets the exalted mood of the soul of the man who,
lying at rest in the long grass, watches the clouds float by, and
whose being is made one with nature as he does so. A whole world of
insects buzzes about him, the air shimmers in the bright sunlight,
flowers shed their perfume; everything about him lives a murmuring
life in tones that seem to enhance the peace of nature, far from the
haunts of men.

As tranquil as are the clouds that pass by, as peaceful as is the mood
of nature, as luxurious as are the flowers that spread their
fragrance, so tranquil and calm must be the breathing of the singer,
which draws the long phrases of the song over the chords of the
accompaniment, and brings before us in words and tones the picture of
the warm peace of summer in nature, and the radiant being of a man
dissolved within it.

I mark the breathing places with _V_. "Ich liege still im Nohen grünen
Gras _V_ und sende lange meinen Blick _V_ nach oben _V_ [and again
comfortably, calmly] nach oben.

"Von Grillen rings umschwärmt _V_ ohn' Unterlass _V_ von Himmelsbläue
wundersam umwoben _V_ von Himmelsbläue _V_ _wundersam umwoben_."

Each tone, each letter, is connected closely with the preceding and
following; the expression of the eyes and of the soul should be
appropriate to that of the glorified peace of nature and of the soul's
happiness. The last phrase should soar tenderly, saturated with a warm
and soulful coloring.

"Die schönen weissen Wolken zieh'n dahin _V_ durch's _tiefe_ Blau _V_,
[I gaze at it for a moment] wie schöne, stille Träume _V_ [losing
one's self] wie schöne stille Träume. _V_ [A feeling of dissolution
takes away every thought of living and being.] Mir ist _V_ als ob _V_
ich längst _V_ gestorben bin! [The whole being is dissolved in the
ether; the end comes with outstretched wings soaring above the earth.]
und ziehe selig mit _V_ durch ew'ge Räume _V_ und ziehe selig mit _V_
durch ew'ge Räume. [Dissolution of the soul in the universe must sound
forth from the singer's tone.]

_"The Erlking," by Schubert._

For him who is familiar with our native legends and tales, the willows
and alders in the fields and by the brooks are peopled with hidden
beings, fairies, and witches. They stretch out ghostly arms, as their
veils wave over their loose hair, they bow, cower, raise themselves,
become as big as giants or as little as dwarfs. They seem to lie in
wait for the weak, to fill them with fright.

The father, however, who rides with his child through the night and
the wind, is a man, no ghost; and his faithful steed, that carries
both, no phantom. The picture is presented to us vividly; we can
follow the group for long. The feeling is of haste, but not of
ghostliness. The prelude should consequently sound simply fast, but
not overdrawn. The first phrases of the singer should be connected
with it as a plain narrative.

Suddenly the child hugs the father more closely and buries his face in
terror in his bosom. Lovingly the father bends over him; _quietly_ he
asks him the cause of his fear.

Frightened, the child looks to one side, and asks, in disconnected
phrases, whether his father does not see the Erlking, the Erlking
with his crown and train. They had just ridden by a clump of willows.
Still quietly, the father explains _smilingly_ to his son that what he
saw was a bank of fog hanging over the meadow.

But in the boy's brain the Erlking has already raised his enticing
whisper.[3] The still, small voice, as though coming from another
world, promises the child golden raiment, flowers, and games.

[Footnote 3: The voice of the Erlking is a continuous, soft,
uninterrupted stream of tone, upon which the whispered words are hung.
The Erlking excites the thoughts of the fever-sick boy. The three
enticements must be sung very rapidly, without any interruption of the
breath. The first I sing as far as possible in one breath (if I am not
hampered by the accompanist), or at most in two; the second in two,
the third in three; and here for the first time the words "reizt" and
"branch ich Gewalt" emerge from the whispered pianissimo.]

Fearfully he asks his father if he does not hear the Erlking's
whispered promises.

"It is only the dry leaves rustling in the wind." The father quiets
him, and his voice is full of firm and loving reassurance, but he
feels that his child is sick.

For but a few seconds all is still; then the voice comes back again.
In a low whisper sounds and words are distinguished. Erlking invites
the boy to play with his daughters, who shall dance with him and rock
him and sing to him.

In the heat of fever the boy implores his father to look for the
Erlking's daughters. The father sees only an old gray willow; but his
voice is no longer calm. Anxiety for his sick child makes his manly
tones break; the comforting words contain already a longing for the
journey's end--quickly, quickly, must he reach it.

Erlking has now completely filled the feverish fancy of the child.
With ruthless power he possesses himself of the boy--all opposition is
vain--the silver cord is loosened. Once more he cries out in fear to
his father, then his eyes are closed. The man, beside himself, strains
every nerve--his own and his horse's; his haste is like a wild
flight. The journey's end is reached; breathless they stop--but the
race was in vain.

A cold shudder runs through even the narrator; his whole being is
strained and tense, he must force his mouth to utter the last words.



The class of voice is dependent upon the inborn characteristics of the
vocal organs. But the development of the voice and all else that
appertains to the art of song, can, providing talent is not lacking,
be learned through industry and energy.

If every singer cannot become a _famous_ artist, every singer is at
least in duty bound to have learned something worth while, and to do
his best according to his powers, as soon as he has to appear before
any public. As an artist, he should not afford this public merely a
cheap amusement, but should acquaint it with the most perfect
embodiments of that art whose sole task properly is to ennoble the
taste of mankind, and to bestow happiness; to raise it above the
miseries of this workaday world, withdraw it from them, to idealize
even the hateful things in human nature which it may have to
represent, without departing from truth.

But what is the attitude of artists toward these tasks?

CLEVELAND, January 11, 1902.


_A Good Remedy for Catarrh and Hoarseness_

Pour boiling hot water into a saucer, and let a large sponge suck it
all up. Then squeeze it firmly out again. Hold the sponge to the nose
and mouth, and breathe alternately through the nose and mouth, in and

I sing my exercises, the great scale, passages, etc., and all the
vowels into it, and so force the hot steam to act upon the lungs,
bronchial tubes, and especially on the mucous membranes, while I am
breathing in and out through the sponge. After this has been kept up
for ten or fifteen minutes, wash the face in cold water. This can be
repeated four to six times a day. The sponge should not be full of
water, but must be quite squeezed out. This has helped me greatly, and
I can recommend it highly. It can do no injury because it is natural.
But after breathing in the hot steam, do not go out immediately into
the cold air.

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