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Title: Advice to Singers
Author: Crowest, Frederick James
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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Author of "The Great Tone Poets" "Musical Groundwork"
Editor of "The Master Musicians" Series, etc.

      "Since singing is so good a thing
      I wish all men would learn to sing"

[Illustration: Publisher's Device]

Seventeenth Thousand

Frederick Warne and Co.
and New York


Singing cannot be learnt from a book, and so far from attempting any
such impossible feat as writing a book which might be called "_Singing
without a Master_," the author's object--frequently insisted upon
herein--is to point out the impossibility of overcoming the difficulties
of singing without a teacher. At the same time, there are points upon
which a master would not feel called upon to speak; nor would he
(except, perhaps, in the course of a very long period of training) be
likely to touch on many matters which, though closely connected with the
life or business of an accomplished singer, yet lie rather outside the
province of the voice-trainer.

In a work consisting of detached paragraphs, and not being a continuous
essay, it is not always possible to enter into full explanations of the
reasons for certain statements; and (for the want of such explanation)
one paragraph may _appear_ to contradict another. However, I can assure
the reader that such paragraphs are only _apparent_ contradictions; and
if he will take the trouble to think such points out for himself, he
will find that they are easily reconcileable.

There is no subject, perhaps, on which opinions are so divided, and
prejudices run so high, as the proper method of training and using the
voice; nor is there perhaps one more wrapped in mystery than is the art
of singing. This is probably the result of that readiness with which
almost every music teacher has hitherto undertaken to teach Singing.
This book will not, I am sure, add to the mystery. A careful perusal of
its contents should clear away many misconceptions, and place the
student on the right road to that end which he or she has in view.


That another large edition of this little Manual should be called for in
so comparatively short a time is sufficiently encouraging testimony of
the worth of the book and the favour it has found at the hands of
students of singing and others--a result the more gratifying to the
publishers since hitherto it has been issued with an anonymous
title-page. Often has the authorship of the little volume been
industriously defended and disputed--not by myself--both in this country
and America; but, on the whole, the identity of its originator has been
well maintained. For my part matters might have remained so, especially
as I am not insensible to the fact that there is much "preaching"
herein--as indeed there must be in such a work, and some of the advice
is of such a nature that its giver runs the risk of being placed upon an
exceeding high pinnacle of moral excellence, or of being accounted the
personification of all the virtues--both of which distinctions might
scarcely be merited. The appearance of my name upon the title-sheet is
the result of no wish of mine, and I have consented to it only out of
deference to the pressing request of the publishers.

A chapter on the Physiological Surroundings of the Voice has been added
to this edition.

                                                   FREDERICK J. CROWEST.


Once again my publishers have informed me of the necessity for
reprinting this Manual, which has been so successful both here, in
America, and in the Colonies. I have nothing to alter in the work, but I
must express my thanks for the marked support that has been given to
this straightforward advice. Did space permit, much might be said
relative to that growing complaint, "Teachers' (or Board School)
Laryngitis" as it is called. For some time past I have been authorized
to make observations at the chief Throat Hospitals in connection with
this constantly increasing mischief, arising from an injurious use of
the voice in Teaching, and which only proper Voice Production will
remedy. While I cannot give advice here, I shall be happy to answer any
communications of sufferers from this complaint.

                                                   FREDERICK J. CROWEST.




  PRELIMINARY REMARKS                                                  9

  ON HABITS, DIET, &c.                                                13

    Early Rising--Cleanliness--The Hair--The Teeth--Exercise--Dress--
    Diet--Smoking--Late Hours--General Morality.

  PRONUNCIATION AND STUDY OF WORDS                                    21

    Emphasis--Position of Lips--Study of "Words"--General
    Education--Dramatic Study.

  VOICES AND THEIR VARIOUS QUALITIES                                  28

    Voices and their Names--Compass--Soprano--Mezzo-Soprano--
    Barytone and Basso-Cantante--Bass--Buffo--Qualities of Voices.

  INSTRUCTION, BOOKS AND MASTERS                                      47

    Schools of Singing--Masters--Institutions--A First Opinion--Bad
    Lessons--Bad Teachers--Books of Exercises.

  PRACTICE                                                            53

    Individuality--Perseverance--Facial Expression--Self-Accompaniment--
    Position of Body, Arms, Hands, Throat, Tongue, Larynx--
    Head-Singing--Throatiness--Clearing the Throat--High Notes--The
    Scale--Forte, Mezzo-Voce, and Piano--Tone--Chest, Falsetto, and
    Head--Scale Practice--First Exercises (_with Examples_)--Duration
    of Practice--Singing in Tune--How to Begin--Variety--Chorus
    Singing--Humming--Studying Songs--Imitation--General Musical Study.

  ON STYLE AND EXPRESSION                                             71

    Traditional Styles--Modern German _Lieder_--"The Cathedral
    School"--Oratorio (_with Examples_)--Opera--Ballads--Recitative
    (_with Examples_)--Slurring--Sentiment--Decision--Imitation--Public
    Singing--"Holding" an Audience--Mistakes in Public.

  ON TIME IN SINGING                                                  87

    The Metronome--Accent--Exercises: four beats to the bar; three
    beats to the bar; two beats to the bar.

  ON THE CHOICE OF MUSIC                                             103

    Music to Suit the Voice--"Original Keys"--Execution--Fashion--
    Forming a "Repertoire."

  PHYSIOLOGICAL SURROUNDINGS                                         109

    The Larynx--The Thyroid--The Pharynx--The Voice; A Wind, Reed,
    or String Instrument.

  EXERCISES                                                          115

    Exercises 1, 2, for Uniting Notes--Exercise 3, for Flexibility,
    &c.--Exercise 4, on Intervals of Thirds--Exercise 5, on Intervals
    of Fourths--Exercise 6, on Intervals of Fifths--Exercise 7, on
    Intervals of Sixths--Exercise 8, on Intervals of Sevenths.

  INDEX                                                              126



Whatever be the actual difference between the professional and the
amateur singer, if a person is worthy of the name of singer at all,
there should be no difference in their views of Art, and in their
devotion to practice. Singing is an art, and one of the most difficult
of the arts to master; and any one who attempts to learn it must be
prepared to give the same devotion to it as is demanded by the sister
arts of painting and sculpture. I do not mean exactly devotion of the
whole time and energy of life to it; because, however necessary that may
be for the professional, who has to make his living by it, such entire
devotion to an accomplishment or an amusement (for such singing is to
the amateur) would, for a non-professional, be frequently impossible,
and very often wrong, as it would lead to a neglect of the duties of
life. But, while the entire devotion of time and energy of a
professional singer is demanded to master the various styles, and the
immense mass of music, with which he or she will have to deal in the
exercise of the profession, the amateur should bear in mind that such
time and energy as he can devote to singing must be firmly restricted to
doing what he undertakes thoroughly well--as well, in fact, as a
professional. The amateur's position, which forbids him to make singing
the work of his life, limits the range of his work, not the quality of
it. He cannot, even if he have the voice of a Rubini or a Braham, master
the difficulties of opera, oratorio, and ballad alike. Circumstances
forbid him to conquer the world, but there is no reason why he should
not be a king in his own special realm. To be that he will have to
follow the same rules as though he were able to attack the whole
universe of vocal music; for he should feel that the only difference
between him and the professional singer lies in the sphere of their

The same remarks apply to many professionals. _Very_ few can excel in
all styles, and few in more than one. To attempt all is a great mistake,
and will probably lead to failure, or at least mediocrity in all.

But the first point that I would insist upon is the necessity for
earnest devotion and regular work, both in professional and amateur, so
that the term _Artist_ may apply to both. I shall be at no great pains
to avoid occasional repetitions of incidental remarks. In a book
intended for constant reference rather than for one perusal, and one
divided, as this is, into short paragraphs, words may attract attention
in one place, while in another they may have been overlooked. If,
therefore, I err in this respect, I shall do so deliberately, my sole
aim being to help and impress the student as much as possible.

Remember that the human voice is the most delicate of all instruments,
susceptible to more and more varied influence than any other. The singer
has to combine in himself the instrument and the performer; and while
all the artistic and intellectual qualities necessary for the
instrumentalist are required by him, he is compelled beyond that to
realize that he is a living instrument, and to exercise over himself all
the care--and indeed far more than all--that players exercise over their
most cherished "weapons." He has not only to learn how to sing, but how
to be and to remain fit for singing. He, more than any other musical
artist, will find that he is affected by moral as well as physical and
intellectual causes, and he must face this fact boldly.

In writing down the brief hints which this little work offers to
singers, I shall therefore take in a range of subjects and enter into
many details which may seem to have little to do with the practice of
_Do_, _Re_, _Mi_. I do this advisedly, and I believe that such hints as
those on general culture and habits of living are by no means the least
important part of my work. I do not profess to teach my readers how to
sing--(any singer knows, and I should like the public to know too, that
singing cannot be taught by a book)--but to give "hints to singers," and
many of those hints are on such subjects as it would be an impertinence
on the part of a singing master to allude to. If the student takes
offence at the _book_, it happily does not reach the author.

Following out the previous thought, I shall try to turn the intending
singer's attention to several other subjects, before I touch upon that
of strictly musical interest. And if I here seem to "preach"
occasionally, I shall never do so without cause, and never, I trust, in
any spirit but that of the warmest sympathy with the aspirations and the
peculiar trials and difficulties of those who are still in full vigour
of youth and health.

Remember that I give _hints_, not _rules_. It is quite impossible to lay
down rules of living which shall apply alike to male and female, or to
variously constituted natures. But I hope I may trust to the common
sense of every individual to draw sound conclusions, and to form his or
her own rules, by the help of these hints, and, the rules once formed,
to adhere to them resolutely. If singing is to be done at all, it is
worth while to do it well, and to spare no pains to that end.

There is a good deal to be done by the student of singing before he
attacks the strictly musical part of his difficulties. General
education, if deficient, must be attended to; habits of living must be
formed and followed out; faults of character, such as laziness, ill
temper, slovenliness, impatience, and want of perseverance, must be
bravely fought; for the study of singing, perhaps more than of any other
art, will test the character severely in these respects.

The student must be prepared to exercise a good deal of self-denial; to
put aside all notions of self-merit for a long time to come; and to be
humble, and ready to take a hint from any source. Whatever merits he may
have at starting are certainly not due to his own skill; they are simply
natural gifts, and the better they are, the more is there for him to
learn in doing justice to them. Let him not waste time in admiring what
he is, or has done; but let him keep all his energy for what he may yet
be and for what he yet has to accomplish.


The following paragraphs contain hints on various matters apparently
little connected with singing, yet all of more or less importance to the
singer. The voice, and the power of using it, depend so greatly upon
general health, and health is so easily affected by habits of living,
that I offer no apology for entering into some details which, though
easy enough to write down, and read when written, would be difficult for
a singing master to allude to or suggest without giving offence.

=Early Rising.=--Practise early rising, and, if possible, take a short
walk before breakfast. This tends to keep the circulation of the blood
in a good condition, and that is, of course, of great importance to the
lungs, and all the organs which singing requires to tax somewhat

=Cleanliness.=--Strict cleanliness is of the greatest importance. Take a
cold bath every morning directly you get out of bed. Do not stand
"pottering about," or you may catch cold, but go to your bath while the
skin is moist with the perspiration which the warmth of bed has drawn
out. If you let the perspiration dry, and then plunge into cold water,
you run a great risk of giving yourself a severe chill. Sponge yourself
well, and rapidly, all over, especially the chest, throat, back of the
neck, and all round the loins; and dry the body thoroughly and briskly
with a rough towel. Let no fear of damaging the complexion deter young
ladies from this most healthy and necessary operation.

In winter, if the circulation is naturally sluggish, it is as well not
to take the bath perfectly cold, but merely add enough hot water just to
remove the extreme chill. The bath ought to feel cold to you, even
though it be not the coldest possible.

It is well to take a warm bath once a week--if possible, just before
going to bed. Do not have it hot, but simply warm, and, of course, use
soap with it. Do not dawdle over it, but "have it and have done with
it," and then get to bed at once. If you find the effect of it to be
enervating or relaxing, take it less warm in future. The object of it is
simply to open and cleanse the pores of the skin--a matter of great

=The Hair.=--The same rule of extreme cleanliness applies to the hair, and
for the same reason, viz., its intimate connection with the circulation
of the blood and the pores of the skin. Keep the hair well brushed, and
have it frequently cut and shampooed. Avoid "pomatums," washes, and
greasy messes of every kind: their smell is objectionable and their
effect is generally to dirty the head. Moreover, the public have the
good taste to object to the appearance of an artist before them who is
evidently "got up" with pains for the occasion. A person who is
habitually as clean as he can be, need never fear to appear in public,
and may spare himself the disgusting application of "grease" to his head
to make himself fit to be seen.

If a moustache is worn, let it be kept within bounds, and not allowed to
fall over the mouth, where it would affect the tone of the voice. Do not
cut it straight along the lip, but train it right and left, allowing it
to grow naturally and uncut. The advantages of the moustache are two: it
acts to a certain extent as a respirator, and protects the mouth and
throat as the eyelash does the eye, and it helps to conceal any slight
distortion of the mouth in singing. This, I confess, is a doubtful
advantage:--there ought to be no distortion, and if any were seen, it
might, perhaps, be corrected. However, I give the opinion for what it is

=The Teeth.=--The teeth play such an important part in the production of
the voice that every care should be taken to preserve them sound and in
good condition--to say nothing of the part which they play in facial
expression, a point to which every singer should attend. A bad state of
the teeth at once affects the stomach, and that again the voice, so that
no apology is needed for drawing the student's attention to this matter.
Clean the teeth the first thing in the morning, and the last thing at
night. Use a moderately hard brush, better too soft than too hard, with
cold water, or better still, just lukewarm. Avoid all "dentifrices" and
advertised nastinesses in the way of powders and "fragrant" washes. A
mixture of powdered (not "prepared") chalk and orris-root, in the
proportion of about three to two, is the best thing to use, and any
chemist will make that up for you. Remember to brush the teeth inside
and along the top, as well as outside; and if you find this difficult
with the ordinary-shaped brush, get one of those which are sold for the
purpose. If you find, in spite of your care, that your teeth become
discoloured, the cause is probably that your stomach is out of order. In
that case, go straight to a doctor, for the consequence of such
derangement is that "tartar" is formed on the teeth, and this grows, and
pushes back the gums, altering the form of the cavity of the mouth, and
so affecting the tone of the voice.

=Exercise.=--Be as much as you can in the open air. Take moderate walking
exercise, but of course do not tire yourself before singing or
practising. For male singers, rowing, riding, football and cricket (but
without the shouting so often incidental to these games), racquets or
tennis, and above all an hour or two weekly in a gymnasium, are
excellent things; while for ladies, walking, riding, lawn-tennis, "la
grace," and calisthenics are equally useful. If you live in a town,
always walk in preference to taking a conveyance, when time and weather
permit it.

Never breathe through your mouth in walking, especially at night, or on
coming out into the open air after singing. Keep the lips closed, and
inhale the air through the nostrils. This is easily acquired, and to be
able to do this will be found of great service in taking breath for
singing; but out of doors it is most important, for the immediate rush
of cold or damp air to the delicate organs of the throat, especially
when the latter have been excited by the exertion of singing, is
dangerous. It is a good plan, and a profitable use of the time, to
practise breathing when walking, by filling the lungs, and utilizing
each inspiration for as long a distance as possible.

=Dress.=--Nothing can be said in favour of our climate for singing. With
proper precautions, however, a great deal of trouble arising from this
cause may be averted. In summer, as well as in winter, for instance, the
writer would strongly urge the wearing of moderately thick-soled boots
or shoes. Then, again, the neck and chest should never be exposed alike
to a June sun and a December frost; but, instead, it should be
moderately and reasonably covered. Great care should be taken never to
get wet, especially wet or damp feet.

In going out of hot rooms into the open air much pains should be
exercised to keep the chest and throat covered up with an overcoat or
cloak--however warm the weather may be. In _very severe_ winter weather
the singer will derive much comfort by wearing a flannel
chest-protector. Sitting about in gardens, and on lawns, in the evenings
on even the warmest days, is not a safe indulgence for the student who
is in earnest in the pursuit of his art.

One caution is necessary as to "wrapping up," however. Do not over-do
it. The constant use of a "comforter" renders the throat delicate and
susceptible. All you have to fear is damp, not cold, in the atmosphere.
A comforter, closely wound round the throat, promotes perspiration, and
the risk of chill in removing it is greater than in not wearing it at
all. Common sense must guide every one. It is impossible to make a rule
for all.

=Diet.=--As to diet: avoid everything that is at all indigestible. Live
well, and take plenty of varied nourishment. The singer's system _must_
be well nourished. Chocolate and coffee are better than tea; the latter
is too astringent, and affects the nerves too much, if taken in
abundance. Sugar, in moderation, should always be used with those
beverages, and they should never be taken very hot. Bread is better than
toast, but avoid hot or very new bread. Eggs and butter are good. Meat
should be plainly cooked and not too well done. Pork tries the digestion
too severely to be a desirable food for a singer, and the same may be
said of veal. Fish is good for the singer, and he should if possible let
it form a part of his daily _menu_. Creams and pastry are simply poison,
and cheese should only be taken in great moderation. Fruit is an
excellent thing if judiciously used. But here, again, hard and fast
rules are impossible, because constitutions vary. Only remember the old
proverb, "We must eat to live, and not live to eat."

Never practise or sing upon an empty stomach, or soon after a meal:
either of these habits will unfairly tax your digestive organs, and in
so doing damage your voice. After a meal, all the energy of the body is
required for the stomach; in a healthy person the extremities will
generally be cold after a full meal, and the reason is that the
digestive organs are using all the heat and blood that the body can give
for their special work. Nature thus points to a rest of every other
organ at that time, and you must not fight against Nature by attempting
any such severe physical strain as the practice of the voice demands.

All acids and astringents are bad for a healthy throat and stomach.
Vinegar, highly-flavoured sauces, almonds and raisins, nuts of every
kind should be avoided. Some of these are useful as remedies in relaxed
throat, or congestion of the throat, no doubt; but I am speaking simply
of what is desirable for a person in a state of health. In cases of
cold, hoarseness, or indisposition of any kind, my prescription is,
"Don't doctor yourself, but (as Abernethy said) '_Take advice_.'" Be
very careful and abstemious in the use of spirits. Brandy is decidedly
injurious, it heats and inflames the throat, and tends to constipate the
bowels. Gin or whiskey is the most wholesome spirit, but take as little
as possible of either. If you drink beer or stout, take draught and not
bottled, and always in great moderation. All effervescing liquors are
objectionable; therefore eschew champagne, Moselle, bottled ale and
stout, _et hoc genus omne_. The fluids called port and sherry are cruel
foes to singing. A glass of _good_ port is a fair medicine in certain
cases, and the same may be said of very dry Amontillado, but if
you have nothing the matter with you, avoid port and (so-called)
sherry--especially the hideous compound of alcohol and molasses known as
"brown" sherry--as you would poison.

The best drink for singers is claret, or any light wine, French, German,
or Italian. I myself find the latter on the whole the best, and such
wines as Barolo Secco or Chianté are pure and cheap, and contain all the
properties necessary for a singer's beverage. But in this as in all
else, _moderation_ is a _sine quâ non_. Fluids are apt to produce
congestion or mucus in the throat and glands of the mouth, and that of
course interferes with the free action of the muscles in singing.

=Smoking.=--As a general rule it may be laid down that smoking is a bad
habit for the singer, male or female (for there are females who are
proud of being able to smoke cigarettes nowadays!). With many instances
of great singers who have also been great smokers before us, it is
impossible to say decidedly that singers must not smoke; but the habit
is one to be very cautiously indulged in. If smoking in any case induces
expectoration, it should at once be given up, for the habit of spitting,
to which some smokers allow themselves (quite needlessly) to give way,
is, in reality, the greatest evil of smoking; it weakens the throat,
lungs, and chest. If a man can smoke without spitting or drinking, I
confess that I am no great enemy to tobacco; but the "if" is a big one.

A cigarette is certainly a safeguard against taking cold in coming out
of a hot room into the open air, especially after singing; but strong
cigars or strong tobacco in pipes are to be avoided, because of their
effect on the nerves.

=Late Hours.=--Avoid late hours. You require, not only a certain amount of
sleep, but to take that sleep before the body and mind are at all
overtaxed. From many causes, it is well known, the human frame is always
at its lowest from about 2 a.m. till 5 a.m., and the nearer you approach
those hours in going to bed, the less able are you to derive all the
benefit which you require from sleep. Twelve o'clock is late enough for
any one.

Another reason why late hours are bad is connected not with physical
facts so much as with morals. It is true, you may come to no actual
harm, or get into no positive mischief, by being out late at night, but
you place yourself in a position of risk--risk of cold, over-fatigue,
inhaling vitiated atmosphere, &c., as well as risk to moral character,
which latter, in its way as delicate as the voice, is injured not only
by actual violation of right, but by all society, conversation, and
literature which tend to dim its brightness, or (to use another
metaphor) to spoil the purity of its outline by roughly knocking off its
corners. At all events, as to the night side of "Life," you are better
out of it.

=Morality.=--Nothing can act more prejudicially upon a singer than those
influences which are understood by that very inclusive term, a "fast"
life. I would, therefore, urge upon the student the necessity of a
religious avoidance of those influences. They dull the purity of thought
which marks all true art; they deaden the intellect which art requires;
and they injure the physical powers, without which all a singer's study
may be suddenly rendered useless to him. All excess is bad, and
self-restraint and self-control are of the greatest importance both to
character and health. Many an anxious student has mastered the musical
side of his art, but has failed under the rigid demands which the moral
code makes upon an intending singer. It is of no use for a singer to be
strong musically, and weak morally: the two preparations must go
hand-in-hand; and while building up a structure of vocal greatness, his
care must always be that the moral foundation will always support the
weight of persistent study, and leave him favourably placed in the stern
competition going on around him for a front place in the race for
singing fame, and the inevitable honours. Keep these hints in mind,
think them carefully over, and be your own moral doctor. That will be
better than following any code of cut and dried rules. If you err at
all, let it be on the side of self-denial, the hardest and probably the
highest of all virtues.


The singer has to combine the arts of the musician, the public speaker,
and, to a certain extent, the actor. Clearness of pronunciation and
correctness of emphasis are included in the range of his study. Nor are
these so easy of acquirement as many persons suppose. To a novice, the
almost inevitable nervousness inseparable from the prominent position
which a solo singer necessarily holds in the company, or before the
audience to which he is singing, is very apt to render the enunciation
less distinct and more rapid than is natural to him. His ear guides him
less safely; and, in fact, every sense, influenced by the abnormal state
of his nerves, is apt to play him more or less false. It is only by
having carefully studied and mastered every detail of manner, posture,
and speech, as well as of the music to be performed, that a singer can
rise superior to the treachery of his nerves, in whatever form that
treachery may show itself.

=Nervousness.=--A few words as to nervousness. You will often hear persons
boast that they are not the least nervous in public; and, perhaps, will
feel inclined to envy them. Get rid of any such notion at once. If by
"nervous" is meant "frightened," that is another thing altogether; and
it is perfectly true that there are hundreds of persons who are not in
the least afraid of appearing in public, nor affected by timidity when
so appearing. But fear is only one form of nervousness. I firmly
believe that it is impossible for a real artist ever to appear in public
without being _nervous_. But the nerves act in many ways: the fervour of
an eloquent speaker carried away by his subject; the "_abandon_" of a
fine actor thoroughly entering into his part and identifying himself
with it; the sustained energy of a declamatory singer; the faultless and
unerring agility of a florid _soprano_, who astonishes her hearers by
wonder on wonder of execution--all these things are due, in their subtle
charm, to nervousness--_i.e._ to delicate nervous organization in active
play. These artists are not frightened, it is true, but excited,
stimulated, roused from the normal state of eating, walking, and
sleeping; something of the spiritual kindles the mere physical forces in
them--some breath of inspiration sustains that living power which so
influences the hearers. In some way or other every great artist is
always nervous; were it not so, the essence of their power would vanish.
Persons of cold and phlegmatic temperament lack the very life-breath of
art; and though they may train themselves into fair imitations of some
great artists, they will generally be detected with ease, by any hearer
of true sensibility, as imitations, not the real thing. Therefore do not
be ashamed to admit that you are nervous, if it be so. Nerves are a
cruel master, but a splendid servant; instead of letting them overcome
you, force them to do your bidding; and instead of "nervousness" meaning
"fear," you will find that it means courage and power to do your best.

=Pronunciation.=--Study correctness of pronunciation and propriety of
emphasis quite apart from singing. Remember that in speaking or singing
in a large space and to a number of persons, every sound must have not
only additional force, but additional volume. And that comes to mean
that every vowel-sound in the words sung must be intensified, and every
consonant be delivered with more accuracy than is necessary in ordinary
speaking. If you were to pronounce the syllable "die" (for instance), in
singing, _exactly_ as you do in speaking, you would produce on the
notes or note to which that word belonged a thinness of tone which would
be very ugly, and probably would not "carry" far. And the same with any
vowel-sound--even "Ah," or "Oh,"--which, though not producing a thin
tone, would certainly produce a coarse one, if sung exactly as spoken in
ordinary conversation.

=Vowel-Sounds.=--The reason of the need of this slight change is as
follows. Every vowel-sound, like every musical sound (for vowel-sounds
are nothing less than musical sounds) is composed of _two_ sounds.
Combined with the prominent and chief sound which first attracts the ear
is a second, which, though not prominent, lends point and force to the
other. Thus our English vowel-sound "A" is really _Éh-é_; "E" is _E-é_;
"I" is _Ah-é_; "O" is _O-óo_, or even _Aw-oo_; "U" is _Ée-óo_. Of
course, I do not mean to say that those absurd-looking syllables really
express exactly the sounds which we produce in speaking the vowels, for
no combination of letters can do that, or can bring within reach of the
eye the subtleties of sound in human speech; but if you attempt to
pronounce those syllables, you will find that you are really pronouncing
the vowels from which I "translated" them.

Now, in conversation or rapid speaking, the subordinate sound of the
vowel is scarcely noticeable, while the more prominent sound is heard
for the short interval of time required. But in singing or public
speaking, where the production of tone is more deliberate, the space to
be filled with sound larger, or, in other words, the column of air to be
set vibrating is greater and heavier, the _complex_ sound of the vowel
must not be ignored. It is impossible to lay down any set of rules by
which the student may overcome this difficulty; but every one, by
bearing in mind the absolute necessity of attention to this point, may
easily accustom himself to the slight change of pronunciation (as it
will at first appear) which is required to give vowel-sounds when sung,
or spoken "_ore rotundo_," the same tone, to the hearer's ear, as they
have in ordinary speaking. As a general rule this is done by keeping
the throat more open, the larynx (or "Adam's apple") as low down as
possible, and the root of the tongue flat, depressed, even hollowed like
the bowl of a spoon. The truth of all this may easily be tested by
singing any short passage deliberately and distinctly, with the exact
pronunciation of ordinary speaking, and then repeating it with attention
to the above hints. In the first instance the result will be meagre,
hard to be heard at a moderate distance, and very likely extremely
ludicrous to the hearer. In the second, you will find that the tone of
the notes gains in roundness and fulness, while the words are clearly
heard in every part of the room with the exact effect belonging to them.
I purposely refrain from attempting to write down the difference
discernible in any words so sung, because, as I have already said,
_letters_ cannot accurately express distinctions so delicate, yet so
all-important to the singer, speaker, and hearer.

=Consonants.=--In pronouncing consonants, be careful to give each its due
value, but without exaggeration. Be especially particular to sound the
_last_ letter of each word distinctly. But take care to avoid adding a
slight sound (as of an _e_ mute) after the final letter: for instance,
do not say "When other-_é_ lips," &c., or "bright-_é_ days," and so on.
Do not over-aspirate the letter "_H_." "_N_," "_L_," "_M_," "_B_,"
"_P_," and "_V_," are all letters requiring care in firm pronunciation.

Avoid prefixing a slight sound of "_N_" to the first word of a song or
passage in singing. It is a common trick with beginners to do this, and
they frequently do it without being in the least conscious of it. It is
produced by a kind of nervous feeling of the teeth with the tongue, as
if to make sure that all is right for the start! I have heard an
aspiring youth actually begin a well-known song thus: "_Nwaft her
Rangels Nthrough the sky_," &c.

=English Words.=--The English language is not the most suitable one under
the sun for singing purposes; nevertheless, it is not nearly so
intolerable and unfavourable an one as it is the fashion to make out.
The grand old Scripture passages which Handel, Mendelssohn, and others
have set to music testify to this. Yet musical care _is_ needed when
singing English words, and especially in pronouncing the "sibilants," as
_S_, &c. These "sibilants" must never be enunciated rapidly, or their
ill effects will soon be found in a series of _hissings_. Let it be your
study, then, to avoid this ill effect in singing English words, and to
utter such sounds slowly and carefully, with the endeavour to produce a
soft and agreeable effect; for it is, indeed, unpardonable to hear an
English singer unable to render perfectly the words (if =not= the music)
of his native country's songs and ballads.

=Emphasis.=--Having accustomed yourself to carefulness over each letter in
your pronunciation, the next thing is to study correctness of emphasis,
&c. All this is apart from the strictly musical portion of your studies,
and, while you can work at this without music, you will certainly spoil
the effect of your singing (however good your voice and voice production
may be), unless you do so study your "words." I should recommend you to
practise reading aloud for not less than a quarter of an hour at a time,
say once a day. Read _standing_; place your book on a desk, on a level
with your eyes, and speak out deliberately, and with full tone of voice,
and as much variety of intonation as the matter read requires.
Shakespeare is your best author for this study. You will feel at first
as if you were doing a very absurd thing, but never mind that--do it,
and do it as well and as carefully as you can.

=Position of the Lips.=--In speaking and reading aloud during your
preliminary training for singing, be very careful that there be no
change in the aperture of the mouth or position of the lips while
uttering any one sound, however prolonged. If the lips move from their
first position, however slightly, the tone immediately changes, and the
pronunciation ceases to be pure and refined.

=Study of Words.=--The words of a song are as much worthy of the singer's
study as the music, that is, if the song is worth singing at all. I do
not mean to say that in themselves they must necessarily be of equal
merit, but that they require as much attention on the part of the singer
to bring out their meaning. Study the text, therefore, apart from the
music. Read the words aloud deliberately; master the sentiment of them,
and note the prominent words and phrases, so as to be able to give them
their due value when you have to combine them with the music. Avoid
giving prominence to such words as "of," "for," "the," "and," "in," &c.,
&c., but yet let each be distinctly pronounced, and not slurred over in
an indefinite murmur. Learn the words of your song by memory. Master the
text, and consider the whole from an elocutionist's point of view before
you attack the musical side of the matter. A singer when singing in
public should not be troubled with his words and music too.

=General Education.=--An important branch of study is that of giving
expression to the passions, and of communicating your conceptions and
emotions to the minds of your listeners. No better training could a
young singer have for forming such ideas than the earnest perusal of the
works of Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Milton, Lytton, George Eliot, &c.;
or in watching carefully and intelligently the acting of our best stage
performers. For a singer to be successful, he or she must be in a
position to express, and bring home to an audience, such emotions as
love, hatred, anger, fear, grief, and pity; all these, and many other
such feelings, have constantly to be transmitted by the singer, and it
is to the most natural and faithful exposition of these, and that most
consistent with the other equally important points of the art of
singing, that the student's attention should for a long while be
patiently and perseveringly directed.

The singer should be a well-educated man, and he should know at least
one other language beside his native tongue. He should be well read,
too, in the best literature of these two languages. On questions of all
the arts he should seek to make his views sound and true. He should seek
to travel, and so enlarge his mind, for all this training will reflect
itself in the work of an artist so liberally educated. An inferior
education has been the bane of many a student, who has had the organ and
all the necessary musical ability.

=Dramatic Study.=--To be a successful public singer, even in the
concert-room, one must be more or less an actor; and, therefore, the
time and money bestowed in acquiring a sound knowledge of dramatic
action and elocution will be well spent. For the lyric stage, such a
study is imperative; but its utility to artists who aspire no higher
than to ballad or oratorio singing cannot be too highly estimated.


The life of the singing voice is so comparatively short, that the study
of singing is rendered more difficult than that of any other art. You
may buy a violin or a pianoforte, ready-made and perfect, in your
childhood, and nothing remains for you but to study the instrument
diligently under a good master. But the vocal instrument cannot be said
to exist at all, for purposes of singing study, before the age of
eighteen or twenty in males, and (in our climate) sixteen in females.
Even at those ages the organ is necessarily immature and undeveloped.
Consequently the study of the art has to be carried on during the
progress of the instrument to maturity.

To counterbalance this disadvantage, however, we must bear in mind that
that very study materially helps to perfect the instrument. Singing is
by no means all "style," and the study of it includes the formation of
the voice and production of a good tone, and it is, of course, easier to
manipulate an unfinished article than a finished one--to educate youth
and suppleness than to bring maturity and stiffness into subjection to
new conditions.

Therefore begin your study in the youth of your voice; but, recollecting
that its life is the most short-lived of your faculties, let your study
be most earnest and painstaking. Especially if singing is to be your
profession, act upon the wise advice of Dr. Burney, and "Never go to bed
till you have learned something which you did not know the previous

=Voices.=--"What is your voice?" is a very common question, sometimes
expressed in the rather less polite but more intelligent form, "What do
you call your voice?" The answer almost invariably is either "Soprano,"
"Contralto," "Tenor," "Bass," or "Barytone." Here is a warning for you
at starting. Do not limit your notions of what voices are to those four
or five generic names. Because choral music is generally written in four
parts, for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, the non-musical public, and a
great many musical people (some composers included) seem to think that
those names are an inclusive description of every human voice.

This would be of very little consequence if it were only a question of
names; but it is of no use to say "What is in a name?" if the result of
a wrong name is to lead to mischief. The misfortune of wrongly naming
your voice is that it will lead you to practise wrongly, and to choose
the wrong style of music for study and performance. For instance, a
young lady may call herself a _soprano_ because she can "_sing up to
C_," and may therefore fancy that the whole repertoire of a Tietjens or
a Clara Novello is within her reach; and acting on this notion, she may
fatally damage a naturally bright and pleasing voice by giving it work
to do which belongs of right to a voice of totally different calibre,
the _mezzo-soprano_.

=Naming the Voice.=--Remember always that the character of a voice is
determined not by compass or range of notes, but by quality, or body and
_timbre_, of tone. Two ladies may have voices ranging from A to A--two
octaves--and yet one might be a pure light soprano, and the other a
genuine contralto; while in length of compass a mezzo-soprano may even
beat them both. And so with male voices (the variety in which is even
greater than in female), you may have a voice of pure tenor quality, and
yet of such limited compass that your energetic barytone friend next
door may make your life miserable with jealousy of the ease with which
he bellows high Gs, G sharps, and even on great occasions an A or so.

But compass has nothing whatever to do with the name of the voice: it
may limit the quantity of music which can be performed, but it should
have no influence on the choice of the style of music to be studied.
This is a point of the greatest importance, therefore I repeat it
briefly once more--_Your voice must be described and used with reference
to its quality, or volume and timbre, and not with reference to the
number of notes which you can sing._

=Male and Female Voices.=--The actual varieties in tone and quality in
different voices cannot, of course, be expressed on paper; but a careful
use of your ears in listening to good public singers will soon teach you
to discriminate. Female voices are of at least four kinds: soprano,
mezzo-soprano, mezzo-contralto, and contralto. Male are of five or six,
or even more. Alto; tenore-leggiero or light tenor; tenore-robusto or
strong heavy-voiced tenor; barytone--basso-cantante (erroneously
identified with the barytone by some persons); basso-profondo or bass.

Beside all these divisions or species, voices must be again classed
according to their power. Any one who has ever heard an opera singer in
a moderate-sized private drawing-room, will readily appreciate the
difference between a _voce di camera_, or "chamber voice," and a _voce
di teatro_.

=Compass.=--The respective compasses of the several voices may be roughly
set down as follows, but it should be borne in mind that it is by no
means a matter of course that a singer of any particular voice should
possess or cultivate the whole range of notes supposed to belong to that
voice. He or she may be none the less a tenor or a soprano because the
one cannot produce an "_Ut de poitrine_," or the other "_F_ in _Alt_."
There is a special individuality in every voice, as in every face, and
therefore every voice must be treated, by a good teacher, on its own
merits, as a thing in some respects unique.

Perhaps it will be best, therefore, instead of saying that the compass
of any given kind of voice is from ---- to ----, to say that music for
such and such a voice is generally written between such and such limits.
The range allotted by composers to the various voices is about two
octaves to each--for solo work, of course--and is as follows, it being
understood that the male voices are an octave lower in pitch than the

    _Soprano_, and _Tenore-Leggiero_, and in operatic music a certain
    kind of _Tenore-Robusto_.

    {[Music: C4]
    {[Music: C6]

    _Mezzo-Soprano_ and _Tenore-Robusto_

    {[Music: A3]
    {[Music: A5]

    _Mezzo-Contralto_ and _Barytone_

    {[Music: G3]
    {[Music: G5]

    _Contralto_ and _Bass_

    {[Music: E3]
    {[Music: E5]

The basso-cantante is a low barytone, or high bass with a lighter
quality of tone than the basso-profondo. The alto voice, or
counter-tenor as it used to be called, is not a natural voice at all,
but is artificially produced by training the _falsetto_ to the exclusion
of the other parts of the voice. It is totally distinct from the
contralto voice of a female, in quality, average compass, and the style
of music best suited to it. It is of more use in part-singing and
cathedral music than for solo work, although in some oratorios solo
parts have been allotted to it. It is rarely pleasing when heard alone,
for very few alto singers are able to avoid the appearance of singing
with effort; and the whole performance, except in some instances,
appears unnatural and forced. The alto voice ranges generally

    [Music: G3]
    [Music: C5]

    but its best notes are confined to the octave of B flat.

=Soprano.=--The soprano is generally clear, bright, and penetrating in
tone; capable, if rightly produced, of "carrying" far without any
appearance of force or effort. Its lower register is often weak and
ineffective, and the forcing of those notes by a bad singer often
damages the voice, and spoils the evenness of tone, which is of far more
importance than power and noise in singing. Low notes, even if
naturally weak, may be trained to take their proper share of the work of
the voice, and every year will add to their natural power. Most soprano
voices have a "break" on

[Music: G4]

and another, and more difficult one to deal with, on

[Music: E5]


[Music: F5]

The lower notes are the (so-called) "chest" register; the middle ones,
between the breaks, the "falsetto," and the upper ones the "head" notes.
I shall speak of these often-used and frequently-misapplied words
presently; I merely mention them now for the sake of pointing out to
soprani, what many young lady amateurs utterly ignore, that they have
these "breaks," and possess "chest," "falsetto," and "head" notes, as
well as male singers.

Soprano voices are frequently capable of great flexibility, and passages
are easy to them which tax the powers even of a light mezzo-soprano
severely. The high notes, especially, are in many cases easily produced
in a staccato manner, like notes of a piccolo flute, and an effect is
thus made, which, though pretty and pleasing if judiciously employed,
becomes a great snare to many singers, who for the sake of astonishing
their audience work the upper part of their voices unfairly, and,
neglecting steady use and practice of the lower registers, will very
soon find that they have weakened the power and thinned the tone of the
whole voice.

But there are many voices of pure soprano tone which lack this
flexibility: let the fair owners console themselves with the
recollection that good _sostenuto_ singing is quite as pleasing, in the
long run, as displays of vocal gymnastics. You may not be able to
attempt the "_Dinorah_" Shadow Song, or the "Rejoice Greatly" in the
"_Messiah_," but you will find that you have plenty of good work left
for you in such music as "Dove Sono," "Deh vieni, non tardar"
("_Figaro_"), or "Jerusalem" ("_St. Paul_").

Moreover, you may possibly have what is a much rarer gift (in a pure
soprano) than flexibility--you may have a tone of voice capable of
executing declamatory music with fine effect. Music of this kind is
generally appropriated by some mezzo-soprano of high compass, and more
properly belongs to voices of that class; nevertheless, the effect of
sustained declamatory music, well executed by a real soprano, is
unrivalled in its way.

=Mezzo-Soprano.=--The mezzo-soprano voice is perhaps the commonest of all
female voices, and yet one of the rarest met with in perfection. It is
fuller and rounder in quality than the soprano--less flexible, and more
adapted to a _sostenuto_ or declamatory style. Mezzo-soprano voices vary
so much that it is difficult to name any note on which the "break" will
be found. Sometimes it is on the same notes as a soprano--sometimes on
the same as a contralto--on the average, perhaps, nearer the former.
Wherever it may be, however, a judicious teacher will soon point it out,
and put the student into the way of rightly treating it. Teaching, and
_good_ teaching, is especially necessary for voices of this class, for
their fortunate possessors are generally ignorant of the value of the
treasure which they possess in a good mezzo-soprano; and if it be of
light quality, they fancy themselves soprani, and force the upper
register of the voice in trying to "stretch their compass;" or if their
low notes develop first, they think that "with practice" they are to be
contralti; and by over-exercise and fondness for displaying those deep
notes, they run the risk of widening the break, and rendering the
quality of the whole voice hopelessly uneven.

What lies within the sphere of a good mezzo-soprano has been shown in
late years by a Grisi and a Tietjens, the latter of whom will live in
the recollection of all who ever heard her, as the perfect model for
every mezzo-soprano in the production of the pure tone and even quality.

=Mezzo-Contralto.=--The name mezzo-contralto speaks for itself. It is by
no means an uncommon voice, and if used with discrimination is an
effective and useful one. Both in compass and quality it lies between
the contralto and the mezzo-soprano. Heavier in tone, less resonant, and
less flexible than the mezzo-soprano, it is yet lighter than the
contralto. Pure contralto voices are so rare that many mezzo-contralto
singers appear as exponents of contralto music, and by paying chief
attention to the lower register of their voices, they become fair
imitations, and more than passable substitutes, for the real article.
The possessor of this voice must be guided by the advice of a good
teacher as to the direction in which her voice should be trained.
Sometimes the natural quality of the voice renders it advisable to
attempt rivalry with the mezzo-soprano, rather than with the contralto;
sometimes the reverse. It is a question for decision by a competent
adviser in each individual case, and therefore I shall not attempt to
lay down any decided rule, except my oft-repeated one, "GO TO A MASTER,
AND A FIRST RATE-ONE,"--a point on which I shall have more to say
further on. How impossible it is to lay down rules for a mezzo-contralto
is shown by the fact that an eminent living "mezzo-contralto" is gladly
accepted on our opera stage as a leading contralto, and yet succeeds
admirably in such a part as Rossini wrote for a mezzo-soprano of the
most florid kind--_Rosina_ in "_Il Barbiere_."

=Contralto.=--The quality of a true contralto voice is so peculiar that it
is impossible to mistake it for any other voice, although other voices
may be mistaken for it. Of course, there are exceptional cases in which
the contralto and mezzo-contralto are combined in one voice: the lower
range being of full and pure contralto quality, while instead of the
somewhat limited upper notes of the contralto, a rich mezzo-contralto
range of notes may develop themselves; and in such a case careful
training will be able to soften these two into each other, so that a
complete voice of peculiar charm and great usefulness will result. But
such cases, if not rare, are certainly the exception and not the rule,
the deep and powerfully resonant tone of the true contralto being
comparatively seldom met with. There is generally an awkward break
between the low B and the D above it in this voice, and E♭ or E
are the highest notes within reach of the average contralto. Voices of
this class are better adapted for a species of ballads, for solemn
declamation, or music of a calm and flowing character, than for
elaborate execution or lively melodies. But here again exceptions must
be made in favour of those who have the physical means, as well as the
artistic skill, to study such music as that of the _Page_ in "_Les
Huguenots_," _Arsace_ in "_Semiramide_," or "_La Cenerentola_." For an
average English contralto, however, the best line of study is in good
songs and ballads, and, chief of all, oratorio music.

=Alto.=--The alto, or counter-tenor voice, is said by a well-known English
alto singer to be "simply a development of the _falsetto_--generally the
_falsetto_ of an inferior bass voice." It is said to be almost peculiar
to English singers, and to that fact is ascribed its extensive and
effective use in the fine works of the English Cathedral School of
composers. Of course, in a voice which is so artificial, there must be
expected a worse "break" than usual--the break in this case being the
point below which the falsetto cannot be extended, and where the natural
"chest" quality of tone has to be used. This break generally lies near
the same place as the contralto break--if anything, rather higher--say
between C and E in the middle of the voice. The effective notes of an
alto usually lie in the octave of B or B♭he repertoire of
music for which this voice is suited is comparatively limited. That
repertoire, however, includes the greater number of oratorios, a good
deal of fine old Italian music, and a few old English songs; while a
singer of cleverness and cultivation will find many ballads which he may
make his own by the help of transposition and style of delivery.

Great pains must be taken by the possessor of an alto voice in the
formation and production of a good tone. The voice must be made to sound
as _natural_ as possible; and, if necessary, power must unhesitatingly
be sacrificed to sweetness. There is great danger of producing a harsh,
reedy, or nasal tone, which, to the hearer, is simply distressing or

Above all, let him be content to develop his own means, and to keep to
music suited to or written for his voice. A good alto will make no
effect, and will do his voice and style harm, if he "poaches on the
preserves" of other voices--tenors, for instance, or basses--(singing
the songs of the latter an octave higher). I once heard an alto--a fair
singer so long as he stuck to his own work--make an absurd exhibition of
himself by attempting the great song "Love Sounds the Alarm," in "_Acis
and Galatea_," at a public concert!

Let him also beware of the snare of contralto music. The alto in a man
is totally distinct from the contralto in a woman. The tone is utterly
different--the best notes of the one are certainly not the best notes of
the other; and although in certain cases a contralto may sing with good
effect music written for a male alto (_e.g._ in some oratorios), yet the
converse is scarcely ever true. The low notes, which are so fine in a
contralto, and so unlike any other tone except perhaps a few notes of
some tenors, are utterly wanting in charm, and generally in power, in a
male alto; while the sweet and ringing middle notes of the latter are
far more effective in alto music than the (frequently) weak and
uncertain middle notes of a contralto. Choose your music as you name
your voice, by the quality of tone you can produce, and not by the range
of notes.

=Tenore-Leggiero.=--The _tenore-leggiero_ or "light tenor," is the male
voice corresponding to the female soprano; it is perhaps the most
delicate and difficult to manage of all human voices. In the present
day, when fashion is all in favour of noise, it is difficult for any but
the strong-minded to stand firm against the tendency to shout and bawl,
which appears to be the highest aim of many singers, and the highest
admiration of most audiences. Now for a light tenor to attempt this
style of singing is simply suggestive of the old fable of the frog who
tried to make himself as big as the bull, and burst in the attempt.
There is a modern school of singing which, though it may be suitable
enough for heavy voices such as basses and robust tenors, is fatal to
light and delicate voices. The style of singing, and of music to be
sung, by this voice, is quite different from that appropriate to strong
and full organs; and, if you are the possessor of a light tenor, you
must at once rid yourself of the common amateur fancy (a fancy, too, by
no means confined to amateurs) that you must imitate a certain
ever-popular living tenor, whose name has passed almost into a proverb
as typical of the perfection of English singing. You _cannot_ be a
"Reeves" or a "Braham," therefore it is only waste of time and strength
for you to try. But there is a great deal of music which neither a
"Reeves" nor a "Braham" could sing, which is well within your reach; and
more than that, there is a great deal of excellent music which, though
you cannot sing it _like_ them, you may render very effective in a
totally different style. Very often a _pianissimo_ is quite as
expressive as a _fortissimo_, and grace and sweetness are frequently an
excellent substitute for power and force. You must be content to
recognize that the latter are out of your reach, and that the effects
which you can produce are to be attained by other means.

However, while assuring you that power and force are not given to you, I
do not mean to say that voices of your class need be at all inaudible in
a space however large. The tone of a light tenor is generally clear,
resonant, and penetrating; sometimes there is a metallic ring about it
which is extremely pretty, if not forced. I have heard a light tenor,
singing at the back of the Covent Garden stage, send his voice clearly
out into the great theatre, with apparently more ease than his "robust"
friend, who was shortly afterwards vociferating at the footlights.

A light tenor must be careful not to force up the lower register of his
voice beyond its natural and easy limit. The charm of the voice is in
the perfect blending together of the lower, middle, and upper registers,
and to do this the upper notes of each register should be equally at
command, as the upper notes of that register or the lower notes of the
one above it. In order to attain this, the change from one register to
another should generally be made considerably lower than the place where
the real "break" in the voice comes. For instance, supposing the "break"
to be on E♭, the singer should be able to change his register as
low as B or B♭, and to take all the notes between those two
places, either in the upper or lower register, with equal effect.

In voices of this character there is often one note which requires to be
_made_--_i.e._, which is so naturally defective in tone and quality that
it can only be produced effectively by imitating as nearly as possible
the quality of the register above or below it. This note is generally E,
F, F♯, or (sometimes) G, between the middle and upper registers; and if
you find that you unfortunately have such a refractory note, remember
not to try and force the tone of it from the next note above or below;
_e.g._, if your bad note is F, do not try to improve it by singing E
well and then passing on to the F; but try and form the note from the
fifth above or below (whichever it happens to resemble most in tone).
Rounden the refractory note--give it a full tone in practising, and
produce it well from the chest, letting the sound reverberate from the
centre of the roof of the mouth--neither too far back towards the
throat, nor too much on the teeth. Your teacher, if he knows his
business, will soon put you into the way of this. Voices vary so much
that these very general remarks must suffice here; but each voice, if it
has its peculiar difficulties, has also, doubtless, its peculiar charm;
and for light tenors, rich in both charms and difficulties, the rule is
all-important: Do not try to imitate anybody else, but let your aim be
to do the best that can be done with such natural gifts as you may have,
aided by the best training that you can procure for them.

=Tenore-Robusto.=--The robust or strong tenor is the male voice
corresponding to the mezzo-soprano of a female. It is not an uncommon
voice, but is rarely met with in anything like perfection. A robust
tenor voice of large compass and round full tone is a treasure of the
utmost value. The fact is, that too frequently the possessor of a good
voice of this kind, instead of taking care of it and training it for the
future, begins using it too soon, strains and forces it into coarseness,
and spoils it for ever. People do not realize that a voice may be strong
in quality and powerful in tone, and yet in itself be an excessively
delicate thing to keep in order.

Moreover, voices of this kind in their youth frequently resemble
barytones, and their owners, fired with ambition to rival some popular
barytone singer, mistake their vocation, and shout and bellow on the
very part of the voice--the upper "chest" register--which requires the
tenderest nursing to fit it for future difficulties. Consequently, when
the voice develops with age, and the singer finds that barytone work is
too heavy for the lower part of the voice, and that he can without much
difficulty extend his compass beyond the barytone limits, he discovers
that what he has been using as the top of his voice is nearer the middle
of it, and that the mode of using those notes which he has practised is
excessively difficult, if not impossible, with those which now lie above
them. The result is either the creation of a very awkward "break," which
even time and practice can never entirely remove, or else (and this is a
commoner case) the same process of forcing which has been employed
hitherto is applied to the upper notes, as far as strength can take it!
This is the reason why so many tenor singers are utterly unable to
produce the real tenor "tone," and sound like barytones forced up to a
higher compass. There is no sweetness in the upper notes so
produced--nothing but force and noise; while the hapless perpetrator of
the howls which represent high notes turns scarlet in the face, and
quivers all over with his exertions. I therefore give to tenors of this
class exactly the same warning that I gave to soprani:--Do not ignore
the fact that you have three, or at all events two, distinct registers
of the voice, the (so-called) "chest," "throat," and "head." Do not
suppose, when you hear a great singer produce on a high note exactly the
same quality of tone as he produced on a low one, that he did it exactly
the same way, or "got it from the same place," as some people say. The
perfection of his training and the diligence of his practice have
enabled him to assimilate the quality of one register to that of another
so completely as to deceive your ear. The proof that this is true may be
found in inspecting a great deal of music written for and sung by the
most famous operatic tenors of the past--the singers of that pure
Italian school of which so few disciples now remain.

There are notes and passages in that music which no "chest" register
could by any physical possibility execute, but some of which have been
sung within the recollection even of the "rising generation" with all
the effect intended, and with the very tone that critical slang calls
"chest notes," (simply because it so closely resembles the tone of chest
notes that few, if any, can detect that they are differently produced
from the low notes.)

For obvious reasons I abstain from mentioning the names of any living
singers, but I can name one, not very long since dead, who attained the
highest reputation here as a _tenore di forza_--whose "chest notes" were
chronicled by the newspaper critics, and were the envy of aspiring
youths--and yet who has ever been heard distinctly to deny that he ever
produced those notes in the same way as the lower ones, and to laugh at
the idea that such a thing was possible; and this was Mongini.

I have entered into this at some length because it is a point which is
more and more ignored by the singers and teachers of this generation. I
might almost say that a school of singing exists the whole aim of which
is to abolish the natural upper part of the voice, in order to stretch
and force the one lower register up beyond its natural compass. I do not
deny that in certain cases a voice results from this treatment which is
powerful, effective, and capable of executing a good deal of music with
much success and satisfaction to the performer; but for one case where
this treatment so far succeeds, it fails in twenty to produce a voice
both pleasing and useful; it is, moreover, in singers trained on this
method that we most commonly hear the odious (and involuntary) trembling
of the upper notes commonly called the _vibrato_.

Therefore, to sum up those who find, when their voices begin to form,
that the natural quality of their voice is lighter than that of a bass,
had better make up their minds at once to give the voice fair play, and
let it alone for a time; then consult a good master, or one really
experienced in hearing singers, as to what the future of the voice is to
be. It is by no means easy always to decide at that early period whether
the permanent quality of the voice will be tenor or barytone, and
therefore it is folly to try and settle the question for yourself by
singing, in untaught style, music which may prove to have been all along
unsuited to you. Your patience in waiting till the voice really declares
itself will amply repay you afterwards by the absence of the
difficulties which too early a use of the voice would have created for
you to overcome.

=Barytone and Basso-Cantante.=--The barytone voice is thus described in
Stainer and Barrett's "Dictionary of Musical Terms:" "A voice of fuller
quality than a tenor, and lighter than a bass, having a compass partly
included in both.... This voice has only been distinguished by name as
being of a separate character within the present century. Early writers
indicate its existence by the use of its special clef. The term barytone
is unmeaning unless it be looked upon as a corruption of barytenor; but
it is quite possible it was borrowed from the instrument barytone or
bardone, which occupied a place between the tenor and bass viols."

The derivation of the name from "barytenor" is slightly absurd,
considering that half that extraordinary word is Greek and the other
half Latin; whereas the name barytone is a Greek word, used by
Aristotle, and meaning "deep-sounding."

The distinctive character which this voice has assumed within the
present century is due, I believe, to the great change in the pitch of
musical instruments which has taken place. In the last century the
pitch was so much lower than that at present in use, that a "high
barytone" was much the same as a "robust tenor." Consequently, music was
not written exclusively for the barytone voice, its existence as a
separate class of voice not being sufficiently recognized. Gradually, as
the pitch was raised, the barytone separated itself clearly from other
voices, and has now a repertoire of music and a style of singing of its
own; and instead of appropriating tenor music, it, if anything, has
stolen away some of the property of the bass; for the raising of the
pitch which placed tenor music beyond the reach of a barytone has also
rendered a good deal of music originally written for a bass far more
suitable for a barytone, or at all events for a basso-cantante. I am
well aware that by many musicians the basso-cantante is identified with
the barytone. The distinction is so slight that it is not worth while to
quarrel over names; but that the two voices are distinct I am persuaded.
The basso-cantante is of fuller and rounder quality than the barytone
proper; less flexible, less metallic in tone, and generally rather lower
in compass. But the method of using both voices is the same, and for all
purposes of amateur singers no distinction need be insisted upon.
Professionals, however, who have to deal with heavy work on a large
scale, will soon find that there is a good range of music more suited to
the rich voice of greater volume and less flexibility (which I
distinguished as the basso-cantante) than to the bright, flexible voice
which has something of the tone of a full "tenore-robusto," and which is
the barytone proper. Neither of these voices is much troubled with a
"break," although there is a perceptible difference between the natural
quality of the lower and upper octaves of the voice when quite
uncultivated. This difference, however, which makes itself felt in the
region of these notes, is got rid of in practice without any of the same
difficulty which is encountered by tenors or contralti in managing the
decided breaks in their voices. The possessors of barytone voices may
therefore be looked upon as having comparatively "easy times of it."
There is a large repertoire of music at their disposal, including much
of the most popular ballad music of this century and the last; the voice
is generally a favourite with an audience; the style of barytone singing
is undisputed, and the singer will not find himself violently criticised
by the partizans of a rival school of singing to that in which he
himself has been trained, which is inevitably the fate of tenors!

[Music: F3 G3 A3]

Only let him avoid the temptation to shout, and to sing up to the very
top of his compass at full pitch. Unfortunately, an English audience
does like a noise, and appreciates plenty more than beauty of tone. It
is tolerably easy for a barytone to be a showy singer, and therein lies
the greatest danger to his chance of ever being a really good one. He
must be content to go through his training quite as self-denyingly and
perseveringly as any one else who is gifted with fewer natural

=Bass.=--Of the bass voice less need be said here, not because it is a
less important voice than any of the others, but because it is more
generally known and better understood. A perfectly pure bass voice is,
however, a rare thing. This voice has no upper register, properly
speaking; the whole voice consisting of "chest" notes, and not admitting
of even the process of developing upper notes of extraordinary quality,
which is part of the training of a barytone or a basso-cantante. Power
and richness are the chief qualities of charm in a bass, while
flexibility and true intonation are the qualities most rarely found in
that voice. The young singer who finds that he certainly is not meant by
nature for a tenor, and also that with all his efforts the upper notes
of a barytone are quite out of his reach, need not be discouraged by any
lightness or thinness of quality in his voice from the hope that he may
develop into a good bass. The full and rich quality of this voice is
later in showing itself than is the case with any other voice, and the
young singer must be content to study for some time with the compass of
a bass and the quality of a kind of barytone, till Nature puts him in
full possession of his powers. Only he must study bass music, and not
try, because his voice is of barytone quality, to sing barytone music.
Let him, on the contrary, avoid trying to extend the compass of his
voice in the upper notes, and give his best attention to the lower ones.
The upper ones will be well within his command in time, and if he will
be content to let them alone at first, he may become a truly "celebrated
bass;" but, if he persists in shouting at them now, he will never have
anything but coarse upper tones, only fit to be heard behind a
costermonger's barrow, or in "comic" songs at the Music Halls.

=Buffo.=--The last remark reminds me that I have said nothing about a
class of bass singers very useful in certain Italian and French
operas--the _buffo_, or comic bass. The development of voice with these
singers is of less consequence than the study of a peculiar style, a
good deal of the point of their songs consisting in the entire
elimination of anything like musical tone from many notes and passages.
A clever and good buffo singer may very likely be able to sing other
music well, but the style is so entirely dramatic and so utterly out of
place anywhere except on the stage, that no amateur should ever attempt
it, and no professional should appear _in a concert-room_ as the
exponent of such music. Therefore, for those who wish to sing, any
remarks on the peculiarities of a buffo bass would be superfluous; those
who wish to study that line as a profession, for stage work, must learn
all that they need from a regular dramatic teacher; while those who wish
to execute English "comic" songs, may spare themselves any anxiety as to
their voices: if they have any voice naturally, "comic" singing will
soon destroy its charm, and that will not matter to them, for the last
thing necessary to sing a "comic" song is the possession of a voice of
any kind. Therefore, if you have a bass (or any other voice, indeed),
avoid "comic" songs, and leave the "buffo" business to those who can do
nothing better.

=Qualities of Voice, Good and Bad.=--It may not be unwelcome to the
student to have pointed out to him those qualities of voice which are to
be aimed at or cultivated, and also those which are to be avoided or

The charms of a voice are found among the following qualities:
clearness, sweetness, evenness, flexibility, power, extent of compass,
variety, brilliancy, firmness, persuasiveness.[1]

[1] It used to be said of Rubini that "he had tears in his voice."

On the opposite side must be ranked roughness, huskiness, feebleness (or
want of power), shrillness (or want of depth), hardness and want of
flexibility, dulness, or want of "ring," &c.

It is, of course, impossible for any one voice to unite in itself all
these merits or all these defects; and you cannot give yourself merits
which Nature has withheld; but you may marvellously improve what natural
merits you have, and do wonders in overcoming any difficulties which
Nature has placed in your way.


The voice, and how to use it, is a subject which has troubled many
minds, and no doubt this will continue to be the case; but the difficult
problem will not be solved by running to pettifogging teachers, who
advertise to teach all that is known of singing, and a little more, in
twelve easy lessons, without previous knowledge or practice at home, for
the small fee of one guinea! Let it be stated once for all: singing
cannot be taught in twelve easy lessons, and can scarcely be acquired in
one hundred very severe lessons. Therefore distrust at once any one who
holds out so tempting a bait to you; remember that there is no "royal
road" to singing, any more than there is to the acquirement of any other
art; and the person who tells you that he can teach you to do without
trouble that which costs great artists the study of a lifetime,
proclaims himself, _ipso facto_, to be a humbug.

=Schools of Singing.=--There are several so-called Schools of Singing.
There is a French School, which for any language but French is bad, and
which very seldom turns out a pleasing singer. There is a German School,
which is worse, being simply the production of coarse noise. Some people
say that there is an English School. I hope there may be some day, but
at present its existence is rather doubtful, unless those who talk of an
English school of singing mean the Cathedral style--which for solo work
is detestable--or the old school of Oratorio singing, with its
Handelian traditions, which was not an English, but an Italian, and the
best Italian, school.

In fact, there is but one school of singing in the world, and that is
the Italian. Whatever language you wish to sing in, whatever style of
music you wish to study principally, you must train your voice, produce
it, and learn to use it in the Italian method, if you hope ever to
deserve the name of a singer.

=Masters.=--Of course, in a work of this sort, it is impossible, and
would be wrong if it were possible, to mention the names of living
teachers: therefore I can only give general hints. If possible, study
only under a master whom you know to have lived in Italy, and to have
studied there for some years under some good master or in some good
Conservatoire--Naples, Milan, and Florence generally supply the best.
Possibly, for an English singer, an English master _who fulfils these
conditions_ may be better than even an Italian, as he should understand
better the peculiarities of English voices and temperaments, and would
know at once where the chief difficulties would lie. Let me, however,
correct a popular error. A good singer is not necessarily a good
teacher, nor is it necessary for a first-class teacher to be able to
sing at all. Nor need you necessarily look for your master among
foreigners with fine sounding names. There are two or three good
teachers of singing in this country who are foreigners; but there is
also some native talent equally capable of teaching singing, as it is
accepted in this country at the present time. These know the English
style better than any foreigner can teach it, and after all, style is
the chief consideration.

=Institutions.=--As we have no real English School of singing, it is
perhaps fortunate that we have no Conservatoire. There are, however,
Institutions accessible to those who cannot afford to have masters at
home or to place themselves under a private teacher. Of these, the chief
is the Royal Academy of Music, in Tenterden Street, Hanover Square.
There is also the National Training School of Music, the London Academy
of Music, also the Guildhall School, and there is Trinity College,
London, where I believe singing lessons may also be obtained. To all
these establishments singing masters, more or less good, are attached,
and it is open to any one to obtain admission to the concerts given from
time to time at the institutions themselves, and to form some kind of
opinion as to the teachers from the performances of the pupils. It would
be well for an intending student to do this, for of course at any
institution where there are several professors, one might suit you and
another might not; it is even conceivable that one professor might do
all for you that you could possibly require, while another professor
might be an ignorant charlatan. Therefore, hear their pupils and judge
for yourself, making inquiries at the same time of musical people who
are qualified to express an opinion on singing. I must not, however,
withhold from my readers my conviction that private lessons are better
and more effectual than those taken in schools and academies. The terms
at these public institutions are such that they preclude the possibility
of more than twenty or thirty minutes being devoted to each pupil, and
that is _not_ a sufficient time to bestow upon a lesson. Forty-five or
sixty minutes are needed to give a good lesson; and the pupil who pays
fifteen shillings or a guinea for this, does a wiser thing than the one
who pays a fourth of that sum for, say, twenty minutes' attention.

=A First Opinion.=--The actual successful teachers of singing in London
may be counted on the fingers of one hand, and those who are qualified
to teach singing, but who are not specially successful, may be found on
the remaining five fingers. Each of these professors would probably not
take less than one guinea the lesson, and it would, honestly, be far
cheaper in the long run to pay this sum for one good lesson in singing
than it would be to have fifty lessons founded upon wrong principles,
even for nothing. And for this reason: teachers of this calibre will not
trouble themselves about you or your guineas unless you have a promising
voice, some general musical talent, and show signs of becoming, to some
degree, a credit to your _teacher_, for to these men guinea pupils are
very plentiful, and it is only reasonable that a guinea from a clever
pupil should be worth considerably more to a sensitive artist than the
same amount from a fool. Therefore, a first opinion from one such
teacher may save your spending money, time, and energy on a pursuit in
which you can never succeed.

=Bad Lessons.=--Never take a bad singing lesson till you know how to sing.
You may then do so (if you care to), and learn the "how not to do it" of
singing. It is commonly supposed that the earliest singing lessons may
be administered by any "dabbler," and the last touches given afterwards
by a "finishing master." Never was there a greater error. Pay your
guineas first, and your shillings afterwards. If you cannot afford to
have good instruction in beginning to sing, you will be still less able
to take it afterwards, for artistic reasons. Remember that every bad
singing lesson which you take hardens old faults and creates new ones,
and, moreover, takes you farther and farther away from your original
starting-point. So, when you begin under the right man and the right
method, you have to _undo_ all this that you have expended toil and
money to acquire.

=Bad Teachers.=--It is astonishing how much money is wasted by people who
want to sing, through not going at once to the fountain-head for the
necessary training. Because a man is a musician many people conclude
that he must necessarily be able to teach singing! Such an idea is
scarcely less monstrous than that of a man being a good physician and
consequently competent to amputate a limb, or to take out and reset an
eye. Do not follow this "multitude to do evil." Be as careful in
inquiring about your singing master as you would be about your doctor.
Both in London and in the country there are "professors" whose knowledge
of singing stops at professing--the class of people who (very likely)
keep a music-shop, tune your piano, play polkas and waltzes for your
evening parties, and have a brass plate on their doors to this effect:


All honourable professions, no doubt; but to profess to combine them all
is dishonourable, and insulting to the common sense of those who know
anything of any one of the subjects professed. A singing master, if he
is worth anything, must be a man of one trade--singing. For the teaching
of singing is a "specialty," and the man who can teach it _properly_ is
not likely to be a man of all (musical) work.

=Books of Exercises, &c.=--There are numerous "Singing Tutors" published,
giving rules, exercises, _solfeggi_, &c. Many of these are excellent,
and some nearly perfect. But all alike are useless or worse than useless
to the tyro, without a master. You might as well suppose that a child
could learn to be a carpenter by having some fine wood and a box of good

I have before observed that voices vary as faces do; no two are exactly
alike, each voice having its peculiar merit and its peculiar defect.
Now, a good master will treat each voice on its own merit, and not place
it at first on the Procrustean bed of a book of rules and exercises. He
will probably write down his own exercises expressly for his pupil, and
if not that, he will select certain exercises from the book, and forbid
others to be attempted for a time. You must also let your master select
such a book for you, so that you may have one in which the rules do not
contradict those which he has already given you verbally, or else you
will be perplexed with a multitude of counsellors.

It is not till a certain stage in singing has been reached, under the
training of a master, that any book of exercises can be of service to
you. When that stage is reached, you will find such a work of great use
in a part of your labours. Among such books may be named as especially
good,--Concone's Exercises, Righini's, Guercia's, Nava's, Lablache's,
and Lamperti's; but, again I say, do not choose for yourself. There are
some excellent rules, as well as some good exercises, in an old work of
the kind by Crivelli, and also in "Singing Exemplified," a work by T.
Cooke. If you can meet with these, secure them--although I fear they may
be long since out of print--for in the literature of singing the _new_
is by no means certain to excel what was written in the days of our best
composers and singers of operas and oratorios.


Remember that the voice is of all instruments the most difficult one to
study, and to bring perfectly under control, especially for the first
year or two. Do not attempt to cultivate it with the view to
professional remuneration, unless you can set apart at least two hours
daily for most careful study, and can also afford to wait at least eight
or ten years for any _substantial_ pecuniary reward for your labours.

=Individuality.=--It is of great importance to bear in mind that no two
voices are exactly alike. To some singers is given quality of voice, to
others quantity. And for each alike, steady, well-aimed, and
well-ordered practice is indispensable. But, whatever you sing ought,
like your voice, to have some touch of individuality: the song should
seem to come naturally from you, and to be the spontaneous expression of
your thoughts. At the same time you must not lose sight of the
all-important guide which you have in the composer's intentions and
wishes. Remember that a small and delicate voice may be made to go as
far as, if not farther than, a voice of large volume and long compass.
By judicious management, by touching expression of the softer feelings,
by careful selection of music to be performed, the obstacles which are
placed in a singer's way by want of power may be effectually removed,
because the audience will irresistibly feel the influence of the
singer's individuality. The difficulties of the singer who has the gift
of quantity rather than quality of voice, are in some respects greater,
because the necessity for thus impressing on his audience a sense of his
own individuality is not so strongly forced on him by circumstances. Not
only has he to labour to attain a good quality of tone, but he must also
resist the temptation to fancy that "might is right," and that the
"sensation" caused by a powerful voice is all that he need aim at. And
here let me say, the way to get quality is to listen as often as
possible to some leading singer of your own kind of voice. Try and
imitate his tone; but above all practise with a medium tone--a
_mezzo-voce_--listen for the beauty in your tone, and think of what you
are doing when practising.

=Perseverance.=--The surest means of improving and strengthening the voice
is by constantly exercising and practising it. Just as the muscles and
fibres of the legs of a pedestrian are increased and made capable of
great exertion by careful training, so is it with the nerves and muscles
of the throat. With judicious training, the compass of the voice is
extended, its quality is improved, its tones grow rounder and firmer;
and, if the master is a good one, and the pupil is willing to study
patiently for some time, never resting content, but always aiming at
further progress as year succeeds year, he may not unreasonably hope to
attain a well-earned place in his profession, and its attendant reward.

=Facial Expression.=--A looking-glass should form a part of the furniture
of a singing student's study, for it is most important to watch the
face--its features and expressions--when singing; and it is none the
less useful for insuring the constant right position of the mouth. In
respect to the facial expression when singing, there is a very great
tendency to look too serious, too severe, and too hard when earnestly
studying. Now, a cheerful and good-humoured expression does not
necessarily imply carelessness, and it is far more agreeable to the
audience than an anxious and troubled look. Some people look quite
savage when singing; and when rendering passages of love and tenderness,
their features are far more indicative of rage, revenge, and murder!
And this very common fault is generally quite an unconscious habit. It
is only to be remedied by constant care, and to this end practice before
a looking-glass will be found very helpful.

=Position of the Body.=--How to stand when singing has been explained by a
great number of writers on the subject, and most of the explanations
given have been chiefly remarkable as being entirely erroneous and
false. The body should not be kept in a perfectly upright position, as
it is (too popularly) believed that it should. The best position is when
the body is well collected, with its chief weight upon the right leg and
foot, with the head gently leaning forward, and the arms and, indeed,
the whole carriage disposed in that manner which would indicate to the
audience a sort of desire on your part to _persuade_ them and bring them
over to your feelings and sentiments. When the right leg begins to tire
with the weight of the body, the left leg can take its duty, when the
right may be gracefully drawn back as in dancing. The best lesson on
this subject, however, can be gleaned by carefully watching the _pose_
of a good Italian singer during singing.

=Self-Accompaniment.=--A sitting position is a very bad one in which to
practise. All singing should be done in a standing position, and the
student is strongly urged to adhere to this rule. Instead of sitting at
the pianoforte, and accompanying an exercise or "solfeggio," it is far
better to sound the first note of each passage therein, and master the
same without any accompaniment. The advantages of this mode of
practising must be obvious; but one of the most important is, that the
attention is not divided between the pianoforte and the voice, while it
leaves the singer free to give all his attention and care to the
_production_ of the notes which he is endeavouring to sing artistically.

=Position of the Arms.=--I would urge upon the student to hold a piece of
music in his hands while he practises. There is a place for the hands
when singing in public; but this place is neither the trouser-pockets,
nor on the hips, nor behind the back, nor across the chest, but rather
that position which is secured by _leisurely_ holding the music-sheet,
not as if actually singing therefrom, but as though it were merely
intended for reference, if required. This easy attitude not only gives
the hands and arms their legitimate position, but also lends a grace and
freedom to other parts of the body, all which points must be attended to
in singing. Remember to keep the arms well away from the body. Some
singers stick the elbows into the waist, as though to give support;
instead of doing which, they hinder the free action of the lungs,
besides giving an awkward look to the whole figure.

=Position of the Hands.=--Do not let your hands hang down, but keep them
well before you, in some position which allows of your turning the palms
uppermost. In this way you (as it were) lock the joints of the
shoulders, and put a check on the tendency to raise the shoulders, which
is an invariable consequence of taking breath wrongly. Keep your
shoulders well back, your elbows depressed, and your hands with the
palms uppermost, and you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to
indulge in the vice of heaving the chest and shoulders up and down, like
the piston of a steam-engine!

=Position of the Throat.=--One of the first conditions of singing well is
to keep the throat open. To have the throat in its proper position the
tongue must be kept down, and hollowed like the bowl of a spoon, its
root being well depressed. Nor must the throat ever be allowed to screw
itself up small, a common failing of many singers whenever they approach
a high note. Most of my readers have yawned once or twice in their
lives: if they will do it once more, in front of their looking-glass,
and watch the inside of the mouth as they yawn, they will see and feel
the exact position in which the throat should be during good singing. It
will be useful to repeat this proceeding until the mind is thoroughly
impressed and the memory familiarized with the feeling of the mouth and
throat in this, the correct position for singing.

=Position of the Throat, &c., in Soft Singing.=--When singing softly, or
_piano_, as it is called, take great pains to keep your throat as open
as you would for singing loudly, leaving it entirely to the mouth and
lips to keep the tone soft, yet steady and firm. Do not forget, too,
that in soft singing it is a great advantage to keep the mouth in a
smiling position.

=Position of the Tongue.=--The tongue, while being so useful, is
nevertheless a very unruly member in singing. It has so great a tendency
to get out of its place. Its legitimate office is to rest quite flat, or
even hollow, in the bottom of the mouth, with its root well down, as
this keeps the throat-passage clear, and with the tip of it just
touching the lower teeth. Get a looking-glass, and continually watch the
position of the tongue. Never allow it to roll up or turn about when
singing, or the effect produced will be scarcely worth repeating. The
tongue should occupy the least possible space in the mouth, and this is
the case when the directions here given are carried out.

=Position of the Larynx.=--The larynx, or upper part of the wind-pipe,
plays a most important part in singing. Upon it depends all the beauty,
and quality, and richness of the voice. The singer will do well to
constantly think about the larynx, to watch it, to feel that it is well
down below the mouth before commencing the first note of a song, which
note must, under such circumstances, be rich, round, and penetrating.
Then the larynx must never be allowed to rise above this fixed point. It
may be deepened, and must be, for the higher notes, but it must never
ascend, or nearly approach the roof of the mouth, or the sound-passage
is closed, and the sounds become at once impure, vitiated, and without
body or foundation.

Try and guard against the bad habit of pushing forward the chin when
singing, otherwise the tone cannot fail to be faulty. The chin should be
well down on the chest, and the larynx quite low, to lead to an easy
and pure production of tone. To be constantly moving both the jaws for
every note, continually displaces the larynx, impairs the purity of the
tone, spoils the articulation of the words, and, what is worse than all,
produces a hideous expression of the features, which latter fault would
alone be sufficient to prejudice seriously the chances of any singing
artists. The lower parts of the jaws, not the upper ones, should do the
work; and when a high passage or note is before the singer, the lower
parts of the jaws should be exercised to drop as the notes increase in
height. The singer's face should be controlled, if no other member can
be so regulated.

=Singing in the Head.=--There is, in all beginners, a tendency to sing too
much in the head, that is, to have the foundation of the tones too high
up in the throat. This fault is due to the difficulty experienced by
beginners in keeping the larynx sufficiently below the mouth. The
fulness of tone, the rich, round, and mellow quality which is so much
admired in all good singers, is almost entirely owing to the voice being
pitched low down, and not high up in the throat, towards the back of the
head (as it _appears_ to be).

A few trials of this will soon convince the student of the vast
difference in the character and _timbre_ of the tones of these two ways,
and also of the economy of the plan here recommended, so far as regards
the wear and tear of the voice in practice.

=Throatiness.=--Throatiness, or singing in the throat, is the common enemy
of all English singers. Our language is the chief cause of this
disagreeable habit, which we begin to acquire as soon as we learn to
talk. Still, by diligence, the evil can be cured, and no better plan can
be followed than to constantly practise singing the vowel-sounds Ah, A,
E, O, throughout the compass of the voice, taking every possible
care--and this is the point--never to allow the _tone_ to vary, nor to
leave the teeth, and not to screw up the throat, especially in high
notes. It is impossible to produce a "throaty" quality of voice if the
throat is well open, and the tone is firmly directed, and kept on the
upper teeth and front of the mouth. On the other hand, if the student
screws up the throat, rolls the tongue, or practises singing without
being constantly on the look-out for the "voice on the teeth," the
result must be a "throatiness," which is most disagreeable to all people
who have any real knowledge of what singing should be.

=Clearing the Throat.=--Singers, good and bad, are often troubled with an
apparent stoppage in the throat, and this inconvenience seems to be at
its worst just at that moment when they wish to sing. To displace or to
cure this stoppage, they begin hacking and coughing ("clearing the
throat" as it is called), which proceeding, however, only makes bad
worse for the time being, and finally grows into a habit, till at last
such people cannot venture to open their mouths without first subjecting
the throat to a series of these irritating "hacks." A good master will
soon cure this complaint by refusing to continue the lesson whenever the
pupil gives way to the bad habit. It is in many cases simply a nervous
trick, and if the singer will accustom himself to _swallow_ instead of
coughing, whenever he feels the sensation of which we are speaking, he
will soon get rid of it. If it results in any case from real weakness of
the throat, it may be beneficial to gargle three or four times a day
with moderately strong salt and water, especially before singing. This
does no harm to the voice, and by bracing and strengthening the muscles
of the throat renders them more obedient to the singer's will.

=High Notes.=--Many people find great difficulty in counting, with any
degree of certainty, upon the top notes of their register. I know of no
greater assistance towards bringing these out than that of well
contracting the mouth and lips at the beginning of the passage in which
these high notes occur, dropping the lower jaws, and securing a good
play of the mouth as the highest note is reached, at the same time
keeping the throat as open as possible, ejecting the sound to the
audience with as much "lip-force" as can be secured, being careful that
the tone is safe "on the teeth" before the note is "opened."

=The Scale.=--There can be no doubt whatever that the grand groundwork of
all singing is the diatonic scale. On it is built all the graceful forms
and figures which belong to the great artist. Yet how few seem to know
and to appreciate this fact! To excel, the diatonic scale must be
practised most seriously and assiduously in its plain and simple form;
nor must it be left until the student can sing every note therein
purely, without wavering or flutter, and with precision, in the soft,
medium, and loud voices.

=Forte, Mezzo-Voce, and Piano.=--The singer will derive much advantage by
bearing in mind that the voice has three main gradations which the
Italians class as the _forte_, the _mezzo di voce_, and the _piano_. The
management of these three is of vital importance, and the singer should
certainly practise the scales in all three voices, and have each at
command for every exercise and passage which he studies.

=Tone.=--The tone of the voice must never be vitiated or rendered impure
from any cause whatever. There is always a danger of this in passages of
great energy and passion, but it should be remembered that whatever be
the effect aimed at, it cannot be attained by any means which involves a
change in the tone of the voice. The first and chief consideration must
always be to produce a good tone in the right manner. If the tone be not
good, the singing cannot be agreeable; and if it be not produced in the
right manner, you have no security that it will be equally good
throughout the voice, or in passages of all kinds.

=Chest, Falsetto, and Head Voice.=--I have already said that there is a
good deal of confusion existing as to the use of the terms "chest,"
"falsetto," and "head voice." And this is scarcely to be wondered at,
seeing that nobody has yet decided _how_ the three qualities of sound
are produced, while everybody knows that the names are so far
misleading, in that no sound whatever is really made in the _chest_ or
in the _head_, but that all are due to the passage of air through the
larynx, in which are placed the vocal cords upon which the air plays.
The changes of sound which are spoken of as "chest," "falsetto," and
"head" voices are due to changes in the position of the larynx and its
surroundings, and in the action of the vocal cords. What those changes
are, and how or why they cause the results which we hear, has yet to be
discovered: there are several theories, but no one has yet ventured to
claim the certainty of truth for any one of them. There is an excellent
article on "The Larynx" in Stainer and Barrett's "Dictionary of Musical
Terms," to which I would refer those who wish to understand these
various theories. For my present purpose it is sufficient to point out
that each of the names is an utter misnomer. The "chest" voice is
probably so called because the vibrations of the notes in that register
may be distinctly felt in the chest; and because the breath passes
directly from the chest, as it seems, without any opposition in the
throat, producing the sound on its way. The "falsetto," or range of
notes above the chest, is so called (and rightly so) because in that
register of voice the tone _feigns_, or imitates, the tone of the
"chest" notes below, although it is certain that the sounds are not
produced in the same way, for the position of the vocal cords and their
attendant parts is different, and changes suddenly on the passage of the
voice from the chest to the upper register. A falsetto, rightly trained
and used, is one, therefore, which is true to its name, and so well
imitates the "chest," that the hearer cannot distinguish the "false"
from the real "chest tone." The "head voice," which many people persist
in confusing with the falsetto, is so called because to the singer it
feels as though the notes so produced came from the head. This is due to
the larynx itself rising up in the throat and approaching the back of
the head. It comprises, in reality, _all_ that part of the voice which
lies above the "chest" register, all the lower part of it being shared
by the "falsetto," exactly as the falsetto shares the greater part of
the chest register. The falsetto, therefore, belongs to both, and its
use is to carry, by its power of imitation, the tone of the lower or
chest register into the upper or head register, so combining them that
no audible change of quality, or "break," is perceptible.

=Scale Practice.=--It cannot be too strongly impressed upon, or too
frequently pointed out to, the singer (no matter what may be the stage
of his or her artistic development) how desirable and advantageous it is
to be constantly singing exercises and solfeggi in preference to songs.
It is a popular fallacy, especially among amateurs, that the practice of
scales and intervals should be left behind as soon as possible. Pray do
not be mistaken. The never-failing daily practice of singing open chords
in solfeggi, scales, and exercises, is fraught with advantages which
cannot be gained by the study of yards, or even miles, of song tunes. As
an instance of how much may be done in the study of scale practice, the
writer would point out that this particular exercise should not be left
until the student can sing the diatonic scales throughout the whole
extent of the voice in one unbroken breath, and with one quality,
character, and volume of voice. When this point has been reached, its
peculiar efficacy will be so apparent as not to require any
recommendation or advice for its daily continuance.

=First Exercises.=--This is a book of advice, not of exercises, nor do I
profess to teach you, but only to point out to you, how you must prepare
to be taught. I cannot too often repeat that no book by itself can teach
you singing, and my object is not to supersede a master, but to induce
you to place yourself under a good one. However, it may happen that
circumstances of time, place, or pocket prevent your doing so as soon as
you would wish, and it is far better even to learn from a book what you
can in the way of rules and exercises, than to go on singing by the
light of nature, or under a cheap and inefficient master, or working at
exercises too advanced for a beginner (which is as bad as not working at
any at all). I therefore give here a few simple but most important
exercises, which you may work at until you are able to place yourself
under the care of a good master. Bear in mind, first, all that has
already been said here about taking your breath, the position of
standing, the form of your mouth, and place of throat, tongue, teeth,
&c., and study the following exercises daily say to the extent of thirty
minutes three times a day, with full attention to all the above points:

[Music: C major scale, beginning at C4, in semibreves]

Sing this fully and firmly. It should be begun and ended with the same
quality and "thickness" of sound, as suggested by the even line over
each note. You should be able to hold each note out in one breath for
twenty seconds without the slightest alteration being perceptible in the
tone, any more than there would be if it was a note proceeding from an
organ-pipe. Practise it on each of the following sounds consecutively:
"A" in "Bard," "A" in "Fate," "E" in "Steel," "I" in "Life," "O" in
"Pole," "U" in "Rule," prefixing each sound by L, and so singing Lah,
Lay, Lee, Li, Lo, Loo. In singing this first exercise, which for basses
and barytones will be, of course, an octave lower, be careful not to
force the lower notes, and do not seek to get a powerful tone thereupon.
The tone does not need to be full and heavy on these notes, but rather
should be a WELL-PRODUCED, light, and thin quality of note. The way to
proceed is: (1) To inspire the breath from the bottom of the lungs as it
were--not raising the shoulders. (2) Steady the breath for a second or
so in the chest while you THINK the note you are about to sing, and
while you prepare your throat and mouth for singing by lowering the
larynx and opening the throat. (3) Then begin to sound the note--not
from the back of the mouth, but from the tip of the tongue and the front
teeth--thus taking the whole of the tone out of the mouth, which is what
is required to be done. Sustain the note till you have only a little
breath left--then finish off in a clean manner, and allow the remaining
breath to leave the lungs and body in an orderly way.--Repeat the same
operation for _every_ note, and if you desire to make progress, give a
minute's attention of this kind to every single note.

[Music: 2--Broken C major triad in semibreves beginning and ending on
C4, then raising a semitone to continue the pattern.]

and so on, rising by semitones until you come to this:

[Music: Broken G major triad in semibreves beginning and ending on G4.]

which is certainly the highest that you ought to attempt at present.

Exercise No. 2 is a first step towards joining notes, and is another
difficulty in the matter of _production_. The object to be aimed at is
to sing the two notes which are bound (or tied) together with the same
breath, and the same body and quality of tone. To step from C to E, the
first movement in the exercise is to raise the voice a major third; but
the student must pass from his mind any notion of raising the throat in
order to sound the higher third. As the note E is higher than the C, the
tone of the former must be generated lower in the chest than had been
the case with the C. The higher the note to be sung, the lower must be
its generating-point in the chest. This is the only way to OPEN the
voice, and I need scarcely say that it produces an entirely different
tone and method than are secured by the common habit of screwing and
tightening the throat, in proportion as the notes ascend in pitch.

Another good exercise which may be combined with the last-given is the

[Music: 3--Broken C Major Triad in semibreve beginning and ending on
C4, followed by a broken F Major Triad in semibreves beginning and
ending on C4. Broken G minor triad in semibreves beginning and ending on
C4, followed by a broken A minor triad in semibreves beginning and
ending on C4.]

This exercise (3) must be sung in the same manner as indicated with No.
2, care being taken as each note gets higher to pass _under_ the
preceding note, and not as it were to generate a high note over a lower

After which you may take this:

[Music: 4--C major arpeggio in semibreves, beginning on C4 and landing
on C5. C5 is held for six beats prior to descending in crotchets in a C
major scale, and holding the bottom C4 for four beats.]

but sing it very slowly and deliberately, bearing in mind the production
of the high notes.

As you begin to get all these notes firm and round, you may take these
same exercises in D, D♭, and E♭, but be very careful not
to force the upper notes.

[Music: 5--Interval practice by holding C4 for four beats and slurring
to D4. After breathing, slur C4 to E4. After breathing, slur C4 to F4.
After breathing, slur C4 to G4. Continue this pattern until C5 is
reached. Then, begin on C5 and slur to B4. After breathing, slur from C5
to A4. Continue this pattern until C4 is reached.]

Exercise 5 is one where the question of the breath and its proper
management becomes of vital importance. The reader will observe the
notes are bound together, and the student's attention should be turned
towards passing from one note to the other, without any appreciable
difference in the _quality_--I do not say pitch--of the tone. Having
inspired in the manner already explained, the singer will sound the
_Do_ with a pure, sympathetic, not harsh or forced sound; and by
_pressing down_ the breath, will _lift_ the voice on to the _Re_. When
he has succeeded with the step of a second, he can go on to the step of
a third, fourth, &c. The care must be to utilize the breath, always
supporting the tone with the breath. If the sound wavers, then there is
something wrong with the breath. You are either singing with too little,
or are forcing the breath.

[Music: 6--Beginning on C4 and holding each note for two beats, go up by
semitones until E4 is reached and held for four beats. Begin pattern
again, but begin on D4♭. Continue until A is reached.]

And so on.

[Music: 7--Beginning on C5 and holding each note for two beats, go down
by semitones until A4♭ is reached and held for four beats. Begin
pattern again, but begin on a B4. Continue until G4♭ is reached.]

And so on, descending the scale by semitones.

[Music: 8--In minims, sing C4, E4, G4, C5, B4, G4, F4, D4. Begin the
pattern again starting a semitone higher on D4♭.]

Practise No. 8 slowly and steadily, with perfectly even tone throughout,
without any crescendo or diminuendo.

       *       *       *       *       *

Let all the above exercises be taken successively, _forte_, _a
mezzo-voce_, and _piano_, preserving exactly the same amount of tone
throughout each passage, and holding the notes with the same force with
which you attack them steadily to the end, not letting them die away.
The trick of letting notes die away is easily learnt afterwards, but at
present you have to master the far greater difficulty of holding notes
firmly with unvarying tone. Practise these exercises on all the
vowel-sounds already given. All such exercises are of course only
variations of the diatonic and chromatic scales, so arranged as to
prepare the voice for executing those scales evenly and perfectly, with
equality of tone on every note; for till you can sing scales, you are
not fit to sing songs of any kind.

=Duration of Practice.=--Always guard against over-straining and
over-working the voice. Do not sing or practise for a longer time than
half an hour without allowing the voice rest for some time. If you have
three hours at your disposal daily to devote to singing, the most
economical use of the time is to divide it equally between the morning,
afternoon, and evening.

=Singing in Tune=.--Correct intonation is of the greatest possible
importance in singing. Every singer should pay especial attention to
this point. The heavier the voice, the more necessary becomes such
attention, and therefore contralti and basses are strongly advised to
lose no time in facing this (to them) considerable difficulty. Deep
basses, indeed, are rarely perfectly in tune for any long time together,
and some of the most famous bass singers have left behind them
recollections of this painful defect. Therefore, whatever be your voice,
do not take for granted that even the possession of a good ear will
always ensure your singing in tune. Sometimes excellent singers, and
good musicians too, will sing out of tune, perfectly aware that they
are doing so, but, for a time, unable to prevent it from physical
causes--relaxation of the throat, fatigue, indisposition, &c., under
which conditions the muscles are unable to obey the will as usual. Do
not, then, make too light of this matter, because you may think yourself
quite incapable of singing out of tune; it is at all events wiser to be
on the safe side. Therefore, never practise (nor sing, if you can help
it) with a pianoforte which is not well in tune and well "up to pitch."
And be very constant in practising intervals, such as major and minor
sixths and sevenths, so as to be able to strike them as perfectly in
tune and as unvarying in quality as the notes of an organ diapason.

=How to Begin.=--Many people never make a good start when beginning to
sing any piece. Now a very good remedy for a part of this evil is not to
prepare yourself too soon. Use the bar immediately preceding that in
which your part commences to gather up your faculties, and, to use a
common phrase, "to pull yourself together;" then let the muscles of the
body gently settle down. The ease and freedom acquired by this momentary
call upon the system is very remarkable; and for the singer especially
the hint cannot be too often acted upon.

=Variety Indispensable.=--An unchanging volume of sound is very soon
wearying to the ear; and therefore a singer who scarcely ever varies the
pitch of his voice will find that however loudly he may sing, his
audience will have a feeling of dissatisfaction, as though they could
not hear him distinctly--the fact being that their ears, being fatigued
with the uniformity of the noise, cannot do their proper work, and the
attention therefore flags. One great secret of being agreeably heard by
an audience is to vary the body of tone (not the _quality_ of it,
observe). As a rule singers are left tolerably free to do as they like
in this respect. Composers of songs rarely give them any help in the
matter. In fact, nowadays so many people compose "vocal music" without
knowing anything about the vocal instrument for which they compose, that
it is not wonderful that they ignore their power of helping the singer
by properly combining duly marked _forte_, _piano_, and _mezzo-voce_
passages, so as to ensure a variety of effect. Therefore, in most modern
music, a singer has to take his own "reading" of a song, and to make it
as effective as he can by varying the power of his voice. It might even
be taken as a rule that every _forte_ passage should be succeeded by a
soft one. The voice should rise and fall, and be varied in its
inflexions in that agreeable manner which is so marked in good orators
and dramatic elocutionists.

=Chorus Singing.=--If you are studying seriously for solo singing, you
must discontinue all chorus singing, especially during training. Singing
in church choirs and choral societies must be abandoned. And this not
because there is no good to be learned there, but because the little
good is by no means commensurate with the great amount of harm which is
acquired along with the good. To enumerate here all the evil habits so
easily learnt would be impossible. Not the least of them, however, is
the tendency to shout louder than your neighbour, to use yourself to the
bad habits of those on each side of you; to produce a bad tone; to
"chop" the passages instead of phrasing them; to attack notes
carelessly; to sing coarsely; to depend on others; to get into a
machine-like regularity of rendering the music. All these evil habits
are the result of chorus singing; and while many of them are detrimental
to the voice itself, it may be safely said that any one of these habits
is fatal to good solo singing.

=Humming.=--Some people have a wretched habit of continually humming
tunes. Pray do not get into this habit of singing unconsciously--than
which nothing is more prejudicial to the voice. You should never sound a
note without being perfectly aware of what you are doing, and that it is
being done in the right manner. The faults acquired by "humming over,"
as it is called, are of the worst kind, and, moreover, they are far
sooner acquired than eradicated.

=Studying Songs.=--Be careful, in studying a new song, not to waste either
time or strength by a trifling and superficial treatment of it.
"Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well." First of all,
_sol-fa_ the melody a few times in a full _mezzo-voce_. Then study it
with rather stronger tone, paying attention to lights and shades, yet at
the same time being chiefly occupied with the melody itself. Then make
your breath-marks, and adhere to the same unfailingly. Then sing the
melody once throughout, in order to find the weak places; having found
which, you need no more practise the whole of the melody, but give all
the attention to these latter phrases. Having mastered these, the melody
will be complete. It will then be necessary to determine where the notes
shall be made to _bend_ into each other, to add the _nuances_, a few
graceful figures and effects which belong alone to the true artist.

=Imitation.=--By no means the worst lesson which you can have will be
gained by imitation of some acknowledged first-rate singer, whose voice
is of the same kind as your own. Before going to a concert at which any
such artist is announced to sing, procure copies of his songs (if
possible), and make yourself acquainted with the compositions first of
all. Then go and hear how those works are rendered by the singer who is
to be your model; listen with your copy in your hand; make notes of any
points which strike you, and while the impression made upon you is still
fresh, go home and imitate them as closely as you can.

=General Musical Study.=--If you want to be a good singing artist, many
more things besides singing should be studied. You should be
sufficiently acquainted with the pianoforte to play your own
accompaniments, even of the most difficult songs, well enough to get an
idea of them. Then a knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, and
orchestration is of the greatest value. The study of the best scores,
orchestral and vocal, should not be neglected, and further, the student
should make himself or herself otherwise familiar with the rise and
progress of the art, by reading all the best books on the subject,
whether historical, critical, or biographical.


The study of language, articulation, and deportment, the gradual
formation and building-up of the singing voice, and the incessant
practice of scales and exercises, are in reality only the necessary
preliminaries to singing itself. Singing, or the proper use of the voice
combined with the due enunciation and expression of the words, is
nothing unless due attention be also paid to style, to the fit and
effective execution of the music selected, due regard being paid both to
taste and tradition.

=Traditional Styles.=--Although the groundwork of all good singing is the
same, the music to be sung varies greatly in style. There is church
music, oratorio music, and opera music, as well as ballad music; and a
certain nondescript--half recitative, half declamation--which is of
modern growth, gives pleasure to many people (both performers and
audience), and comprises the greater number of modern German "songs."

=Modern German Lieder.=--This latest development of vocal performances, of
which I desire to speak with all due respect, has no traditions
whatever, but it has a style, decided, though (in my opinion) bad. It
has, however, one merit: it imperatively demands that the singer should
understand the meaning both of words and music, for the whole thing
depends on expression and modulation. The composers of these works
generally do their part fully in the way of modulations and
accompaniment; but as they frequently forget to supply anything in the
shape of a melody, the singer must do his best to touch or move his
audience by his expressive delivery of the words in the musical
inflections which (with this class of composers) occupy the place of a
"tune." However, if you admire this kind of music, and have been
properly taught to sing before you attempt to execute it, I have not a
word to say against it: so long as you use your voice legitimately, this
style of music can do you no harm, and if you study dramatic expression
and elocution properly, you may doubtless produce an effect very
pleasing to others who admire it. But the danger of such music to the
untrained voice and untaught singer is very great indeed; and I do not
hesitate to say that the frequent performance of it by such an one
_must_ result in the ruin both of voice and style.

=The Cathedral School.=--The one point in music wherein England has just
reason to boast of her past, is the existence of a distinct class of
music composed for her church service, and that music of a high order of
merit. Distinctive in character, this church music--"services" and
"anthems"--has created for itself a distinct school of singers, and, by
tradition, demands a distinct style of performance. I have elsewhere
stated that the "Cathedral School" of singing is "detestable for solo
work," and so it is for any solo work except cathedral solo work, where
the operatic or oratorio style of singing would seem to us, who have
always been familiar with the traditional and one accepted style, out of
place, and irreverently suggestive of the concert-room. It is difficult
to describe upon paper the peculiarity of this style of singing, and it
could only be learnt by imitation in its own home, the cathedral. Its
chief characteristics are a sort of passionless "statuesqueness," a
steadiness of tone akin to the notes of the organ, which is its only fit
accompaniment, an absence of all attempt at personal display on the part
of the singer. Its faulty tendencies are towards deficiency of
expression and slowness of "attack;" these are apparent, generally, when
a "cathedral" singer appears in the concert-room; but in church, the
pervadingly reverent character of the performance takes off the
impression of coldness and tameness in the individual singer, while the
ear, accustomed to the slight difference in time with which the various
organ-stops "answer," does not notice in the singer that want of
"crispness" in the time which the accompaniment of an orchestra reveals
at once.

Unless you are really intending to sing professionally in a church or
cathedral choir, the study of this style will not be of much use to you;
you will find its good points equally insisted on in the oratorio school
of singing, while its defects should be avoided in any. For =English
part-singing= there is, however, no training so good, its traditions
being exactly those of the finest old English secular part-music--the
madrigals of Wilbye, Weekes, and Purcell, &c.

=Oratorio.=--By oratorio singing--speaking of it as a distinct style--I
may say at once that I mean the school of Handelian singing, of which
the traditions are distinct, and which has only been slightly modified
to suit the more modern oratorios of other composers. Of course,
Mendelssohn cannot be sung exactly like Handel or Bach, but the general
style of delivery should be the same, and till you can sing Handel, you
cannot hope to be able to sing Mendelssohn. The ability to sing Handel,
Bach, and Glück, I believe to be the sole foundation for a pure style of
singing either in opera or ballad music: the music is such that it
cannot be trifled with--the difficulties cannot be evaded, but must be
mastered--while the exquisitely smooth and vocal character of these
great masters' music trains the singer to an evenness and solidity of
style which is most valuable in any music that may be afterwards
attempted. Moreover, the songs of Handel form an admirable school for
the training of individual taste and judgment in the introduction of
ornaments, the variety of phrasing, and other minute details of finish.
Not that you may exercise your individual taste in introducing ornaments
into Handel or Bach--far from it; but the songs are written with the
express intention that certain ornaments should be introduced in
particular places, and the style (and in many cases the notes) of these
ornaments has been accurately handed down to us; therefore, in learning
this traditional manner of singing such music, the student is trained to
a knowledge of the appropriate place for the introduction of
ornamentation and "grace"--the appropriate character of such
embellishments, and the appropriate opportunities for introducing them.
For instance, most of Handel's songs commence with a movement which is
intended to be repeated at the close of the song, the middle part being
generally a movement in some relative key, which is not repeated. The
traditional style of giving such songs is to reserve ornamentation for
this repeated first part, and thus to avoid the effect of sameness which
would result from adhering in the "repeat" to exactly the same rendering
of the music with which the singer gave it at first. Such ornamentations
were taken for granted by the composer, and it was only because of a
tasteless abuse of this privilege of adornment on the part of foolish
singers, an abuse which became an unbearable nuisance, that in after
years Rossini adopted the plan of writing into his music florid passages
which should supply the singer with ornaments which were good of their
kind and which were put in in appropriate places, rather then trust his
airs to the mercy of inartistic "decorators." Handel, and the composers
of earlier times than Rossini, omitted the ornamentation, so as not to
hamper the singer, for, as has been well said by an old writer on the
subject: "The same execution that would from one singer afford pleasure,
might from another excite disgust: the compositions of old masters have
no written cadences to a repeated passage, for this very reason, no
doubt. But it is understood, and indeed expected, that the singer of
talent should display his own taste by the introduction of such fanciful
and graceful ornaments as may be best calculated to exhibit his voice to
advantage, and thereby heighten, instead of lessen, the effect of the

The same writer, in explaining the reason for the introduction of such
ornaments and changes, goes on to remark: "In conversation, though we
frequently repeat words and even sentences, in expressing any particular
subject, yet we might as naturally expect to see a person laugh without
a smile, as give such repetitions without some variation in voice and

"The first part of an air is often written to be repeated. In justice to
the author, when that is the case, simplicity of style should be
inviolably preserved; but, on repeating the strain, free scope may be
given to the imagination, taking it for granted that no person would be
vain enough to attempt the introduction of his own fanciful graces,
unless sufficiently master of the science to feel the propriety of going
so far and no farther."

Perhaps I may make the meaning of all this clearer by giving a few
specimens of these traditionally accepted adornments in repeated

[Music:_First time._

    ri - mem - - bran - za, Puoi di nuo - vo, &c.]

[Music: _Second time._

    ri - mem - bran - za, Puoi di nuo - vo, &c.]

[Music: _First time._

    dol - ce ri - mem - bran - za, &c.]

[Music: _Second time._

    dol - ce ri - mem - bran - - za, &c.]

[Music:_First time._

    Puoi di nuo - vo, di nuo - vo av - ve - len
    ar ................... mi.]

[Music: _Second time._

    Puoi - di nuo - vo di nuo - vo av - ve - len
    ar ................... mi.]

The above are taken from a fine song by Cesti (1660), "_Tu mancavi a

The following are the adornments taught in the Paris Conservatoire, as
traditionally correct in the famous old song by Lotti, "_Pur dicesti_,"
where, it will be observed, one simple phrase, which occurs so
frequently that it would be monotonous if unadorned, is made to yield a
charming variety to the song by some elegant change at each recurrence.

[Music: _First time._

    quel so - a - ve ... car - o ...... si]

[Music: _Second time._

    quel ... so - a - ve car ... o - si]

[Music: _Third time._

    quel ... so - a - ve car - o - si]

[Music: _Fourth time._

    quel ... so - a - - ve car - - o si]

[Music:_First time._

    pia - cer .................
    ................. il mio pia - cer]

[Music: _Second time._

    pia - cer .................
    ................. il mio pia - cer]

The following are from Handel:

[Music: _First time._

    While re - sign'd to Heav'n ... a - bove]

[Music: _Second time._

    While re - sign'd to ...... Heav'n ........ a - bove

                                (_Guardian Angels._)]

[Music: _First time._

    Trees where you sit, &c.]

[Music: _Second time._

     Trees where you sit, &c.

                              (_Where'er you walk._)]

And of course the list might be almost indefinitely prolonged. Certain
of these ornaments, once highly popular, have wisely been allowed to
drop, and that is why I lay stress upon the importance of _accepted
traditions_. You may get hold of copies of many songs of this kind which
have the names of great singers attached to them, and yet give
variations of the text which have never been accepted or generally
approved. The great Braham himself was a terrible offender sometimes in
this respect. For instance, in singing "_Comfort ye_," instead of the


    that her in - i - qui - ty is par - don - ed]

he would sing thus:


    that her in - i - qui - ty is par - don - ed.]

And I have seen an old copy of "_Holy, holy_," in which the melody is so
overlaid with little black notes, semi-quavers, demi-semi-quavers, and
semi-demi-semi-quavers, that it is difficult to distinguish the notes of
Handel's music at all! The admissible changes are all very slight, and
any elaborate cadenza, or considerable addition, is pretty sure to be
wrong. Final high notes are a frequent snare to aspiring singers; the
traditions of the old school of oratorio singing are not in favour of
them, and they generally vulgarize a song if introduced where the
composer has not clearly opened a way for them. I have heard a tenor
singer conclude the famous "_Thou shalt break them_," thus:


    pot - - - - ter's ves - sel]

and a soprano finish off "_He shall feed His flock_," thus:


    ye shall find rest ........ un - to your souls.]

--both of them pieces of vulgar display, bringing the personality of the
singer before the audience instead of the beauty of the music, the sense
of the words, or the merit of the composer. No such abominations are
permissible in good oratorio singing, the rule of which is utter
submission to the composer's intentions, and a conscientious endeavour
to interpret his mind clearly to the audience; a pure and chaste
delivery of words and music alike; a sustained excellence throughout,
avoiding an attempt to astonish by bursts of power or brilliancy; and an
entire absence of all claptrap or vulgarities to please "the gallery."

=Opera.=--A great deal of what has been said about oratorio singing
applies also to operatic singing. But I strongly advise you against
attempting opera music until you have studied the more severe and solid
style of the oratorio. The declamatory passages in opera are doubtless
more brilliantly impassioned, just as the florid airs are more
startlingly elaborate, than in oratorio, and the recitatives less
stately and sustained; but the style of good opera singing is only to be
founded upon good oratorio study (or its equivalent), inasmuch as it
was out of the oratorio that the opera grew. Operatic singing allows
more license to the singer than does oratorio; but the singer should
have been taught first by the severer style not to misuse that license.
At the same time when (as is not infrequent in operas of a certain kind)
the composer has introduced airs for the express purpose of showing off
a singer's voice, a well-trained singer may be accepted as interpreting
the composer's intention rightly, when he or she elaborates _fioriture_
far beyond the limits of which any hint appears in the score.

Even here, however, traditional usage must have its weight: cadenzas
must be strictly in character, and only introduced in songs to which
such passages are appropriate. I once heard a florid cadenza
interpolated at the close of "_Spirto Gentil_," by an aspiring young
tenor, too full of conceit and "modern" ideas to take a hint from
Mario's marvellous rendering of that song.

And it must be borne in mind that it is only in operas of the Bellini,
Donizetti, and early Rossini and Verdi school that such extreme license
is granted. No such tricks can be played with the operas of Mozart,
Glück, Weber, or Meyerbeer, or with the later works of Rossini and
Verdi, while the notion of altering a note, or omitting even a
demi-semi-quaver rest, in those of Wagner, would be, to his admirers,
flat heresy. In reality, the style of singing opera music is easily
acquired by any one who is sufficiently advanced to be fit to attempt
opera music at all. There are certain niceties to be acquired, and
endless beauties of variety in the rendering of even small passages; but
these things cannot be taught on paper.

=Ballads.=--There is no greater mistake than to suppose that "any one can
sing a simple ballad." Good ballad singing is one of the rarest
accomplishments, and demands qualities in the singer which _may_ be
wanting even in a person who can sing well both in opera and oratorio.
To suppose that an untaught singer can do justice to any ballad that is
worth the trouble of singing at all, is simply a mark of ignorance on
the whole subject of singing.

Ballads do not always require power or compass of voice, it is true, nor
do they tax the singer on the score of flexibility or physical strength;
but they are the severest test of enunciation, _mezzo-voce_ singing,
neatness and readiness in producing tones of any gradation, and perfect
control over the voice.

To sing a ballad well demands a really cultivated taste, a certain
dramatic power, suppressed it is true, but influencing the whole
delivery; a sympathetic voice, and a manner which will enlist the
interest and sympathy of the audience. Ballad singing is neither
declamation nor recitative: there is no chance of surprising or
astonishing your audience; but you _must_ contrive to please them, you
must _touch_ them somehow; and, for an ordinary person in the costume of
the nineteenth century, to "touch" others of the same species is not
easy. Sometimes, no doubt, the words of a good song are in themselves so
touching and charming that, so long as the music be not positively
hideous or destructive of the sense of the words, the singer has only to
let them be clearly heard, and the battle is won; but more frequently he
has to trick his audience into interest in a song where the words in
themselves are either hopelessly silly, or too obscure in sense for
their full meaning to appear at a first hearing or reading. All that he
can then do is to deliver it in such a way that they shall feel that
there _is_ a meaning to it all, though they have not fully caught it
yet, and so they may wish to hear it again. I do not, of course, mean
any allusion to the ridiculous fashion of _encores_, but simply that the
feeling at the end of such a song should be one of liking it
sufficiently to wish to understand it entirely.

Many songs would tell their own tale and produce their own effect well
enough, if the singer would let them, and therefore the ballad singer
must only be sufficiently self-conscious to keep himself out of the way.
However good his singing, however original his reading of the song,
_while he is singing_ it should all go to the credit of the song, and
the hearers be charmed into forgetting _him_ till he is silent.

=Recitative.=--Good recitative singing is of great importance, and
requires careful attention and study. Recitative is midway between
speaking and singing; it is a sort of modulated intoning, that is, that
in delivering it the note and the word that belongs to it should be
given with equal intention, and appear to belong to each other so
completely that the musical sound should seem to be the natural
intonation which the reciter would give to the word. Recitative is (_or
was_) practically an attempt to express, in musical notation, the
inflexions of the human voice in speaking; and how accurately, in some
cases, musical notation can do this, will be seen at a glance by the
following illustration:


    Who   are you?]


      Who are you?]


    Who   are you?]

--where the question is asked in the same words, but the musical notes
express clearly three different sentiments, or degrees of sentiment.
This should be taken into consideration by the student; and he should
strive to give his recitative with as natural a delivery as he can,
placing himself mentally in the position of a dramatic reciter.

Steadiness of tone, clearness of enunciating consonants, and full round
delivery of vowel-sounds are indispensable to good recitative singing.
Every note must be distinct, and not the faintest suspicion of a "slur"
or _portamento_ can be allowed.

Recitative singing is not a thing which a student should try to teach
himself, as he may not only waste his time, but gain notions which are
erroneous and difficult to cure. For instance, take the recitatives in
"_The Messiah_," as these are printed for the British public. Nothing
could be more ludicrous than for a singer to appear in public and sing
the recitatives faithfully as printed in the editions of this oratorio
which are continually being disseminated throughout the land. Handel,
let it be borne in mind, was _not_ well acquainted with the English
language; and though he may have written good music, he was often very
far from reaching good literary sense. Thus, as regards this latter,
this specimen passage occurs in Handel's "_Acis and Galatea_,"


    Where shall I seek the charm-ing fair?]

Yet no one in his senses would think of rendering it other than


    Where shall I seek the charm-ing fair?]

inasmuch as there is some doubt of the chord 6/4 which forms the grace
note being Handel's music, and because the sense of the words demands
that no break shall be made between the words _seek_ and _the_. As
Handel failed in his English, it is surely allowable to make good his
deficiencies in this respect.

The following paragraphs relate to certain minor details of style in
singing, and apply to singing of every kind. They must be taken in
conjunction with much that has already been said under the head of

=Slurring.=--Slurring up to a note is a very disagreeable and common evil
to be guarded against. It matters not how far distant the note to be
sung may be from the preceding tone; it should be attacked fearlessly
and cheerfully, but _with an open throat_. The note to be attacked must
not be prepared in the throat. The course should be this. The tone of
the preceding note must not be moved, but the one required--say a very
high one--must be obtained by the joint process of lowering the larynx,
of sounding the note from exactly the same spot as the lower note, in a
soft but fine tone, and thirdly, by getting such a ring in the note as
it can only have in conjunction with the feeling that while the root or
foundation of the note is in the chest, yet it owes much of its
penetrating character and power to a sort of reflecting power which is
given it from the extreme end of the spine bone, where it joins the
head. Certainly no high note is properly _produced_, nor to be relied
upon for a _crescendo_, unless the student has this feeling that it
springs from the back of the neck; and, in rising to an upper note, the
aim should be not at length to approach the upper note from beneath, as
it were, but to "come down" upon it--to strike it from _above_ instead
of from below.

=Sentiment.=--Always try to convey the sentiment of what you may be
singing through the tone of the voice. Love and anger cannot both be
expressed with the same quality of voice. For the former, a delicate
light tone well on the lips is desirable, while for the latter the voice
should be produced lower in the stomach; yet the tone should still be
kept on the lips; its character should be "darker," more round, and
sonorous. "'_Tis this that racks my brain_": such words as these should
never be sung in the same character of voice as "_Waft her, angels, to
the skies_." It is good practice to take any piece and sing the melody
on an open vowel throughout, with the object of showing the meaning of
the song without the aid of words. Then, when this can be done, the
words may be employed, and the result will be doubly happy.

=Decision.=--Indecision is a very serious fault in singing. Do well and
thoroughly whatever you decide upon attempting. If you have a _staccato_
passage to sing, render it firmly in that style; if you have one that is
_legato_, take care that this character is _strongly_ seen from your
rendering. When you "slur," make it strong enough to be felt. If you
bend as it were from one note to another, let your intention to do so be
clearly apparent. Let a _forte_ passage be loud, and let a _piano_ one
be really soft. Any half measures in singing are fatal. Precision and
certainty are qualities which the student must always aim at attaining.
Without them, singing becomes tame and unattractive, not to say

=Imitation.=--Imitation, which in many other arts becomes plagiary, in
singing is most desirable; for singing, more than any other art, rests
on tradition; there is even very little doubt that the peculiar charm
and quality of a true tenor voice (for instance) is more due to
imitation in a singer than to nature; that is to say, that it is the
result of a transmitted culture--such imitation being the only means in
which singers can reap the harvest of the experience of the great
singers now to be heard no more, who have left their imitators to pass
on to others what they themselves obtained by imitating and improving on
_their_ predecessors. Therefore do not be afraid of being set down as a
mere copyist, if you study and attempt to imitate the style of the best
living singers. You will always have enough of your own merit or defect
to distinguish your performance, if you are really a conscientious
student, and you may learn a great deal by listening to the best public
singers which can be taught you in no other way. Watch their stage
deportment; their treatment of the weaker parts of their voices; their
method of breathing; their manner towards the public;--in fact, every
point which occurs to you,--and make some use of what you see and hear
in your own studies.

=Public Singing.=--If you have to sing in public, remember always to
take a rapid but searching glance round your stage. This is a great
point gained. As you step on to "the boards," notice (unobserved)
the dimensions of the stage (if it happens to be new to you). Note
the height of its ceiling, its surroundings, its draperies, its
distance from your farthest auditor; then take up your position
accordingly--bearing in mind that all your tone is wanted by your
listeners, which requirement can never be met unless you yourself take
the precaution to prevent the sound being held or carried back by the
stage decorations. In a concert _salon_ or theatre, then, do not forget
to get well to the front of the platform. At the same time you must not
be _too_ close upon your stall occupants, or you may give them the very
undesirable impression that at any moment you may fall over.

="Holding" an Audience.=--The singer should carefully watch an audience so
as to gauge its attention and sympathies. If it seems impatient,
restless, and indifferent, the singer may be quite sure that he or she
is exciting no interest. The best course then for one to do is to
immediately change the style, alter the tone, give forth his or her best
energies, and use every effort to become ingratiated into the good
favour of the listeners. If such effects as these fail constantly in
their turn, then the aspirant for vocal fame should give up, and devote
both time and attention to further study, or to some other means of a
livelihood; for a future great singer will not be failing constantly,
and to be only a second-rate singer while there are so many is a thing
_not_ to be devoutly desired.

=Mistakes in Public.=--If you make a mistake in singing, do not add to the
mischief by allowing it to alarm or disconcert you. Proceed onward as if
nothing had happened. You may be quite sure that each one of your
audience will not have detected the slip, for they cannot _all_ be
critics. But bear in mind that such confidence as your adviser here
suggests is not to be too often called into requisition. No great artist
will ever make a serious mistake in public. How much more careful then
should the young student be!


I need perhaps scarcely remind my readers who are or who wish to be
singers that _time_ concerns them quite as much as the conductor, the
pianist, the violinist--in short, the whole orchestra. It behoves the
student in singing to give early and careful attention to this important
feature in his artistic training. You may have the voice of a Rubini,
you may be a second Tamburini in quality and extent of voice, but unless
you can sing in time yourself, and are able to do so with others, and
with the counter-acting influences of an orchestra, you can never hope
to rise in your profession. It may be argued that you have no desire to
lay yourself out for a career on the lyric stage. Then, however, you
shut yourself out from some of the largest prizes in the profession;
beyond which there comes the question of oratorio business, and the
growing taste for band accompaniments to songs. And if you restrict your
ambition to a pianoforte accompaniment, time is needed even with that in
order to produce anything like a satisfactory rendering of the piece you
may be singing. The accompanyist may be a Sir Julius Benedict, or a
Signor Randegger (than whom there is no better in this country, so
neglected has this species of musical art-work become); but a perfect
rendering depends not so much upon the pianist as the vocalist. If the
singer flounders about with neither "rhyme nor reason," it is scarcely
reasonable to expect the accompanyist, clever as he may be, to be always
at his heels, like a cat after a mouse. I would therefore advise the
student to invest his money in a Metronome--the most useful thing with
which he could provide himself. They are not dear, bearing in mind their
utility, and one will, I am sure, save the student much time and many a
_fiasco_. Learn the working of this useful machine, and practise all
your exercises with it. If you go to a good singing master, you should
ask him to time your exercises to the pace at which you should sing
them, and in this way you will not only be growing in a good habit, but
your singing will be characterized by a crispness and a certainty of
attack, which will be apparent to all musicians and amateurs with good
taste. Your singing master will, no doubt, impress upon you the
necessity of singing your songs in time, and especially of slightly
accenting the first and third beats in the bar if it is common time, the
first and fourth beats when it is compound common or 6/8 time, and the
first beat when it is triple or 3/4 time. In this way there will be
meaning given to your singing, and those who may be accompanying you
will be able to feel where you are, and to keep time with you. In
singing a passage like this from Cowen's charming song "Aubade,"--the
master, if he knew his business, would instruct his pupil to slightly
accent the words as I have indicated with the mark =V=, and to preserve
_strict_ time throughout the passage, and especially in the taking up of
the words after the long note on the word _sleep_. The accompanyist
would, we may assume, do likewise with his pianoforte part, and in this
way a perfect _ensemble_ would be secured.


    Sleep, love, sleep,
    the morn is wak - - ing,]

With this brief introduction to the subject, I will proceed to give the
student a few exercises in keeping and beating time, the assiduous
practice of which will, I hope, soon place him in the desirable position
of being able to sing in time.

[Music: Ex. 1.

Four beats in a bar.

    Do Re Mi Fa Sol

    La Si Do Do Si

    La Sol Fa Mi Re Do]

[Music: Ex. 2.

    Do Do Re Re Mi Mi &c.]

[Music: Ex. 3.

    Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 4.

    Do Do Do Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 5.

    Do Do Re Re Mi Mi &c.]

[Music: Ex. 6.

    Do Do Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 7.

    Do Do Do Re Re Re Mi Mi Mi &c.]

[Music: Ex. 8.

    Do Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 9.

    Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 10.

    Do Do Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re Re Re &c.]

[Music: Ex. 11.

     Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re Mi &c.]

These exercises may be timed as slow as you like on your metronome--the
slower the better--but 76 is a good pace to begin with; when you have
thoroughly mastered them at 76, take them a little quicker until you can
sing them accurately up to a good brisk time.

No 1 has but one note in the bar, and this must be held on steadily for
four beats of the metronome--care being taken to leave each note in
sufficient time to take a fresh breath, and attack the second note and
syllable in precise time with the metronome beat. I need, perhaps,
scarcely point out that much good will be obtained if the student can
accustom himself to _feeling_ in his mind the rhythm and beating, so as
not to acquire the habit of trusting to mechanical appliances, which are
dispensed with at public performances. The sol-fa-ing must be strictly
adhered to, and in Exercises 2, 3, etc., it will be seen that the
syllable must be sounded twice and four times respectively. With
Exercise 5 the dotted note comes in; but I will not stay to explain
that, as I assume that my readers will have acquainted themselves with
the elements of musical theory before taking up singing. Especial care
should be given to Exercise 7, as that is the first step in the
difficult matter of syncopation, carried out elaborately in Exercises 8
and 9. With Exercise 11 the question of Rests comes in, but the same
remark that I made as to the dotted notes applies here. Everything that
it is necessary to know about them should be found in any elementary
musical grammar.

Having mastered the above exercises, the reader may take the following
with two beats in the bar--taking the precaution to set them at a slow
time on the metronome, say 76, not singing them quickly until he is
thoroughly acquainted with them.

[Music: Ex. 1. Two beats to a bar.

    Do Do Re Re Mi Mi Fa Fa Sol Sol
    La La Si Si Do Do Do Si Si
    La La Sol Sol Fa Fa Mi Mi Re Re Do]

[Music: Ex. 2.

    Do Re Mi Fa Sol La
    Si Do Do Do Si Si &c.]

[Music: Ex. 3.]

[Music: Ex. 4.

    Do Do Do &c.]

[Music: Ex. 5.

    Do Do Do &c.]

[Music: Ex. 6.

    Do Do Do &c.]

[Music: Ex. 7.

    Do Re Mi Fa Sol &c.]

[Music: Ex. 8.]

After which he may take the following with three beats in the bar:--

[Music: Ex. 1.

Three beats in a bar.

    1 2 3
    Do    Re Mi Fa Sol
    La    Si Do Do Do &c.]

[Music: Ex. 2.

    Do Do Do &c.]

[Music: Ex. 3.]

[Music: Ex. 4.]

[Music: Ex. 5.]

[Music: Ex. 6.]

[Music: Ex. 7.]

[Music: Ex. 8.]

[Music: Ex. 9.]


    There are, of course, no _rules_ to be given to guide the student
    in the choice of music, except the general ones, to choose good
    music, pleasing music, and music suited to his voice and powers.
    But those general rules touch incidentally on a few points on which
    it may be well to offer a few remarks.

=Music must suit the Voice.=--Your music must not only be appropriate for
your voice in compass, but it must be such as has been written for a
voice of your kind. This is a most important thing to remember. Nothing
is more provoking to a person of good taste and musical knowledge than
to hear songs composed for a voice of one class sung by a voice of a
totally different character; and yet this is a vice which even good
artists will sometimes weakly succumb to. The popular song of Gounod's,
"_Quand tu chantes berçée_," for instance, has been sung to death by
many soprani and contralti, in various keys. One would have thought that
the words alone would have shown them the utter absurdity of what they
were doing; but no, for the sake of producing an effect (upon an
audience who naturally supposed that public singers of high standing
knew what they were doing, and why they did it), these good ladies
committed what I do not scruple to call a vulgar and inartistic blunder.
The song is a man's song, and no woman should attempt it.

This fault is one which amateurs are very apt to fall into, and a long
list might be made of songs which have suffered this unfair treatment.
Soprani sing tenor songs--(I have often, in the early days of the
popularity of "_Il Trovatore_," heard a soprano sing "_Ah, che la
Morte!_"--tenors, those written for soprano--(_e.g._, I know an amateur
tenor whose "crack" song is Iphis' "Farewell" in "_Jephtha_"). Contralti
and mezzo-soprani steal bass and barytone songs, as "But who may abide,"
from the "_Messiah_," and basses and barytones return the compliment by
appropriating "What tho' I trace," or "O rest in the Lord.")

There is a reason, quite apart from the question of taste, which renders
this practice objectionable. A composer of any skill writes his
accompaniment as well as his melody with reference to the voice which he
wishes to sing it. Now, if that voice be--we will say--a soprano, the
accompaniment will be written for a voice of that _pitch_, as well as of
that character and compass; the progressions of harmony will be written
with due regard to the actual place of the vocal notes in the scale. But
directly the song is sung by a tenor--a voice which pitches every note
an octave lower than the soprano--the relation of the vocal notes to the
accompaniment is changed; notes that were intended to be fourths above
the accompaniment will become fifths below, and progressions which were
correct in the composer's intention become wrong in the effect produced
by the singer. That is an extreme case, I grant, but it is only a fair
instance of the sort of result which follows on such changes, and it is
sufficient to show that the rule rests on reason and not caprice.

"=Original Keys.="--Do not bind yourself, as some think it necessary to
do, always to sing your songs in the original keys. Remember that opera
and oratorio music, and a large number of modern "ballads," were
composed for performance in large buildings, theatres, and
concert-rooms. The keys, therefore, were chosen with due reference to
that fact, and to the (in many cases) exceptional voices of the singers.
The raising of the pitch in later years also affects the question.

Now, if you have to sing in a drawing-room, the pitch, volume of tone,
and style of delivery must be appropriate to chamber music, and not to
the stage of Covent Garden, and the keys which are necessary for due
brilliancy and effect in a concert-room are frequently unsuited to a
drawing-room, giving an appearance of strain and noisiness to the
singing. A good deal of opera music is as unfit for singing in a
drawing-room as would be a grand symphony for performance there; and an
artistic singer should bear in mind this principle of fitness in his

At the same time, if it is considered desirable to transpose a song, let
it be only for that reason, and let the aim be to produce the same
effect, _relatively_, in the drawing-room, as the song in its original
key is intended to produce in the concert-room. Do not transpose
recklessly, merely to "suit your voice:" if you are a barytone, for
instance, do not sing tenor songs a few notes lower; or, if you are a
soprano, do not transpose contralto songs to suit your register. For the
_character_ of the music (if the music is good) suits the voice for
which it was intended, and there is a risk of destroying that character
by giving it to a voice of another kind. This has been proved over and
over again on the stage in several notable instances.

=Execution.=--Do not be too ambitious in selecting florid songs for
performance either in public or private. "Fireworks" in a drawing-room
rarely please, while in a concert-room they must be very perfect and
first-rate in execution to do so. Of course, if you are a professional
artist you must include such work in your studies, and even for the
amateur the practice of florid music, under a master, is most desirable
as an exercise. But where the choice of a song for a concert rests with
yourself, sacrifice ambition to prudence, unless your voice is naturally
a very flexible one, and your training in that style of music very
complete. I give, on this subject, a quotation from an old and
experienced writer on music and singing:

"Execution is certainly one of the most difficult parts of musical
science. Young singers are desirous of attaining it without reflecting
whether, from the formation of the throat and various physical causes,
they may ever be able to accomplish their wishes. Few, indeed, possess
the power of execution in a pre-eminent degree. It is in part a gift of
nature: those who have ever delighted as well as astonished us by their
rapid manner of running through divisions must have been naturally
endowed with flexible organs.

"... Some voices may be compared to gems which in their original state
are dull, and, to those unacquainted with their worth, of no value....
It frequently happens that singers, from timidity or want of proper
knowledge in exercising their voices, remain ignorant of their own
qualifications. The hinges of a door which have continued for years
undisturbed, will, when the door is re-opened, grate harshly on the ear;
but every effort renders the harshness more tolerable, until, from
frequent use, they move easily. Thus it is with the voice: on the
flexibility of the _uvula_ and the muscles connected with it depend both
the perfectibility of the shake and execution. But still it must be
acknowledged that acquired execution should never be exercised by the
side of nature otherwise than sparingly, even where necessity requires
it, for the latter possesses an easy velocity which can playfully sport
with its subject at will; but, however gratifying the power of execution
may be considered by those who possess it, I recommend them not to be
indiscriminately lavish, lest they cloy by too great a profusion, and,
as Voltaire remarks, 'shine in trills and divisions, at the expense of
poetry and good sense.'"

=Fashion.=--The songs which are "the rage" at any time are always great
snares for amateurs. Aspiring young singers hear a ballad charmingly
rendered by some great singer, and straightway go home, send for it, and
on the first available opportunity treat their friends to their version
of it. This is really unfair to themselves, as it throws them into
unwise contrast with the public singer who has made the song popular,
and whose well-known rendering of it forbids ordinary hearers to judge
the rendering of an amateur on its own merits, or by any rule but that
of comparison. Moreover, "popular" songs--I mean songs whose popularity
is largely due to their having been sung by favourite public
singers--are by no means always good in themselves; or, if fairly good,
by no means easy; or if good and not difficult, by no means always
sufficiently so to make it worth while for an amateur to spend time and
study on them. In very many cases the public singer has to sing these
songs because he is paid for doing so, and gets a "royalty" on every
copy sold; it is simply one development of the hydra-headed art of
advertising, and such productions are known by the vulgar name of
"pot-boilers," _i.e._, compositions hastily thrown off to bring in a
little money "_to keep the pot boiling_." If composers who are capable
of better things are reduced to making money in this way, we may be
sincerely sorry for them; but speaking from an artistic point of view,
the practice is reprehensible, and "pot-boilers" are not the kind of
music which a young singer, anxious to improve, should waste time or
money upon. I am far from saying that there are no good songs to be
found among new music, but I think they seldom lie on the top of the

=Forming a Repertoire.=--In gradually forming your _repertoire_, or
collection of properly studied songs for drawing-room or concert
singing, do not be in haste to make it a large one. It is better to know
only a few songs and do them really well, than to sing a large number
indifferently. If you are studying for the profession, there is a
considerable number of songs which you will be expected to know as a
matter of course, but over and above such, every singer should have a
special repertoire of his or her own, and it is of this that I now
speak. Your selection of songs, like your singing, should have the stamp
of your own individuality upon it. You should have a little stock of
songs, with which your singing is in a way identified, and which you
must be able to sing in a manner that at once stamps those songs as your
property, so that another person might say, "I could not sing that song
before you, it is one of your own."

To form such a repertoire, you may have to go a little out of the beaten
track of what is best known at the time. If opera music suits you best,
look at the operas, never performed now, of Glück, or the less known of
Mozart's, or earlier works of Rossini, Auber, &c.; or else try and get
hold of works not yet known in England, such as Macfarren's, Wallace's,
Purcell's, and a few other such native dramatic composers. In a word, do
not limit your notions of operatic music to what you hear year after
year at Covent Garden or Her Majesty's.

So, too, in oratorio: search in the less familiar oratorios of Handel,
and such of his operas as you can get access to, and carry the same idea
out in examining the works of other composers, ancient and modern. Good
work has been done of late years by various publishers in publishing
many works of this class, and there are plenty of these which are still
unfamiliar and unhackneyed.

The same with your songs and ballads: before you rush into the modern
fashionable ballad, see if you cannot find a few that you can
appropriate among the stores of old English music, or the detached songs
of old Italian masters (many of which are magnificent as songs, and
utterly unknown at present, except to the few).


It is highly expedient that singers themselves, and intending students
of the art, should make some acquaintance with the physiological
surroundings which are brought into play in the process of voice
production. A knowledge of the technical terms for the various organs
directly involved is very essential, and the intelligent student will
see the necessity not only for distinguishing such names as "larynx" and
"diaphragm," but also of possessing some idea of their whereabouts in
the human frame. No better course could be adopted for the acquirement
of such a knowledge than attendance at the classes and lectures at the
musical colleges and other institutions, which, from time to time,
secure the assistance of qualified specialists to speak upon this very
important branch of the singing art. No other mode of teaching is so
well calculated to enlighten the uninitiated in the wondrous mechanism
of the human voice, and to inspire him or her with an adequate sense of
the watchful care and delicate treatment which a voice worthy of
systematic training demands, as well as deserves, at the hands of
students of both sexes. As a preliminary to a fuller inquiry into the
subject, the following few notes may be fixed upon the mind:--

=The Larynx= (λάρυγξ) constitutes the upper part of the
wind-pipe. It is the seat of the voice, and essential parts of it are
the "vocal cords" (_chordæ vocales_), two membranes in a horizontal
position across the larynx. It is popularly called "Adam's apple"
(_pomum Adami_), the protuberance so often recognizable in the throats
of bass singers, but a more correct use of "_pomum Adami_" is when it is
applied to a projection in the thyroid cartilage--a part of the
laryngeal structure.

=The Thyroid= (from Θυρεός) is a shield-shaped cartilage, and that part
of the larynx which, in the case of both sexes, develops suddenly at the
period when they pass from youth to mature age. Other important
cartilages are the cricoid (from κρίκος), a ring-shaped membrane; the
arytenoids (from ἁρύταινα a pitcher); the epiglottis (ἐπί-γλωττα),
situated at the back of the mouth; and the cartilages of Santorini, or
_cornicula laryngis_.

The trachea, or wind-pipe, is capable of rising or falling, and thus is
produced the perceptible movement of the larynx in the throat when
speaking or singing. It is by lowering the larynx, and so commanding an
expansion of the throat that the best tone is possible in the voice, and
it is this open throat production which some teachers are aiming at when
they charge their pupils to "sing from the chest." A more sensible
request would be to "lower the larynx," since such a lowering of this
organ places the throat in the most favourable position for emitting
sound; as well as for enabling the lungs, or wind-chests, to act most
advantageously upon the true vocal cords. Moreover, this lowered larynx
production leads to the best results from the vocal cords themselves.
The natural tendency is to sing as we talk, a process which involves a
demand upon the upper fringes of the vocal ligaments only, but no
long-sustained singing could be maintained by this means, nor does it
requisition any art-knowledge or principle. Directly, however, we begin
to utilize the lower edge of the vocal cords, we are verging upon the
art of _producing_ the voice; _i.e._, creating a something which will
not manifest itself without the first application of some art
principles. Here lies the whole secret of singing, _viz._, the
utilization of the lower portions of the membranous folds popularly
called the "vocal cords," instead of working merely their topmost
fringes, as do the innumerable tenors who sing "throaty," and as we all
do up to a certain point, in the ordinary process of speaking. The
singing voice and the speaking voice are two totally different
productions, the former never to be acquired except at the hands of a
capable master, who, himself, has been properly taught the principles of
voice production.

The lungs, or bellows, or air-chambers lie, as is well known, on each
side of the chest, resting upon the diaphragm, and performing a very
important function in singing. They supply the air which acts upon the
vocal cords, and in true singing are the first organs for consideration
by a vocalist, since so much depends upon the way the wind, or breath,
is brought to bear upon the vocal cords. For this reason the abdominal
method of breathing--the filling of the lungs from their bases--becomes
the best method for inspiring the breath in singing. Doubtless, in
breathing, the lungs are replenished from above downwards, but it
requires something of the sensation of these air-supplying substances
being filled from their bases in order to requisition the full help of
the diaphragm, a great muscle which separates the lungs from the
abdomen, and which may be called the fundamental basis on which all
voice production rests.

The Pharynx (φάρυγξ) is situated behind the mouth, between the tongue
and the arch forming the circumference of the palate. Its province is to
reflect the voice on its issue from the glottis. It is an elastic
aperture, and may be well styled the reflecting organ of singing. It can
take various forms, and bears a great part in giving character to the
sounds originated in the larynx.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Voice--a Wind, Reed, or String Instrument?_ Much discussion has
spent itself in settling the question of "family" to which the vocal
instrument properly belongs. The vocal chords are known to be composed
of a yellow elastic fibrous tissue in their anterior parts, the
posterior portions consisting of a tougher muscle or cartilage. Many
maintain them to belong to the "string" family, since the sounds
generated are produced as on a violin--the higher notes by increased
tension, the lower tones by a reduction of the strain. In this process,
the muscle, popularly known as the epiglottis-cushion--a fat mucous
membrane--presses on to the vocal cords, modifying their vibrating
length. Thus, in an extreme high note, the cushion presses intensely
upon the cords, considerably shortening their one inch length. In
reverting to a low note, this tension becomes withdrawn, and the whole
length of cord is at play to produce its lowest tones. An unfortunate
objection to this theory--that the vocal cords can be styled a stringed
instrument, is the fact that no string of the small extent of the vocal
cords could be capable of sounding either so many, or such low notes;
moreover, the mathematical treatment of their vibrations, as governed by
the tension, is not correct, as they are in the case of a violin. It is
a useful theory, and method of reasoning, however, for those teachers of
singing who maintain that to get high notes, a light and thin style of
singing, and the use of the upper fringe of the vocal cords (the
production point), is preferable, in contradistinction to those who
declare that no really good chest note with any telling power worth
considering is possible, unless the vocalist sings deep in his chest and
gains the idea, as he goes for his note, of requisitioning with all
effort the lowest depth in the cord. Surely this point presents the
greatest difficulty for singers with whom compass, especially at the top
of the voice, is an imperative necessity, albeit that people go on
talking to the contrary; and it is a matter which needs settling among
voice specialists and singing masters. We are told, and it is generally
known, that the tension of the epiglottis-cushion produces a higher note
just as the shifting of the finger on the violin string affects its
tone--a process which may produce falsetto sounds, but which surely is
not the basis upon which great Italian singers of the Mongini and
Tamberlik type secured the great chest Cs, which, with their resonance
and brilliancy, were wont to make our opera houses ring again. Is it not
a fact that in voices of this calibre, as well as in those trained on
what is known as the broad lines of the true Italian production, the
whole surfaces of the vocal cords become more or less requisitioned, and
that they vibrate the whole of their length and breadth, not merely the
sides, rather than that any upper portion is mainly utilized while the
lower parts are resting? The answer to this question would seem to
indicate that the human voice is of the nature of a reed instrument.
These membraneous organs, which we term vocal cords, are such that their
whole surfaces must vibrate when brought into contact with a current of
air from the lungs. The voice reed, in fact, vibrates freely backwards
and forwards, and so corresponds with what are known as "free," not
"beating" reeds--such as are found in concertinas, and the like.

That the voice is something of an organ pipe (a flue pipe) is an
illusion only indulged in by writers and teachers prone to descriptive
language, which they do not stay to inquire into, either for their own
edification or for the enlightenment of other people. There is
absolutely nothing to maintain such an idea.

It is important that the nature of the _matériel_ of the vocal cords
should become widely known, since such a knowledge, elementary as it
might be, would, at the outset, enable students to get at once upon the
right road to singing. To grasp the idea that the initial
sound-producing means are these bits of semi-lunar membranes, acted upon
by the breath from the lungs, and that they vibrate violently or orderly
in proportion to the care with which the breath is brought to bear upon
them, is to master the first great difficulty in singing. This once
grasped, it is not hard to realize that the sound emitted is moulded and
shaped, modified and beautified by other organs of the laryngeal machine
and its surroundings, as well as by such variable conditions as the
state of the human frame generally, and the particular condition of
those organs of the body most directly concerned in supporting the work
of the larynx may happen to be in. It will save the student much time
if, before he (or she) begins to study singing, some first acquaintance
be formed with the physiological surroundings of the human voice, and it
is worse than useless to go to a master who teaches singing in blind
ignorance of, and doubtless contempt for, these physiological
principles. The student who has familiarized himself with the structure
of the vocal organs will have made a much more intelligent progress in
his art than the one who has not, and will be competent none the less
readily to understand the instruction of a qualified master than to
detect the shameful pretence and humbug of the quack.

=Board Teachers' Laryngitis--Clergyman's Sore Throat--Throat Exhaustion,
etc.=--Among the greatest evils of this competitive teaching age is the
mischief arising from the constant and at the same time injurious use of
the voice. All who use the voice constantly must learn how to breathe,
and _produce_ the voice. Failing that, serious mischief, which even the
specialist of throat hospitals cannot cope with, must inevitably follow.
The only advice that can be given here is, immediately that voice
exhaustion sets in, to consult not _a doctor_, but a throat or voice
specialist. The best institution in the world for throat troubles is the
Throat Hospital, Golden Square, London, W.


This first exercise is a most useful one in the uniting of notes and in
gaining facility. The student should at first practise it very slowly,
mastering four bars at a time. Although I have divided it into fifteen
examples, it is really but one exercise, with a minim rest between each
phrase of four bars; and it is in this example form that I wish the
student ultimately to sing it with the metronome, at say 76, taking
breath _only_ at the rest-mark, and making the _crescendo_--not, be it
observed, by forcing the tone and breath, but by a gradual pressing down
of the breath.[2]

[2] The Exercise should be a crescendo from piano to forte.

[Music: Ex. 1.]

[Music: A.]

[Music: B.]

[Music: C.]

[Music: D.]

[Music: E.]

[Music: F.]

[Music: G.]

[Music: H.]

[Music: I.]

[Music: J.]

[Music: K.]

[Music: L.]

[Music: M.]

[Music: N.]

[Music: Ex. 2 NAVA.]


Exercise 2 is a further one for the practice of joining notes with the
aid of the breath, without the least resemblance to a jerk with either
the sound or the breath. To sing the exercise with advantage requires a
very careful management of the respiratory organs, and its continuous
practice is one of the best means of managing the breath. Having
inspired the breath after the manner already indicated herein, proceed
to sound the note F in a thin but firm and steady tone, which you must
gradually swell, by pressing down the breath, as it were, into the
following note G, which you will continue to hold steadily by keeping
down the breath as long as you can. Though you raise your tone of voice
in passing from F to G, you must dispel from your mind all notions of
raising your breath or your _larynx_; it is just the reverse; you must
lower these. Remember a golden rule--the higher your note the lower must
it be generated in your chest, and your breath must be under the note
supporting it, or there cannot possibly be any tone there. On reaching
the highest limit of this exercise, the student will repeat the same
operation down the scale, which I need scarcely say is less difficult.

[Music: Ex. 3. NAVA.]



Exercise 3 may be timed 76 on your metronome. It is a study to give
freedom and flexibility to your voice. None of the notes should be
forced, and the upper notes should be rendered with the mouth well open,
and with a quality of tone as similar as possible to that of the lower
notes. Breath should be taken (without losing time) at the rest-marks.
There should be no break or jump in the tone, but rather it should be
one unbroken stream of melody, as marked in the first phrase. The voice,
in this exercise, should be constantly moving: no sooner should you be
sounding the first note of the phrase than you should be moving to the
second, from the second to the next, and so on. Be careful to sing the
intervals exactly in time, and in descending to notes satisfy yourself
that you are singing the exact tone, and that with certainty. Indecision
is a grave fault in singing.

[Music: Ex. 4. Intervals of thirds.

     Do Re Mi Re Do Re Mi Fa Mi Re

     Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi &c.]

[Music: Ex. 5. Intervals of Fourths.

* Here take breath.]


[Music: Ex. 6. Intervals of Fifths.]

[Music: Ex. 7. Intervals of Sixths.]

[Music: Ex. 8. Intervals of Sevenths.]



     Alto, 36

     Bad Lessons, 50

     Bad Masters, 50

     Ballads, 80

     Barytone, Basso-Cantante, 42

     Bass, 44

     Board Teachers' Laryngitis, 114

     Books of Exercises, 51

     Buffo, 48

     Cathedral School, The, 72

     Chest, Falsetto, and Head, 60

     Chorus Singing, 69

     Cleanliness, 13

     Clearing the Throat, 59

     Compass, 30

     Consonants, 24

     Contralto, 35

     Decision, 84

     Diet, 13

     Dramatic Study, 27

     Dress, 16

     Duration of Practice, 67

     Early Rising, 13

     Education, General, 26

     Emphasis, 25

     English, 24

     Execution, 105

     Exercise, 15

     Exercises, 115

     Exercises, First, 62

         "      Books of, 51

         "      in Beating Time, 89

     Expression, Facial, 54

     Facial Expression, 54

     Falsetto, 60

     Fashion, 106

     First Opinion, A, 44

     Forming a Repertoire, 107

     Forte, Mezzo-Voce, and Piano, 60

     General Education, 26

        "    Musical Study, 70

     German Lieder, Modern, 71

     Hair, The, 14

     Head, Singing in the, 58

     High Notes, 59

     "Holding" an Audience, 86

     "How to Begin", 68

     Humming, 69

     Imitation, 70, 85

     Individuality, 53

     Institutions, 48

     Larynx, The, 109

     Late Hours, 19

     Lessons, Bad, 50

     Lips, Position of, 25

     Masters, 48

     Mezzo-Voce, 60

     Mezzo-Contralto, 35

     Mezzo-Soprano, 34

     Mistakes in Public, 86

     Modern German Lieder, 71

     Morality, 19

     Music to Suit the Voice, 103

     Musical Study, General, 70

     Names of Voices, 29

     Nervousness, 21

     Oratorio, 73

     "Original Keys", 104

     Opera, 79

     Perseverance, 54

     Physiological Surroundings, 109

     Pharynx, The, 111

     Position of Arms, 55

            "    Body, 55

            "    Hands, 56

            "    Larynx, 57

            "    Throat, 56

            "    Tongue, 57

     Pronunciation, 22

     Public Singing, 85

     Public, Mistakes in, 86

     Qualities of the Voice, 45

     Recitative, 81

     Repertoire, Forming a, 107

     Scale, The, 60

       "    Practice, 62

     "Schools" of Singing, 47

     Self-Accompaniment, 55

     Sentiment, 84

     Singing in Tune, 67

     Slurring, 83

     Smoking, 18

     Soprano, 32

     Study of Songs, 20

     Study of Words, 25

     Styles, Traditional, 71

     Teachers, Bad, 50

     Teeth, The, 15

     Tenore-Leggiero, 37

     Tenore-Robusto, 39

     Throatiness, 58

     Thyroid, The, 110

     Time in Singing, 87

     Tone, 60

     Traditional Styles, 71

     Variety Indispensable, 68

     Voices and their Names, 29

     Voice, The; A Wind, Reed, or String Instrument, 111

     Vowel-Sounds, 23

     "Words," Study of, 25


London & Edinburgh

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Punctuation and formatting have been made consistent.

Apparent printer's errors have been retained, unless stated below.

Page 62, "disirable" changed to "desirable". (It cannot be too strongly
impressed upon, or too frequently pointed out to, the singer (no matter
what may be the stage of his or her artistic development) how desirable
and advantageous it is to be constantly singing exercises and solfeggi
in preference to songs.)

Page 73 and 74, "shool" changed to "school". (You will find its good
points equally insisted on in the oratorio school of singing, while its
defects should be avoided in any.)

Page 106, "divisious" changed to "divisions". (Those who have ever
delighted as well as astonished us by their rapid manner of running
through divisions must have been naturally endowed with flexible

Page 109, "λαρυγξ" changed to "λάρυγξ".

On page 110, "ἁρύταινα" was retained. This may be a typo for "ἀρύταινα".

Page 111, "φάρυνξ" changed to "φάρυγξ".

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that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.