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Title: How to Become a Successful Singer
Author: Butt, Clara, Caruso, Enrico, Davies, Ben, Melba, Nellie
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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                             *HOW TO BECOME
                          A SUCCESSFUL SINGER*


                           *MADAME CLARA BUTT
                              MADAME MELBA
                             SIGNOR CARUSO
                            MR. BEN DAVIES*

                    LONDON: GEORGE NEWNES, LIMITED,
                    SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.


How to Become a Successful Singer.  By Madame Clara Butt

The Gift of Song.  With Practical Advice on Voice Culture.  By Madame

Hints on the Cultivation of the Voice.  By Enrico Caruso

How to Attain Success in Singing.  By Ben Davies

                             *HOW TO BECOME
                         A SUCCESSFUL SINGER.*

                        *By MADAME CLARA BUTT.*

The question of how to sing a song involves touching upon a variety of
points that might not at first sight be associated with the subject.
Four distinct factors play prominent parts in the singing of any song,
however simple.  These are the Voice, the Singer, the Master, and the

Of these, of course, the voice is of primary importance; for unless an
individual possesses in some degree the gift of song it is impossible
for him or her to become a singer.  In very many cases, needless to say,
correct training, by showing how the vocal organs can be used to the
best advantage, may achieve some sort of result.  But the voice so
produced is often of an artificial character, which can never approach
the purely "natural" voice.

It is, I believe, held by a great many people that only those can sing
who possess a throat and vocal organs suitable for the production of the
voice, but my own views on the subject do not coincide with this idea at
all.  My point of view is that if you are meant to be a singer you will
sing.  "God sent His singers upon earth," etc.

One often hears of operations upon the throat being performed with the
object of improving the voice, but here again I find myself in entire
disagreement.  I think that if one is born with a deformity of the
throat, and has always sung easily with it, any attempt to interfere
with, or alter, that deformity, may end in destroying the power of song

When I was at the Royal College of Music I was constantly being urged to
have my tonsils cut. For a long time I held out against it, but at last
consented.  However, while I was actually seated in the operating chair,
the doctor asked me to sing the vowel sound "E" on a high note, and
remarked upon the way my tonsils contracted while I sang it.  All at
once I recalled the case of a girl I knew, with a true soprano voice,
who had lost the ability to sing in tune after her tonsils had been cut.
Might it not be the same in my own case? This decided me in an instant.
I refused to let the operation be performed, and from that day to this
have never allowed my throat to be interfered with surgically in any
way.  Yet I have had every sort of throat that a singer would wish to
avoid without my voice being affected in the least!  I started life,
almost, with diphtheria, have suffered from adenoids, and have
experienced several attacks of quinsy.  Among myself and my three
sisters, all of us being singers, my throat is the worst of the lot, and
not in the least like a singer’s throat.  The sister whose voice most
nearly resembles mine is the one whose throat is most like mine; and the
sister who has a throat and vocal organs which are ideal from an
anatomical point of view possesses a soprano voice which, though
particularly sweet, is not strong!

One thing that I think exercises an enormous amount of influence upon
the quality of voices is climate.  Review the climatic conditions of the
various countries, and you cannot help remarking upon the number of
natural voices that are met with in Italy and in Australia, in both of
which countries the climate is unusually fine.  I believe that the
brilliance of the Australian climate must be reckoned with very
seriously in accounting for the peculiar brilliance which is a
characteristic of Australian singing voices, while that Italy is a
country of singers is well known to everybody.  At the same time,
climatic conditions do not seem to affect the speaking voice, which I
imagine is more a question of language.  I have always thought that the
English speaking voice is the best of any. There is none of that nasal,
sonorous accent about it which, for instance, makes the speaking voice
of the ordinary Italian so unpleasant.  I was never so struck with this
quality in Italian speaking voices as upon one occasion when staying at
an hotel in Venice, where there was a cafe almost beneath our windows.
Even the beauties of Venice hardly compensated for the nerve-racking
nasal chatter that continually floated up to us from below.

It goes without saying that the voice needs a great deal of training and
care if it is to be brought to the best development, and one of the
first faults that must be cured is in the taking, and use of, the
breath.  This must be done in an entirely different way from that
usually employed when speaking. It would be impossible for me to deal
fully in such an article as this with the question of how to take
breath, and as it is one of the first lessons that a singing master
should teach, I will confine myself here to saying that the main
difference lies in the fact that, when speaking, the breath is usually
taken from the chest, but that when singing it must be controlled by the
abdominal muscles.

When singing, the muscles of the throat must be relaxed, and not
contracted.  Self-consciousness often does more to mar a good voice than
anything else, since it leads to the contraction of the muscles. Have
you never noticed how pleasantly some people sing or hum to themselves
when they imagine they are not overheard, compared with the indifferent
or even unpleasant manner in which they perform publicly?  Here we have
a direct example of the result of self-consciousness.  Never mind your
audience.  Allow the song to carry you away, so that you sing easily and

To acquire perfect control over the throat muscles, so that they may be
relaxed at will, is one of the most difficult points in voice training.
And one of the most common mistakes made in this respect is in
over-practice.  The muscles of the throat are among the most delicate of
the whole body, and I am convinced that it is a fatal error to overtax
them, especially during the early training of the voice, by too much
practice.  Personally, my training was very gradual, and the greatest
care was taken not to impose too much strain upon my throat at first.  I
am confident that a number of short practices of ten or fifteen minutes’
duration, with intervals of rest between, are better than a few long
periods, since the throat is thus less liable to become tired.  Every
expert in physical development will tell you that for the proper
development of any set of muscles a gradual exercise that does not
involve over-exertion is the best, and I would particularly emphasise
the importance of this where the throat is concerned.

Another point in connection with the voice which is too often overlooked
is the question of general health.  My gardener sometimes complains that
the flowers do not come to perfection owing to the poorness of the soil.
The simile is a very good one.  The vocal organs are like delicate
flowers, capable of the best development when the soil in which they are
planted—the body—is in perfect condition.  It must be the object of all
singers, therefore, to take the greatest care of their health.

Over-exercise of the body generally should also be avoided, just as much
as over-exercising the throat.  It is easier to sing when the rest of
the body has not been over-tired.  General exercise, though essential to
health, can be overdone just as much as vocal exercise.  These remarks
apply particularly to the student.  It is while the voice is being
formed, more than after it has been formed, that it is likely to be
affected by such considerations as those just mentioned.

The mind plays a prominent part where the voice is concerned.  Worry,
unhappiness, and mental strain of every description may lower the whole
tone of the body, and, by lessening the inclination to sing, make
singing more difficult. Unfortunately, one cannot take mental worries in
small doses, but must put up with them as they come; and I only mention
this to impress upon my readers the more forcibly how important the
general health of mind and body is where the voice is concerned.

After all, the effect of mental or bodily strain upon the voice depends
entirely upon the individual. Personally, whatever may be the state of
my mind or my body, I am able to sing in a sort of subconscious state.

It would hardly be possible to hit upon a more striking illustration of
what can be done when one is in a subconscious condition than what I am
about to relate.

At one time and another I have had to have operations performed—for
appendicitis, for instance—which have necessitated my being put under
ether.  On every single occasion I have sung in full voice while under
the influence of the anæsthetic!  This was most remarkable perhaps on
the occasion when I was being operated upon for appendicitis, for then
the abdominal muscles, which control one’s breathing, must naturally
have been interfered with.

The fact is that trouble, worry, and ill-health have no effect upon the
voice itself.  The voice is always there.  It is only the power of using
it that may be impaired.

As I have already pointed out, it is in the early stages of vocal
training that the effects of ill-health, mental worry, or overwork are
most likely to be felt.  When the voice has been properly trained, and
the vocal organs fully developed, they are less likely to suffer by the
rest of the body being out of tune, and it is therefore of particular
importance for beginners to bear my remarks in mind.

Here is another point which beginners should take to heart, and follow
as far as they are able. Try to avoid over-anxiety.  Students often make
the mistake, through over-anxiety, of over-working their voices just
before a concert, with the result that they are not at their best when
on the platform.  It is a good plan to rest both the body and the voice
before singing in public.

I should like to emphasise the importance of this very fully.  Young
singers seem to lose sight, half the time, of the fact that they should
be at their very best when on the platform.  Personally I always keep,
and have always kept, this clearly before my mind.  It is the greatest
possible mistake to waste your efforts at the last moment in private.
Rest before you sing in public, in order that when you go on to the
platform you may give your audience—who, after all, have paid to be
entertained—of your best.  Remember that while polishing is highly
desirable, there is such a thing as over-polishing, and this, instead of
improving, only wears out.  I am a great believer in the quiet study of
a song without the aid of a piano.  Not only does this avoid tiring the
voice, but it enables the singer to fully grasp all the beauty and the
meaning of the words and the music, and so to enter into the spirit of
the subject when upon the platform.  When on tour I frequently adopt
this method of studying.  It enables one to be doing something useful
when in the train, or elsewhere, when actual practice is undesirable or

This resting of the voice before singing in public applies not only to
vocal exercises, but to all kinds of over-exertion of the throat.  Even
those who are aware of the danger, and who are careful to refrain from
singing-practice just before an appearance in public, very frequently
forget that speaking may tire the voice every whit as much as singing.
It is most important not to do too much talking for some hours before a
public appearance is made. In this way the throat will be thoroughly

In singing, as in everything else, experience teaches, better than any
amount of instruction, what an individual is capable of, and how the
full power and merit of the voice may best be acquired and preserved.
When students have "found their feet" sufficiently to understand the
best way to manage their voices, they will be able to regulate their
practice according to what leads to the best result in each individual
case.  Some may be best suited by morning practice, others by afternoon
practice.  Personally, I put in most of my practice between the hours of
eleven and one each morning.

The next factor to be considered is the Singer. Temperament,
individuality, force, dramatic ability, perseverance, industry,
keenness, and ambition all play a part in the making of a successful
singer and in the singing of a song successfully.  It is in the earlier
stages of the singer’s career that some of these qualities are most
necessary, for many years of hard and constant study have sometimes to
be faced.  It is during this time that perseverance, industry, keenness,
and ambition, if they are possessed, will help the student on so
enormously; indeed, while ambition and keenness will do most perhaps in
the early stages, industry and perseverance are required all the time,
for it is impossible to reach a stage where there is nothing left to

Singing is but one branch of art, and a singer can learn something from
every other branch. From the Actor may be gleaned hints for dramatic
effect; from the Painter may be acquired an appreciation of breadth and
colour; from the Orator may be picked up many useful hints as regards
enunciation, modulation, and emphasis; while the Writer may inspire
those beautiful thoughts which, taking root in the singer’s mind, help
towards that mental health which is as important to the perfect voice as
physical fitness. It will be seen, therefore, that one may never have
done studying; for there are constantly new actors, new speakers, new
painters, or new writers from whom something may be learnt, while in
painting and literature alone there are great masterpieces to such
number that no one singer could ever hope to study them all.  It must be
remembered, also, that what satisfied the public ten years ago does not
satisfy them now, and as a singer must keep pace with every advancement
that is made, there is constant study to be done.

The first thing the possessor of a voice looks out for is naturally some
one to train it, and this brings us to the question of the master.  It
is not my intention to give advice as to the selection of master or
masters; indeed, it would be impossible to do so, partly because there
are so many masters between whom it would be invidious to make
comparisons, and partly because such an article as this is intended more
to assist the general run of students, who are spread over so large an
area that they could not all reach the best-known masters, but are
obliged to study locally.  In England and in the Colonies there are many
very good schools and colleges for vocal training, and there are
competent teachers, most of them emanating from our great Colleges and
Academies, within reach of almost every district.  While I do not wish
to appear unpatriotic, however, it must frankly be admitted that
students must study on the Continent if the best results are to be
achieved, since only on the Continent can they study in that "Musical
Atmosphere" which is so essential a surrounding for one who essays an
artistic career.  Even if prolonged study on the Continent is out of the
question, it is advisable, at all costs, for Continental musical centres
to be visited.  No musical education can otherwise be complete.

You must not think that I wish to run down English masters.  Quite the
contrary: I think you can get just as good masters here as abroad.  It
is simply the question of "Atmosphere"—surroundings. There is no city in
England where the pupil can study amid such surroundings that music and
artistic ideas and ideals hem him in on every side, so that they meet
him whichever way he turns, and so that the feeling that music is the
only thing in the world remains with him, waking and sleeping, during
the whole period of his study.

Only when surrounded by such an Atmosphere can the student be properly
developed where his musical ideas are concerned, for only these
surroundings can develop that artistic temperament which is so

And apart from the question of Musical Atmosphere, seeing that a singer
is frequently called upon to render songs in French, German, and
Italian, it is necessary that those languages should be studied in
France, Germany, and Italy, if perfection is to be acquired.

It is a very grave fault of our musical colleges and academies that they
employ, as a rule, English teachers to give instruction in foreign
languages. If in one’s student days one had a good master for these
languages—a Frenchman to teach French, a German to teach German, and so
on—it would be of the greatest possible assistance, and would save a
considerable amount of time and labour, since so much less would have to
be unlearned. It is not too much to say, I think, that our musical
institutions will never reach the highest point of their utility till
they do this.

But before learning to sing in foreign languages at all, it is essential
that pupils should learn to sing in their own language.  Masters in this
country teach their pupils to sing passably in French, Italian, and
German, but directly they attempt to sing in English one is horrified to
find that their enunciation is so bad that it is impossible to
understand the words they sing, and almost out of the question to tell
what language they are singing in!  Surely it should be the first object
of the teacher to instruct his pupils in the singing of their own

I verily believe that the reason why our language is looked down upon
for singing in is because so many of our native singers do not know how
to sing it properly.  There are much harder sounds in the German
language, for instance.  Yet German songs are constantly sung by singers
of every nationality.  How often does one hear of English songs being
sung in France, Germany or Italy by French, German, and Italian singers?
Even when they give recitals over here their programmes seldom include
an English song, and one is even more struck by so many of our own
vocalists giving recitals at which often not a single song in English is

When English is properly sung, it is as easy to sing in, and as
beautiful to listen to, as any other language, and if students were
taught how to sing it, its popularity among singers would, I feel
convinced, quickly spread.

I remember very well indeed singing on one occasion to Madame Marchesi
in Paris.  I boldly chose an English song, and upon coming to the end of
it, was much pleased by the tribute Madame Marchesi paid to our language
when she said to me, "English is beautiful when sung like that!"

It should emphatically be the first duty of a master to teach his pupils
how to use their native language, and no other should be attempted till
they can do this perfectly.  The slipshod methods so frequently met with
now would then soon disappear, and I am sure it would not be long before
other countries began to appreciate the many beauties of the English
language for singing in, and we should get more songs written by good
composers to some of our beautiful English poetry.

Before I leave this question of the master there is one other point for
me to touch upon.  Although, when once they have mastered the singing of
their own language, pupils should seek the Musical Atmosphere of the
Continent, it must be remembered that there is one branch of music which
is peculiarly our own, and which must accordingly be studied here.  I
refer to Oratorio.  England is the home of Oratorio, and consequently
this style of singing cannot be studied abroad.  And for any singer who
looks forward to entering the musical profession, careful study of this
branch is absolutely indispensable.  Oratorio is very popular here, and
English audiences will not for a moment tolerate singers who fail to
acquit themselves well when they undertake it; and as most professionals
have to do Oratorio work at one time or another, care must be taken that
the public are not given renderings which fail through lack of proper
study and application.

Oratorio entails much study and research that is unnecessary where other
branches of singing are concerned.  Not only must the whole work be
studied so that the singer may become acquainted with the full intention
of the composer, but a special study must be made of the character which
the singer is to perform, in order that all the feelings and emotions he
or she would have felt in real life may be properly understood before an
attempt is made to reproduce them.  If the best results are to be
achieved, the life, habits, failings, aims, and ambitions of the
character to be interpreted must, as far as possible, be carefully
studied and thought about, in order that the singer may better
appreciate the situations which occur, and know how the character
portrayed would have felt and acted in them.  The Bible throws
considerable light upon the life and character of most of the personages
who have a place in Oratorio, and it is therefore useful, when studying
some particular work, to examine carefully that portion of the Bible
which may throw light upon the subject.

Lastly, we come to the song, and this is a question upon which I hold
very decided views. The object of singers should be to give the greatest
amount of pleasure to their audiences, as well as to use all that is
best and highest in their art to inspire good thoughts, and raise the
mental standard of their hearers.  The larger proportion of every
audience can only follow the words of the song in English.  They can
fully appreciate the beauty of the music, I admit, and for this reason
every artist should have some of the most beautiful songs of other
countries in his or her repertoire, but it is a lamentable fact that
good translations are very rare. I like to choose as many songs as
possible in English, so that their meaning and their message can be
readily understood and appreciated by my audience.

I believe that it is within the power of an artist to actually lessen,
or, at any rate, to temporarily relieve, the cares and worries of which
each member of an audience has a share; and I am sure that the easiest
way to do so is to sing songs whose meaning, and whose message, is
immediately understandable.

In conclusion, I cannot insist too strongly upon the necessity for hard
work and perseverance for those who are to succeed in the world of
music. Too many people imagine that the "gift" is everything. But,
indeed, this is not the case, for though the "gift" is, of course,
indispensable, much application and hard work are necessary before it
can be made use of to the best advantage.  Given a voice and some
dramatic instinct, there still remains careful and laborious training to
be gone through before a singer can know how to sing a song and be able
to put that knowledge into practice.  The great thing is to be sincere,
to be individual, and to grasp at the beginning of one’s career the
impossibility of pleasing everybody, _and the necessity of being true to
oneself_, and if others see the truth differently, be deferential, and
not servile, to their alien point of view.

                          *THE GIFT OF SONG.*


                           *By MADAME MELBA.*

During the years immediately preceding my first and, for me, my most
memorable visit to Europe, the late Marquis of Normanby was Governor of
Victoria.  At that time I was regarded in Melbourne as a very good
amateur pianist, much in request for private parties, at which I always
played, and on very rare occasions also sang.  At one of these
functions, given at Government House, I gave some songs between the
pianoforte selections, and the Marchioness of Normanby, in thanking me,
said, "Child, some day you will give up the piano for singing, and then
you will become famous."

That was the simple comment that set me seriously thinking of a career
as a singer.  I had always felt that I would become a professional in
music—pianist, organist, violinist, perhaps, but something in music, at
any rate; but from that moment I knew in an irresistible way that I was
to be a singer.

That remark of the Marchioness made me understand, and determined me to
grasp "the skirts of happy chance."  I courted every semblance of
opportunity, and I see now, as then, how fateful a factor opportunity
must be with all who aim at a public career.  Even the born singer may
waste divine gifts for want of opportunity, and the possessor of highly
developed vocal talent may entirely sink into obscurity without it.

Among students of similar talent and health she who succeeds is the one
with alert mind, who is ever on the _qui vive_ for her chance.  The girl
who fails is generally lacking in mental and physical energy—too prone
to believe that opportunity on ready foot trips unsought even to the
laggard’s door.  The born or inspired singer always sings, although in
isolated cases want of opportunity may limit the sphere of those rarely
endowed people.

While it is true that the present time offers extraordinary scope for
art by reason of a wide-spread knowledge on all subjects, I think the
increased chances of success which the growing popularity of music
offers have been largely discounted by the numbers of performers and
professors who, without proper qualifications have set themselves up as
apostles of music, and unfairly and recklessly overcrowded a profession
which should be exceptionally difficult to enter.

No doubt many aspirants—I speak solely of women—are encouraged and
flattered by the fact that in the profession of music women fare better
than in any other walk of life, and the monetary reward of great singers
and teachers may be said to have reached a stage of almost extravagant

In my opinion the great singers of our day would not be so few if there
were more competent teachers and a more complete realisation of the
greatness of the task.  It is not that lovely voices are rarer than
formerly, or talent more sparingly given of God.  The piano or violin
student will devote ten years to the technique of his instrument, while
the vocalist or the teacher too often regards research at an end after
studying a year or two, or even a few months only.

Just here, however, I should like to make it plain that the student who
cannot give a promising account of herself after eighteen months’
thorough study is, to my mind, never likely to do really great things.
I do not mean for a moment that she should then be a full-fledged
singer, but that she should be able to give clear indications as to
future possibilities.

The real study actually begins after one has come before the public, and
it is to subsequent development that the most earnest attention should
be paid.  Year after year the artiste will make striking progress if
music be really in her soul, and from life and its varied experiences
she will learn interpretative nuances which no other teacher can bestow.
Let me say, too, that in this life-long study the singer must not be too
rigidly bound by the tenets of technique.  She must think and feel for
herself, and to a great extent be guided by her individuality.

In too many cases the vocal student has only the merest smattering of
knowledge about the marvellous and delicate mechanism that produces the
singing voice.  Languages and travel, too, are neglected for one reason
or another, chiefly through the spirit of haste, the desire to reach
ends by short cuts such as were unknown to the old Italian masters, who
taught on physiological principles that were, on the whole, marvellously
accurate; although in many respects we have greatly progressed since
their day.

In every country with which I am familiar—and they are many—I have been
struck by the voices maimed or entirely ruined by ignorant tuition.  Of
course it is not possible for me to hear more than a few of the students
who seek my opinion on their voices, for I frequently have thirty or
forty such applications in a single day; but almost without exception I
find those I can hear following methods which are causing positive
injury to the delicate vocal chords.

In all learned and mechanical professions certain technical tests are
insisted on before a person is accepted as an authority; but in music it
is not so. Any charlatan, whose only qualifications may be confidence
and casual observation, may set up as a teacher and persistently trick
the public, which is only too easily deceived.  I speak strongly on this
subject, having in mind the cruel vocal havoc to which I have just
referred.  Just as the engineer must know the structure and parts of his
engine, or the architect the nature and relative values of material as
well as the principles of design, so must the would-be singer understand
the easily injured structure and delicate functions of voice mechanism.

A knowledge of the structure of the larynx, and the general muscular
mechanism of voice-production, unequalled in delicacy anywhere in the
human body save perhaps in eye and ear, will be a revelation, a very
helpful revelation, to the student. And unless the structure of the
larynx be understood, the "attack," or application of the air blast to
the vocal strands, cannot be perfect.

If the student seeks the best, she must get a complete understanding of
the methods of the old Italian masters, as sculptors turn to the Greek
for what is soundest and noblest in the plastic art. Together with this
recommendation, I join my condemnation of the tremolo and "white" voice
so dear to many Italian singers.

I cannot too forcibly insist that the mere possession of a lovely voice
is only the basis of vocal art. Nature occasionally startles one by the
prodigality of her gifts, but no student has any right to expect to sing
by inspiration, any more than an athlete may expect to win a race
because he is naturally fleet of foot.

Methods of breathing, "attack," and the use of the registers must all be
perfectly understood by the successful singer, who should likewise be
complete master of all details relating to the structure and use of
those parts above the voice box, and be convinced of the necessity of a
perfectly controlled chest expansion in the production of tone.

For perfect singing, correct breathing, strange as it may sound, is even
more essential than a beautiful voice.  No matter how exquisite the
vocal organ may be, its beauty cannot be adequately demonstrated without
proper breath control.  Here is one of the old Italian secrets which
many singers of to-day wholly lack, because they are unwilling to give
the necessary time for the full development of breathing power and
control.  Phrasing, tone, resonance, expression, all depend upon
respiration; and in my opinion musical students, even when too young to
be allowed the free use of the voice, should be thoroughly taught the
principles of breathing.

Indeed, the science of taking breath is a study peculiarly suited to the
years of childhood and adolescence; for apart from other considerations,
there are few things so conducive to good health as good breathing.
And, owing to the greater elasticity of the human frame in the time of
youth, the chest is then more easily developed and expanded.

Any exercises that give strength to the diaphragm are of special value,
since this is the principal muscle of inspiration.  Expiration, however,
is not so easily controlled as inspiration, and on that score calls for
the most careful practice. Faulty or hurried breathing always interferes
with the true vibration of the vocal strands, and all circumstances that
tend toward either should be scrupulously avoided; more especially at
the time of a singer’s first entrance on the stage or concert platform,
which is always a moment of nervousness and doubt.

It is an excellent practice for a nervous singer to take a few deep
breaths on entering, and the inexperienced should avoid numbers with
exacting opening bars.

Few people, by the way, realise how much even the most famous of singers
is at the mercy of the audience, and how a wave of indifference or
apathy borne from the serried thousands of a theatre or concert-hall can
often take all the colour out of the loveliest voice, and all the
necessary abandon out of an interpretation.  I have known some of the
greatest singers of our day—and myself, too—to fall incredibly below
their normal standard for no other reason than that of irresponsiveness
on the part of their audience. In this respect I confess I am myself
extremely sensitive.  I can almost always give my best when I feel that
the heart of the audience bids me excel.

Even a good general knowledge of music does not imply knowledge of
scientific voice production. Correct vocalisation is only possible on
strict physiological principles.  I insist upon this, because it is
rational and logical.  In this way faults are better recognised and
explained; the student may the more surely guide her own development or
effectively restore an injured voice, and generally advance her physical
welfare, which is a vital point.

Therefore those who do not believe in attainment through patient and
intelligent labour would do well to abandon an art career, for that way
lies disappointment.  "Hasten slowly" applies supremely in the highest
voice culture; but, unhappily, this is not the note of our age.

According to my idea, the student of singing can best learn this subtle
and complex art in those centres where music has been longest
established and most generally practised; where it is, in a word, part
of the daily life of the people rather than the recreation or luxury of
the few.  For this reason I consistently recommend study in Italy,
France, and Germany, and particularly for American, Canadian, English,
and Australian students.  I put my own country last, in the spirit of
courtesy; but as a producer of voices it really ought to come first in

As I have said, I am opposed to every girl with a little knowledge of
music embracing the art as a profession merely because she considers it
more "genteel" than other avenues to earning a livelihood. A girl should
have some real qualification before she looks forward to becoming a
professional singer.  Kindly and necessarily biassed compliments from
relatives and friends on the singing of a few ballads in the home-circle
or at an amateur concert should not be sufficient to thrust her upon the
patience of the musical public.  High and unprejudiced authority should
be sought for her guidance, preferably from a singer who knows the
conditions and atmosphere of the world’s greatest musical centres.

In this regard a person who has had only local experience cannot
possibly be a good judge of what is needed for the career of a great
singer. An invaluable factor in musical success is the study of foreign
languages.  These are always most successfully acquired in the countries
where they are the native tongue.

Thus, residence in the established centres of music in the Old World and
intimacy with their language and traditions give the student a surety
and authority in her work that cannot possibly be gained in any other
way.  Of course, robust physical health is of paramount importance.
Without it a great vocal career is absolutely barred.

I admit that there is much in a singer’s life conducive to this physical
robustness; as, for example, the vigorous use of the breathing
apparatus.  But this may be more than counteracted by late hours, much
travelling by night, concentrated efforts, and disappointment resulting
from the caprice of public taste or other causes.  Plenty of fresh air,
plain food, a reasonable amount of exercise, and eight or nine hours’
sleep are all necessary to the young singer, whose larynx is quick to
reflect the general physical condition.

At the same time, common sense and individual temperament should be the
best of all health rules. I myself always suffer in a steam-heated
apartment; I consider the general overheating in America a menace, and
never allow the temperature of my rooms to rise above 60 degrees; while
at the same time the whole range of my apartments is continually
freshened with pure air.

The singer should aim at becoming a hardy plant rather than a hot-house
flower.  I know that a girl with a voice receives a painful revelation
of the delicacy of her vocal organs when she passes from a superheated
room to the low temperature of a winter’s day outside.  But I consider
dry feet far more important than the muffling up of the throat on raw,
slushy days.

A singer’s diet should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.  I
myself take for breakfast only a cup of tea and a little toast.  At
luncheon I have a cutlet or a little chicken, some stewed fruit, with a
light salad, but no rich food.  My chief meal is, of course, dinner,
which I take rather late at night, generally at 7.45, unless I am
singing, when I take a light—very light—meal about five in the

A question often asked me is, "How early should a girl begin the more
serious business of voice culture?"  Never before she is seventeen.
Even a limited study before that age will interfere with the development
of the vocal organs, and perhaps do them serious injury.  Among my daily
letters are many from girls of fifteen and sixteen asking for a hearing;
but I always tell them they are too young, however promising.  As to the
age limit the other way, I feel it would be impossible to give any good
general advice.

I would point out, in this connection, that some artists of world-wide
repute are singing as well today as they did twenty years ago, while
others have broken down in a few short years, or have become hopelessly
defective in their vocal results.  It is all a question of correct or
incorrect methods.

Apropos of the need for foreign languages, I recall an amusing episode.
Not long after my début in Brussels as Gilda in "Rigoletto," I began to
study the opera of "Lakmé" under the direction of Delibes, its composer.
But my pronunciation of French at that time was evidently considered by
the directors of the opera as the French of Stratford-atte-Bowe, and
they doubted whether I ought to sing in "Lakmé" at all.  One day, much
perplexed in council, they sent for the composer, and told him their
troubles.  "Qu’elle chante en chinois, si elle veut," cried Delibes,
pounding the table with angry fist, "mais qu’elle chante mon opéra!"
("She may sing in Chinese if she likes, so long as she sings my opera.")
But I was really backward in French, and on that account set to work and
studied no less than six hours a day under a thoroughly competent
Brussels teacher.

At the same time, I should warn the student to be careful not to overdo
her work, in her enthusiasm for all the musical advantages she sees
about her.  I think music should be thoroughly known before it is sung.
It is a serious tax on the voice to sit down at the piano and try to
sing an aria with which the singer is not familiar.  Half an hour’s
practice is enough, unless the student has exceptional physique; in that
case I should say half an hour every morning and afternoon.

I have met scores of students abroad whose mistaken diligence impels
them to practise for hours at a stretch.  Such an error may do
irretrievable harm to a voice.  It is well to realise that the entire
vocal mechanism is an exquisitely delicate instrument, capable of being
played upon by its owner in a way almost impersonal, so that ignorance
may mean fatal injury.  For this reason no enthusiasm would induce
practice to the extent of tiring the voice.

As to how long this foreign study should last, this, of course, depends
upon the mental capacity of the student.  Young singers of many nations
cite to me my own case; for after nine months’ study in Paris, I came
out as a full-fledged prima donna at the Brussels Opera House.  But I
may say at once that mine was an exceptional case, for I was born with a
natural trill and an absolute control of breath, so that as a child of
seven I was as far advanced naturally as some mature students are after
years of patient study.

In connection with the natural trill, my fellow-pupils at college in
East Melbourne, Australia, used to gather round me and say curiously,
"Nellie, make that funny noise in your throat."  It amused them.  But to
assume that the _bel canto_ of perfect technique is to be acquired after
nine months’ foreign study would be unwise.  On the other hand, as I
have already stated, if a girl cannot give good account of herself after
eighteen months’ serious study, I think she is not destined to
illuminate vocal art.

Still, any ordinary term spent in vocal study cannot be regarded as
wasted, for no system of physical exercise is so beneficial to a woman
as that involved in the higher branches of vocal culture. At least the
disappointed one carries back with her a pleasing and expressive voice
for ordinary conversation.  Here is a matter to which little attention
is paid, yet how much pleasure does a beautiful speaking voice convey!
It is surely a valuable asset all through life.

As to extraneous aids to vocal study, there is none so beneficial as the
constant hearing of great singers in the roles which have secured them
fame. Indeed, no matter what branch of music a girl selects for her
special study, I should strongly urge her to hear all the fine music
possible, whether opera, orchestra, concert, or oratorio.  She can learn
something valuable from all.  Let me emphasise this point, for in this
way the student will see theory put into practice.  It is as if a young
painter should visit the marvellous Tribuna of the Uffizi Palace in
Florence, where the supreme examples of the great masters are hung; or
the young sculptor should study Michel Angelo in the vast galleries of
the Vatican.  Thus no opportunity of hearing accepted interpreters
should be lost.

The student who goes to Europe, of course, has exceptional opportunities
all the year round; but the American or English girl can hear in New
York or London during the musical season a combination of singers,
conductors, and instrumentalists that is the best of the entire musical

In addition, she should read everything authoritative on music and
musicians, at the same time _not_ confining herself to musical subjects.
For a wide and wise reading of everything that broadens the mind and
gives one a truer knowledge of art and nature is of supreme importance.
Nothing so helps the interpretative sense as a fine and cultivated
imagination, and an appreciation of nature’s beauties, great paintings,
statuary, and the best literature gives one an artistic grasp not
possible to the student who is merely well informed on musical matters.

While I am a strong advocate of foreign study, I think it a pity that so
many American and British students elect to swell permanently the
over-crowded ranks of the musical profession on the continent of Europe
instead of returning to the less crowded centres of their home lands,
and giving their compatriots the benefit of their experience and
example.  It is given to few of us to attain world prominence, and those
to whom such fame is manifestly impossible should not fear to try for
the best their own country offers, which may be a great and dignified

Adequate study in Europe requires a good deal of money.  For most young
girls a chaperon or companion is essential; although there are a number
of places where a solitary young student may find the comfort and the
protection of a home. Where this is possible the expenses are naturally
much less.

The leading professors on the Continent charge from a guinea to two
guineas a lesson, with a certain reduction of an extended term.  Three
lessons a week are usual.  As to the expenses of living, even on the
most moderate scale they cannot be reasonably estimated at less than
five guineas a week for board, dress, allowance, concert and opera
tickets, and general expenses.  This, with lessons extending over
eighteen months or more, runs into a considerable sum.

To the student with wealth as well as voice the way would appear smooth;
yet I would offer a word of warning.  First, the flattery of friends and
possibly unscrupulous advisers is dangerous. Besides, the fact of
affluence tends to diminish the sense of responsibility.  Money, it must
be borne in mind, cannot buy purity of tone, temperament, or correct
breathing.  These entail hard work, even with natural gifts.  One cannot
buy brains with money, or even the ability to appreciate the brains of
others, and the loveliest voice that ever charmed the world must be
guided and used through the intellect; otherwise it must fall far short
of the highest standard.

The point is that a wealthy student may become slack, and forget how
wide must be the culture of a great singer.  A complete study of piano,
counterpoint, and harmony are as necessary as grammar to the spoken
language; and all that is best in this big, busy world must be seized
upon and brought into service, for divine music is an exigent goddess.

The poor student with an exceptional voice is unfortunately placed, and
advice to her must be of a negative kind.  She may fall into the mistake
of thinking that if she can get into choir or chorus she will be
advancing to some extent.  But while a well-trained voice may be used in
a chorus without serious harm, the girl who knows nothing about placing
her voice, and is prodigal in the use of it, may find chorus work most

Many ambitious young women save money with the aim of attending a
musical college.  This is an education I never advocate, for I believe
in individual training.  No student can attain the best results in a
class where personal supervision is a matter of perfunctory duty.
Certainly good singers have come from musical colleges, but they have
had temperament and personality such as rise above the system.  And to
work at any trade or profession while cultivating the voice is a
questionable arrangement, for the student takes vitality from the voice
and places it in another direction.

I doubt if one could with correctness summarily assign characteristics
to the vocal students of the different nations; and, besides, one likes
to think of music as cosmopolitan—universal in its inspiration and
influence.  The Italian girl is perhaps the readiest to help her song by
facial expression, the French girl the first to master the poetic
message, and the German the most thorough in all-round pursuit of
musical knowledge.  Many American and British students are too easily
satisfied, and often, on securing a certain measure of success at their
first public appearance, refrain from further study at the very time
that their work should be regarded as beginning in real earnest.

As to the voices of the different nations with which I am familiar, it
is a difficult and thankless task to summarise them within the
inadequate limit of a few lines.  I should say, however, that the voices
of Italy are the most natural.  They are the voices of the sun; just as
in my native land, Australia, the Italy of the southern hemisphere, the
voices seem to glint and vibrate as it with liquid sunlight.  There is
in these Southern voices a resonance rarely found in voices of the

As to Germany, I should say that the singing voices are more the result
of science than of nature—less buoyant, less responsive, yet superb in
their own way.  The great singers of France, to my mind, could be more
accurately described as great _diseurs_, so exquisitely are they
practised in the art of diction.  No singers so effectively show the
beauty or importance of the words sung.

The cosmopolitan conditions of America seem to me to have so far
militated against the development of any particular voice or school that
could be accurately labelled "American," while the English voices are
particularly adapted for concert and oratorio singing.

Owing to the characteristic reserve of the English people, they are, as
a rule, slow to commit themselves to that temperamental abandon which is
essential to operatic interpretation.  I am, however, glad to be able to
say without any reserve that I consider the English choruses the finest
in the world.  I refer more specially to the great choirs heard at the
English musical festivals. What volume and beauty of tone, what
precision and light and shade, are embodied in their work! Personally,
if I can be said to dislike any form of music, it is oratorio; but when
I hear an English chorus at a festival in Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, or
Worcester, I am almost persuaded to become an oratorio enthusiast.

This paper would not be complete without some reference to personal
appearance as an asset in a singer’s career.  There is much suggestion,
expression even, in the turn of a curl.  The woman who knows how to
"make up" effectively is more of an artist than the one who does not.
The whole thing makes for artistic completeness.

I have known handsome women appear unattractive on the stage or platform
merely because they relied entirely on their natural physical gifts
without considering how these were affected by the space, and structural
and lighting conditions, of the building in which they sang.  There are
cases where good looks are the main reason for the exploitation of a
singer; but such favour is bound to be short-lived, and no artistic
reputation can be long maintained on so false a basis.

As to securing an introduction to the public, I have little to say
beyond the fact that ability will surely find its way.  In my own path
great obstacles were placed, but I do not think anything in this world
could have hindered me from becoming a singer.  I have sung to an
audience of two, and such was my girlish enthusiasm that I have even
acted as my own billposter, with a pot of paste procured from a hotel
kitchen.  The occasion was a chanty concert at an Australian seaside
resort for the purpose of repairing a neglected country cemetery.  Later
I had to abandon proposed concerts because there was not enough support
to pay for the lighting of the hall.  Yet I persevered, and my chance
came.  It is well to aim at the highest, yet in my heart of hearts I
believe that every really great singer is born rather than made.

No teacher living can impart temperament and an infallible ear for
music.  A perfect chest, larynx, and resonance chambers are also gifts
of God; and so, too, are the musical intuition, the ravishing voice, the
industry, the ambition, and the perfect physical health, which are all
attributes of vocalists who have become really great.

But below that heavenly gifted circle there are many niches which should
be filled, not by casual observers, but by qualified musicians, to whom
hard and patient work has brought attainments second only to those
fortunate creatures who have sprung into the musical arena, like
Minerva, fully equipped.


                          *By ENRICO CARUSO.*

It has often struck me, in a lengthy experience as a singer, that there
is one point in particular about the human voice which is far too little
appreciated by the rising generation of aspiring vocalists, and that is
its wonderful reciprocity. Tend it, nurse it, "feed it on a proper
diet," and it will invariably comport itself in the most amiable manner
possible.  But neglect it, treat it as an organ which is best left to
look after itself, and the voice will at once, in revenge for this
callous behaviour, retaliate by behaving itself in a manner which is
perhaps best described as of the "hooliganistic" order.

And yet, as an actual fact, but a very small percentage indeed of
would-be singers ever really seem to think it worth their while to bear
in mind this axiom, for axiom it surely is, that the voice requires
proper care and proper exercise to keep it in its best form just as much
as is a certain amount of exercise necessary to the maintenance of good
health in every human being.

Unfortunately, however, there would seem to be a prevalent impression
among many amateur and not a few professional singers that singing is an
art which can be acquired in quite a short time. Thus, is it not curious
that while many students of the piano or the violin will willingly
devote years of strenuous and conscientious practice to the study of the
technique of these instruments, would-be singers frequently seem to
expect to learn how to use their voice to the best advantage after a
period of vocal practice extending, maybe, over a year or so, but more
often even over only a few months? This policy, I need scarcely remark,
is absolutely ruinous to the future careers of young singers, for no
matter how naturally talented any individual vocalist may be, he or she
cannot possibly produce the best results as a singer unless the
particular organs brought into play in the process of singing have been
subjected to a proper and sufficiently long course of training.  Since
the days of the old Italian masters there can be no shadow of doubt
that, musically, we have advanced considerably; but sometimes, when I
think of the rather slipshod methods of cultivating the voice advocated
by many so-called "professors" to-day, the thought impresses itself on
my mind that the detailed principles of the old Italian masters who,
above all other considerations, insisted on a long course of voice
training as being the only possible means to the attainment of the best
art, possessed more to recommend them than do many of the modern
"artifices" of voice-cultivation proffered by many teachers of singing

In a short article, of course, it is obviously impossible to go in
detail into all the rules which should be observed by singers who are
prepared to undertake the task of cultivating their voices on a
conscientious and sound basis.  At the same time, I hope to be able to
suggest various hints and wrinkles which should prove of real value to
aspiring singers.

In the first place, therefore, let me say at once that it is the most
fatal of all errors for a singer to make too much use of the voice, for
the muscles of the larynx are so delicate that they cannot possibly
stand the strain of the "learn-to-sing-in-a-hurry" methods of those who
hope to attain the highest point of proficiency without devoting
sufficient time to that "drudgery" which is absolutely essential to the
real and perfect cultivation of the voice.

For this all-important reason I would counsel singers to see to it at
all times that in the early days of their training they do not devote
too much time to practice.  If they will take my advice, until they
become thoroughly proficient in "managing" the voice—a happy state of
affairs which can only be acquired after long practice—they will at
first never devote more than fifteen minutes a day—in the early morning
is, perhaps, the best time—to practice.  I can readily realise that this
must seem a very short time to enthusiasts who are willing to give up
all their spare time to the study of voice cultivation, but it is,
nevertheless, quite long enough, for the slightest strain put upon the
voice may retard a singer’s progress by months, while, on the other
hand, as I pointed out at the beginning of this article, if the singer
will only bear in mind that the voice requires the most careful
"nursing" of perhaps all the organs, and must on no account be strained,
he will soon find that, though he may not be aware of any improvement in
it, his voice is, nevertheless, slowly but surely improving and gaining
in strength through his gradually-growing knowledge of technique.

Another point in the cultivation of the voice which I often think is not
sufficiently strongly emphasised to-day is the fact that young singers
can improve their methods in the most extraordinarily rapid manner by
studying the methods of other and more experienced singers.  In singing,
as in the cultivation of the other arts, in time the student will get
what he works for, but it is surely unreasonable for him to expect to
sing effectively by his own inspiration.  He will be wise, therefore, to
seize every opportunity of studying as closely as possible the methods
of those who have thoroughly mastered the technique of singing.  For
true art, of course, there must be more than technique, but I would
point out that in singing there is no art without sound methods of
execution, which, after all, to all intents and purposes constitute
technique. In the cultivation of expression, technique, and sympathy in
the voice, there is no better teacher than "a visit to the opera."
Still, I make no doubt that of the hundreds of aspiring singers who
visit the opera during the season but very few indeed would care to go
through the years of drudgery as conscientiously as have those who seem
to sing so easily and to combine the art of acting and singing at the
same time with equal facility.  After all, the highest art lies in the
concealment of that art, and I take it that it is because a really
proficient opera singer accomplishes his performance with such apparent
ease that the difficulties of operatic singing are so little

Still, as I have said, I am strongly of the opinion that young singers
can learn much from studying the methods of operatic vocalists, that is
to say, when they have mastered the rudiments of voice cultivation, into
which I need not enter here, for my object is rather to show singers
various methods by which they can attain the highest art when they have
served a sufficient apprenticeship under masters whose duty it is to
teach them the elementary rules of singing.

For my own part, I find that a singer’s life, with its constant
rehearsals and performances, is such a busy one that not much
opportunity is allowed him for indulging in outdoor exercise.  Many
other enthusiastic singers doubtless find themselves situated in very
similar straits, not perhaps on account of their public engagements, but
through the "calls" made upon their time by business, social, or
domestic duties.  In the cultivation of the voice, however, a certain
amount of exercise is essential to good health, as, by the same token,
is good health a _sine quâ non_ to the attainment of the highest art in
singing.  It may be of service, therefore, if I explain the rules I
observe when I find the calls upon my time too numerous to enable me to
get as much exercise as I should otherwise like.

No matter how busy I am, when I rise in the morning I invariably indulge
in a few simple physical exercises, similar in character to those I used
to practise when, as a young man, the time came for me to serve my king
and country as a _soldato_, or, if I feel that these are becoming
monotonous, for a few minutes I find practice with a pair of
dumb-bells—not too heavy, by the way—very beneficial.  But save these
mild forms of relaxation I have, as a rule, to rest content with, in the
way of outdoor exercise, an occasional motor drive.  Nevertheless, I
would point out that, in itself, singing, with its constant deep
inhalation, is by no means inconsiderable exercise, though, to be sure,
I am well aware that it cannot be so health-giving in its effects as
actual exercise in the open air.

Yes, past a doubt, young singers can learn much about the highest art of
the cultivation of the voice from watching the knowledge of technique of
our best operatic artists, and from observing their methods of
"managing" the voice.  Still, to thoroughly grasp the progress of the
opera-singer’s art, it will be necessary for students to appreciate the
fact that Italian singing has had two important culminating periods,
each of which was illustrated by a group of great singers, the first of
which was made up of pupils of Bernacchi, Pistocchi, Francesca Cuzzoni,
and other contemporary teachers.  These great singers brought the art of
_bel canto_ to as near a state of perfection as has ever been known.
But one has to remember the conditions under which they sang.

Thus Victor Maurel writes:—"In the days of the schools of the art of
_bel canto_ the masters did not have to take truth for expression
(_l’expression juste_) into account, for the singer was not required to
render the sentiments of the _dramatis personæ_ with verisimilitude; all
that was demanded of him was harmonious sounds, the _bel canto_."  In
other words, all that the singer had to do was to sing, for the emotions
themselves had not to be portrayed, the psychical character of the
_dramatis personæ_ not being taken into account.

In consequence, the perfection of the singer’s voice was but slightly
interfered with, as, at most, he had little or no acting to do, a
conventional oratorical gesture or two being considered quite sufficient
for the fashion of the period.  And it is scarcely necessary to remark
that the great singers of this period were skilful enough musicians to
prevent such unimportant gestures, which hardly deserve the dignity of
the name of acting, from being an obstacle to the high quality of their

In the second period of Italian singing, however, the period which
coincides with the Rossini-Donizetti-Bellini period of opera in its
heydey, the conditions, we find, were greatly altered.  The music at
this time was at once more dramatic and more scenic, and although the
singing was still _bel canto_, the opera singer of the period was called
upon not only to sing well, but to sing dramatically, though it must be
said that the music itself provided larger scope for the actor’s art, in
that it gave more favourable opportunity for specialising and
differentiating the emotions.

In "The Opera Past and Present" we find the following intensely
interesting allusion to these two great culminating periods of Italian
singing:—"A comparison of these two periods of Italian singing indicates
the direction matters have taken with the opera singer from Handel’s
time to our own. From then to now he has had to face an ever-increasing
accumulation of untoward conditions; his professional work has become
more and more complicated.  From Rossini’s time down to this the purely
musical difficulties he has had to face have been constantly on the
increase—complexity of musical structure, rhythmic complications,
hazardous intonations.

"He has to fight against the more and more brilliant style of
instrumentation, often pushed to a point where the greatest stress of
vocal effort is required of him to make himself heard above the
orchestral din; more and better acting is demanded of him, he finds the
vague generalities of histrionism no longer of avail; for these must
make way for a highly specialised, real-seeming dramatic impersonation;
intellectually and physically his task has been doubled and trebled.
Above all, the sheer nervous tension of situations and music has so
increased as to make due self-control on his part less easy.  The opera
singer’s position to-day is verily no joke; he has to face and conquer
difficulties such as the great _bel cantists_ of the Handel period never
dreamt of."

It has ever been my contention that the conscientious artist should
carefully read and re-read the whole libretto, so as to inform himself
of the poet’s purpose and meaning in the construction and development of
the plot, as well as to ever bear in mind his conception of the
composer’s idea of how the poetry and the various aspects of mind of the
characters should be aptly and effectively musicked and interpreted so
as to awaken a kindred, or appreciative, feeling in the minds of his

Besides this, the opera singer who aspires to rise to great heights must
possess a keen nervous susceptibility, for only a man or woman of high
nervous temperament can reasonably hope to succeed as a lyrico-dramatic
artist.  Again, in the great operas a most severe strain is placed upon
the leading singers, for while they are portraying various
emotions—-Love, Hate, Rage, or Laughter—they have, at the same time, to
watch the conductor with most minute care lest they fail in time and

In fine, though I think but few other than really conscientious students
of singing entirely appreciate the fact, the opera-singer of to-day is
called upon to possess a far greater knowledge of vocal technique than
was ever demanded of him before in the history of singing, as those
"good and golden days"—golden only to the moderate performer with but
little ambition—when the singer who perhaps scarcely knew more than a
few notes of music could, nevertheless, still arouse the plaudits of the
public are gone—never to return.

I hope, by the way, that it will not be thought that I have entered too
technically into the requirements demanded from an aspirant to operatic
fame to-day.  I scarcely think, however, that I can have done so, for I
feel sure every really aspiring vocalist would prefer to know the exact
heights to which he must cultivate his voice either on the operatic
stage or concert platform, or even for the drawing-room, that is to say,
if he is ever to make a great name for himself in preference to resting
content to remain one of the "moderates," of which the musical
profession is altogether already too full, not because there is a lack
of singers with good voices, but largely, as I have always maintained,
because there is a far too prevalent tendency amongst singers these days
to shirk the real hard work which must be accomplished before lasting
success can be attained.

In conclusion, in order to allow singers’ voices to develop in a
satisfactory manner, let me counsel them never to attempt those
selections in public the range of which taxes and strains them to the
utmost, for when a singer "exceeds" his proper range injury to the
throat is always liable to follow. Better rather, therefore, is it that
a song should be transposed to a lower key if a singer is determined to
attempt it than that the voice should be unduly taxed.

And now I will say _addio_, though I would add that it is my sincere
hope that some of the few hints I have given on the cultivation of the
voice and of the heights of excellence to which ambitious singers should
aspire may prove of real value to those with sufficient pluck to face
the task of studying the art of the cultivation of the voice in a really
conscientious manner.  Hard work accomplishes wonders where the voice is
concerned.  Let me, therefore, counsel singers never to despair of
attaining a state as near to perfection as possible, for it is those who
are most alive to their own imperfections who will assuredly "go
farthest" in the singing world.


                            *By BEN DAVIES.*

To a certain extent it must be admitted at once that it is undoubtedly
true that there is no royal, infallible road to success in the
acquirement of perfect mastery over any art.  At the same time, however,
I would lay particular stress on the fact that it is equally true that
there are not a few hints and wrinkles which, if studiously borne in
mind and practised, must inevitably prove of real value to all who will
apply themselves to these said words of advice in a thoroughly
whole-hearted manner.

And, in particular, this somewhat trite aphorism applies with great
force to the art of learning to sing, for the human voice, as every
conscientious student of music must be well aware, is an exceptionally
responsive organ.  Neglect it, and it will assuredly "run to seed"; tend
it carefully, cultivate it in a common-sense manner, give it time to
"grow up," and it will reward you for your pains a hundredfold.

Let me, therefore, try and give a few hints based on an experience
extending over more years than I sometimes care to think about, which I
trust will prove of real value to aspiring singers.  I have already said
that there is no royal road to success in the art of learning to sing,
but, nevertheless, the possessor of a moderate voice can improve his or
her voice in a most gratifying manner by studying in the right way.  Bad
habits in singing are peculiarly difficult to rid oneself of; it is well
to avoid the risk of acquiring those bad habits by setting out on the
right road at once.  And having started, push forward with unfailing
energy and courage.

In the first place I would counsel the ambitious singer, before
proceeding with the development of the voice to ascertain its real
character and quality. Thus, some voices, to the ear of the trained
expert, although they may be actually untrained and undeveloped,
nevertheless possess a decided and marked quality when still
uncultivated, while, on the other hand, there are other voices whose
positive nature it is far from easy to determine.  I would therefore
emphasise the fact that it is not upon its range and extent that the
real character of any individual voice depends, but rather upon its
quality and timbre.

I would lay stress, too, on another point—namely, that the real power of
expression is found in the middle quality of every voice, and that it is
not force which tends to make this middle quality full and resonant, but
the cultivated ease and steadiness by which the vocal sounds are
produced and sustained.  There is nothing more painful to the ear of an
expert musician than to hear a singer forcing his voice in an effort to
produce an effect of expansion and vibration.  Would-be artistic singers
should thus nurse their voices with unfailing care, for ease and
steadiness are infinitely more artistic than forcing the voice.

I will not here enter into the question of what particular exercises the
student should follow in his or her early days, for such matters are too
elementary a kind and can safely be trusted to any competent teacher.
At the same time I would point out that the careful vocal student will
be wise to adopt the style of music best adapted to his or her voice,
for, obvious though this point should be, it is none the less true that
many singers overlook the fact that to give the voice an adequate chance
of developing it should be cultivated and "fed" upon the particular
style of music for which Nature would seem to have given it birth.

Again, I am taking it for granted that the singer has safely weathered
the storms inseparable from the initial or drudgery side of voice
cultivation—particular care should be exercised in the selection of
songs, for I have frequently noted that many singers who should surely
have known better, have, nevertheless, frequently failed to give their
voices a chance of showing their real merit by selecting songs utterly
unsuited to them.  Thus, maybe, a male singer has gone out of his way to
select a song especially intended for a lady, while the latter has shown
a pronounced predilection for singing songs intended solely for men.
The result of such an unwise selection is surely best left to the

And now let me say a few words about the manner in which students should
study their musical compositions.  Almost every singer possibly
possesses some small peculiarity in this respect, but I think I cannot
do better than quote the system of study followed out by those two great
artists, Grisi and Mario; for, frankly, to a great extent their methods
may, among future generations, well become "standard methods."

"In studying any new composition, whether the most important opera, or
the simplest ballad, they followed a set plan.  It was this: the words
were first considered, and when the intention and meaning of the text
had been clearly ascertained and fully understood, then, and not till
then, the music with which it was associated, was learnt by heart—every
salient feature and opportunity for effect being most carefully thought
over and decided upon."

"It was one of Mario’s maxims, that unless a singer had all he was
singing about thoroughly in his head, as well as in his throat, he could
never do himself justice."

"’But,’ he used to say, ’if you get as familiar as you should be with
your work, then, when you are in the humour, and in good voice, you can
let yourself go, with the certainty almost of producing the effect you
intend upon your audience—that is to say, if you ever have any moments
of inspiration.’"

"Whether in considering the dramatic effects to be made by ’Raoul and
Valentina,’ or in taking in hand ’Good-bye, Sweetheart,’ or ’The
Minstrel Boy,’ the plan they followed was the same.  The words were
thought of first, then the music, and, with the words and music
combined, particular attention was given to the points to be dwelt on
and made prominent.  These latter were not allowed to be too frequent,
but were so chosen as to make the deepest impression."

"The importance of such a plan as this can hardly be overrated.  It
seems not only to ensure singing with intelligence, but to save a singer
very much unnecessary exertion, by marking down the intervals where
energy has to be used, as well as those where the voice may, so to
speak, be nursed and kept in reserve."

Speaking of a pianoforte accompaniment, Mario used to say, "The art of
accompanying is displayed in the following, aiding, and supporting the
singer; not in hurrying him, nor in drowning his voice."

An accompanist, in his opinion, should never be timid; but, if uncertain
of the notes to be played, should, nevertheless, strike them firmly and
courageously, otherwise the singer gets confused, loses confidence in
himself and the accompaniment, and the effect intended to be produced
suffers irretrievably in consequence.

I would commend a study of this system to the aspiring singer, with
every confidence that, if he follows out the said methods, he will be
assuredly pursuing a policy than which there can be few better.

It may not now be out of place if I say a few words on the act of
production of the voice.  Many beginners thus make the mistake of
imagining that to give the voice a proper chance of expanding to the
full it is necessary that the mouth should be opened wide in the act of

This, however, is quite an erroneous idea, for, as a matter of actual,
hard fact, the mouth should not be too open when the act of singing is
taking place, though I would point out that when it is opening the jaws
should be allowed to fall in a natural manner—in other words, by their
own weight—while, if the lips are, at the same time, pressed gently
against the teeth, the mouth naturally assumes a pleasant form.  There
is nothing more appalling than to watch a singer indulging in
exaggerated facial contortions which may perhaps impress a musical tyro
as "imposing," but which, nevertheless, are actually more often than not
nothing but a species of absurd affectation.

The management of the breath, of course, is to a great extent a distinct
and separate study in singing, though I may perhaps be allowed to say
that absolute control of the breath is a _sine quâ non_ to perfect
enunciation.  It will be well, therefore, for every really ambitious
singer to see to it that his or her master possesses a thoroughly sound
knowledge of managing the breath; otherwise, all too early in their
careers, they may acquire habits which they will find extremely
difficult to break, for experience has taught me that, as far as singing
is concerned, bad habits are possessed of unpleasantly tenacious

As far as the position of the body in singing is concerned, the old-time
rule that the shoulders should be thrown back firmly and naturally is as
"in order" to-day as it was thirty years ago, while that the chest
should be steadily and not hurriedly expanded is also an equally sound
policy to pursue. Manual Garcia recommended the following exercises as
of great value in increasing the power and elasticity of the lungs.  I
make no apology for quoting these, as they cannot fail to prove worth
diligent study, though, especially at first, they will be found
distinctly exhausting, for which reason young singers should make a
point of practising each exercise separately.

Gently and slowly inhale for a few seconds as much air as the chest will

After taking a deep breath, exhale again very gently and slowly.

Fill the lungs, and keep them inflated for the longest possible time.

Exhale completely, and leave the chest empty as long as physical powers
will conveniently allow.

In a short article it is obviously impossible for me to go as deeply
into the art of voice production as I should like, though there is one
"aspect" of singing on which I would lay great stress—and that is the
value of colour in singing.

In a study of all the great composers and their works, to the true
student of music, it must be patent at once that their methods of
colouring vary as greatly as do the _chefs-d’oeuvre_ of masters of the

And yet, somehow or other, I do not think that I am wandering away from
the straight road of Truth when I say that, as a general rule, the
mediocre singer but seldom realises that there is such a thing as colour
in singing.  What is the result?  It is the natural result of cause and
effect. The interpretation of the ordinary singer resembles to no small
extent the work of an artist who sketches out an outline drawing which,
in detail, no doubt is accurate and thoroughly praiseworthy in every
way; but when compared to a painting with its appealing richness of tone
and colour it seems a puny thing indeed.

Yes, it is colour that the average singer utterly lacks.  But let me
hasten to say at once that for this sin of omission he or she, as the
case may be, merits no real discredit, for the simple reason that those
who have only limited time to devote to the study of singing naturally
find that their training does not, as a rule, reach the point when they
are sufficiently able exponents to be able to paint pictures with their
voices, much in the same way as does the artist paint his pictures on
canvas. And in no small measure this sin of omission is as much due to
the methods of instruction of the teacher as it is to the pupil’s lack
of advancement.

Yes, there can be no doubt that it is through lack of study of these
"finer" details in the art of singing which causes many vocalists never
to rise above the mediocre.  Technically, they may be thoroughly capable
exponents, but unless they realise the incalculable value of tone and
colour in music, they fail to extract from it its real poetical worth.
Thus, when listening to Schumann—to revert to pianoforte playing for a
moment—"they fail to wander hand in hand with the composer into some
glorious garden full of gaily-coloured flowers, through trim paths lined
by tall, stately trees. They fail to see in Schumann’s music
gaily-plumaged birds flitting here and there beneath a blue sky with the
warm rays of the sun toning everything into summer as if by fairy hand."

It was an ardent student of pianoforte playing who once thus described
to me a composition of Schumann’s as played by a real master.  And with
singing it is much the same.  For some curious reason your moderate
singer will persist in cherishing an utterly erroneous notion that every
song should be "treated" in one way—in other words, that when framing
his composition, the composer mentally decreed that, to be rendered as
he intended it should be, every singer must sink his individuality and
render it in one way—and one way only.

Was ever notion more unreasonable?  Surely it is the most glaring error
possible to imagine that because a melody is simple, because it can be
rendered by the average singer after but comparatively little practice,
it must be impossible to imbue it with beautiful effects; for no matter
how technically simple a composition may be, provided a singer possesses
real soul and a sense of poetry he or she can bring out an exquisite
beauty and colour from the music which a mere mechanical vocalist who
merely regards a simple piece as an easy piece to sing invariably fails
to recognise.

It is the thoughtless and mechanical practice of a really musical
subject which undermines the musical sense, for the practice of purely
mechanical matter should never be "dry" so long as the singer thoroughly
grasps the real objects to be attained from that practice.  In other
words, every exercise, every piece of music that is sung, ought to be
rendered with a clearly-defined object.  It seems to me that one of the
most powerful reasons why the results of years of study are so often
unsatisfactory lies in the fact that many singers are far too early
occupied with the study of compositions of every sort, adding
continually to their stock without devoting sufficient time to the
introspective study of each and every piece.

What is the inevitable outcome of this hasty and wholesale method of
"learning to sing"? Interpretations which, as I have said, are like
outline drawing, accurate enough in detail but comparatively lacking in
real soul and wanting altogether in tone and colour.  I admit at once,
as among artists we all have our favourites, so among song-writers the
works of some appeal to us more than do others, in that we respond to
one or other of them more readily than to the rest.  But, at the same
time, I would lay special emphasis on the fact that every song, however
simple, should be dealt with by the singer like a separate picture in
which specially beautiful effects may be produced, according to the
quality and variety of tone and colour.

And not until singers realise that the composition is but the raw
material waiting to be imbued with expression at their hands, waiting,
in fine, to be given life, personality, and real being, can they
thoroughly grasp the innermost meaning of music which, rendered by the
true artist, expresses more clearly than any words ever written, the
true emotions of the soul.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "How to Become a Successful Singer" ***

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