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Many and valuable are the works on 
vocal culture published of late years ; they 
unquestionably attest the growing interest 
in this important branch of art; and, al- 
though further efforts to elucidate and ex- 
pound the correct theory of the voice 
might appear superfluous, I hope to be 
pardoned for begging the privilege of con- 
tributing my little mite to the rich store of 
valuable knowledge already acquired. 

The discovery of the Laryngoscope has 
done much to solve the problem of the 
true mechanism of the human voice, 
which, for ages, was a subject of profound 
mystery. Science was not slow to take 
advantage of this new means for physio- 
logical and pathological research, and the 
important scientific discoveries recorded 
in almost countless works on the throat 



and diseases affecting it, sufficiently de- 
monstrate its glorious results. 

But has the knowledge of vocal culture 
advanced with equal strides in the path of 
research and discovery ? Why so many 
divergent opinions on the subject of sing- 
ing ? Do the vocal teachers of to-day 
devote the serious and earnest study to 
their profession which is required of all 
men wedded to scientific pursuits? If 
so, why has the wonderful art of Porpora 
well nigh departed from amongst us? 
Why so few perfectly cultivated voices ? 
Or, is it, perchance, because the teacher 
does not thoroughly know how, and the 
pupil is not willing to master absolutely, 
the many difficulties which stand in the 
way of obtaining a perfect vocal technique ? 

These are some of the questions which 
have often occurred to me and to which I 
shall try to answer in the course of the fol- 
lowing pages ; and I shall endeavor to pre- 
sent the subject in a clear and practical form. 
Consequently I do not address myself to 


scientists, but I write mainly for all those 
wishing to be guided by clear common 
sense rules and precepts, in the discovery 
of an easy, effective, and natural method 
of singing. Therefore this little book is 
especially offered to those of my own pro- 
fession who will approve and sustain me 
in elucidating the many problems of vocal 
culture. It is my purpose to examine the 
voice in its cause, which is breath, and in 
its effect, which is tone. 


The correct use of breath in singing is 
the very essence of vocal art, and as such 
it is the key-note to success or failure ; it 
is therefore of the utmost importance to 
gather clear ideas concerning the mechan- 
ism of the respiratory process. 

Starting out with the universally ac- 
knowledged law, that all the operations of 
our nature, when in a condition of perfect 
health, proceed normally and unconsci- 


ously to us, breathing for singing should 
not deviate from nature's usual orderly 
and peaceful condition. Consequently the 
correct breath for singing should be the 
exaggerated but natural breath of perfect 

In order to satisfy yourself of the truth 
of this assertion, watch, if you please, the 
inspiration and expiration of your pet, 
sleeping, perched up in his cage ; or ob- 
serve, if you will, your favorite rover, 
slumbering on the rug, at your feet; ex- 
amine the regular rising and falling of the 
chest-walls during the breathing process. 

This simple illustration would seem to 
furnish almost a sufficient explanation for 
all practical purposes on the subject under 
consideration ; but our ignorance or our 
over-anxiety in the pursuit of any study, 
causes us frequently, either to fall short in 
our appreciation, or to exaggerate and 
pervert the methods in striving to acquire 

So it is with reference to singing. 


Often the all-important and essential ques- 
tion of correct breathing is wholly ignor- 
ed in teaching, or, it is very imperfectly 
taught. Alas ! it is too often taught and 
practiced to the detriment and serious 
injury of the pupil. 

The foregoing remarks would seem to 
make it plain that the process of correct 
breathing in singing is by no means 
rightly understood nor uniformly- practiced. 
Experience has taught me, that three dis- 
tinct forms of breathing are in vogue : the 
clavicular, the costal, and lastly the correct 
abdominal breathing. 


The spasmodic process of inspiration 
termed clavicular, collar-bone, or scapular 
breathing, which consists in convulsively 
uplifting the shoulders, and in inhaling a 
partial breath, thus filling the upper air- 
cells of the lungs only, and in violently 
and unnaturally compressing inwardly the 


walls of the abdomen, is absolutely detri- 
mental or highly injurious: 

I. To the pharynx or throat-outlet for 
II. To the laryngeal muscles called upon 
to act during phonation or voice- 

III. To the muscular action of the chest- 


IV. To the organs contained within the 

cavity of the abdomen. 

/. Clavicular breathing injurious to the 
pharyngeal muscles. 
This spasmodic collar-bone breathing is 
injurious to the pharyngeal or throat-mus- 
cles, because during the abnormal strain- 
ing for tone-production, the sound-wave 
being already deficient in fullness and 
sonority, on account of the lack of breath, 
is still more narrowed and compressed in 
the throat, in order to make up in intensity 
that which is lacking in volume ; hence, 
the muscles of the base of the tongue be- 
come rigid, pulling at the same time the 



larynx unnaturally upward; thus often are 
produced the harsh, muffled, throaty, trem- 
ulous tones, hereafter to be described ; 
and these peculiar voice-conditions are too 
prevalent, even among public singers. 

The soft palate likewise frequently sags 
down, or is held rigid, and the voice shows 
a more or less marked tinge of the offen- 
sive harsh or nasal quality. 

//. Clavicular breathing injurious to the 
laryngeal muscles. 
The spasmodic or clavicular breathing 
method is injurious to the laryngeal 
muscles called upon to act during phona- 
tion, because the vocal cords or ligaments 
are to produce, as occasion may require it, 
a loud tone, with only a partial breath, 
and in the effort to emit a loud tone, there 
necessarily follows an abnormal strain or 
forced contraction upon all the laryngeal 
muscles, and this result is noticed in the 
flush or contortions of the singer's face, 
in the unnatural swelling of blood vessels 
and muscles in the throat and neck, and 


especially in the harsh, screechy, and un- 
musical tones emitted from such a throat. 
///. Clavicular breathing injurious to 
the action of the lungs. 
The abnormal clavicular .breathing pro- 
cess is injurious to the action of the lungs, 
because the supply of air being already 
deficient, the muscles of the chest-walls 
are called upon to a painful degree of com- 
pression, in order to furnish the required 
motive-power, breath. This injudicious 
method of inspiration produces necessarily 
weakness and exhaustion, and is also a 
prolific source of evil consequences, partic- 
ularly when the lungs of the vocalist are 
constitutionally weak. Mr. Lenox Browne 
of London, a throat-specialist of reputation, 
in a work of his entitled : " Medical hints 
on the production and management of the 
singing voice, " says : " Clavicular breath- 
ing is a method of respiration totally 
vicious, and to be avoided. By it, the 
whole lower part of the chest is flattened 


and drawn in, instead of being distended ; 
consequently, the lower or larger part of 
the lungs is not inflated. It is a method 
never exercised by nature in a state of 
health, but only when from disease, either 
the abdomen or chest-muscles cannot act, 
and it is a method least efficacious in fill- 
ing, as it is the one calculated to most 
fatigue the chest ; for it compresses the 
vessels and nerves of the throat, and this 
leads to engorgement and spasmodic 
action of the muscles." 
IV, Clavicular breathing injurious to 

the organs contained within the 

cavities of the abdomen. 
The spasmodic clavicular mode of 
breathing is highly injurious to the organs 
contained within the cavities of the abdo- 
men, and the method is advocated by 
many vocal teachers under the title of 
" Abdominal method," without a true con- 
ception of its real intent and possible per- 
nicious results. Thus not infrequently do 
lady singers find themselves victims of the 


serious weaknesses incident to their sex ; 
they realize then, but too late, the sad 
effects of practicing the so-called "Abdom- 
inal method." 

The evil consequences of this pernicious 
method of breathing and singing have 
been treated of by Dr. Clinton E. Wing of 
Boston, in an able essay. 

Dr. Langmaid of Boston, in treating of 
the same subject says : " I have no doubt 
that injuries such as Dr. Wing describes 
have been produced by attempts at Ab- 
dominal (diaphragmatic) respiration. 

" I have known the digestive functions 
disturbed, pain and soreness in various 
parts of the abdomen produced, and, in 
one case, the occurrence of prolapsus 
uteri brought "about during the act of at- 
tempting to use the abdominal method of 
breathing in singing. 

" The injuries result not from properly 
conducted abdominal respiration, but from 
a wrong method of using it, and a mis- 
conception of its legitimate use and limit. 


Such misconception is common enough 
among singing teachers and their pupils." 

" Abdominal respiration gives the singer 
the greatest control of the column of air 
to be used in vocalization. If, however, the 
proper action of the muscles (relaxation) 
during inspiration does not precede the 
expiratory effort (contraction), the con- 
traction is not only .productive of imper- 
fect sounding processes, but may be the 
cause of injury to organs which are so 
situated as to be influenced by the pres- 
sure exerted by the contraction. 

" The tendency of the abdominal walls 
to return to a normal position, out of 
which they have been carried during in- 
spiration, is sufficient to regulate the flow 
of air during ordinary singing. A forced 
contraction results in an increased blast of 
air, which is needed to give greater in- 
tensity to tone. 

" The common fault consists in the 
attempt to contract from an already re- 
tracted abdominal wall, the inspiration 


having been limited to a superficial tho- 
racic (clavicular) respiration. If now, there 
is added the restrictive action of a close 
and unyielding corset, any of the movable 
organs in the abdomen or pelvis" must 
yield to the ' Vis a tergo ' of the abdom- 
inal contraction. 'A priori' with regard 
to the effect upon the uterus, retroflexion, 
or retroversion, would be the common 
forms of displacement, unless a tendency 
to prolapsus existed." 

The reader, who has carefully noticed 
the foregoing remarks, which I have 
thought important to introduce in their 
entirety, will perceive that the breath 
question is of no mean importance, and 
that it is impossible to overrate its conse- 
quences for good or evil results. He will 
also remember, if he has been a vocal 
student at any time, how little stress was 
laid on the matter of correct breathing, 
how imperfectly many vocal teachers ex- 
plained and understood that essential 
requisite to successful vocalization; and it 



will then appear plain where was to be 
traced the real cause of success or failure 

in his vocal training. 


The defective mode of inhalation termed 
costal, lateral, or rib-breathing, consists 
in taking, as it were, only half a breath by 
extending the ribs sideways, and excluding 
in part or wholly the natural action of the 
abdominal walls. Although costal or 
rib-breathing is to be deprecated in gen- 
eral, especially with ladies addicted to the 
pernicious habit of tight lacing, yet this 
mode of inspiration is more natural with 
them; nevertheless, as the sequel will 
show, it is not perfect breath-action, and 
should therefore be avoided by the singer. 

There is not the least doubt that the 
real dearth of singers, gifted both with 
superb tone-producing powers, and wdth 
the ability to execute or vocalize with the 
clearness and evenness which is exacted 
from a first-class instrumental performer, 


may be attributed largely to the neglect 
of too many teachers who fail to contin- 
ually impress upon the minds of their 
pupils the great importance of correctly 
governing the vocal motive-power. 

It is a matter of history, and related in 
Mme. Seiler's book, " The Voice in Sing- 
ing," how, a hundred and fifty years ago, 
the great singing-master Porpora trained 
his pupil Perugia to sing two full octaves, 
with successive trills up and down in one 
breath. How Farinelli competed with a 
trumpeter who accompanied him in an 
Aria. "After both had several times 
dwelt on notes in which each sought to 
excel the other in power and duration, 
they prolonged a note with a double trill 
in thirds, which they continued until both 
seemed to be exhausted. At last the 
trumpeter gave up, entirely out of breath, 
while Farinelli, without taking breath, pro- 
longed the note with renewed volume of 
sound, trilling, and ending finally with the 
most difficult of roulades." Could any 



one infer from the above well-nigh fabulous 
narrative, that Porpora taught the clavicu- 
lar or rib-breathing methods ? 

Would it not appear incredible that up 
to this day teachers, and even conserva- 
tories of music, should be found, de- 
liberately teaching imperfect methods of 
respiration ? Have not many of my 
readers noticed how frequently operatic 
singers hailing from the "Conservatoire 
de Musique de Paris " were afflicted with 
the distressing and never-ending tremolo? 
How can it be otherwise, when the pupil 
is told that the proper method of inspira- 
tion consists in " flattening and crowding 
inwardly the abdomen, and in bulging out 
the chest." " Dans Taction de respirer 
pour chanter, en aspirant il faut aplatir le 
ventre et le faire remonter avec prompti- 
tude, en gonflant et avancant la poitrine." 
Methode de Chant du Conservatoire de 
Musique. (a Paris.) 

The tremolo mentioned above should 
receive more than a passing notice. Mr. 


Emil Behnke in his work, " The Mechan- 
ism of the Human Voice," says : " The 
tremolo arises almost invariably from a 
weakness of the muscles of the dia- 

As the term diaphragm is used here for 
the first time, it would be well perhaps to 
describe it somewhat. Anatomy informs 
us that the diaphragm is a movable mus- 
cular floor to the cavity of the chest, and 
forms a partition or dividing wall between 
the latter and the cavity of the abdomen. 
When at rest, it is arched upwards like 
an inverted basin, but when its muscular 
tissues contract during inspiration it flat- 
tens and descends, and in this manner it 
increases the chest capacity at the expense 
of the abdomen. 

I differ with Mr. Behnke concerning 
the real causes of the tremulous voice ; 
my reasons therefor will be given further 
on, when such tone-condition will present 
itself in its proper place for investigation. 





Dr. Cohen of Philadelphia, in his ex- 
cellent work, " The Throat and Voice," 
says : '* The best efforts of elocution and 
singing are produced from a full chest of 
air inspired according to the natural or 
abdominal type." 

This method of breathing includes the 
double function of inspiration and expira- 
tion. The inspiration consists in taking 
a full, easy, yet deep breath ; abdominal 
inflation and costal expansion taking place 
together; that is to say: the diaphragm 
contracts and flattens at the same time 
that the ribs extend sideways — with this 
distinction, however, that ladies distend 
the ribs more prominently ; whereas with 
men, expansion or distension of the ab- 
dominal walls is more pronounced. In 
other words, the correct breathing or in- 
haling process consists in inspiring the air 
naturally, down to the very base of the 
lungs, without any voluntary uplifting of 


the shoulder-blades; in this manner the 
chest-walls expand laterally, drawing the 
ribs slightly upwards, while the diaphragm 
descends, pushing downwards the abdom- 
inal organs ; thus the cavity of the chest 
is widened in every direction, and the air 
passes through the trachea, or wind-pipe, 
and bronchial tubes to the air-cells of the 
lungs. Now, when the singer has learned 
to fill his lungs with ease and comfort to 
their full capacity, he must study to have 
perfect control over his expiration. This 
expiration is wholly to be governed by the 
length of the phrases to be delivered, 
whether for singing or speaking purposes, 
and herein lies the real power of expres- 
sion. During inspiration the chest-mus- 
cles were distended, but during expiration 
they become contracted, together with the 
muscles of the diaphragm, with a drum- 
like tension. The contraction regulates 
the degree of tone-expansion, or the in- 
tensity of tone required in delivering a 
musical phrase, and is to the voice what 

■jBriAi-iV. J ' 
VOICE-PRODUCTION. -. ^t .,^'' ' - 

the weight is on the bellows of tnt'^ipei' — ''"'"^ 
organ, with this distinction ; that the con- 
tracting, diaphragmatic, and chest-muscles 
during expiration in singing, are regulated 
by the will of the vocalist; and the study 
of vocalization lies in the fact that these 
organs must be educated by the proper 
daily practice to furnish the required 
amount of tone-power, from the softest 
possible sound to the most glorious vocal 
outburst; and such command of breath- 
power is gradually acquired, and the degree . 
of perfection with which it is governed is 
readily discerned in the quality and quan- 
tity of tone produced. 

Moreover, it is the aim of all good 
singers who cultivate a proper method of 
breathing, to inhale the largest amount of 
air with the least muscular effort, and 
without audible noise ; hence, in the 
quietest possible manner, and then so 
completely to hold in the inhalation that 
not the' smallest fraction of it shall pass 
out unvocalized. In other words, the 


breath thus controlled will enable the 
singer, not only to keep the chest fully 
supplied, but he will learn at the same 
time that he must govern the supply in 
such a manner that, without losing the 
drum-like tension of the diaphragmatic 
and chest-muscles, he will be able to keep 
the vocal cords in a vibrating condition, 
pouring forth an even, though ever so 
small a jet or flow of air; and further- 
more, if holding back the expiration just 
described, he is conscious of a reserve 
breath-power, and is therefore capable of 
increasing or decreasing the blast of air 
at will, repeating the operation again and 
again without exhaustion, his breathing 
method is correct, and the length of time 
in which he is able to protract such pho- 
netic expiration without undue fatigue, 
determines the degree of excellence of the 

Some of my readers, no doubt, will 
think that too much space is devoted to 
the description of the correct breathing 


method. But judging from my own ex- 
perience, if any success is obtained with 
the pupil, it is almost wholly to be attrib- 
uted to the never-ceasing and close watch- 
fulness over the breath-action. So essen- 
tially true is this assertion that the art of 
singing might not improperly be defined, 
the art of breathing. But in order that I 
may not appear too dogmatic, let me quote 
Dr. L. Browne, in support of my views. 
Speaking of the correct method of respi- 
ration just described, which was taught so 
successfully by the old Italian school of 
the last century, of which I am myself an 
enthusiastic devotee, he says : " There is 
just as much teaching of what may be called 
the decorations of the voice in the present 
day as then ; but the art of forming a 
solid basis of voice by long exercise on 
a right method of breathing seems to be 
almost lost, or if not lost, overlooked." 

I have heard the question often raised : 
should respiration be carried on through 
the nose or mouth } The answer is plain : 


respiration is normally carried on through 
the nostrils; otherwise, aside from other 
reasons, we may ask, why the presence of 
the prominence which adorns the human 
countenance; it might as well have been 
omitted in the creative act. But at the 
same time it must be understood : breath- 
ing through the mouth is unavoidable dur- 
ing the act of speaking or singing. Yet 
whenever a sufficiently long pause occurs 
between two phrases in singing, it will re- 
fresh the mucous membrane of the throat 
to breathe through the nostrils. But dur- 
ing the non-use of the voice, hold the 
mouth closed during both sleeping and 
waking. Tyndall says: that if he could 
leave a perpetual legacy to mankind he 
would embody it in the words : "Keep 
your mouth shut ;" and so prolific are the 
throat-troubles caused by oral respiration 
that Catlin adds: "Shut your mouth and 
save your life." 

A great deal more might be said on this 
subject, but I will dismiss it with one or 
two remarks. 


Breathing quietly through the nose, or 
sipping the air, as it were, through nearly 
closed lips, will often increase the tendency 
to take a deeper breath, and will conse- 
quently also tend to dispel the spasmodic, 
clavicular habit ; and thus will greatly help 
to control the nervous singer. ' Most of 
my readers are doubtless aware that singers 
who are affected with stage fright may 
sometimes quickly recover themselves 
when not too much overcome with fear, by 
taking a few, slow, deliberate, rhythmic in- 
halations through the nostrils, because this 
breathing process is antagonistic to the 
panting gasp occasioned by intense agita- 

Finally, it is among the possible occur- 
rences that particles of dust or other im- 
purities which permeate the atmosphere 
more or less at all times, may irritate the 
throat and lead to certain disorders. 
Again, breathing cold air through the 
mouth, besides drying the mucous mem- 
brane of the pharynx and larynx, exposes 


these parts to unnatural and sudden reduc- 
tion of temperature, in consequence of 
which, often temporary hoarseness is pro- 
duced. But particularly, when the vocal 
organs have been over-exercised and over- 
heated by singing or speaking in warm 
rooms or halls, should the singer or speaker 
refrain from exposing himself, without due 
precaution, to the very cold or damp out- 
door air ; and surely, he should not breathe 
with open mouth, unless he desires to be 
visited with serious disorders of the respira- 
tory organs, such as congestion of the 
larynx or lungs. 

In the preceding pages I have attempted 
to show the vast importance of correct 
breath-action in singing. It is impossible 
to overrate its estimate ; since, all vocal 
success depends on a clear apprehension 
of its import ; and, if the general health- 
condition is at all to be benefited, it will 
wholly depend on the correct management 
of the right breathing-method. 



Diagrams illustrating the varying capacity of the chest 
according to the method in which the lungs are inflated, taken 
from Lenox-Browne's work above mentioned. 

The front outline A of the shaded figure represents the 
chest after full expiration ; the black continuous line B gives the 
increase in size of the chest, and the descent of the diaphragm, 
indicated by the curved transverse lines, in full abdominal res- 
piration. The dotted line C shows the retraction of the dia- 
phragm and of the abdominal muscles in forced clavicular in- 
spiration; the varying thickness of the line B indicates the 
fact of healthy breathing in man being more abdominal than 
in woman. The outlines of forced inspiration in both sexes 
are remarkably similar. 

Now that the motive power of the human 
voice has been detailed at some length, one 
would naturally wish to know what vocal 


mechanism this breath-power does set in 
motion during phonation, and the answer 
to this question brings me to the 
Larynx or voice-box. 

The wonders of this marvelousiy con- 
structed human organ will probably never 
be wholly revealed. But enough is known 
for all practical purposes, and as the larynx 
has been very ably and minutely described 
by eminent throat-specialists, to whose in- 
teresting works I would refer my readers, 
I will not dwell very long on its anatomi- 
cal description. 

Few physiologists will deny that the most 
remarkable apparatus of the body is that 
of the larynx in which the human voice is 
produced. The essentials of voice-produc- 
tion are threefold. 

First, the lungs and wind-pipe, which 
convey the air to the second essential, 
the larynx, which contains in its inte- 
rior the necessary apparatus for the pro- 
duction of vocal sound; and third, the 
pharynx, nose and mouth-cavities, which 


serve as a resonator and modifier of these 

The larynx, the most essential and in- 
teresting part for our purposes, consists of 
a cartilaginous frame-work or box, made 
up of five parts. 

First, the thyroid cartilage, which is the 
largest, consists of two lateral plates joined 
together in front at more or less of an 
angle, which terminates above in a slightly 
prominent notch known as Adam's apple. 
This cartilage serves as the protector of 
the delicate apparatus concerned in voice- 
production which lies behind it ; imme- 
diately below it lies the second of these 
cartilages — the cricoid, a ring-shaped car- 
tilage surmounting the wind-pipe and 
forming the basis of the larynx. 

Thirdly, the arytenoids, two small trian- 
gular cartilages located upon the upper 
and back edge of the cricoid, to which 
they are attached by means of beautifully 
constructed little joints. These cartilages 
are of special interest to us, as being the 


ones to which the ends of the vocal cords 
are attached. 

Lastly, the epiglottis, a broad leaf-shaped 
cartilage located at the upper part of the 
larynx, just behind the base of the tongue. 
All these cartilages which I have just 
described are connected by ligaments, 
and the cavity which they form is lined 
by mucous membrane, and richly supplied 
with sensitive and motor-nerves and blood- 

The vocal cords, also termed bands, 
reeds, ligaments, etc., are two firm, pearly- 
white, glistening bands of ligamentous 
tissue which are attached closely together 
at a fixed point on the inside angle of the 
thyroid cartilage, and thence pass back- 
ward in a horizontal line across the larynx, 
to the inner face of the triangular arytenoid 
cartilages. Their inner free edge is thin 
and sharp, and covered by a very delicate 
investment of mucous membrane. Their 
outer edge is attached to a muscle called 
the vocal muscle, which acts as a relaxer 
of the vocal cords. 


During quiet respiration the vocal cords 
lie at the sides of the larynx, leaving a tri- 
angular space between them for the pas- 
sage of air. But when called into action 
by the act of phonation, they approach 
one another to the middle line of the 
larynx by means of a rotation of the 
arytenoid cartilages on their basis, through 
the action of certain muscles called the 
adductor muscles. 

The vocal cords now lying with their 
edges exactly parallel to each other, still 
further approach so as to nearly close the 
delicate elliptic space left between them, 
which is termed the glottis. The air, as 
it passes from the lungs, escaping through 
this small opening, impinges against the 
edges of the vocal cords with a force which 
sets them vibrating ; the sound thus pro- 
duced constitutes vocal sound. Or, again, 
they may move together or apart, be drawn 
tense or relaxed, as the various phases of 
vocalization require — all these movements 
being accomplished by means of compli- 
cated, yet beautiful and delicate sets of 



All these points may be thoroughly 
understood by referring to the annexed 
diagram taken from the work of Mr. L. 
Browne, before mentioned. 


W. P. 


Tc. Tc. 
A. A. 
V. C. 


T. B. T. B. 

Windpipe or trachea at the base of the laryngeal 

Cricoid cartilage resting on the top of windpipe. 
Thyroid cartilage articulating with cricoid. 
Arytenoid cartilages. 
Vocal cords, wide open, as in inhalation, showing 

their point of origin in the thyroid cartilage 

and their attachments to the arytenoids. 
Thyroid cartilages articulating with cricoids and 

with tongue bone. 
To^igue bone connected with thyroid. 



It is a mistake to assert that neither 
anatomy, nor physiology, nor laryngology 
can possibly in any way benefit the 
study of the voice. One might as well 
attempt to prove that the manufacturer 
has no need of chemistry. The well-au- 
thenticated merits ascribed to, together 
with the incalculable benefits derived from 
the intelligent use of the laryngeal mirror 
in relieving suffering humanity, as well as 
in diagnosing the physiological and patho- 
logical condition of the throat and larynx, 
would seem at this date quite uncontro- 
vertible ; and yet one reads, not infre- 
quently, periodicals on art and science, 
which question the high prerogative so 
justly claimed for the laryngoscope. Thus 
I find in Brainard's Musical World the fol- 
lowing : " It is the opinion of not a few 
that the laryngoscope is of no practical 
value to the vocal teacher, in as much as 
the person that is operated upon, having to 
stretch out the tongue, and a glass being 
placed in the mouth, cannot produce a nat- 


ural tone. You had better let the laryngo- 
scope alone." A statement which is not 
true, because the singer's throat can, in a 
large proportion of instances, be examined 
without stretching out the tongue and with- 
out touching the velum with the mirror, so 
that the normal physiological movements 
during vocalization are not disturbed. 

Moreover, the writer of the above-men- 
tioned assertion, answering his inquiring 
correspondent, was evidently not aware 
that the instrument could be used advan- 
tageously for other purposes besides those 
he mentions. The sequel will tend to show 
that the conscientious vocal teacher is not 
complete unless he possesses such physio- 
logical knowledge as may be expected of 
him to-day, because all such aids of science 
are essentia] to his perfect success. 

The various parts of the vocal mechan- 
ism are part of the human fabric, and are 
subject to disease. Now the singing master 
who is capable of appreciating the signs 
and symptoms of the commoner troubles 


which may affect the vocal organs of his 
pupil, will at least be warned against im- 
pending mischief, and may thus save the 
voice and throat of the latter from more 
or less serious harm ; whereas the instruc- 
tor, who is totally ignorant of vocal hygiene, 
may possibly do more harm than good. 
There is not the least doubt that a vast 
amount of mischief is done by persons 
ignorant both of the proper breathing 
methods and of the hygiene of the throat. 
A misapprehension of the correct breath- 
ing mechanism leads to the pernicious re- 
sults mentioned elsewhere. The harm 
done to throats by teachers or singers re- 
gardless of the hygiene of the voice and 
throat could be testified to by many a 

The use of the laryngoscope, which 
every vocal teacher would do well to un- 
derstand, if only to a limited extent, will 
show him the condition of the vocal liga- 
ments and other laryngeal parts. On 
introducing the small laryngeal mirror in 


the singer's mouth, without touching the 
tongue, moving the back of the mirror 
gently against the uvula, so as not to 
touch the posterior pharyngeal wall, and 
directing him to say e, generally with the 
tongue protruding, a view of the larynx 
will be obtained, and the vocal cords will 
readily be distinguished by their peculiar 
color. When in a healthy state their 
color is mother-of-pearl, white and glis- 
tening. Any deviation from this normal, 
standard constitutes disease. Of these 
diseases, laryngitis is by far the common- 
est. It may pass through various stages, 
from a simple inflammation, in which case 
the vocal cords lose their glistening attri- 
bute, or are tinged with a light pinkish 
color, to a severer grade of laryngitis, 
when the color will vary from a deep red 
to a purplish hue. But as everybody has 
not the opportunity to learn the use of the 
laryngoscope, it is safe to state in general 
that the teacher should not allow the pupil 
to practice singing when the latter suffers 


from a severe cold, accompanied with 
hoarseness, or when there exists even a 
remote sensation of pain in the larynx, or 
when the tone of voice is decidedly veiled. 
But right here is a case where the ad- 
vantage of knowing how to use the laryn- 
geal mirror may be demonstrated. Hoarse- 
ness is two-fold in its cause, either as 
resulting from disease, or as proceeding 
from abnormal use of the voice. Thus a 
pair of perfectly healthy vocal bands may 
be congested and produce hoarseness by a 
defective use of the voice. For, if the 
vocal ligaments or cords, previous to sing- 
ing, when examined, were of the color of 
mother-of-pearl, white and glistening, and 
produced at first clear tones, and if, in the 
process of the vocal practice the voice 
becomes hoarse, either during the singing 
lesson, or as manifested in speech, imme- 
diately after singing, and the vocal cords 
have become congested and reddened, this 
condition would go to prove that the 
voice had been improperly or excessively 


used, and that consequently such method 
of singing was vicious. 

It may be inferred from the foregoing 
remarks that there exist certain laryngeal 
conditions when the voice should either 
not be used at all, or when it should be 
exercised with certain restrictions. 

The use of the voice should be abso- 
lutely forbidden when from exposure, over- 
use, or abuse of the voice, pain and irri- 
tation are experienced in the larynx or 
pharynx during vocalization ; or, again, 
when decided veiling of tone is produced 
under similar conditions. 

Much more might be said on this inter- 
esting subject, but it does not lie in my 
province to touch upon matters of a purely 
medical nature. 

Vocalists with a throat trouble, which 
there is good reason to suspect may be 
organic, would do well, in the first in- 
stance, 'to consult a skillful specialist, on 
the principle that an ounce of prevention 
is often worth a pound of cure. A few 


applications to the vocal ligaments or 
throat, wherever the trouble may be, will 
often prevent a more serious chronic de- 

The voice should be exercised with 
certain restrictions: 

1. With beginners. 

2. With persons having weak throats 
or lungs, or using their voice abnormally. 

I. The vocal aspirant, just beginning to 
use the muscles of the larynx, should be 
guided by the same rules of common 
sense which preside over the exercise of 
any kind of muscular development. The 
judicious master of physical gymnastics 
does not proceed at once to work his 
young athlete to fatigue and exhaustion ; 
but, on the contrary, he very slowly and 
gradually develops his muscular power, 
and thus, little by little, fits him for in- 
creased endurance. 

So it is with vocal training. It is a 
well established physiological fact that 
whatever muscles of the human frame 



are undergoing severe exercise, there will 
be a corresponding tendency of the blood 
towards those parts. But if this muscu- 
lar exercise is violently and unduly pro- 
tracted, the muscles will become engorged, 
inflamed, weakened, and even sometimes 
temporarily paralyzed. Indeed, it is in 
the matter of singing as it is with all 
muscular practice. It is not the quantity 
but the quality of the work which is pro- 
ductive of genuine strength ; and the 
judgment of the vocal trainer, in this par- 
ticular, is one of the tests of his ability. 

Now, as to the length of time allowable 
for vocal practice, it varies with different 
cases ; therefore no fixed rule can be laid 
down ; although it has been my custom 
generally to advise the practice of vocal 
gymnastics three times a day, from about 
twenty to thirty minutes each time, and at 
stated intervals. However, when in the 
course of the vocal studies the pupil's 
throat feels tired, a short rest should 
always ensue. 


2. Persons afflicted with weak chests 
or throats, the former either constitutional 
or acquired, the latter in consequence of 
abnormal use of voice, must be made to 
practice vocal gymnastics with discretion. 
As regards the first, there can be no ques- 
tion that the process of deep methodical 
inspirations, elsewhere spoken of, can but 
favor the development of the chest and 
lungs ; but the latter, namely persons 
afflicted with weak throats and lungs, 
should be limited as to duration of vocal 
practice as well as in compass. Generally 
speaking the lower notes of the voice are 
to be used exclusively a few minutes at the 
time, with a view to produce a broad, 
yawning or gaping tone, till a free and 
easy emission has been developed. If this 
particular vocal exercise were practiced 
intelligently, by clergymen, speakers, or 
teachers suffering from weak throats, it 
would prove of incalculable value to them. 
Moreover, a distinct idea is to be imparted 
to the vocalist of the correct breath-action, 


and he must endeavor to produce as soon 
as possible the full sonorous tone-wave, 
but with moderate power. Such proceed- 
ing will cause a gentle and progressive 
muscular strengthening; and as soon as 
the laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles 
concerned, which were weak at first and 
quickly tired, lose the lame and fatigued 
feeling, little by little, an additional note 
may be added to the compass, together 
with a gradual increase of tone-power, till 
the voice is able to bear with comfort a 
moderate crescendo, or tone-expansion. 

The simple gymnastics just described, 
when properly applied to weak throats, — 
and there are many such — have frequently 
been productive of very satisfactory results. 
Many cases which have come under my 
observation might be related to demon- 
strate the value of the proper vocal drill. 

Dr. Gordon Holmes in his work, "Voice 
Production and Voice Preservation," de- 
scribes the benefits of vocal practice as 
follows : " The general well-being of the 


constitution is promoted by voice-practice, 
because the wider chest-movements accel- 
erate the circulation of the blood, at the 
same time that they cause a more ample 
flow of fresh air in and out of the lungs. 
The obstacle to expiration offered by the 
contraction of the glottis during phona- 
tion confers a greater penetrating power 
on the pulmonary air, which perforce per- 
meates the minute bronchi, and distends 
the air-vesicles of the lungs more effec- 
tively; thus the blood attains a higher 
oxygenation and greater purity, by which 
qualities it gains in power of stimulating 
the vital activities of the various tissues of 
the body as it courses through them. 
Effete matters are freely cast off, and new 
and wholesome material is assimilated in 
increased amount. The appetite, so to 
speak, of the various corporeal structures 
becomes more keen, and they are thus 
subjected to an exalted nutrition. And, 
moreover, these effects have a certain 
permanency on account of the gains to the 


thoracic capacity derived from the habitual 
increase of lung-expansion necessitated by 
constant vocal exercise." 

I wish it were in my power to address 
myself to the trustees of all the educational 
institutions of our land. I would labor 
with them on the importance of establish- 
ing professorships of vocal training or 
voice-production and cultivation in con- 
nection with all our theological and orator- 
ical schools, and I would urge them to 
appoint capable professors, whose duty it 
would "be, first to discover if any throats of 
the applicants were physically or constitu- 
tionally incapacitated to perform the work 
of speakers or preachers, and thus save the 
latter from uselessness in their respective 
wished-for professions. 

For it is sad to relate that hundreds, yea 
thousands of clergymen, many of them in 
the prime of their manhood, are shelved 
to-day, on account of their weak throats. 

The competent authority would advise 
the student to look for some other profes- 


sion, before he had lost three or four years 
of the better part of the young man's Hfe 
in the' pursuit of fruitless studies. 

If on the contrary, wisely-directed vo- 
cal gymnastics could be taught to our 
young orators, be they clergymen, law- 
yers, or statesmen, imparting to them the 
knowledge of displaying their thoughts 
through the medium of spoken language 
uttered with enduring force and masterly 
control of voice, a want in education 
would be supplied which is sadly needed. 

Leaving the more minute and detailed 
physiological and anatomical description 
of the wonderful organ of speech and 
song to men of science, I will consider 
the acoustic process of the voice in the. 
more practical light of lyric art. 

Physiological and anatomical knowledge 
of the muscular construction of the lar- 
ynx, not being immediately governed by 
the will, is relatively of little practical 
value to the singer. The muscles of the 
vocal organs are intuitively, instinctively,- 


or automatically brought to act by actual 
conception of sounds. In other words, 
the wonderful adjustment of the laryngeal 
muscles which are requisite in the produc- 
tion of tone is usually guided by the audi- 
tory sense ; rhythmic sounds which have 
previously been learned or committed are 
subsequently repeated or reproduced in 
accordance with the mental conception of 
the tone to be uttered. Such conception 
cannot be formed unless the sense of hear- 
ing has previously brought similar tones 
to the mind, and this process is indepen- 
dent of will-power. 

Dr. Carpenter, the physiologist, says : 
" The muscular contractions which are 
concerned in the production of vocal tones 
are accounted voluntary; and yet it is 
easy to show that the will has no direct 
power over the muscles of the larynx. 
For we cannot raise or depress the larynx 
as a whole, nor move the thyroid cartilage 
upon the cricoid, nor separate or approxi- 
mate the arytenoid cartilages, nor extend 


or relax the vocal ligaments, by simply 
willing to do so, however strongly. Yet 
we can readily do any or all those things 
by an act of the will exerted for a specific 
purpose. We conceive of a tone to be 
produced, and we will to produce it ; a 
certain combination of the muscular action 
of the larynx then takes place in most 
exact accordance with one another, and 
the predetermined tone is the result. This 
anticipated or conceived sensation is the 
guide to the muscular movements, when 
as yet the utterance of the voice has not 
taken place ; but whilst we are in the act 
of speaking or singing the contractile 
actions are regulated by the present sensa- 
tions derived from the sounds, as they are 
produced. It can scarcely but be admit- 
ted, then, that the will does not directly 
govern the movements of the larynx, but 
that these movements are immediately 
dependent upon some other agency." 

*' It may be safely affirmed that the sim- 
ple utterance of sounds is in itself an. 


instinctive action, although the combina- 
tion of these, whether into music or into 
articulate language, is a matter of acquire- 
ment, which is much more readily made 
by some individuals than by others. No 
definite tone can be produced by a volun- 
tary effort, unless that tone be present to 
the consciousness during an interval, how- 
ever momentary, either as immediately 
produced by an act of sensation, marked 
by an act of conception, or anticipated by 
an effort of the imagination." 

Inasmuch as the complex muscular 
action of the larynx in tone-production is 
not yet fully accounted for, and, besides, 
cannot be brought under the immediate 
subjection of the will, where are we to 
look for the unerring evidence and proof 
of the perfect tone-condition } 

The effects of tone are patent to any 
one. Its relative perfection, acoustically 
considered, is readily appreciated by the 
ordinary hearer, and is accounted pleasant 
or otherwise. Again, the aesthetic concep- 


tion of tone, a certain individual relish in 
producing a satisfactory tone, certain phy- 
sical sensations of full air-waves in the 
mouth, are all guides, though general ones, 
towards acquiring the ideal tone, with its 
accompanying perfect muscular action 
desired. Yet the perfect musical tone of 
voice is essential in singing, and deter- 
mines, in a measure, the degree of excel- 
lence in song, and, as such, is desired and 
aimed at by all artistic singers. For, if 
singing consists in manifesting in the 
voice the beauty and power of the inner- 
most thoughts and sentiments of the soul, 
capable of conceiving all that is grand 
and beautiful in art and poetry, then it is 
important that the vocal products should 
fitly correspond with such lofty concep- 

Few voices, if any, possess that perfect 
tone quality, and the most gifted evince 
possibilities only ; not, however, as a leg- 
acy of nature, but because of ignorance 
or of weakness of voice. Defective tone- 


production and all faulty or imperfect 
emission of tone is, as a general thing, not 
innate, but induced from ignorance only, 
and can by intelligent practice be removed. 
Hence voice-training, which aims to dis- 
cover and to develop a quality of voice 
such as shall completely satisfy the ambi- 
tious singer and the discriminating public. 
Tyndall, Helmholtz, Miiller, and many 
other writers have treated the acoustic 
question of the voice exhaustively. It is 
in perusing the works of such eminent 
scientists that the philosophy of sound 
will be made clear. There we will learn 
the distinction between a musical sound 
and a mere noise. Now musical tones 
produce a charming effect upon the ear, 
as do the tones of all beautiful musical 
instruments. Such sounds reach the ear 
in regular or rhythmic waves, whereas the 
mere noise, no matter what its nature may 
be, produces the opposite effect ; its tone- 
waves are irregular and confused, and 
grate more or less on the ear, according to 


their more or less disagreeable character- 
istics. We shall also gather from the study 
of the works of the physicist the compos- 
ite elements of sound, what constitutes 
tone-waves, fundamental and overtones, 
etc. To this effect . I would earnestly 
advise my readers to read carefully Chap- 
ter II. on the acoustics of the voice, by Dr. 
Cohen, in his interesting work, " The 
Throat and Voice." 

But where are we to look for the light 
that will lead us to discover the perfect 
musical tone without the direct aid of 
science.? For history attests that great 
singers did flourish before the discovery 
of the laryngoscope, as well as before the 
scientific discoveries of a Tyndall or a 

Has nature not furnished us with a 
simple yet sure guide to find the perfect 
tone-condition ? It is a law as old as 
nature that it always provides the means 
to an end; and thus nature has provided 
us with an infallible means to perceive the 
perfectly satisfactory throat-action or the 


normal mechanism of the laryngeal mus- 
cles, resulting in the absolute, correct tone- 
production; and such tone is to be dis- 
covered from a positive and clear knowl- 
edge of the correct articulate action of 
the glottis. This marvelous vocal mechan- 
ism can readily be discerned and acquired, 
even by the most illiterate and simple- 
minded person, under the proper guid- 
ance ; and the pursuit of such knowledge 
constitutes in reality the art of tone-build- 
ing, an art, I am sorry to say, which is not 
much better known among singers than 
the mysterious workings of electricity 
among the people. 

Let us now inquire what preliminary 
steps lead to such perfect glottic action, 
what constitutes it, and what forms of 
glottic articulation are incorrect. 

The preliminary steps which lead to the 
discovery of the perfect articulate action 
of the glottis are threefold : 

I. A correct knowledge of the breath- 
ing mechanism. 



2. An understanding of the nature of 
any obstacles to the free emission of the 
full tone-wave and the removal of such 
obstacles. And 

3. The right meaning and proper emis- 
sion of the musical sound-wave. 

Of these the correct breathing mechan- 
ism has been already considered at some 
length, and need, therefore, not be re- 

Sometimes the obstacles to the free 
emission of the full tone-wave are to be 
traced to the pathological condition of the 
vocal cords. If the latter are diseased, as, 
for instance, swollen or congested, they 
will be unable to produce regular or ryth- 
mic tone-waves. These will be wanting 
in roundness, fullness, and evenness. Other 
obstacles to the production of the full 
sound-wave are to be found in the dispro- 
portion of the breath-action, as applied to 
the muscular action of the vocal ligaments. 


If not enough breath is used to induce 
correct phonation, the result will be a 
weak, unsustained tone, or approaching 
the falsetto in character. This condition 
may also result from a weak, undeveloped 
and untrained larynx, independent of the 
breath-action, and must be gradually 
strengthened by judicious practice. 

If on the other hand the impact of 
breath against the glottis is too powerful, 
the tone will be pregnant with false over- 
tones; the character of the voice is thus 
strained, and the normal condition and 
relation of the resonant cavities of the 
voice, namely the pharynx and mouth, is 
altered, and as such the latter will lose 
proportionately its musical quality; hence, 
false overtones will predominate, and the 
tone of voice will be thin, harsh, or muffled. 

The correct breathing mechanism leads 
to the discovery of the sonorous tone- 
waves issuing from the vocal cords in 
isochronous vibrations, as they are trans- 


mitted through the resonance chambers. 
The degree of power of the vocal sound- 
wave depends on the force of the proper 
expiration impinging against the vibrating 
reeds, and upon the length, the elasticity, 
and physical condition of the latter; and 
also on the anatomical construction, physi- 
ological and pathological condition of the 
laryngeal, pharyngeal, nasal, and oral cavi- 

The correct tone-wave produces a sen- 
sation of air-waves filling pleasantly, yet 
completely and compactly, every nook and 
corner of the throat and mouth, and imparts 
to the singer a feeling of great satisfaction, 
evincing, as it generally does, a harmonious 
relation between the breath and the vocal 
cords, resulting in freedom of emission ; 
and these altogether prove the correct use 
of the voice. Such tone-condition alone 
is capable of expressing musical senti- 
ment; likewise, the full sonorous sound- 
wave, which depends, as before stated, on 
a favorable anatomical construction of the 


larynx, and the resonant capacities of the 
surrounding parts, brings about the true 
ring, resonance, or timbre, which charac- 
teristic constitutes individuaHty of voice, 
distinguishing one singer from another in 

However, before the perfect tone-quahty 
is reahzed, it is generally conceived or 
previously idealized in the mind. But 
such aesthetic gifts, like all kindred mental 
endowments, are unequally bestowed; 
hence the various grades of vocal talent. 
But the voice-builder, who is possessed of 
a perfectly cultivated voice, singing conse- 
quently the true musical tone, will often 
be able to substitute in his pupil his own 
clear knowledge of tone, and hence the 
latter will copy or imitate a proper 
quality of voice which mentally he could 
neither idealize nor realize. In other 
words, if the teacher possesses a vocal 
organ which, from assiduous and analytical 
study, he has brought under perfect con- 
trol, both in point of tone-quality and of 



vocal technique, such polished vocal utter- 
ance presents itself to the scholar as a 
standard of vocal excellence, for him to 
copy or even to excel. Now, if the axiom 
be true, that experience alone teaches, how 
otherwise could the master dispel the 
darkness of ignorance in the mind of his 
pupil, except with the sunlight of his own 
clear practical knowledge ? 

The marvelous purity of tone and finish 
of execution of the two greatest singers 
that ever visited our shores during my 
recollection, were in my opinion, Nilsson 
and Santley; they have ever been my 
ideals of pure lyric art. Their vocal 
interpretations, whether in oratorio, opera, 
or concert-room, are still fresh in my 
mind ; and many of my readers, no doubt, 
have lingering recollections of the marvel- 
ously finished and truly artistic school of 
these grand interpreters of song divine. 
Would our modern vocalists and public 
singers were all as noble followers, as 
worthy representatives of the glorious lyric 


Articulate Action of the Glottis. 
The articulate action of the glottis con- 
sists in defining or dividing, yet connect- 
edly, and in a perfectly smooth manner, 
each individual note of a series of two or 
more successive or communicating inter- 
vals^ with the perfect, unchanging, though 
naturally modifying tone-qualit)^ ; and as 
distinctly, yet much more evenly, than the 
most graceful reader does articulate each 
successive consonance of a polysyllabic 
word, or a sentence. In other words, it is 
the perfect legato sostenuto of vocaliza- 
tion (colorature of the Italian school) 
whereby one interval succeeds another 
smoothly yet firmly, ever preserving the 
perfect tone-quality, the same which is 
characteristic of the clear execution of a 
Wilhelmj or a Joseffy, or any other first- 
class instrumental performer. It is this 
same neat and finished vocalization which 
distinguishes a Nilsson or a Santley, and I 
may now add a Campanini, and many 
more acknowledged vocalists of superior 


skill. This exceedingly interesting knowl- 
edge of glottic-action, which imparts to the 
vocalist an unerring standard of correct 
breath-action and of proper control of the 
vocal cords, might not improperly be com- 
pared, so far as the muscular adjustment 
between the breath and the vocal cords is 
concerned, to the mechanism of the well- 
regulated time-piece. The breath-power 
would be represented by the spring; 
glottic-action, throbbing gently but ryth- 
mically its vocalized intervals, to the 
regular tick or click of the escapement. 

The click of the glottis in vocalization 
must not be confounded with the stroke 
of the glottis. The former, as above stated, 
refers to the articulate action of the glot- 
tis, which, in this process of the vocal 
mechanism, divides one interval from an- 
other in scale-singing, and yet connects, at 
the same time, such interval in a most 
classic manner. The latter, or stroke of 
the glottis, has reference simply to the 
attack, the striking or intoning either of 


a single or separate vowel sound, or the 
vowel which begins a vocalized passage or 
phrase, and is hereafter to be more partic- 
ularly described. 

When the articulate glottic-action in 
rapid execution is perfect, the vocalist has 
reached the ne plus ultra of his art in the 
matter of vocal technique, for it is the 
result: of the exact proportion of breath- 
impact on the cords in singing; of the 
most perfect adjustment of the laryngeal 
muscles during phonation; and of the 
complete control of the various muscles 
of the resonating cavities, or vocal reflec- 
tors, which henceforth offer no longer the 
slightest obstruction to the full and free 
emission of the sound-wave. 

Furthermore, such vocal mechanism 
enables the singer to increase at will the 
tone-power, without departing from the 
perfect tone-quality, and without losing 
the consciousness of the reserve power. 
Such voice-control teaches the vocalist to 


emit every vowel sound with the free and 
unimpeded sound-wave; and if to the 
above is added a distinct consonant-articu- 
lation, which, in its action or mechanism, 
shall not for a moment impair the pure, 
round vowel sound which accompanies 
consonants in syllabisation, a vocal utter- 
ance is attained which constitutes perfect 
voice-control. Without the above clear 
and practical knowledge, the slightest vocal 
ornament, from the simple grace note to 
the trill, can seldom be accurately exe- 
cuted. But when, on the other hand, the 
singer has mastered the correct glottic- 
action, his voice embodies all the requisites 
of a perfect instrument artistically han- 
dled: the articulate glottic-action stands 
in lieu of the keys of the musical instru- 
ment ; the resonance chambers of the 
voice are represented by the body of the 
same instrument. Nothing further is to 
be added except musical knowledge and 
intelligence on the part of the artiste to 
make his profession a success. Strictly 


speaking, when the master has taught his 
pupil the above-described method of vocal 
technique, his responsibility, so far as tone- 
forming or tone-building is concerned, 
ceases. It is then that the talents of the 
vocal aspirant, in the measure with which 
nature has endowed him, will reveal them- 

After the requisite vocal decorations 
have been mastered by the above-described 
mechanism, the choice of vocal composi- 
tions to be interpreted must be selected 
with a view to his peculiar musical incli- 
nations and mental ability, and the degree 
of art with which he will interpret them 
will gauge his mental caliber. 

Musical expression is the offspring of 
thought and breath-power, not of feeling, 
except indirectly, and. consequently results 
from a vocal organ capable of producing 
the most varied tone-colorings. There 
are, therefore, two essential requisites which 
constitute the great singer: unusual vocal 
powers under perfect control; and equally 



superior mental endowments heightened 
by a thorough musical education. 

Many of my readers, unacquainted with 
the possibilities of the fine muscular ad- 
justment of the larynx, may possibly 
consider my ideas on glottic-action al- 
together Utopian or at least theoretical. 
But if it is true that scientific explorers 
find that there seems no end to nature's 
prolific wealth of resources daily discov- 
ered or better understood, then it will 
perhaps be admitted that the importance 
attached to glottic-action may not be chi- 
merical. If it is chimerical, then Nilsson's 
wonderful technique, the real cause of her 
success, is also a myth. But, in order to 
convince my sceptics, I would ask them to 
read carefully the following well-nigh 
incredible tale; and, were it not absolutely 
authenticated, it would certainly seem 

Dr. Cohen, speaking of the wonderful 
precision and almost inconceivable deli- 


cacy of adjustment of the vocal bands, 
relates the following: "The automatic 
control of adjustment attained by Madame 
Mara, whose voice had a compass of three 
octaves, is said to have been such that she 
could effect as many as twenty-one hun- 
dred changes in pitch, loo between each 
two notes of the 2 1 , in her compass. The 
ordinary capacity of a voice in good culture 
is stated to be equal to about two hundred 
and fifty changes; ten or more for each 
tone of the compass of two octaves, or a 
little beyond. As each change in the ten- 
sion of the vocal bands would not vary 
their length more than one fifteen-hun- 
dredth part of an inch, we can faintly 
estimate the extreme delicacy of adjust- 
ment of tension of which the muscular 
apparatus of the vocal organs is suscepti- 
ble; a delicacy greatly in excess of that 
acquired in the trained fingers of the most 
skilled workman. 

In Madame Mara's case, the variations 
of tension between the tones that she 


could produce would represent a success- 
ive lengthening and shortening of the 
vibrating edges of the vocal bands in suc- 
cessive proportions of one seventeen- 
thousandth of an inch — a marvelous and 
almost inconceivable delicacy of precision 
of touch." 

The knowledge of this beautiful mechan- 
ism, the perfect use and control of the click 
of the glottis, which might be styled the 
highest refinement of vocal execution, is 
to be attained and consolidated ultimately 
by a most careful and conscientious study 
of the proper vocalises, directed by the 
competent master. These vocalises must 
be executed with the steady aim to reach 
and firmly establish the habit of the right 
glottic-action. When such vocal mechan- 
ism or technique is acquired, the singer has 
assured the only possible correct method of 
singing. Possessed of the mastery of such 
a technique, vocal execution is no longer 
an acrobatic performance on the brink of a 
precipice. A vocalist will never fail to be 


appreciated and rightly judged by the 
knowing ones, when scanned from such 
high standpoint of art; his true value and 
merit will soon be duly discerned and 
justly appreciated. For how could any 
injustice be done the singer, except by the 
ignorant pretender in matters of lyric art? 
Is there any underrating or overrating 
possible when the artiste is weighed in the 
balance of a mathematically exact vocal 
technique ? 

Such a standard of vocal precision 
should be the aim of every vocal scholar, 
and should be taught exclusively by voice- 
builders, if either desire to establish fruit- 
ful results for their endeavors. I am not 
advancing any strange theories. Is not 
the self-same method of teaching advocated 
and adopted by all the great instrumental 
performers, and taught by all the great 
masters.? What difference is there be- 
tween the delicate and marvelous touch of 
a Joseffy or a Wilhelmj, and the masterly 
breath-control guiding that most wonder- 


ful tone-producing apparatus, and execution 
of a Nilsson, a Santley, or a Campanini? 
But alas! alas! What amount of serious 
and intelligent attention is generally de- 
voted to lyric art nowadays? Let the 
vocal student ask a Nilsson, a Trebelli, 
a Santley, a Faure, or a Campanini. Let 
him also ask a Wilhelmj or a Joseffy, 
how many years of conscientious applica- 
tion they have spent in mastering 
their respective instruments? To-day, six 
months or thereabout, one lesson a week, 
perhaps, say, in all twenty lessons, and 
many benighted parents think that ought 
to be quite sufficient to make their son 
and daughter distinguished vocalists. 

Dr. L. Browne, quoted elsewhere, says, 
quite to the point: "Forming the voice or 
placing the voice means nothing more 
than the practice of scales on a right 
method, and such practice formerly ex- 
tended over many years; but in these 
go-ahead days of steam and money-making 
about as many months' pupilage is con- 


sidered sufficient for the preliminaries of 
lyric art. To attempt florid passages be- 
fore such practice has been thoroughly 
carried out is as futile as to attempt to 
draw from the life or to color, before one 
can make straight and curved lines in 
black and white. It is astonishing how 
perseverance on a right method will make 
an agreeable and effective voice out of 
a naturally poor organ." 

Sims Reeves, the famous English tenor, 
speaking of the natural musical ability of 
Englishmen and Englishwomen (and the 
same may be said of our American ladies 
and gentlemen), says : " We have the raw 
material in plenty. We have a large stock 
of native energy and quickness of percep- 
tion. But our very facility is apt to be 
our bane. Hard work and the aim after 
perfection are often lacking among us, and 
hence our musical artists too often fail to 
attain the highest results." — Cook's Musi- 
cal Journal., February, 1881. 

It would be safe to assert that no singer 


can have an adequate conception of correct 
glottic-action, unless he or she can practi- 
cally illustrate such vocal mechanism in his 
or her throat in singing ; neither have I 
any doubt that there will be found in the 
musical profession persons who will either 
consider this vocal technique the offshoot 
of some absurd theory, or the outgrowth 
of some sickly imagination or wild enthu- 

But how can any one speak intelligently 
concerning that which he does not know? 
Consequently, how can any man teach 
singing, or talk knowingly about this art, 
which implies tone-forming and vocal or- 
namentation, except he knows himself 
practically and analytically the science of 
tone-forming and tone-coloring ? Mr. The- 
odore Thomas says in Scribner's for 
March, 1881 : "On the principle that no 
person can teach another what he cannot 
do himself, (a principle which I believe in, 
to a great extent,) I hold to the opinion 
that the teachers of singing should them- 
selves be singers, with a good method." 


Yet in another monthly, " The Voice," 
for February, 1 88 1 , 1 read a statement flatly 
contradicting Mr. Thomas. Mr. George 
T. Bulling says : " The truth is, the in- 
structor in vocal culture need not be a vo- 
calist in order to be a good teacher." 

If Mr. Bulling errs in the above asser- 
tion, he is quite right when he says : " The 
art or science of teaching is a special gift;" 
and again: "A person may sing well nat- 
urally without being able to account scien- 
tifically for his various modes of tone-pro- 
duction." Again the above gentleman 
very pertinently remarks, that : " the simple 
guarantee that a man is a musician is no 
earnest at all that he is competent to teach 

If the above important truism were 
universally admitted and adhered to, many 
skillful instrumental players would not so 
readily assume to teach vocal culture, of 
which they often possess but the vaguest 

Mr. Charles Lunn in his " Philosophy 


of the Voice," says : " That oratory should 
have fallen, is the natural result of igno- 
rance in these matters, and that it will 
continue a rare and accidental thing is 
equally true, until the false theories of fan- 
ciful musicians be rejected, a true basis 
supplied by scientific men substituted in 
their stead, and voice-training be recog- 
nized as a separate and distinct field of 

As my readers have already noticed, I 
attach to the stroke of the glottis, the in- 
toning process, a different meaning from 
that which is often understood. The click 
of the glottis and the stroke of the glottis 
are two distinct vocal factors, and should 
not be confounded. By the stroke of the 
glottis is meant the act of intoning a vowel 
not preceded by a consonant; it is the 
muscular action or mechanism of the glot- 
tis striking or intoning a separate vowel- 
sound only, such as occurs in all staccato 
exercises, or, in singing, for instance, vocal 
exercises or vocalises with the vowel a; 



each phrase begins with the latter vowel, 
and when it is struck or intoned it is done 
by a stroke, a sharp or sudden meeting of 
the edges of the vocal cords. Whereas 
each connected interval of the vocalised 
phrase, after the a has been intoned, is then 
more or less distinguished or neatly de- 
fined according to the degree of perfection 
attained in producing the click of the glottis 
and this phonetic action is much more gen- 
tle than the stroke of the attack, which 
latter may be more explosively rendered. 

But even, the very simple muscular ac- 
tion of the vocal process in intoning with 
the stroke of the glottis is not always 
rightly understood nor correctly practised, 
and needs therefore some elucidation. 

There are three forms of the stroke of 
the glottis in vogue among vocalists : 

1. The spasmodic "| 

2. The aspirate V stroke of the glottis. 

3. The normal J 

I . Tke spasmodic stroke of the glottis. 
This faulty method of intoning a vowel 


sound consists in unduly contracting the 
laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles, appar- 
ently producing the physiological condi- 
tions of a slight spasmodic cough. Such 
intonation being generally overdone, on 
account of its harsh and pinched nature, 
is unmusical ; and moreover will not infre- 
quently produce temporary hoarseness. It 
is not difficult to perceive how such unnat- 
ural throat-contraction must irritate the 
parts concerned. Let us take, for instance, 
a staccato exercise executed with this spas- 
modic attack ; what else would it be but a 
continued miniature coughing spell } 

The remedy for this defective method of 
intonation is to be found in studying to 
attain a more quiet and easy manner of 
emitting the vowel sounds. This will be 
easily accomplished by allowing the very 
smallest amount of breath to escape pre- 
viously to the meeting of the edges of the 
vocal cords, in intoning the vowel sounds, 
as for instance in the word, ha ! The ac- 
tion of the muscles of the larynx, after the 



prefix k has been expired, will normally 
intone the vowel a. The pupil's attention 
should be called to this latter functional 
movement of the glottis, and he should 
then learn to omit as soon as possible, the 
aspirated h, and attack henceforth all vowel 
sounds with the proper stroke of the 

2. The aspirate glottic-stroke^ 
As the term implies, consists in habitually 
prefixing to all single vowels, as well as in 
vocalization in general, an aspirate. 

3. The normal stroke of the glottis^ 

consists in adjusting the edges of the vo- 
cal cords by the proper breath-impact, so 
as to emit at once a clear and neat musical 
tone, without the slightest undue effort, 
nor the least expiratory waste. Thus the 
correct stroke of the glottis has an imme- 
diate effect on the articulate glottic action. 
The excellence of execution of any vocal 
decorations, such as scales, roulades, fiori- 
turi, or trills, also depends in a great meas- 



y voice. 

ure on the stroke of the glottis, because 
the proper attack secures the required 
breath-impact to execute successfully any 
vocal ornaments. The throat-conditions 
unfavorable to glottic articulation are to 
be traced almost invariably to the faulty 
methods of breathing as manifested in the 
following tone-conditions; such are: 

1. The tremolo 

2. The nasal, 

3. The guttural or throat 

4. The wiry or harsh 
and 5. the uncultivated voice in general, 
evincing breaks or weaknesses called reg- 

I. The tremolo voice. 
What produces tremulous singing? Mr. 
Emil Behnke, mentioned elsewhere, in his 
attempt to explain how a weakness of the 
muscles of the diaphragm produces the 
tremolo voice, says : " Owing to the abdo- 


men being drawn in, the midriff (dia- 
phragm) never properly contracts; the 
muscles are not sufficiently exercised, and 
consequently have not power enough to 
resist the pressure that is brought to bear 
upon them in singing. They tremble, and 
this trembling being communicated to the 
lungs, which are resting upon them, the 
stream of air the}^ give forth loses its 
evenness and continuity, with the result 
just stated." 

I beg to differ from Mr. Behnke con- 
cerning the real or immediate cause of the 
tremolo. The weakness of the muscles of 
the diaphragm, no doubt, maybe a remote 
cause of vocal tremulousness. But the im- 
mediate cause is simply to be traced to the 
peculiar action of the vocal cords during 
an improper, inefficient, and feeble expira- 
tion. For if the expiration is effected in 
a spasmodic manner, owing to an incom- 
plete air-supply in the lungs, the vocal 
cords cannot be thrown into normal nor 
rhythmic vibrations ; and if there is added 


to this factor, incomplete and clavicular 
breathing, too infrequent inspirations, by 
which the chest supply of air is obtained, 
and the elements of nervousness and lack 
of confidence which proceed from the con- 
sciousness that the chest is incompletely 
filled, together with the sense of exhaus- 
tion which must follow the constant expul- 
sive effort of the singer ; it may be more 
reasonably supposed that these causes 
might more likely produce the fluttering 
tone called tremolo, than would the re- 
mote or more or less hypothetical cause 
advanced by Mr. Behnke. 

Moreover, experience has taught me 
that tremolo singing is to be attributed to 
faulty breathing mainly, if not exclusively, 
because the proper vocal exercises, guided 
by the correct breathing method, have in- 
variably cured the tremolo defect, and 
brought about, in its stead, a regular and 
even outflow of tone. 


2. The nasal voice. 

The n-asal quality of voice, aside from 
organic causes, is produced when the pal- 
ate-veil, or soft palate, fails to contract and 
lift itself sufficiently upward and backward 
against the pharyngeal wall, but on the 
contrary sags down. Moreover, if these 
faulty physiological movements are accom- 
plished with a muscular raising of the base 
of the tongue, it is easy to perceive how 
the tone-wave issuing from the larynx will 
be diverted from i4:s natural course through 
the mouth, but will be forced proportion- 
ately through the nasal cavities, and will 
thus produce the unmusical sound known 
as the nasal voice. 

The remedy to this defective utterance 
is to • be found in reducing the tongue to 
absolute passivity and in imparting to the 
vocalist a clear idea of purely musical tone ; 
this will enable him to impart to the vowel 
sounds that clearness and purity which will 
force the soft palate to contract. 

It is scarcely necessary to mention that 


when the velum or fauces are sore, all vo- 
cal practice should cease for a time, till the 
normal condition is restored. Persistence, 
under such ckcumstaiK:es, in using the 
voice will only tend to aggravate the in- 
flamed condition of the diseased parts, and 
will thus often cause the inflammation to 
spread down the pharynx to the larynx. 

Of all the defective methods of tone- 
utterance or emission, the nasal quality, 
when only heard in a slight degree, offers 
little impediment to glottic articulation, 
but if the back of the tongue is held rig- 
idly, just in that proportion will the click 
of the glottis be indistinct, or even want- 
kig in vocalization ; for the reason that the 
rigidity of the tongue-muscles will more or 
less impede the free and harmonious mus- 
cular moven>ents of the larynx. This lat- 
ter c«rgan m-ust at ail times enjoy absolute 
freedom in order to produce the neat and 
clear glottic articiHatron, as well as the cor- 
rect tone-production. 


3. The guttural voice. 
The guttural or throat-voice is produced 
by an unnecessary or abnormal contrac- 
tion of the muscles of the neck, throat, 
and tongue, thus choking in part the tone- 
emission, instead of looking exclusively 
for vocal effect to the proper motor-power^ 
breath. Thus the tongue, epiglottis, and 
pharynx assume a more or less strained 
and abnormal position. 

The base of the tongue is forced more 
or less stiffly upwards and backwards in- 
stead of lying passively in the mouth with 
its tip gently touching the inner wall of 
the lower teeth ; and differs from the nasal 
quality, aside from the palate-condition, 
only in point of rigidity. 

It was stated above how an abnormal 
position of the tongue may influence and 
modify tone unfavorably; remembering 
this fact, it is not unreasonable to sup- 
pose that the epiglottis, which is the 
coverlid to the voice-box, its ligamentous 
attachments to the tongue being taken 

voic:e-pboi)uction. si 

into consideration, may, through this ab- 
normal position of the latter organ, be 
forced from or prevented from assuming 
its correct position during vocalization, 
and forced unnaturally backwards by the 
back-sliding tongue. It prevents the tone- 
waves from passing out through the partly 
covered cavity of the larynx ; they must be 
consequently cramped, compressed, and 
narrowed, and it is no wonder if such tone 
should appear throaty or thick. It is true 
that the epiglottis is found in all sorts of 
shapes, without apparently affecting the 

The before-described throat disturbance 
must be remedied by learning to control 
the abnormal movements of the tongue, 
and by cultivating, under the proper tuition, 
a clear, musical tone-emJssion. 

When the unruly tongue, the cause 
of no little amount of trouble in singing, 
acts in the balky manner above described, 
the larynx will often be forcibly suspended 
by an unnatural and injurious uplifting ac- 



complished by the muscles connecting it 
with the hyoid or tongue-bones. In this 
manner the freedom of action of the la- 
ryngeal muscles will be impeded according 
to the degree of the abnormal strain, and 
this often causes singers to smg below the 
required pitch, and certainly glottic articu- 
lation, which demands such harmony of 
movements between the breathing and 
sound-producing muscles, will perforce be 
disturbed, since the gentle function of the 
latter is so ruthlessly prevented. 

Professor Sieber, whose admirable work 
" Art of Singing " may be consulted with 
benefit, mentions a recently-invented throat- 
voice (quite flourishing just now in this coun- 
try) which the professor stigmatizes as fol- 
lows : " For perhaps fifteen years it has 
been the custom, which is as wanting in 
beauty as it is pernicious, to lower female 
voices to a deeper pitch, and this vulgar 
intonation, which constitutes a second spe- 
cies of throat-sound, has been shamelessly 
and authoritatively honored with the name 


of a special register. This faulty manage- 
ment of the voice consists in a forcible de- 
pression of the larynx and a contraction 
of the pharynx. Tones obtained in this 
manner, of course, show a greater breadth 
and power of sound, but are incapable of 
impressing and inspiring an audience, sim- 
ply because they are unnatural and forced. 
Moreover, they injure the voice very 
greatly, for the reason that they do not 
admit of any union with the natural chest- 
voice, but at the point where they cease 
(most generally 2iif or g\ always give way 
to the falsetto. Under such circumstances, 
the resonance of the latter must appear 
much diminished, since on the one hand 
it is resorted to at an improper place, and 
on the other hand allies itself directly to 
the bloating tones which should rather be 
bawled forth by a drunken brawler, than 
to flow from the lips of a tender maiden." 
Nobody will deny that pleasing vocal 
exeeti-tion is generally accompanied with 
great apparent ease, and is charming only 


from the absence of all visible laborious 
efforts. Every teacher knows also from 
experience that the pupil, in his anxiety to 
progress, will nearly always overdo his vo- 
cal practice, both in intensity and in dura- 
tion. The overdoing in intensity supposes 
undue muscular exertion, and if such un- 
reasonable exercise is irrationally pro- 
longed, it must necessarily produce corres- 
ponding exhaustion, ultimately resulting 
in weakness, and finally the pupil, who 
was once gifted with a good voice, loses 
all control over it. The muscles of the 
vocal cords seem then to have reached a 
state of semi-paralyzed condition. 

But the aim of all vocal practice con- 
sists in establishing perfectly normal rela- 
tions between the motor- power and the 
cords ; now this result is only to be 
reached by the absence of all undue 
efforts ; and whereas certain vocal theorists, 
who rely wholly for success on various 
muscular movements, may occasionally 
produce some local benefit, yet in general, 


they impart to the pupil an idea that sing- 
ing is laborious work, and the latter 
seldom reaches, judging from experience 
and various instances, the ease of tone- 
emission which is a charm both for the 
singer and the listener. Therefore, would 
it not seem far better, as a general rule, 
that the vocal scholar were told to think as 
little as possible about his tongue, for 
instance, excepting to let it alone and at 
rest, relying for vocal effect exclusively 
on the correct breath action ? Let my 
readers inquire of Patti, Nilsson, Santley, 
or Campanini, whether they were trained 
to pull about their tongue, and larynx, 
and to perform all manner of bodily 
contortions, and utter all sorts of un- 
earthly sounds, during the process of 
their vocal education ? On the contrary, 
let the vocal student learn to open his 
mouth with the utmost ease. Let him 
learn to drop the lower jaw in uttering a 
tone with the same absolutely- unconscious 
ease, even as the eyelids drop apart, and 


let him in this natural way develop any 
other set of muscles called in play for 
vocal purposes, in the most gentle manner, 
ever remembering how quietly nature per- 
forms all her normal functions. I desire 
to impress it on the minds of vocal 
scholars that any abnormal and strained 
muscular gymnastics for vocal purposes, 
as for instance the pulling up and down 
of the larynx as a whole, apart from its 
natural movements as in swallowing, etc., 
must be pernicious, because all such move- 
ments are unnatural in singing. The 
muscles involving the production of the 
voice are instinctively set to work and 
their wonderful adjustment far surpasses 
all human conception and ingenuity. Dr. 
L. Mandl, in his works : " Treatise on the 
diseases of the Larynx," and " Hygiene of 
the Voice," says : " That because the 
larynx can move in its totality, as in the 
act of swallowing or in protruding and 
retracting the tongue, it is proved that the 
position of the larynx higher or lower is 


independent of the highest sound." I 
will add here that the better the voice is 
used, the more the larynx keeps its natural 
place of repose ; but on the other hand, 
the worse the voice is used, the more 
abnormally acrobatic are its movements. 
Once more let my advice be to the vocal- 
ist to let the jaw, the tongue, the muscles 
of the pharynx and larynx, also the chest 
and diaphragmatic muscles, perform their 
allotted natural functions and movements 
in the most restful manner possible, so 
that vocal exercises may not produce any 
aching sensations in the throat, nor feel- 
ings of exhaustion, and the most desirable 
vocal results will not long delay in forth- 

The thick or throaty voice mentioned 
above, is sometimes caused by enlarged 
tonsils. These fill up, more or less, the 
cavity of the throat, and thus present a 
mechanical barrier to the emission of a 
perfect tone. 


Relief is to be found in excision. But 
in order to set at rest the popular pre- 
judice against this simple surgical opera- 
tion, let my readers remember that Adelina 
Patti had her tonsils cut out, many years 
ago, and Adelina still sings ; and the same 
is true of thousands of singers. I have 
advised the operation to many of my 
pupils, and* when it was performed by a 
skilled surgeon, it resulted always in 
relieving the throat from the many annoy- 
ances caused by the condition ; improved 
also the quality of the voice, and not 
infrequently added several upper notes to 
the compass. 

When the relaxed or elongated uvula 
hangs habitually down the throat, irritating 
or tickling both the base of the tongue 
and the posterior walls of the pharynx, it 
causes the well-known hacking cough, 
which may lead to more serious disorders, 
and besides, in its elongated state, must it 
not cut in two the sound-wave passing out 


from the pharynx into the mouth; and 
consequently must it not mar the reso- 
nance of the voice ? Let no singer or 
speaker hesitate to have his elongated 
uvula shortened by the competent surgeon 
when it is deemed advisable ; the opera- 
tion is painless and the work of a second, 
never to be repeated when rightly per- 
formed. Mine was clipped by one of the 
most skillful surgeons in the city, if not in 
America, much to my relief, and benefit 
to my general health. The resonance of 
my voice, far from being injured or 
impaired, was also considerably improved. 

4. The wiry voice. 

The wiry or harsh voice results either 
from a total disregard of all hygienic laws, 
or from acute and spasmodic contractile 
action of the laryngeal and pharyngeal 
muscles, or from incidental disease of the 
vocal cords such as occurs in laryngitis. 

Apart from any organic condition caus- 
ing harsh, wiry, shrill, grating tones, rough 


or wiry voices often result from continued 
or excessive use of voice, also from serious 
dissipations of all sorts, such as the abuse 
of alcoholic liquors, excessive smoking, 
etc., etc. 

Singers addicted to the unmusical tone 
in question are usually ignorant of the true 
vocal mechanism and the correct breathing 
method. Thus the deficient expulsive 
power of the breath is compensated by 
the excessive action of the laryngeal and 
pharyngeal muscles, which unnaturally 
contract in order to balance the defective 
expiratory effort. Vocalization with such 
throat-action is either rasping or irregular, 
and of course, anything but melodious, 
smooth, and musical. 

The remedy for such faulty action is to 
be found in a better apprehension of the 
breath-action, and in relaxing the throat 
and vocal muscles concerned, and finally 
in a clearer understanding of the methods 
in producing the broader and more musical 


The above-described defective methods 
of using the voice, although varying from 
the milder to the severer grades, are ex- 
ceedingly prevalent among singers, and 
offer corresponding resistances or obstacles 
to the acquiring of the smooth glottic-ac- 
tion in vocalization. Hence there are 
many intervening stages leading to the 
knowledge of perfect vocal execution. The 
artistic instrumental performer will recol- 
lect how crude were his first attempts, how 
many were the difficulties he had to over- 
come, and how, through conscientious la- 
bor and assiduous application, he rose step 
by step to the mastery of the beautiful 
technique, without which the artistic inter- 
pretation of the great musical compositions 
is an utter impossibility. 

So it is precisely with the pursuit of vo- 
cal studies. The preparatory exercises, if 
properly taught, should lead to the knowl- 
edge of the perfect vocal technique, and 
voices which have been drilled by the ap- 
propriate vocal gymnastics, not only obtain 


the mastery of a brilliant execution, but 
they are capable of expressing with pleas- 
ure to themselves, all the possible shades 
of soul-emotion without ever abandoning 
the perfect tone-quality. Thus the beau- 
tiful adjustment of the laryngeal, pharyn- 
geal, and breathing muscles, reach a state 
of most charming relations, which the 
French language beautifully expresses in 
two words : " Entente cordiale." 

But when one judges singers in general, 
or as they are heard in the concert-room 
and elsewhere, with few exceptions, the 
standard of high art which should be their 
aim, is often conspicuously wanting. 

How seldom would the modern ' vocal 
technique when compared with the beauti- 
ful modern instrumental school, bear the 
scrutiny of close analysis ? In other words, 
in what light would the average modern 
vocalist appear, could his faulty execution 
(apart from the natural attraction of a hu- 
man voice) be faithfully translated or re- 
produced (fac simile) on a musical instru- 

voicb-produotion: g, 

ment? The deficiencies in tone-quality, 
the want of smoothness, the indistinctness 
of glottic articulation, the blurring or con- 
fusing of the connecting intervals, the 
improper phrasing, the deficient articula- 
tion, etc., etc., all these defects would then 
stand out prominently in all their crud- 
ity. It is not a little discouraging to the 
true devotee of high lyric art to find as 
yet so little intelligent appreciation of 
genuine vocal merit. For it must be 
admitted the public should take its share 
of blame in too often helping to lower the 
standard of vocal art by countenancing 
on the stage exhibitions of a decidedly 
low order of vocal talent. Who has not 
witnessed in the concert-room, how a 
beautiful face, a stylish dress, coquettish 
manners, etc., etc., or even a frantic final 
scream or yell, climaxing some decidedly 
inartistic singing, will cover all previous 
vocal deficiencies, and provoke applause 
from the indiscriminating portion of an 
audience, when the whole performance 


should have been treated at least with silent 

But to convince my readers that I am 
not over-severe, I will quote the Herald's 
musical criticism of March 15, 1881, in 
support of my ideas. It fell opportunely 
into my hands on the very day I was writ- 
ing these pages. Speaking of the tenor's 
delivery in Sonnambula, wherein he had 
shown unevenness of quality in his work, 
the able musical critic very pertinently 
writes as follows : " The fine quality and 
manly power of his high notes have been 
frequently referred to in most compliment- 
ary terms. This has, it is to be feared, 
tended to induce him to rely too much on 
their brilliant effect, and he has gradually 
been learning to slight the rest of his mu- 
sic to the advantage of an aria and an 
effective note above the staff. His per- 
formance is thus rendered very uneven, and 
while it (to slightly alter the great poet) 
' makes the groundlings applaud, it makes 
the judicious grieve.' There are au- 


diences who enjoy and greatly applaud 
these displays above the staff, and will wil- 
lingly sacrifice an even performance to 
occasional vocal pyrotechnics, but their 
musical intelligence is akin to Dickens' 
honest but illiterate Joe Gargery, whose 
reading never went to any greater extent 
than the picking out of the letters of his 
monosyllabic name from a printed page, and 
he was • oncommon fond of reading too.' 
' Give me,' says Joe, ' a good book or a 
good newspaper and sit me down before a 
good fire and I ask no better, Pip, old chap. 
Lord ! when you look over the page and 
you do come to a J or an O, and says you, 
" Here at last is a J-O, Jo," how interesting 
reading is!'" 

This is the way with an operatic audi- 
ence of the Gargery type; they don't 
mind how a tenor slights his concerted 
music for a solo or a grandly effective high 
note. " Sit me down," they say, " before 
a good tenor in a good opera, and when 
you do come to a B flat or a high C, 


'Here at last,' says you, 'is music, and 
how interesting opera is ? ' " It is better 
for an artist to make his performance of 
an even excellence, even if he fails to 
" catch the house " with lofty vocal gym- 

If it is difficult to give on paper an ade- 
quate idea of voice-description, even in 
general, or of the correct glottic action in 
particular, it is not more easy to enter into 
the minute characteristics of the various 
faulty methods of vocalization, which must 
be heard in order to be properly appreci- 

The leading features of faulty glottic 
action are: 

I. The aspirated 

methods of 

2. The forced 

3. The jerky 

4. The rolling 

5. The blurred 
I. The aspirated method of vocaliza- 
tion consists in prefixing the aspirate h 
before the vowel a or any other vowel in 


singing scales or vocalises, and pronounce 
ha instead of the simple vowel a in pass- 
ing legato from one interval to another. 
Thus the click of the glottis cannot be 
heard, since a different vocal mechanism, 
almost wholly partaking, apart from the 
aspirate, of the nature of an attack or 
stroke of the glottis in intoning ; and this 
stroke is substituted for the legitimate 
click of the glottis in vocalization. This 
is so common a method of vocalization, 
that nearly ninety-nine per cent, of the 
singers are addicted to this vocalizing 

2. The forced, rigid, or stiffly con- 
tracted manner of singing vocalises, is nec- 
essarily a very coarse and unrefined method 
of execution. It consists in an excessive 
use of muscular power, straining the action 
of the vocal cords, while attempting to 
pass from one interval to another, in legato 
passages. Thus the transition from one 
interval to another, instead of being 
smooth, is rasping or hitchy. Moreover 


q8 voice-production, 

such rough method of singing is almost al- 
ways accompanied with an excessive and 
injudicious use of breath. As a matter of 
course, it precludes normal glottic action, 
since the undue muscular strain impedes 
the natural and gentle movements of the 
vocal muscles. 

■3. The jerking vocalizing process con- 
sists in usurping the legitimate click of 
the glottis by a spasmodic jumping process 
of connecting the intervals of a scale, 
without however wholly severing or dis- 
connecting the successive intervals. This 
latter method of singing is much in vogue 
in the modern Italian school and is con- 
spicuous for its lack of smoothness in vo- 
calization and its want of purity of tone 
in execution. All such crude methods of 
vocalization are not only unsatisfactory be- 
cause inartistic, but they often are pro- 
ductive of hoarseness. 

4. The rolling method of vocalization 
takes place when one note succeeds an- 
other with a superfluous outflow or waste 


of breath, and producing iinsustained or 
weakly sustained tones, which as before 
repeatedly stated, should always be up- 
held or checked by the breath-retaining 
muscles. Such vocal action is faulty from 
a want of the properly governed breath- 
impact on the cords ; such singing is ex- 
haustive instead of strengthening, because 
a large portion of the expiration escapes 
unvocalized, often producing feelings of 
physical debility, or also unpleasant sensa- 
tions of dizziness. 

5. The blurred or slurred method of 
vocalization, the coarsest of all vocal 
attempts, consists in slurring or sliding 
through, or running together the intervals 
of a scale or run, without the possibility 
of distinguishing the separate intervals 
which compose it. Slurring whole scales 
or runs without properly marking or 
delineating a single interval distinctly, is 
too absurd a mode of execution to deserve 
even to be mentioned. 


5. The uncultivated voice in general 
evincing breaks or weak7iesses called 

Mr. Leo Kofler, in an interesting paper 
on the " Old Italian school for singing," 
published in " The Voice " for March, 1881, 
says : " We must keep in mind that nature 
is not a singing teacher. She furnishes 
ample means for the singers but she her- 
self does not train them. Therefore, 
whatever breaks and cracks are found in 
an untrained voice, or what is a great deal 
^worse, in a voice wrested by the three- 
register system, we must not impugn 

One of the mistakes which writers on 
the subject of registers have made, is that 
they examine with the laryngoscope exclu- 
sively the physiological changes of the 
vocal cords as the voice runs through all 
the successive notes of its compass, and 
they neglect to discriminate not only 
whether such tones were abnormal and 
how far unnatural or strained, but they 


also neglect to examine the physiological 
movements or abnormal changes of the 
resonating cavities of the vocal organs, 
which latter possess largely the faculty of 
so modifying or changing the quality of 
the issuing tone-waves, that each successive 
note of such a scale might as well be taken 
for a fresh register. 

I will venture to state, and this result 
should be required of every vocal teacher 
or voice-builder, that any voice possessed 
of the following conditions, will not give 
any evidence of breaks or cracks. These 

The perfect adjustment between the 
breathing mechanism and the sound pro- 
ducing muscles. 

A thorough control of the muscles in- 
fluencing the resonating cavities of the 

An intelligent and realized apprehen- 
sion of the true musical tone-wave. 
• There is no question in my mind that 
the misunderstanding or the misapplying 
of the motive-power breath is at the root 


of all defective vocal delivery, as far the 
quality of the tone is concerned. If the 
expiratory effort is spasmodic or strained, 
would it not naturally follow that the 
laryngeal muscles, as well as the general 
throat condition, would be irregularly 
governed, in accordance with the principle, 
that a like cause begets a like effect? 
Whereas, if from judicious and correct 
control of the vocal apparatus, the most 
harmonious relations are made to exist 
between the breath and the vocal cords, 
then there is no longer any excess of 
action in either, one way or the' other; 
neither in too much nor too little expira- 
tory force for the musical expression 
desired; nor in too much, or too little 
strain on the laryngeal muscles for the 
acoustic results desired. Hence an even 
outflow of tone under perfect control, is 
obtained which can be maintained through- 
out the whole compass ; and this condition 
must do away with breaks or cracks, and 
sap the false theories of registers. 

Charles Lunn, author of " The Philos- 


ophy of the Voice," after a rather sarcas- 
tic review of the register theories as 
upheld by writers as distinguished as 
Signer Garcia and Madame Seiler, says : 
" But jesting apart, — to diagnose an ugly, 
unmusical tone, that being falsely pro- 
duced, is readily ' found to be too fatigu- 
ing' and therefrom deducing fixed laws, 
is about as sensible as taking a cripple to 
represent the human race in its most per- 
fect state, and deducing laws from his 
distorted state." 

Has it not been made clear t?iat when 
the improper method of breathing pro- 
duces an irregularity of movements in the 
laryngeal muscles, that such irregularity 
will most naturally be participated in by 
the muscles which govern the action of 
the resonating cavities? Hence in the 
process of strained scale singing, and 
there is not a singer in a thousand who is 
not more or less guilty of some more or 
less over-straining, a point must be reached 
when the abnormal contraction or rigidity 
must give way, in order to reach a higher 


note or range of notes ; then, the quality 
of the tone suddenly changes, simultane- 
ously with the physiological changes of 
the resonance cavities, be this ever so 
slight, and a break occurs. But if the 
vocal cavities left naturally free and pas- 
sive, together with a skillful usage of 
breath, have reached a state of easy, unfelt 
passive-activity ; presenting a generous out- 
let for the full, unrestricted tone-waves, 
all of which constitutes a state of anti- 
straining, a proper physiological throat- 
condition is obtained by which the tones 
will pour out with an ease and volume 
that will not encounter any obstacles, and 
thus scales will be run up without cracks 
or breaks or impediments, and instead of 
the so-called registers, there will be dis- 
tinguished nothing more than the natural 
and necessary modification of tones such 
as is heard in all scientifically construct- 
ed musical instruments. 

Where opportunity was given me, and 
there is no lack of it, I have never failed to 
correct sooner or later or prevent in fresh 


voices the disagreeable breaks which usually 
occur in voices trained, or rather disfigured 
or deformed by the three-register system, in 
the first place by never mentioning a word 
about registers ; secondly, by showing the 
pupil very clearly how to manage his 
breath, and by imparting to him a clear 
idea of the correct musical tone. As soon 
as the pupil is able to produce that tone, 
he quickly perceives the relations between 
the above vocal agencies, namely, breath 
and tone; uncertainty and nervousness 
soon vanish, and he then feels confident of 
his vocal powers, scales are sung smoothly, 
and he becomes quite convinced that there 
is not the slightest necessity for all such 
unmusical changes as occur in voices 
trained on any other principle. But unless 
the teacher can practically show his pupil 
in his own properly cultivated voice, how 
he himself can sing scales without breaks, 
he must not expect any results in this par- 
ticular, for how can he clearly explain to 
his pupil that which he is himself incapa- 
ble of executing. 


But to sum up ; when the physiological 
requirements of the correct vocal mechan- 
ism have been thoroughly fulfilled, the 
tone of voice will no longer encounter ob- 
stacles to its free emission, and will accord- 
ingly issue forth from the vocal cords in 
the larynx, spreading its full sonorous tone- 
waves compactly throughout all the reso- 
nating cavities, which now have become, 
as it were, happy recipients and promoters 
of the musical sounds ; and if such physi- 
ological condition is maintained, the vocal- 
ist will be enabled to sing throughout the 
compass of his voice without breaks. Thus 
all signs of registers vanish, and there is 
left to him an organ capable of imparting 
to his soul more exalted and unalloyed 
pleasure than the whole world could be- 

If, kind reader, you will grant that I 
have contributed to vocal science my 
promised little mite, I will consider myself 
amply repaid. 

33 Union Square, New York, Dec. 4, 1881. 




Pattou, Ange Albert 

The art of voice-production 
with special reference to the 
methods of correct breathing |\'