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SECTION XII

THE SENSATION OF THE RESONANCE OF THE
HEAD CAVITIES

The sensation of the resonance of the head
cavities is perceived chiefly by those who
are unaccustomed to using the head tones.
The resonance against the occipital walls of
the head cavities when the head tones are
employed, at first causes a very marked
irritation of the nerves of the head and ear.
But this disappears as soon as the singer
gets accustomed to it. The head tones can
be used and directed by the breath only
with a clear head. The least depression
such as comes with headaches, megrim, or
moodiness may have the worst effect, or
even make their use quite impossible. This
feeling of oppression is lost after regular,
conscious practice, by which all unnecessary

108


RESONANCE OF THE HEAD CAVITIES 109

and disturbing pressure is avoided. In sing-
ing very high head tones I have a feeling as
if they lay high above the head, as if I were
setting them off into the air. (See plate.)

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

With rapid scales and trills one has the
feeling of great firmness of the throat


110 HOW TO SING

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

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


 


RESONANCE OF THE HEAD CAVITIES 113

and intelligent practice; and success comes
only in course of time.

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

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

Training the muscles of the vocal organs
so that their power to contract and relax to
all desired degrees of strength, throughout


114 HOW TO SING-

the entire gamut of the voice, is always at
command, makes the master singer.

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

The whirling currents of tone circling
around their focal point (the attack) find a
cup-shaped resonating cavity when they reach
the front of the mouth and the lips, which,
through their extremely potent auxiliary
movements, infuse life and color into the
tone and the word. Of equal importance are
the unimpeded activity of the whirling cur-
rents of sound and their complete filling of the


 

 


 


RESONANCE OF THE HEAD CAVITIES 121

resonating spaces in the back of the throat,
the pillars of the fauces, and the head cavi-
ties in which the vocalized breath must be
kept soaring above the larynx and soaring
undisturbed.

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

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

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

Singing forward, then, does not mean
pressing the whole of the breath or the tone


122 HOW TO SING

forward, but only part of it; that is, in the
middle register, finding a resonating focus in
front, caused by the lowering of the front
of the palate. This permits a free course (
only to that part of the breath which is used
up by the whirling currents in the resonant
throat form, and serves to propagate the
outer waves, and carry them farther through
space.


SECTION XIII

SINGING COVERED

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

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

123


124 HOW TO SING

The tone is concentrated on the front of
the palate instead of being spread over all
of it — but this must not be done too sud-
denly. [See illustrations on pages 127, 129,
181, 133.]


 


 









E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III