Singing - How To Sing 22-23

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

It has an extremely delicate and difficult
task to perform. It must be in such a posi-
tion as not to press upon the larynx. Tongue
and larynx must keep out of each other's
way, although they always work in coopera-
tion ; but one must not hamper the other,
and when one can withdraw no farther
out of the way, the other must take it upon



itself to do so. For this reason the back of
the tongue must be raised high, the larynx
stand low.

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

As soon as the furrow is formed, the mass
of the tongue is put out of the way, since it
stands high on both sides. It is almost im-
possible to make drawings of this; it can
best be seen in the mirror. As soon as the
larynx is low enough and the tongue set elas-
tically against the palate and drawn up be-
hind (see plate a), the furrow is formed of
itself. In pronouncing the vowel ah (which
must always be mixed with do and o), it is a
good idea to think of yawning.

The furrow must be formed in order to
allow the breath to resonate against the pal-
ate beneath the nose, especially in the middle
range; that is, what a bass and a baritone
(whose highest range is not now under consid-


eration) would call their high range, all other
voices their middle.

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

With all its strength and firmness this
furrow must be of the utmost sensitiveness
toward the breath, which, as I have often
said, must not be subjected to the least
pressure above the larynx or in the larynx


itself. Pressure must be limited to the ab- 1
dominal and chest muscles; and this might
better be called stress than pressure.

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

When the back of the tongue can rise no
higher, the larynx must be lowered. This
often happens in the highest ranges, and one
needs only to mingle an oo in the vowel to
be sung, which must, however, be sounded
not forward in the mouth but behind the nose.
When the larynx must stand very low, the
tongue naturally must not be too high, else
it would affect the position of the larynx.
The mass of the tongue must then be dis-
posed of elsewhere; that is, by the forma-
tion of a furrow (see plate). One must learn
to feel and hear it. To keep the larynx,
the back of the tongue, and the palate al-


ways in readiness to offer mutual assistance,
must become a habit. I feel the interplay
of tongue and larynx in my own case as
shown in the plates.

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

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

I, for instance, after every syllable, at once
jerk my tongue with tremendous power back
to its normal position in singing; that is,
with its tip below the front teeth and the

base raised

That goes on constantly,as quick as a flash.
At the same time my
larynx takes such a position that the tongue
cannot interfere with it, that is, press upon
it. By quickly raising the tongue toward


the back, it is taken out of the way of the
larynx, and the mass of the tongue is cleared
from the throat. In the middle range, where
the tongue or the larynx might be too high
or too low, the furrow, which is of so much
importance, is formed, in order to lead the
vocalized breath first against the front of the
palate beneath the nose, then slowly along
the nose and behind it. Then when the
highest point (the peak, which is extremely
extensible) is reached, the pillars of the fauces
are lowered, in order to leave the way for
the head tones to the head cavities entirely
free. In doing this, the sides of the tongue
are raised high. Every tongue should occupy
only so much space as it can occupy without
being a hindrance to the tone.

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

Ladies and gentlemen, these are nothing hut
the excuses of the lazy !



No one can sing properly without first
preparing for it, mentally and physically,
with all the organs concerned in the produc-
tion of the voice.

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

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

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

Third, to jerk the tongue backward at the
same time, its back being thus raised, and



elastic, ready to meet all the wishes of the
singer,—that is, the needs of the larynx. The
larynx must not be pressed either too low
or too high, but must work freely. The
breath is enabled to stream forth from it
like a column, whose form is moulded above
the larynx by the base of the tongue.

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

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

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

For this the palate must remain elastic,
for it has a twofold duty to perform. It
must not only furnish resistance for the focal


point of the breath, — except in the very
highest head tones, — around which it can be
diffused; the same resistance, which stands
against the stream of breath from below,
must also afford a firm, pliant, and elastic
floor for the overtones, which, soaring above
the palate, shift, as is needed, to or above the
hard and soft palate, or are divided in the
nose, forehead, and head cavities. It can
easily be seen how any pressure in singing
can be dangerous everywhere, and how care-
ful the singer is forced to be to avoid such

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