Singing - How To Sing 34-36

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There still remains the trill, which is best
practised in the beginning as follows: —

The breath is led very far back against
the head cavities by the a, the larynx kept
as stiff as possible and placed high. Both
tones are connected as closely, as heavily as
possible, upward nasally, downward on the
larynx, for which the y, again, is admirably
suited. They must be attacked as high as
possible, and very strongly. The trill exer-
cise must be practised almost as a scream.



The upper note must always be strongly
accented. The exercise is practised with an
even strength, without decrescendo to the
end; the breath streams out more and more
strongly, uninterruptedly to the finish.

Trill exercises must be performed with
great energy, on the whole compass of the
voice. They form an exception to the rule
in so far that in them more is given to
the throat to do — always, however, under
the control of the chest — than in other
exercises. That relates, however, to the

The breath vibrates above the larynx, but
does not stick in it, consequently this is not

The exercise is practised first on two half,
then on two whole, tones of the same key
(as given above), advancing by semitones,
twice a day on the entire compass of the
voice. It is exhausting because it requires
great energy; but for the same reason it
gives strength. Practise it first as slowly


and vigorously as the strength of the throat
allows, then faster and faster, till one day
the trill unexpectedly appears. With some
energy and industry good results should be
reached in from six to eight weeks, and the
larynx should take on the habit of perform-
ing its function by itself. This function
gradually becomes a habit, so that it seems
as if only one tone were attacked and held,
and as if the second tone simply vibrated
with it. As a matter of fact, the larynx
will have been so practised in the minute
upward and downward motion, that the
singer is aware only of the vibrations of the
breath that lie above it, while he remains
mindful all the time only of the pitch of the
upper note.

One has the feeling then as of singing or
holding only the lower tone (which must be
placed very high), while the upper one
vibrates with it simply through the habitude
of the accentuation. The union of the two
then comes to the singer's consciousness as


if he were singing the lower note some-
what too high, halfway toward the upper
one. This is only an aural delusion, pro-
duced by the high vibrations. But the
trill, when fully mastered, should always
be begun, as in the exercise, on the upper

Every voice must master the trill, after a
period, longer or shorter, of proper practice.
Stiff, strong voices master it sooner than
small, weak ones. I expended certainly ten
years upon improving it, because as a young
girl I had so very little strength, although
my voice was very flexible in executing all
sorts of rapid passages.

To be able to use it anywhere, of course,
requires a long time and much practice.
For this reason it is a good plan to practise
it on syllables with different vowels, such as
can all be supported on a, and on words, as
soon as the understanding needed for this
is in some degree assured.

If the larynx has acquired the habit


properly, the trill can be carried on into a
piano and pianissimo and prolonged almost
without end with crescendi and decrescendi,
as the old Italians used to do, and as all
Germans do who have learned anything.



In practising the singer should always
stand, if possible, before a large mirror, in
order to be able to watch himself closely.
He should stand upright, quietly but not
stiffly, and avoid everything that looks like
restlessness. The hands should hang quietly,
or rest lightly on something, without tak-
ing part in the interpretation of the expression.
The first thing needed is to bring the body
under control, that is, to remain quiet, so
that later, in singing, the singer can do
everything intentionally.

The pupil must always stand in such a
way that the teacher can watch his face,
as well as his whole body. Continual move-
ments of the fingers, hands, or feet are not



The body must serve the singer's purposes
freely and must acquire no bad habits. The
singer's self-possession is reflected in a feel-
ing of satisfaction on the part of the lis-
tener. The quieter the singer or artist, the
more significant is every expression he gives;
the fewer motions he makes, the more im-
portance they have. So he can scarcely be
quiet enough. Only there must be a cer-
tain accent of expression in this quietude,
which cannot be represented by indifference.
The quietude of the artist is a reassurance
for the public, for it can come only from
the certainty of power and the full com-
mand of his task through study and prepara-
tion and perfect knowledge of the work to
be presented. An artist whose art is based
on power cannot appear other than self-
possessed and certain of himself. An evident
uneasiness is always inartistic, and hence
does not belong where art is to be embodied.
All dependence upon tricks of habit creates
nervousness and lack of flexibility.


Therefore the singer must accustom him-
self to quietude in practising, and make his
will master of his whole body, that later
he may have free command of all his move-
ments and means of expression.

The constant playing of single tones or
chords on the piano by the teacher during
the lesson is wrong, and every pupil should
request its discontinuance. The teacher
can hear the pupil, but the latter cannot
hear himself, when this is done; and yet it
is of the utmost importance that he should
learn to hear himself. I am almost driven
distracted when teachers bring me their
pupils, and drum on the piano as if possessed
while they sing. Pupils have the same
effect on me when they sit and play a dozen
chords to one long note.

Do they sit in the evening when they
sing in a concert ?

Do they hear themselves, when they do
this ? Unfortunately, I cannot hear them.

Poor pupils!


It is enough for a musical person to strike
a single note on the piano when he practises
alone, or perhaps a common chord, after
which the body and hands should return
to their quiet natural position. Only in a
standing posture can a free deep breath be
drawn, and mind and body be properly pre-
pared for the exercise or the song to follow.

It is also well for pupils to form sentences
with the proper number of syllables upon
which to sing their exercises, so that even
such exercises shall gradually gain a certain
amount of expressiveness. Thus the exer-
cises will form pictures which must be con-
nected with the play of the features, as well
as with an inner feeling, and thus will not
become desultory and soulless and given over
to indifference. Of course not till the mere
tone itself is brought under complete control,
and uncertainty is no longer possible, can
the horizon of the pupil be thus widened
without danger.

Only when a scene requires that a vocal


passage be sung kneeling or sitting must
the singer practise it in his room long
before the performance and at all rehearsals,
in accordance with dramatic requirements
of the situation. Otherwise the singer should
stand. We must also look out for
unaccustomed garments that may be required
on the stage, and rehearse in them; for in-
stance, hat, helmet, hood, cloak, etc. With-
out becoming accustomed to them by practice,
the singer may easily make himself ridicu-
lous on the stage. Hence comes the ab-
surdity of a Lohengrin who cannot sing
with a helmet, another who cannot with a
shield, a third who cannot with gauntlets;
a Wanderer who cannot with the big hat,
another who cannot with the spear, a Jose
who cannot with the helmet, etc. All these
things must be practised before a mirror
until the requirements of a part or its cos-
tume become a habit. To attain this, the
singer must be completely master of his body
and all his movements.


It must be precisely the same with the
voice. The singer must be quite independent
of bad habits in order consciously to exact
from it what the proper interpretation of
the work to be performed requires.

He should practise only so long as can
be done without weariness. After every
exercise he should take a rest, to be fresh
for the next one. After the great scale
he should rest at least ten minutes; and
these resting times must be observed as long
as one sings.

Long-continued exertion should not be
exacted of the voice at first; even if the
effects of it are not immediately felt, a dam-
age is done in some way. In this matter
pupils themselves are chiefly at fault, be-
cause they cannot get enough, as long as
they take pleasure in it.

For this reason it is insane folly to try
to sing important roles on the stage after
one or two years of study; it may perhaps
be endured for one or two years without


evil results, but it can never be carried on

Agents and managers commit a crime
when they demand enormous exertions of
such young singers. The rehearsals, which
are held in abominably bad air, the late
hours, the irregular life that is occasioned
by rehearsals, the strain of standing around
for five or six hours in a theatre, — all this
is not for untrained young persons. No
woman of less than twenty-four years should
sing soubrette parts, none of less than twenty-
eight years second parts, and none of less
than thirty-five years dramatic parts; that
is early enough. By that time proper prepa-
ration can be made, and in voice and person
something can be offered worth while. And
our fraternity must realize this sooner or
later. In that way, too, they will learn
more and be able to do more, and fewer
sins will be committed against the art of
song by the incompetent.



When we wish to study a role or a song,
we have first to master the intellectual con-
tent of the work. Not till we have made
ourselves a clear picture of the whole should
we proceed to elaborate the details, through
which, however, the impression of the whole
should never be allowed to suffer. The
complete picture should always shine out
through all. If it is too much broken into
details, it becomes a thing of shreds and

So petty accessories must be avoided, that
the larger outline of the whole picture shall
not suffer. The complete picture must ever
claim the chief interest; details should not
distract attention from it. In art, subor-
dination of the parts to the whole is an art



of itself. Everything must be fitted to the
larger lineaments that should characterize a

A word is an idea; and not only the idea,
but how that idea in color and connection is
related to the whole, must be expressed.
Therein is the fearsome magic that Wagner
has exercised upon me and upon all others,
that draws us to him and lets none escape
its spell. That is why the elaboration of
Wagner's creations seems so much worth
while to the artist. Every elaboration of a
work of art demands the sacrifice of some
part of the artist's ego, for he must mingle
the feelings set before him for portrayal with
his own in his interpretation, and thus, so to
speak, lay bare his very self. But since we
must impersonate human beings, we may not
spare ourselves, but throw ourselves into our
task with the devotion of all our powers.