Rule Number 2 for Singing


“If there be several ways of producing a tone, or a phrase, always choose the one which feels physically most comfortable.”

A pupil may object that by a change of “method,” i. e., by being forbidden to emit his tones with undue help from certain muscles, his voice may appear much weaker than during faulty emission. Quite true. At the beginning, the new way may not be the most effective or expressive way. But a note produced with a strain, i.e., an undue effort, will never improve in quality, will never permit free handling of tone-gradation or diction, will never advance you one solitary step. In most cases it carries on its very surface an element more or less distasteful to the listener. What is produced with comparative comfort may be weak at the outset, but, like a healthy plant, will grow beyond all expectation, always allowing you unlimited freedom of tone-management.

Power once gained is never lost in a healthy organ. If your body by any effort could wrongly produce something effective, the same effort directed rightly will achieve a fourfold result. Certain muscles, in the beginning, are sluggish, and too weak to respond. Give them time to develop naturally, and, in the meantime, distinguish clearly between “effort” and “strain.” An effort may, at times, be harmful, but in singing it should always be a delightful, inspiring sensation. The softest, sweetest floating head-tone of a soprano requires quite as much mental and physical effort as the loudest inartistic vociferation. Every well-directed tone, until a regular habit has been formed, is a constant intellectual effort. Strain is what I object to under all circumstances. Of course, slovenly singers never use any concentration, i. e., any mental effort, and seem (to themselves) to sing endlessly without any physical effort at all — of course, without achieving anything.”

Herman, R. L. “The Open Door for Singers.” New York (1912).

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