Advice from Sir Charles Santley

The sound of the voice is produced by the breath acting on the vocal chords, the tone or emission of the voice is consequent on the influence of the formation of the throat and mouth. Unless there exist some peculiarity of formation (rare in my experience), the tone ought not to be interfered with, as it is this formation which gives the character to the voice, by which persons may be as readily distinguished as by their faces or movements. The tone may be peculiar, even to a certain extent disagreeable, but the peculiarity may, by an intelligent student aided by an equally intelligent master, be turned to such account as to render it a striking speciality in the rendering of certain dramatic parts. If your voice is of good quality and sufficient power, never allow it to be tampered with by “production quacks”; a master of the Art of Singing knows all that is requisite to develop your natural qualifications.

When you have mastered this step, you can proceed to increase by slow gradations the compass and speed of your exercises. Give your artistic feel ing full play even at this early stage ; a (simple scale or a single note may be interesting if sung with the feeling of an artiste, while if blurted out in a commonplace style, it may cause your neighbours to entertain a desire to indict you as a nuisance. Persevere diligently with the exercises I have indicated until your master is satisfied, then follow on with “vocalises” and “solfeggi” until you are ready to apply what you have learned to its object, the interpretation of such good vocal music as is adapted to the quality and compass of your voice, irrespective of its character or style. The more these are varied the better, in order that you may bring out whatever dramatic talent you may possess, and thus discover where your strength lies — in tragedy, light comedy, or low comedy.

Santley, Charles. The art of singing and vocal declamation. Macmillan, 1908.

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