Talk vs. Action

The theory of tone production in singing is a fascinating subject of conversation to some teachers and pupils.

The teacher has a theory, is enthusiastic concerning it, and possesses excellent powers of verbal expression; the pupil is also interested in the subject.

Here we have a combination favorable to the wasting of precious time.

A certain amount of “talk” at a lesson is necessary. A topic must be properly presented and made clear; at least the “what and how to do” must be set forth and repeated until the teacher is certain that the pupil understands. But the pupil will never be a singer until he has “done” something.

Nothing is more certain in vocal study than that we really know nothing about tone production until we have taken action – endeavored to realize, in the sound of our own voices, our tonal concepts.

So with reading books on singing. To those who are prepared by previous knowledge, and who “prove all things” and “hold fast to that which is (proven) good,” the reading of books on voice production and singing may be of benefit; and this because such will know that mere reading about a subject does not give a practical knowledge thereof. There must be doing as well as reading, to bring satisfactory results.

There is a point here which properly understood will assist many teachers, and students as well, to combat a certain type of discouragement.

There is an order of mind which is quick to take in the theory of voice production, while it is often the case that such persons are no more apt or capable than others in commanding the realization of their mental concepts through the use of the vocal apparatus. In other words, they are quick to understand the theory of tone production, but sometimes slow in the practical exemplification of the theory.

Now to such, their inability to quickly realize in sound all that they have in mind regarding beautiful tone, brings a sense of defeat and discouragement.

Such should be helped to understand that the element of time must enter into the acquisition of new and good habits in the use of the vocal apparatus in tone production and singing, and that there is no just cause for discouragement in the situation as set forth.

It is only by doing the right thing in the right way and repeating the action many times in exactly the same way, that a good habit can be made to displace a bad one, or a new and correct habit be established.

Wodell, Frederick W., “Department for Singers: Talk vs. Action”, Etude Magazine, April 1917: 266-267.

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