Tone Creates Its Own Support

From Evan Williams:

The first two postulates can be discussed as one. Tone creates its own support. How does a bird learn to sing? How does the animal learn to cry? How does the lion learn to roar? Or the donkey learn to bray? By practicing breathing exercises? Most certainly not. I have known many, many singers with splendid voices who have never heard of breathing exercises. Go out into the Welsh mining districts and listen to the voices. They learn to breathe by learning how to sing, and by singing. These men have lungs that the average vocal student would give a fortune to possess. By singing correctly they acquire all the lung control that any vocal composition could demand. As a matter of fact, one does not need such a huge amount of breath to sing. The average singer uses entirely too much. A goose has lungs ten times as large as a nightingale but that doesn’t make the goose’s song lovely to listen to. I have known men with lungs big enough to work a blast furnace who yet had little bits of voices, so small that they were ridiculous. It would be better for most vocal students to emit the breath for five seconds before attacking the tone. One of the reasons for much vocal forcing is too much breath. Maybe I haven’t thought about these things! I have spent hours in silence making up my mind. It is my firm conviction that the average person (entirely without instruction in breathing of a special kind) has enough breath to sing any phrase one might be called upon to sing. I think, without question, that teachers and singers have all been working their heads off to develop strength in the wrong direction. Mind you — this is not a sermon against breathing. I believe in plenty of breathing exercises for the sake of one’s health.

Cooke, James Francis. Great Singers on the Art of Singing. Presser, 1921.

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