Ways and Means

A peculiar contradiction is presented by the modern vocal teacher; his artistic conception of singing is utterly at variance with his ideas of mechanical tone-production. It may safely be said that the vast majority of vocal teachers are thoroughly conversant with the highest standards of artistic singing. They, know what effects their pupils ought to obtain. But the means they use for enabling the pupils to get these effects have exactly the contrary result. When the student tries to open the throat this obstinate organ only closes the tighter. Attempting to correct a tremolo by “holding the throat steady” causes the throat to tremble all the more.

Modern voice culture, in its practical aspect, is a struggle with throat stiffness. Everything the student does, for the purpose of acquiring direct command of the voice, has some influence in causing the throat to stiffen. Telling the student to hold the throat relaxed seldom effects a cure; this direction includes a primary cause of tension, — the turning of attention to the throat. All the teacher can do to counteract the stiffening influence is to give relaxing exercises. These are in most cases efficacious so long as constructive instruction is abandoned, and the relaxing of the throat is made the sole purpose of study. But soon after positive instruction is resumed the tendency to stiffen reappears. As lesson follows after lesson, the stiffness becomes gradually, imperceptibly more pronounced. At length the time again comes for relaxing exercises.

A single repetition of this process, relaxing the throat and then stiffening it again, may extend over several months of study. During this time the student naturally learns a great deal about music and the artistic side of singing, and also improves the keenness of the sense of hearing. This artistic development is necessarily reflected in the voice so soon as the throat is again relaxed.

Taylor, David Clark. The psychology of singing: a rational method of voice culture based on a scientific analysis of all systems, ancient and modern. The Macmillan Company, 1917.


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