Sympathetic Sensations and Breath-Control

Certain forms of exaggerated throat stiffness are frequently held to indicate the need of breath-control. The faulty vocal action in question is analyzed by the breath-control advocates substantially as follows: “Owing to the outflow of the breath not being checked at the proper point, the entire vocal mechanism is thrown out of adjustment. The singer exerts most of his efforts in the endeavor to prevent the escape of the breath; to this end he contracts his throat and stiffens his tongue and jaw. His tones are forced, harsh, and breathy; they lack musical quality. His voice runs away with him and he cannot control or manage it. In the attempt to obtain some hold on his voice he ‘reaches’ for his tones with his throat muscles. The more he tries to regain control of the runaway breath the worse does his state become.”

This extreme condition of throat stiffness is unfortunately by no means rare. So far as concerns the sympathetic sensations awakened by this kind of singing the condition is graphically described by the breath-control advocates. But the conclusion is entirely unjustified that this condition indicates the lack of breath-control. Only the preconceived notion of breath-control leads to this inference. The sympathetic sensations indicate a state of extreme muscular tension of the throat; this is about the only possible analysis of the condition.

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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