Where’s Your Pity for the Tuba Player?!!

Without undertaking to decide whether one system of breathing can be right, to the exclusion of all other systems, one general remark can be applied to the whole subject. It has never been scientifically proved that the correct use of the voice depends in any way on the mastery of an acquired system of breathing! True, this is the basic assumption of all the discussions of the singer’s breathing. As Frangçon-Davies justly remarks, — “All combatants are agreed on one point, viz., that the singer’s breath is an acquired one of some kind.” (The Singing of the Future, David Frangcon-Davies, M.A., London, 1906.) This is purely an assumption on the part of the vocal theorists. No one has ever so much as attempted to offer scientific proof of the statement.

Further, it is frequently stated that the old Italian masters paid much attention to the subject of breathing; the assumption is also made that these masters approached the subject in the modern spirit. Neither this statement, nor the assumption based on it, is susceptible of proof. Tosi and Mancini do not even mention the subject of breathing.

Breathing has been made the subject of exhaustive mechanical and muscular analysis, for one reason, and for only one reason. This is, because the action of breathing is the only mechanical feature of singing which can be exhaustively studied. The laryngeal action is hidden; the influence of the resonance cavities cannot well be determined. But the whole muscular operation of breathing can be readily seen and studied; any investigator can personally experiment with every conceivable system.

Furthermore, the adoption of any system of breathing has no influence whatever on the operations of the voice. A student of singing may learn to take breath in any way favored by the instructor; the manner of tone-production is not in the least affected. Even if the correct use of the voice has to be acquired, the mode of breathing does not contribute in any way to this result.

All that need be said in criticism of the various doctrines of breathing is, that the importance of this subject has been greatly overestimated. Breath and life are practically synonymous. Nothing but the prevalence of the mechanical idea has caused so much attention to be paid to the singer’s breathing. A tuba player will march for several hours in a street parade, carrying his heavy instrument, and playing it fully half the time; yet the vocal theorist does not consider him an object of sympathy.

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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