Wisdom of the East

Many times I use long tones with students (the first exercise of nearly ALL vocal manuals and treatises) to help build up the strength and balance of the breath in coordination with singing. I often wonder if the Old Masters weren’t somehow connected to an even older tradition of chanting and intoning that was first established in Hinduism. These long tones have a meditative quality, and are pure vocal cord vibration. They have a calming effect on the singer (and the teacher too!).

Imagine my great surprise and elation, when I found Evelyn Hagara affirmed the same thing in 1940 (nothing new in vocal pedagogy, huh?). There’s something wonderfully spiritual about the long tones in both registers of the voice that connects to something ephemeral and beautiful.

So fascinating to see another author make the correlation, too:

The vibrating or spinning of the tone was used in traditional Hindu worship. The people of ancient India were taught that they could assimilate health from these vibrations, so they drew up a series of “mantras”, or religious phrases. This was a daily practice and with these exercises, they never tired or suffered from lack of breath. Some of these occult exercises, which the ancient Hindu developed to such a state of perfection, could be practiced by the western singer to his great advantage. Failure to observe the value of these mental practices may explain, in part, why the perfect art of singing was almost lost.

In contrast to the anchored depth of the chest notes, head tones seem to to project higher and ever upward. They express the ethereal, the spiritual, the indefinable.

Hagara, Evelyn. Vocal Secrets of the Ancients. DeVorss & Co., 1940.

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