Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Second Lesson

Lesson 2

You have now learned something about breathing for singing, and you have attacked tones with the vowel AH.

Observe that you finish the note without a grunt or a gasp, and that the breath support endures a little longer than the tone.

This complete vocal act is illustrated in No. 41 of the exercises (below). Do not indulge in the swelling and diminishing of the tone as yet.

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Also be careful that you attack all notes in the middle of the tone so to speak, without slurring or “SCOOPING” up to the note.

Now pronounce the vowels AH, A (fate), E, OH, U (OO).

Let the mouth follow the natural trend of these vowels.

As the tongue makes the formation for the vowel sounds, the lips will alter their shape accordingly.

AH will be sounded after the breath is taken, with little or no change in the lips. A will cause a slight increase in the smile, and E will cause even more, and the mouth will slightly close. Sound these three vowels many times carefully and see that you are not pushing down the muscles under the chin.

E, demanding more tongue elevation, may cause a slight movement under the chin at the base of the tongue. But it must be very slight, and eventually disappear.

The lips will round somewhat for OH, and close a good deal for OO. (OO as in “too”.)

If you have difficulty with these vowels, pronounce them very easily and naturally in speech, also in a whisper, until you feel where they are formed or made. Then try the sustained vowels again, singing them gently and easily in medium loud tone only.

Let one vowel slip into the next so that the notes of the exercise are joined together, yet each vowel clear and distinct in formulation. The transition must be exact and clear without interruption of the musical note or tone.

If the tension or interference continues, try the same vowels with L, thus: LAH, LA, LE, LOH, LOO.

Use the arm gestures as given in the previous lesson, especially the first one, raising the arms from the sides as you inhale, and keeping the arms up as you sing the vowels.

This will aid you in establishing correct vocal position and in keeping the muscles under the chin free and loose.

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Witherspoon, Herbert. Thirty Six Lessons in Singing for Teacher and Student. Meissner Institute of Music, 1930.

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