Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Fifth Lesson

Lesson 5

Now it is time for you to learn something about phonetics and faults, especially your own faults.

In the syllables used in the previous lessons you have employed five consonants, L, M, N, D, B.

If you will sing them again, feeling how they affect the tone and vowel, you will find that they have different influences.

L seems to urge a more complete vowel and tone in the mouth. So we call L the mouth consonant, and we say that L causes a good, strong fundamental tone and a full, well shaped vowel. It will give you the feeling of forming a real AH.

This is the very prime of the art of song.

M gives the feeling of emission of tone, the sending out of your voice. It also aids formation of vowel with those who are prone to form and sing a dark guttural sound. It demands free lip action and active jaw. So it promotes what we call “FORWARD” singing, bright and clear and free from mannerisms.

We can call M the dual consonant, because it promotes resonance in the face as well as in the mouth.

N is the nasal consonant. It gives the feeling of a “HIGHER” sound, with much facial resonance. It must never cause a “NOSEY” tone. Sing it with a perfectly quiet jaw, articulating with the tongue alone. It is very valuable for preserving vocal position and for stimulating free tongue action without aid of the jaw.

D is also made without the jaw moving at all except of course the initial movement of the jaw in opening the mouth for the first sound. It promotes tongue freedom, a good mouth tone and rather a wider vowel, with free emission. The vowel will feel deeper in quality.

B promotes free opening and closing of the lips, a slight explosion of the tone and a freely acting jaw.

Practice all of these consonants with the five vowels already given AH, A, E, OH, OO, on two, three, four and five note scales, listening carefully to the results. You will now commence to hear what you do incorrectly, or perhaps you can get your brother or sister or your parents to listen to you and tell you what vowels or consonants sound imperfect or indistinct.

This is a very important lesson. Remember that you can always induce more freedom and therefore probably more perfect formation of vowel by using the arm movements.

After these exercises have been practiced several times with all the consonants given in this lesson, return to the simple exercises and sing them again with AH, without consonants and you will find you are sounding a better vowel, with a smoother legato, and that you have improved your feeling for a purer formation of tone and vowel.

Exercises 1 to 5 and 45 and 15.

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One thought on “Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Fifth Lesson

  1. Todd Duncan taught in a similar way. He grouped “T,D,N,L,R” in a group of “tongue-tip” consonants, so that the properties outlined in this quote could be felt and used to actually communicate text more clearly, as well as be able to create the uninterrupted legato.

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