Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Seventh Lesson

Lesson 7

Of the faults given in Lesson 6, two are most important for you now.

These are, first, the raising of the larynx either on the attack of the tone, or on some note as you ascend the scale; second, the cramping or “HUMPING” of the tongue.

With these two faults go many others.

Do not try to depress the larynx locally, nor to flatten the tongue locally. You will only exchange a bad fault for a worse one.

The following sounds will help you to cure the faults without attention to separate muscular control.

HM. Hum gently, short scales, never carrying the Hum beyond the middle range at first. This sound demands very little larynx tension and no tongue action, so it will aid you in free singing or humming, especially if the breathing is correct. It will cause the larynx to remain where it belongs, neither raised nor depressed.

HM will also prevent pressing down on the muscles under the chin.

You may follow it with MUMM sung on each note of short scales of three to five notes each. The jaw moves freely and easily.

Avoid nasal sound.

HUNG, singing on the NG with mouth open, will tend to keep the larynx low, and will move the tongue upwards and forwards. Follow this with NAH, sung freely with quiet jaw and active tongue, on the same short scales.

Now return to AH and sing the same scales observing whether the larynx is remaining quietly in place, and that the spot under the chin is loose and free.

If these faults persist, sing OO piano, on the same short scales. OO demands little larynx tension, and tends to keep the larynx low. It will aid you very much. You can carry the OO a little higher in range.

Now sing OO-AH on one note and carry the AH through the same short scales.

The range for these exercises should not exceed D (ed. D5) for high voices and C (ed. C4) for low voices on the consonantal phonetics, and not above F (ed. F5) for high voices and D (ed. D4) for low voices on the vowels.

Exercises 1 to 13 and 45.

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

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