Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Fourteenth Lesson

Lesson 14

You should now be prepared to practice longer scales with safety.

Use in this lesson exercises 6, 7, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 43.

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It is advisable to aid the body position and the breath action by the use of the arms as previously shown. This is because as you pass through “THE LIFT OF THE BREATH” region you will lose position unless all parts of the vocal apparatus and breathing organs are working in perfect coordination.

In singing scales listen carefully that you retain the real sound of the vowel used, but do not force it to remain in what you think is its natural or normal form. It must modify as already explained, but it must do so in an easy and gradual manner.

So never confuse a poor pronunciation or formation of a vowel with a correct modification.

A badly pronounced AH may become OY, or AWE, or UH, with all characteristic of AH lost entirely.

Do not sing the longer scales so rapidly that you do not clearly sound all the notes, each one separately and yet all joined together. Be sure the scale does not become a “smear,” or a mere slur or kind of portamento.

If the voice seems to “fade out” on certain tones, or if it changes its quality or loses its resonance at certain spots in the scale you are experiencing only what all singers have to go through.

Find the bad spot and practice these tones with phonetics which you can judge from the preceding lessons will aid in establishing correct vocal position and adjust the resonators correctly. Poor tones or those lacking in resonance are simply the result of loss of correct action and, therefore, of interferences.

If you are a soprano watch for weakness in the tone at E, F, G low and D and E in the upper middle. But you may experience the same trouble in other parts of the scale.

On the lower notes practice MAH-NAH (on one note), LAH, HUNG, HM, to equalize the resonances and to avoid carrying the chest quality too high.

If there is trouble in the upper medium carry the HUNG sound up to E, then follow with scales on NAH, MING, ME, and finally AH once more.

The same exercises will do for voices of other range. OO may also help, especially if the larynx has a tendency to rise at C, C# or D upper middle.

The contralto should be careful to strengthen the voice by perfecting the resonance and pronunciation on D, E, F, G, lower middle, and gain much in head resonance on her D upper middle.

The tenor will in most cases have trouble in passing through his upper E, F, G. He will sing these notes as we say too “OPEN.” Again he must watch that the lift takes place without effort and the C# does not lose but gain resonance in the face. This is the passing note to the head range.

The other voices will do well to watch for their faulty action at the note where their “lift” comes or seems to want to come.


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

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