Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Twenty-Fifth Lesson

Lesson 25


Exercises 27, 6, 29, 30, 31.

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When you attempt to sing these longer exercises and scales use the arm gestures again because they will aid you in natural poise and you will not be tempted to push with the breath.

Always use a minimum of breath support, and in fact as soon as possible stop thinking about the breath at all. (Ed. Bolding mine, JP.) The arms will always aid you, and you will not have to be conscious of breathing and breath support. Above everything see that you do not hold the ribs rigid and the body stiff.

If the rapid exercises are difficult for you and they seem to be done in a clumsy awkward fashion, touch the lower lip with one finger so that it remains close to the lower teeth and you will find the voice will “RUN” more freely, quickly, and evenly.

Then repeat the exercise without this assistance. Gradually develop your power of imitating the best in your singing, without continuing the use of “tricks.”

Do not sing rapid exercises too quickly at first. You can increase the speed by degrees.

Above everything, in singing rapid scales and embellishments, do not try to hold the breath back too much. Facility is grace, and gracefulness is never stiffness. Feel free and elated, feel that the voice is being emitted in a lively fashion, and  hear that the fundamental of the tone, the actual vowel, is not too large, for facile exercises are not clearly sung with too large a tone.

In singing the exercises on intervals, vary the loudness of the voice, by singing the exercise first medium forte, then piano, then forte, then piano again, and so on.

Also listen carefully for pitch, because you may sing the intervals somewhat out of tune, either sharping or flatting the pitch. If this persists, change the size of the vowel, or speak the vowel several times. Then whisper the vowels and finally sing them again.

Be sure to practise octaves, both loud and soft. It is a great art to be able to sing the higher notes softly, and this is especially valuable in female voices, giving a lovely effect.

In going to the octave above the note of the attack, let the jaw hang easily and freely at the back, and watch in the mirror that you do not disturb the position except by opening the mouth a little as you go to the octave above.

If this leap of an octave is difficult you are tightening or interfering; so, with the mouth open, exhale a few times through the nose. This will free the tension and you will find the upper sound coming more freely.

The song for this lesson is “Come to the Fair” – Martin.

You may, with benefit, use other songs if you prefer, but choose the song which fits the mood given.


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