Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Twenty-Sixth Lesson

(Blogger’s note: The octave exercises below form a large portion of the writer’s work in the studio in the pursuit of register unification, using volume as a ‘control factor’ to elicit register balance from one register to the next. JP)

Lesson 26

Practise the interval of the octave again as follows: Attacking the first note forte, diminish this tone very gradually to a real piano, at the same time being sure that the upper or head resonance is being retained and that the vowel sound is pure and clear. When you have arrived at a piano tone, let the jaw drop very slightly and go to the octave above, very softly. Hold this high tone, keeping it pure and clear.

When you are fairly expert in this exercise, swell the upper tone to a fairly loud tone and then diminish it again and descend to the lower note.

Exercises 39, 41, and 25.

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Now sing exercise No. 28 alternating the loudness and softness of the voice on the high tones; first loud, then soft.

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This will give an “ECHO” effect and will add much to your skill.

Now practise exercise No. 22 again; first loudly, then softly. Use the arm gestures for these exercises a few times to insure good position and freedom.

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The attacks in No. 22 must be exact and alike in vowel sound and pitch. Avoid making too much of a “click” or “stroke” on the attack.

This is a very important lesson and should be practised with great care.

If you find difficulty in this leap of the octave, go back to your phonetics and free the voice with HUNG, NAH, MUMM, MAH, etc., on short and long scales.

Song for this lesson is “Memory” – Ganz.


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

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