Historical Perspectives: Witherspoon’s Thirty-First Lesson

Lesson 31


To learn how to sing staccato you should commence with great care, because the attack may easily be too violent and the tone too open. On the other hand staccato is a most valuable exercise for all voices, even the basso. Modern teaching generally confines it to the coloratura or lyric soprano.

Staccato is splendid for developing an exact and perfect attack of a note, RIGHT IN THE CENTER OF THE TONE, so to say.

It is wiser to commence the practise of staccato by attacking repeated notes of the same pitch:

In soprano from G-D

In alto from D-A

In tenor from G-D

In bass from D-A

Gradually extend the range upwards to G in soprano and tenor and to D in alto and bass.

When you can attack the upper notes fairly easily and exactly, begin the practice of exercise No. 22 with the descending scale sung staccato, each note a separate attack, no legato.

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After this you may practise the regular staccato arpeggio such as 38. Also 46 sung staccato instead of legato as before. Use the vowel AH for all staccato exercises at first.

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You may experience difficulty in forming the vowel AH on the higher notes in staccato, because it is prone to become too large and too open.

In this case exhale through the nose with the mouth open, until the tongue, throat, etc., feel free and relaxed.

Then sing the exercise again. Do not try to place the tone, and do not try to send the tone too high in the head. You will only lose vocal position, and the tone will become pinched and thin. Let the vowel be formed in the mouth easily and exactly on the pitch, and be sure the breath acts correctly. You may place one hand on the upper chest and see that the chest does not fall while you are singing the staccato exercise.

Select an exercise from the “Masterpieces of Vocalization.”

Do not sing “STACCATO” songs yet.


Soprano, I’ve Been Roaming…Bishop

Alto, Lullaby…Max Reger

Tenor, Per La Gloria (English)…Buononcini

Bass, Would God I Were the Tender Appleblossom…Old Irish Melody


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

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