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The great secret, in making pure and clear tones, is in husbanding the breath, so as to fill the chest full, and then, in speaking, to emit no more breath than is necessary to produce the required sound.
Children make pure and clear tones when talking cheerfully with their companions. The same power may be acquired and made habitual by proper training and practice.
The power of a full and retentive breath is absolutely essential to the formation of a pure, firm, and effective tone. Every pupil must acquire, in these exercises, the art of taking in a full breath with ease and quickness, and of prolonging its emission to a great extent.
The body should be borne erect, in an easy and unconstrained posture; the breath should be deep and full; the organs of speech should move with quickness and exactness; the muscles of the back and abdomen should be made to emit the voice under perfect and conscious control of the will; the sound should ring clearly in the head and chest, without any gruffness in the breast, or twang in the nose, or choking in the throat, or pinching in the mouth ; — the whole apparatus of speech thus acting in harmony in uttering perfect and well-finished sounds.
Bad intonation arises from the undue or imperfect action of some portion of the organs, and is caused by weakness, carelessness, indolence, fear, or a bad habit of speech.
The practice of uttering clear and full tones is fitted to strengthen all the organs, by giving to each its proper action. It is eminently conducive to health ; and multitudes have been relieved from disease and weakness in the throat or lungs, by the process of acquiring this power of voice.
False and ill-regulated utterance, by stilling the resonance of the head and chest, making the sound by the muscles of the breast, and employing an excess of breath, which irritates and lacerates the tender membranes of the throat, is the fruitful cause of bronchitis and consumption.
Depth of voice, or resonance of the chest, is acquired by practice, and is calculated to enlarge the capacity of the lungs, as well as to give power and majesty to speech.
Harsh and disagreeable voices are produced by pinching up the organs, so that the sound has no chance to echo in the head and chest.
A voice that is pent up in the mouth, that exercises only the muscles of the breast, that has no echo in the head and chest, and that whizzes by the employment of too much breath, is dry, harsh, unimpressive, and apparently insincere.
All sincere, earnest and powerful feeling, (except bad passion) inclines to utter itself in clear, ringing tones.
The persuasiveness of oratory is increased beyond conception, by the aid of a full-toned and ringing voice. Such a voice can easily fill a large space, without distressing effort, and can at the same time articulate with such distinctness as enables even the deaf to hear with pleasure.
The late President Harrison was most remarkable for this power of voice. The tones, sonorous as a bell, with which he delivered his inaugural address, after so many mass meetings as he had addressed, were surprising to everybody. That which General Harrison had perhaps by his mother's care in childhood, or by the natural balance and force of his vocal powers, others should acquire by diligent cultivation.
It is as true of speaking as of any other art, that appropriate practice will give a skill and tact, or “ sleight” of performance, which makes powerful and long-sustained exertion an easy task.
Musical cultivation, now so happily extending in the community, is a great help to the improvement of the voice in reading and speaking; and is in its turn greatly promoted by the improvement in speaking.
To acquire a perfect voice, every experiment should be tried of modifying the voice and the manner of forming sound ; and whenever such tones are produced, to the satisfaction of the ear, the position of the organs should be carefully noticed, and the same repeated perpetually, until the production of such tones becomes habitual.
THE VOCAL DRILL.
1. Posture. Stand erect, but easy, resting on the left foot, with the weight rather thrown forward upon the ball of the foot. The heel of the right foot turned towards the hollow of the left, and five or six inches from it. The shoulders drawn a little back, so as to make the chest prominent. The chin elevated so far that the eyes will look horizontally forward. The upper part of the body resting at ease, so that the lungs will play freely, to their utmost extent. The hands placed on the hips, with the fingers forward, as if to help the motion of the abdominal muscles.
2. Full Breathing. With the lips gently closed, slowly draw in the breath, until the chest is full, and then breathe it out as slowly as you can. Repeat this a dozen or twenty times.
3. Aspiration. With the lips a little open, draw in a very full breath, and breathe it out audibly, in a long aspiration, like uttering the letter h. Repeat as before.
4. Sighing. By an effort, draw in at once a full breath, and emit it as quickly as possible. Repeat it rapidly. Practise this exercise, both with the lips open, and with the mouth shut.
5. Sobbing. A slightly convulsive effort, drawing in an instantaneous supply of breath for the lungs. It may be breathed out more easily.
6. Gasping. A much more violent effort to fill the lungs, as if overcoming a great difficulty.
7. Panting. Sudden and violent breathing the expiration being the most forcible and audible.
8. Whispered Coughing. Draw in a full breath, and expel it suddenly, with a whispered cough.
9. Whispering. Expand the chest to its utmost extent, and fill it with breath by a deep inhalation, and then whisper, deliberately and distinctly, so as to be heard at a distance.
1. To be uttered with seriousness.
All heaven and earth are still: from the high host
Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost. 2. Uttered as an earnest injunction.
He is very sick indeed, and must not be disturbed on any account. Shut the door gently, walk softly, and make no noise.
3. Uttered as a quick and peremptory command.
Hush! The scouts are near. We shall be discovered. Keep silence. Step softly. Quick time. Forward!
10. Simple Vocalization. Open the mouth far enough to insert the breadth of three fingers between the teeth, draw a full breath, and utter, with a mild and steady tone, the vowel sound, au, as in awful — prolonging the sound four seconds.
With the teeth opened to the breadth of only two fingers, pronounce, in the same way, the vowel sound, ah, as in ardent.
With an opening for only one finger, pronounce the sound, uh, as in urgent.
Bring the teeth still closer, and sound e, as in eagle.
11. Gamut Vocalizing. Sound each of these vowels through every note of the gamut, ascending and descending.
Do this in both speaking and singing tones.
Repeat each exercise a dozen or twenty times. Continue the practice daily, until every note can be fully and evenly sustained four seconds, with a clear and steady sound.
12. Swelling Vocalization. Completely fill the lungs before each sound. Pause an instant with the chest fully expanded, and then, with precision and steadiness, but with a soft tone, sound a note of the scale, gradually swelling to the loudest sound, and then diminishing to the soft tone of the beginning.
Each note should be prolonged as far as the breath will allow a clear and full sound — the length of the notes to be gradually increased to twenty seconds at one breath.
This lesson to be repeated like the rest, and continued daily for weeks. The swelled sound is represented in musical notation, thus :
13. Expelling Sound. With the body in a correct and easy position, the eyes looking horizontally, the mouth open, the lips a little projected, and the throat open, fill the chest with breath, and then sound the vowel au, with a sudden force, like the crack of a rifle ; expelling the sound from the larynx to the roof of the mouth, that it may ring with a clear and sonorous echo. Take care not to emit more breath than is converted into perfect sound, without hoarseness or whizzing. Do not draw back the corners of the mouth, to pinch the sound.
This exercise should be practised first by the whole class at once, then individually, and continued until the power to make a clear, ringing sound of every vowel has became habitual.
This exercise will greatly strengthen and improve the voice, and aid in acquiring a correct pronunciation of the vowels.
The sounds should be varied, as to loudness, from the slightest vocalization to the loudest call that the lungs can utter-always taking care to use no more breath than is completely vocalized, and that the sound be perfectly smooth and ringing.
14. Throat Sound. The proper point of action for the voice is in the top of the throat, or what is called the larynx, situated just where the hair on the back of the neck terminates. The sound should never be made higher up in the mouth, which gives a dry voice, nor lower down in the chest, which gives a coarse, animalized voice – utterly unlike the cultivated, elevated, silver-ringing tones, that ought to mark a well-educated human being, who was made but a little lower than the angels.
15. The bad qualities of voice arise, in all instances, from an imperfect or excessive action, an undue or defective use, of one portion of the vocal organs. True utterance, or a perfect voice, consists in the harmonious union of all the organs, in their due proportion and strength, making one united sound.
16. The principal faults of voice are the following:
(1.) Lov murmuring. Occasioned by the habit of not fully supplying the lungs, or by a want of action of the abdominal muscles.
(2.) Whispering aspiration. Arising from embarrassment, or a want of command of the throat; which allows the breath to
forth faster than it can be converted into pure sound.
(3.) Choking in the throat. As if the voice was overpowered by the fatness or fulness of the stomach, and the mind was smothered by the body.
(4.) Barking in the throat. A hard, dry utterance, indicating a want of feeling, a coarse mind, an unwillingness to take the trouble of trying to please others. The sound is produced in the top of the throat, without a proper expansion of the chest, or modulation of the mouth.
(5.) Nasal tone. Throwing the voice too much upon the passages in the nose, so that they are choked instead of giving a clear, ringing sound.