Weekly Wisdom Archive

“The next step is concentration on the firm attack and sustaining of the vowel.  Dr. Bratt believed in speaking the vowel at the larynx with firm glottic closure without glottic shock.  He said that there was a difference between an automatic stroke of the glottis and a shock at the glottis.  He would not tolerate an aspirate attack and what he called “leaking breath”.  He separated vowel and consonant position.  He conceded vowel position as back and consonant position as forward.  He said that only the interfering action of the swallowing muscles could make this concept of the back vowel dangerous.”
Security in Singing, Bulletin of NATS, April-May 1949, by Allan Rogers Lindquest

“The hook-up between technique and the singing personality is developed by inducing a spirit of buoyancy and an elevated, inspired mental attitude, even in voice-building exercises and scales. Attitudes such as prayer, praise, joy, and pleading are induced at the same time that physical action is stressed. Breath comes because one has something to say while singing, even if it is only a vowel or a scale, and there is no effort to control the breath by locking the diaphragm or holding the ribs…Then the breath for the new phrase came automatically with the idea that something new was to be said. He (Dr. Bratt) believed also that this breath action reflexively opened and freed the throat without local throat consciousness, for he regarded the larynx and pharynx not only as a part of the phonating apparatus, but also as a freely opening part of the breathing mechanism.”
Security in Singing, Bulletin of NATS, April-May 1949, by Allan Rogers Lindquest

“The only way to overcome vocal difficulties is to free the production – the response in physical functioning of the singing instrument to the demand for tone. This free functioning of the singing instrument produces the free tone as an effect. We condition the living instrument to such a degree that it can answer, without interferences, all vocal and musical demands within the limits of individual vocal equipment. With this free production, we then work to attain the highest possible degree of vocal artistry. (It must be stressed that all functional activity of the vocal instrument is but a response to the mental demand for tone – the primitive urge to sing. WE SING: we do not try to sing in some particular way.) – from Dynamic Singing by Louis Bachner

“The famous Italian master, Lamperti, made a most interesting observation. He said, “Don’t sing until you’d die if you didn’t.”  The development of this desire to sing for the sheer joy of singing is the primal motivating factor and should be encouraged by teacher and student alike. The control of the voice consists in the release of the voice.  The development of the voice as an instrument depends upon our willingness to call to our aid the spiritual and emotional stimuli of inspiration, joy, enthusiasm, and love. This mental and spiritual attitude is the wellspring from which all good singing stems.
-Allan Lindquest

“The development of the Total Response in Singing should include the actual practicing of the emotions for without the ability to feel what the words express the singer will have a limited ability to command his instrument to meet the demands for vital singing.  I believe the ability to develop the emotional life can be strengthened through exercising the imagination into states of, let us say for instance, the wonder of a beautiful sunset, or the awe of gazing at the universe of stars, or the joy of surprise in unexpectedly meeting an old friend…examples could go on indefinitely.  To be specific, let us consider the Feldeinsamkeit of Brahms.  If a singer cannot feel emotionally the quiet peace and contentment of stretching out on his back in the warm green grass, looking up in the blue sky and seeing the pictures made by the white clouds lazily drifting by, he will not as effectively command his instrument for the difficult, long piano phrases.  And in the Strauss Zueignung the singer needs great extensions of breath support to deliver the dramatic climax, “Heilig, heilig an’s Herz dir sank! Habe Dank.”  That breath support should come not from a locally clutched set of muscles, but in response to the intensity of the emotional thought of deep gratitude for such an overwhelming love.”
– Allan Lindquest

“We recognize that the larynx has the duality of having two vocal cords or vocal bands, and that they can function physiologically in two ways. One we call the pure chest register, or the crico-thyroid mechanism, which operates in the full thickness and length of the cords. The other we call the “little head” or flute register or in men’s voices, falsetto. The physiologists call this the arytenoid mechanism or the “thin”, where we find only the front inner edges of the cords operating. This mechanism is used for the first sound a baby makes (when not crying forcefully) when he whimpers or “coos”. When either of these mechanisms is weak, or when they are both weak, or when one is overly strong, the production of sound is out of balance.” – Allan Lindquest

“I am reminded of a statement of Ruskin’s – ‘When Love and Skill work together, expect a masterpiece’. We might paraphrase this statement by saying, ‘When the singer learns to correlate the impulse of his emotional nature with the mechanical use of his instrument, expect the miracle of total response’. When the Person and the Instrument work together.” – Allan Lindquest

“In 1710 a famous singer and teacher named Mancini wrote a little treatise on singing in which he said, ‘In training the voice, divide the voice into its two natural elements – pure chest voice and small head voice. Exercise and strengthen each part separately, then join them by blending the head voice into the chest.’ The use of this technique has produced an even scale of nearly three octaves in women and two octaves in men. The sound is as if there is no register and we can therefore understand why some teachers say there are no registers when they are in balance.” – Allan Lindquest

“The knowledge and skill you have achieved are meant to be ‘forgotten’ so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction. Learning is important but do not become its slave. Above all, do not harbor anything external and superfluous – the mind is primary. Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.” – Bruce Lee in Tao of Jeet Kune Do

“There is a simple means of discovering whether you are putting excessive breath-pressure on a note. All you need do is hum the note on ng (as in ‘hang’) with an open mouth, and then sing on the vowel with an equivalent amount of pressure. More than likely you will find that on the hum you employ considerably less pressure than on the vowel, and that the amount used cannot be comfortably increased. The same amount of pressure – and no more – is all that is needed to sing any vowel sound on that particular note.” – from A Guide to Good Singing and Speech by Julian Gardiner

“Resist the temptation to allow the resultant sensations of your tone to become a method. Rather keep your attention on your posture and the coordinated natural functions of respiration, phonation and resonation. Your sensations of the tonal result will confirm your skill in the balance and coordination of the fundamentals.” – Michael Mayer

“The primary objective for the singer is to achieve a balanced equilibrium in each part of the instrument. “Most important is the balance between the larynx and the breath.”
– Michael Mayer

“Determining the Fach [category] of a singer is not the primary concern for the teacher [or singer]. Of much greater importance is the freeing of the instrument from the tensions of malfunction and from preconceived ideas that so often contribute to incorrect vocal production. Only then is it possible to determine the eventual vocal category.”
– from Training Tenor Voices by Richard Miller

“Flexibility is a result of a perfect attack. Flexibility is a result, not a means toward improving your voice or technique, it is a result of a perfect attack.” -Allan Lindquest

“‘Don’t sing until you’d die if you didn’t,’ said Lamperti. There is a relationship, psychological and physiological, between the desire to sing and the body, similar to that between the necessity to sneeze and the muscular system. Not by movement but by sensation do you control the delivery of your song. When you are sensitive enough this can happen.” – from Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown

“Breath control is the first and most important thing in singing. Without good breath control nobody can sing well, no more than a violinist can play well with poor bowing.  In inhaling air, raise the chest and imagine that you extend it on all sides in order to give the lungs plenty of room to receive the air that is used in producing the tone.  Contract the lower part of the stomach [abdomen] when inhaling the air and the diaphragm [solar plexus] will swell.  In exhaling air, the action is reversed.  Never allow the chest to sink in when exhaling or when singing.  Train yourself to keep the chest high and the back straight.” – from How one should sing by David Björling (Jussi Björling’s Father)

“A cellist can do nothing to help the sound waves emerge from the f holes in the front of his instrument except to see that the holes are open and free from obstruction. The mouth is the singer’s f hole, and the same rule applies. Sound waves can be reflected, or they can be dampened; they cannot be projected by any conscious effort.”
– from A Guide to Good Singing and Speech by Julian Gardiner

“When you realize that nothing leaves the throat, (which only sets up vibrations) you will stop pushing and pulling to make your voice ‘carry.’ The ‘carrying power’ depends on the regularity and intensity of the vibrations, and not on your efforts… Learning how to arouse muscular action is the chief study in singing, not trying to ‘produce’ and ‘place’ tones, which are purely natural phenomena.”
– From Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown

“The pitch of the voice must depend on tuning the vocal-cords, and not on power of breath which furnishes energy only.  It is the harnessing of this breath power to prevent interference with vibration, yet furnish all degrees of audibleness to the tone, that takes years of hard work, and continual practice.”
– From Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown

“It is not breath, but pent-up pneumatic energy that feeds initial vibration of the singing tone. To be able to accumulate this confined power and control its release, to feed the pulsation of the glottis, is an absolute necessity for every singer.  Escaping breath acts as an entering wedge ‘splitting’ the vibration. To counteract this, the singer muscularly tightens his throat, and guttural tones result. ‘There are two ways of singing badly-breathily or gutturally.’ (Lamperti) The initial vibration must never be diluted with escaping, unvocalized breath, nor crushed with muscular effort to prevent the same.”
From Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown

“Singing is accomplished by opposing motions and the measured balance between them. This causes the delusive appearance of rest and fixity – even of relaxation. The singing voice in reality is born of the clash of opposing principals, the tension of conflicting forces, brought to an equilibrium.”
From Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown

“Attack of the voice is the first escape of compressed breath which starts the vocal-cords to vibrating, after which no air is allowed to come out that does not turn into tone, and no breath must enter the lungs that is not compressed. It therefore behooves one to develop and control one’s breathing, otherwise muscle effort instead of the inherent energy in the lungs is used to produce the voice. A reciprocal reaction between singing and breathing is established, which relieves the singer from undue or local efforts. This leads to finding the voice continually in the ‘mask’ as well as in the pharynx and head, producing the dark-light tone (chiaroscuro).”
– From Vocal Wisdom by William Earl Brown