Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Singer's Etude

Prepared by the American Academy of Teachers in Singing, with Notations by H.M. Doubleday 

 I.  “Singing is healthful; it develops the lungs and purifies the blood by emptying the lungs more completely of used air and filling them deeply with fresh air.”
                We well know that consistent manual labor will accomplish healthy results to all, but, when one leads a sedentary life, to take exercise for exercise itself is not always attractive.
                The natural physical benefit resulting from singing, properly done, alone or associated with others, bring the two-fold benefit of valuable exercise and pleasure.
                It is on record that in an aggregate of some 3,000 singers of choirs and singing societies in London, England, that only three became ill with influenza during the great epidemic.
                So much for breathing exercises.
                II.  “Singing promotes a good bodily posture and a graceful carriage.”
                III.  “Singing lends expressiveness to the countenance and animation to the mind.”
                It is the duty of one who assumes a public position as a singer or speaker to acquire grace of bodily position, and a pleasing facial expression.  This is as necessary as that one should be properly dressed.  A sad or serious expression, maintained during the description of a moonlight scene or the beauties of the mocking bird’s song, during the speaking or singing, would have an unfortunate influence on the performance.  To acquire the habit of visualizing the story or the scene which is being portrayed will influence the expression of face and bodily action in a most acceptable way.
                IV.  “Singing increases poise and self-confidence, and develops character through difficulties overcome.”
                When the body joins the mind in living the part, timidity and thought of self give way to the wish to carry the message or description (in which the singer is interested) to the hearers for their education or pleasure.  The singer or speaker is there for that purpose.


                V.  “Singing gives a pleasanter, richer speaking voice and improved speech, thereby adding to the charm of personality.”
                When you hear a voice speaking or singing with a quality as herein described the owner has studied vocal culture or it is a natural endowment.  The beautiful voice helps out very much even when a story is not of the highest interest.  The attention will be held by the “lure” of the voice.
                Some speakers are born with a pleasant voice, many with a harsh and perhaps unpleasant emission of tone; it is particularly advantageous for this latter class to study voice culture.
                VI.  “Singing strengthens the memory and the power of concentration.”
                All singing as far as is possible, should be done with the words properly memorized in order that the meaning of the story or description as given by the words may be visualized and the proper expression of both words and music be an important part of the performance.
                If this method is always maintained valuable results are bound to ensue and an excellent habit is invariably formed.
                VII.  “Singing acquaints one with the inner meaning of words, and thus stimulates deeper insight into poetry and prose.”
                VIII.  “Singing enables one to understand and enjoy more fully the art of great singers.”
                Nothing is more valuable than reading the personal talks of eminent singers, which throughout point to the necessity of good and even tone, as well as correct enunciation and expression of the words, which are the basis of the music.  Each great singer may show minor defects in his performance, but study will educate all to detect and avoid defects in tone expression and enunciation.  It s most valuable to read what great singers say about their own expression as students.
                IX.  “Singing awakens living interest in the beauties of music and admits one to the rich and varied treasury of the literature of song.”


                X.  “Singing brings new aspirations and new buoyancy into life, through the absorbing pursuit of an ideal.”
                Of course an ambitious student of music finds that his interest becomes more generally acute as he delves into its mastery; but only in vocal music as he becomes a singer himself do pleasure and profit become real and intense.
                The beauties in nature and human life generally become evident step by step, as the study of the voice proceeds.
                With the voice cultivated that art of the poet becomes a living thing.
                When asked how the pupils of the singing class were affected in their general class work, the Head Mistress replied, “They have learned to look for the beautiful.”  Here we have a very good reason for studying singing and a mental specific which should guide the life and thoughts away from crime and other evils.
                Should the state governments spend adequate funds to better progress in musical study in general and singing in particular, I do not think it rash to prophesy a general decrease in crime and in fact in all evil-doing.
                Thus any laxity in the teaching of the most advanced type of singing and expression for the young school children would indicate bad judgment, for a desire to find the beautiful may become part of the education as spelling is a part.
                If a child can be led to look for his pleasure in exercise that is clean and good, during his school-boy days, he is not so likely to drift into criminal ways when he leaves school.  Notice that Shakespeare says in the “Merchant of Venice,” Act V, Scene I,
                “The man that hath no music in himself
                Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
                Is fit for treason, stratagems and spoils;
                The motions of this spirit are dull as nights,
                And his affections dark as Erebus.
                Let no such man be trusted.”
                It might be possible to create a craving for music as strong as the desire for cheap amusements provided the child is placed under the proper influence at an early age, say, as soon as he can read.


                XI.  “Singing as a means of self-expression is a medium of release for pent-up emotions.”
                In sadness as in joy the sweet musical sounds have a marked effect upon the listener akin to charm, pleasure and interest.  At a wedding the joy of the assembled friends is increased by the atmosphere of music.  As the bride moves up the aisle the sound of the organ and the singing by the choir bring a sense of the triumph of love to all the minds of the listeners.
                Why is music, especially singing, a usual part of the service for the dead?  Does not the voice of the sweet singer relieve the sense of oppression, especially for those who are present as relatives and dear friends?  When there is sadness and trouble in the circle of the family or friends gathered together, how surely the sense of relief and support come:  to the sufferers when fitting strains of singing by a sweet voice pervades the room.  The proper words and voice should be available at all occasions of meting, whether sad or joyous; therefore study singing and learn to sing with the mind, the face and voice.
                XII.  “Singing, though followed with no thought of professionalism, gives pleasure to oneself and ultimately to one’s friends.  Its appeal is universal.”
                Of course the young pupil of singing, taught at school, will not and should not be urged to think of the professional side of the study.  That condition is the outcome of natural desire, ability and, later, honest study.  A child should begin to study singing and expression when it has learned to read, and to some extent express as it reads and knows what it is reading about.  Children can be led to find pleasure themselves and give pleasure to their friends and listeners, by singing and reading properly.  How these things can be accomplished depends mainly upon the teacher.  Mrs. RosilaSmiley, one expert, St. Petersburg, Florida, states “that the unusual child, that is, the child who isn’t musical, does not exist.”  And The Etude, in an editorial, notes, “In fact there are so very many instances of the power o music in developing the mind that we are convinced that wherever there is musical receptivity (and that means about 99% of mankind) the study of music is one of the most remunerative of all.”
 Enjoy Kiri Te Kanawa and The Royal Opera House Orchestra in their performance of "Exultate, jubilate" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:



  1. On the next occasion that anyone dares look askance on my perpetual singing as I go about my quotidian affairs, I shall refer them to this article posthaste.
    Your devoted, ever-singing sister,

    1. Yes, dear. In perpetual singing, you have undoubtedly proven your trustworthiness. Now, to reach beyond Shakespeare to number XII and give "pleasure to oneself and ultimately one's friends," would be the buttercream frosting in a Victoria Sponge Cake. (Of course, my favorite recipe is from