The best way to learn to do this is to practise yawning, and uttering a deep, low groan. By doing this, the root of the tongue and the uvula are kept quite apart. When a tone has been sung, the pupil must not let the uvula drop down and meet the root of the tongue. This is done by closing the mouth unconsciously when the note finishes. It generally takes some time and a good deal of hard work to learn how to avoid doing this. When, however, it has been mastered, the pupil can sing for a long time without getting tired. It is amazing how, by these simple means, full, round tones can be made out of small, thin voices in a very short time. Of course, it is impossible to lay down any rule as to the time it will take, for the question of time is ruled by the individual's ability and the elasticity of the muscles. Age, however, does not play as great a part in the matter as might be supposed, for many people will acquire these things more quickly when old than when young.
The question of breathing is all-important in relation to singing, Nearly everybody knows now that the singer must breath from the diaphragm - the great circular muscle which separates the chest from the abdomen - and not from the upper part of the chest, as so many people habitually do.
The way I teach my pupils to breathe correctly is to make them put their hands over the upper part of their chest, and to breathe without letting their chest walls move their hands. This exercise must never be done for more than a minute, or two minutes at the most, at a time, for it has the effect of making the pupil very giddy until she is used to it. If one attempts to sing when breathing from the upper part of the chest alone, one gets tired almost immediately. It does not take long to learn how to breathe properly; a week or two's practice ought to be sufficient.
In singing, it is most important not to let the breath flow out with the tone. If you did, you would never be able to sing a long phrase. I always make my pupils imagine that they are drawing in their breath all the time they are singing, while, as a matter of fact, they are actually letting it out. This trick, if so it may be called, was taught me by my dear old master, Alfred Blume, who made me imagine that I was drawing on a resisting elastic band. By doing this, the outward flow of the breath is made very slow, and in a short time one is able to sing long phrases without any trouble.
I have already referred to the subject of elocution. It helps the would-be singer better than anything else. There is no more mistaken idea than that elocution tires the singing voice. All my pupils who study elocution with my daughter, known on the stage as Miss Tita Brand, get on twice as well as those who do not.
A good many people will probably be surprised when I say that dancing is also a help. It is, however, an undoubted fact, for the rhythm of dancing helps the rhythm in the music. Even to-day I devote a good deal of time teaching my pupils to dance.
The value of dancing as an aid to singing is vividly demonstrated by a pupil of mine. He came to me when only eighteen years of age, and he has a glorious baritone voice. When I was producing Gluck's " Orpheus " for a series of special performances at the Savoy theatre, he used to attend the rehearsals which I directed. I had made special studies of Greek dances for it from the dancing figures on vases.
One day, when the piano was being played, he suddenly got up and began dancing to the music a measure of his own invention. Now, whenever rhythmical music is played, he can invent dances to it on the spur of the moment. Mr.backhaus, the distinguished pianist, who has seen him, declares that he has never seen anything so rhythmically beautiful as this young man's dancing. This has helped him enormously in the rhythm and interpretation of his songs. He was engaged by the Haymarket management to play Fire in that popular play, " The Blue Bird." Before he started on his tour, I made him go over the work he had done with me during the previous year, and I found that he had a repertoire of twenty-six songs in four different languages. Not a bad record !
It must not be supposed from this that I am a great advocate for teaching songs at the beginning of study. I am not. I believe in keeping my pupils at exercises for some time before I give them songs. It is impossible, however, for me to recommend any special book of exercises. There are probably many books of them which are very excellent. I find that I, individually, get better results with my pupils by finding out exactly what they need, and inventing the exercises which seem to me most suitable for them. In this way, I often have to invent a set of exercises for each pupil.
Madame Marie Brema, the well-known vocalist, one of the few English-speaking singers of Wagnerian opera and a distinguished interpreter of its most famous roles
Photo, Elliott & Fry
Very often, however, I take a bar or two of some song, and use it as an exercise. In this way, my pupils may study songs and learn to sing them with full expression. It is not done with any idea of their singing to friends or in public. As a matter of fact, I absolutely refuse to allow my pupils to sing in public until I consider them ready. As an exercise, however, the training is valuable. One thing I never allow in connection with singing, and I advise every student to put the idea into practice : this is that never under any circumstances is a song learnt merely in a technical way. From the very first the right rhythm and feeling must be put into it, and to do this the speaking of the words and the declamation must be perfect before an attempt is made to sing a note.