Fundamentals

LILLI LEHMANN: SINGING TOWARD THE NOSE. HEAD VOICE

When the peak of the softest part of the palate is placed forward toward the nose, instead of being drawn up high behind the nose, as in the head voice (see plate, head voice and nasal tone), it forms a kind of nasal production which, as I have already said, cannot be studied enough, because it produces very noble tonal effects and extraordinary connections. It ought always to be employed. By it is effected the connection of tones with eachother, from the front teeth back to a point under the nose; from the lower middle tones to the head tones. In truth, all the benefit of tonal connection depends upon this portion of the soft palate; that is, upon its conscious employment.

This is all that singers mean when they[Pg 79] speak of “nasal singing”—really only singing toward the nose. The soft palate placed toward the nose offers a resonating surface for the tone.

The reason why teachers tell their pupils so little of this is that many singers are quite ignorant of what nasal singing means, and are tormented by the idea of “singing toward the nose,” when by chance they hear something about it. They generally regard the voice as one complete organ acting by itself, which is once for all what it is. What can be made of it through knowledge of the functions of all the coöperating organs they know nothing of.

Blind voices are often caused by the exaggerated practice of closing off the throat too tightly from the head cavities; that is, drawing the pillars of the fauces too far toward the wall of the throat. The large resonating chamber thus formed yields tones that are powerful close at hand, but they do not carry, because they are poor in overtones.[Pg 80] The mistake consists in the practice of stretching the pillars too widely in the higher vocal ranges, also. In proportion as the pillars are extended, the breath spreads over the entire palate, instead of being concentrated on only one point of it, and bringing at the same time the resonance of the head cavities into play. The soft palate must first be drawn up to, then behind, the nose, and the attack of the higher tones be transferred thither. The pillars of the fauces must necessarily be relaxed by this action of the soft palate. Thereby breath is introduced into the cavities of the head to form the overtones, which contribute brilliancy and freshness to the voice.

Many singers persist in the bad habit here described, as long as nature can endure it; in the course of time, however, even with the most powerful physiques, they will begin to sing noticeably flat; with less powerful, the fatal tremolo will make its appearance, which results in the ruin of so many singers.

 

From How to sing _ Lilli Lehmann