The Child-Voice in Singing
by Francis E. Howard
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ⱥ, a, ɇ, Ɨ, ø, U ("long" vowels) ă, ĕ, ĭ, [)oo] ("short" vowels)

The "flat" symbol is shown as {b}. Sharps are shown with the "number" sign #.

In the printed text, all musical references—including single notes showing pitch—were shown on a musical staff. In this e-text, these brief passages are shown in brackets as [Music: e' e''], where c'-c'' is the octave beginning at middle C. Durations are not significant and have generally been omitted.

Within illustrations, text in {braces} was added by the transcriber. Typographical errors are listed at the end of the e-text.]

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Treated From

A Physiological and a Practical Standpoint and Especially Adapted to Schools and Boy Choirs


Supervisor of Music in the Public Schools and Choirmaster of St. John's and Trinity Churches, Bridgeport, Conn.


New York: The H. W. Gray Co. Sole Agents For NOVELLO & CO., Ltd., London Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1895 By F. E. HOWARD

Copyright, 1898 By NOVELLO, EWER & CO.

Copyright renewed, 1923


One of the most encouraging signs of the growth of musical taste and understanding at the present time as regards the singing of children, is the almost unanimous acquiescence of choirmasters, supervisors, teachers, and others in the idea that children should sing softly, and avoid loud and harsh tones; and the author ventures to hope that the first edition of this book has helped, in a measure at least, to bring about this state of opinion.

It is true that for a long time the art of training children's voices has been well understood by choirmasters of vested choirs, and by many others, but its basis was purely empirical.

Something more, however, than the dictum of individual taste and judgment is needed to convince the educators of our schools of the wisdom of any departure from established customs and practices. The primary end, then, of the author has been to show a scientific basis for the use of what is herein called the head-voice of the child, and to adduce, from a study of the anatomy and physiology of the larynx and vocal organs, safe principles for the guidance of those who teach children to sing.

The conditions under which music is taught in schools call for an appeal to the understanding first, and taste afterward. These conditions are:

First, the actual teaching of music is done by class-room or grade teachers. The special teacher, who usually supervises also, visits each room, it may be as often as once a week, but in most towns and cities not oftener than once in three or four weeks. At any rate the class form their ideals and habits from the daily lessons, which are given by their grade teacher.

Second, these teachers in the great majority of cases acquire their knowledge of music through teaching it, and must also, it can easily be understood, develop a sense of discrimination in musical matters in the same way. There is a strong natural tendency in the school-rooms to emphasize the teaching of music, or teaching about music, as contrasted with actual singing. The importance of using the voice properly will not suggest itself to many teachers.

It is necessary, then, that this, which is the essence of all instruction in vocal music, should be brought to the attention of the vast army of instructors in our public schools in as convincing a way as is possible. Now the best, and in fact the only way to secure the assent of our educators to a new idea in school work, is to prove its truth. "It is useless to dispute about tastes," and so the less said about harsh tone to a teacher accustomed to hear it daily, and to like it, the better; but prove to this teacher that the harsh tone is physically hurtful to the child, and that for physiological reasons the voice should be used softly and gently, and you have won a convert, one, too, who will quickly recognize the aesthetic phase of the change in voice use. The author knows from observation and experience that children in the public schools can, under existing conditions, be taught good habits of voice use. There are wonderful possibilities of musical development, in the study of music in schools, and the active interest of every musician and music lover should be exercised to the end that its standard may be kept high.


It will be generally admitted by those who are able to judge, that the singing of children is more often disagreeable than pleasant, and yet the charm of childhood and the effect of custom are so potent that many who are keenly alive to any deficiency in the adult singer, listen with tolerance, and it would seem with a degree of pleasure even, to the harsh tones of children.

This tolerance of rough, strident singing by children is as strange as the singing. It cannot be right for children to sing with the coarse, harsh tone that is so common, and it is not right, although there is a prevalent idea that such singing is natural, that is, unavoidable.

This idea is false. The child singing-voice is not rough and harsh unless it is misused. The truth of this statement can be easily demonstrated. If it were not true it would be difficult to justify the teaching of vocal music in schools, or the employment of boy sopranos in church choirs.

It seems to the author that the chief difficulty experienced by teachers and instructors of singing, in dealing with children, lies in the assumption, expressed or implied, that their voices are to be treated as we treat the voices of adults— adult women; but the vocal organs of the child differ widely from those of the adult in structure, strength and general character. As a consequence, there is a marked difference in voice.

Vocal music has been very generally introduced into the schools of our country during the past few years, and there is evidently a very general and earnest desire that children be taught to sing. It is also the wish of those who are teachers to do their work well.

While there are many books to aid educators upon every other subject taught in public schools, the literature on the voice, particularly the singing-voice, is meagre, and it is believed that some direct, practical hints on this topic may be welcome.

The following pages are the result of several years' experience in teaching, and of careful study of children's voices. The author has attempted to describe the physiological characteristics of the child-voice and to give some practical hints regarding its management. It is sincerely hoped that what is herein written may be useful and helpful to those engaged in teaching children to sing.

FRANCIS E. HOWARD, Bridgeport, Conn. December, 1895


Preface to the Second Edition, 3

Preface, 7

CHAPTER I. Physiology of the Voice, 13

CHAPTER II. Registers of the Voice, 25

CHAPTER III. How To Secure Good Tone, 44

CHAPTER IV. Compass of the Child-Voice, 72

CHAPTER V. Position, Breathing, Attack, Tone-Formation, 81

CHAPTER VI. Vowels, Consonants, Articulation, 95

CHAPTER VII. Mutation of the Voice, 112

CHAPTER VIII. The Alto Voice in Male Choirs, 125

CHAPTER IX. General Remarks, 132



In former times the culture of the singing-voice was conducted upon purely empirical grounds. Teachers followed a few good rules which had been logically evolved from the experience of many schools of singing.

We are indebted to modern science, aided by the laryngoscope, for many facts concerning the action of the larynx, and more especially the vocal cords in tone-production. While the early discoveries regarding the mechanism of the voice were hopefully believed to have solved all problems concerning its cultivation, experience has shown the futility of attempting to formulate a set of rules for voice-culture based alone upon the incomplete data furnished by the laryngoscope. This instrument is a small, round mirror which is introduced into the throat at such an angle, that if horizontal rays of light are thrown upon it, the larynx, which lies directly beneath, is illuminated and reflected in the mirror at the back of the mouth— the laryngoscope. Very many singers and teachers, of whom Manuel Garcia was the first, have made use of this instrument to observe the action of their vocal bands in the act of singing, and the results of these observations are of the greatest value. Still, as before said, the laryngoscope does not reveal all the secrets of voice-production. While it tells unerringly of any departure from the normal, or of pathological change in the larynx, it does not tell whether the larynx belongs to the greatest living singer or to one absolutely unendowed with the power of song. Also, the subject of vocal registers is as vexing to-day as ever.

While, then, we may confidently expect further and more complete elucidation of the physiology of the voice, there is yet sufficient data to guide us safely in vocal training, if we neglect not the empirical rules which the accumulated experience of the past has established.

The organ by which the singing-voice is produced is the larynx. It forms the upper extremity of the windpipe, which again is the upper portion and beginning of the bronchial tubes, which, extending downward, branch off from its lower part to either side of the chest and continually subdivide until they become like little twigs, around which cluster the constituent parts of the lungs, which form the bellows for the supply of air necessary to the performance of vocal functions. Above, the larynx opens into the throat and the cavities of the pharynx, mouth, nose, and its accessory cavities, which constitute the resonator for vocal vibrations set up within the larynx.

The larynx itself consists of a framework of cartilages joined by elastic membranes or ligaments, and joints. These cartilages move freely toward and upon each other by means of attached muscles. Also the larynx as a whole can be moved in various directions by means of extrinsic muscles joined to points above and below.

The vocal bands are two ligaments or folds of mucous membrane attached in front to the largest cartilage of the larynx, called the thyroid, and which forms in man the protuberance commonly called Adam's apple; and, extending horizontally backward, are inserted posteriorly into the arytenoid cartilages, the right vocal band into the right arytenoid cartilage and the left band into the left cartilage. These arytenoid cartilages, by means of an articulation or joint, move freely upon the cricoid, the second large cartilage of the larynx, forming its base, and sometimes called the ring cartilage, from its resemblance in shape to a seal ring. The vocal bands are composed of numberless elastic fibres running in part parallel to each other, and in part interwoven in various directions with each other. The fibres also vary in length; some are inserted into the extending projections, called processes of the arytenoid cartilages, and some extend further back and are inserted into the body of the cartilages. The vocal bands, then, lie opposite each other, on a level, raised a little in front, and with a narrow slit between, called the glottis.

The muscles controlling the action of the vocal bands, and which regulate the mechanism producing sound, are of three groups, viz., abductors (drawing-apart muscles), adductors (drawing-together muscles), and tensors.

The abductors act to keep the bands apart during respiration, while the function of the adductors and tensors is to bring the bands into position for speech or singing. They are, since phonation is at will, voluntary muscles; but it is an interesting fact that the laryngeal muscles of either side invariably act together. It has been shown that it is not possible to move one vocal cord without the other at the same time executing the same movement. It is thus shown that the laryngeal muscles are, to a less extent, under the control of the will than are those of either hand or eye. The rational training of the singing-voice cannot, therefore, proceed upon any theory based upon the voluntary training of the muscles controlling the movements of the vocal cords.

The mucous membrane which lines the larynx is liberally supplied with secreting glands, whose function is to keep the parts moist. Above the vocal bands, another pair of membranous ligaments are stretched across the larynx forming, with its sides and the vocal bands, a pouch or pocket. The upper ligaments are sometimes called the false vocal cords, but are more properly termed ventricular bands. Their function has occasioned much speculation, but whatever modification of tone they may be supposed to produce, they no doubt protect the true vocal bands and permit their free vibration. The larynx, in the production of sound, may be compared to an organ-pipe. The two vocal cords which act simultaneously and are anatomically alike, when set in vibration by the blast of air coming from the lungs, correspond to the reed of the organ-pipe; the vibration of the cords, producing sound, which is communicated to the air enclosed in the cavities of the chest and head. Pitch of tone is determined by the rapidity of vibrations of the bands, according to acoustical law, and the length, size, and tension of the cords will determine the number of vibrations per second, i.e., their rapidity.

Strength or loudness of tone is determined primarily by the width or amplitude of the vibrations of the vocal membrane, and quality or timbre is determined by the form of the vibration.

The infinitely varying anatomical divergencies in the form and structure of the nasal, pharyngeal and throat cavities, and possibly the composition of the vocal bands, modifies, in numberless ways, the character of tone in speech or song. It is a fascinating topic, but must be dismissed here with the remark that, as those anatomical differences in structure are far less marked in children than in adults, their voices are, in consequence, more alike in quality and strength. It takes long, patient training to blend adult voices, but children's voices, when properly used, are homogeneous in tone.

The voices of boys and girls, prior to the age of puberty, are alike. The growth of the larynx, which in each is quite rapid up to the age of six years, then, according to all authorities with which the writer is conversant, ceases, and the vocal bands neither lengthen nor thicken, to any appreciable extent, before the time of change of voice, which occurs at the age of puberty.

It is scarcely possible, however, that the larynx literally remains unchanged through the period of the child's life, extending from the age of six to fourteen or fifteen years. In point of fact, authorities upon the subject refer only to the lack of growth and development in size of the larynx during the period; but undoubtedly, during these years, there is a constant gaining of firmness and strength, in both the cartilages and their connecting membranes and muscles. None of the books written upon the voice have even mentioned this most important fact. It bears with great significance upon questions relating to the capacities of the child's voice at different ages, and explains that phenomenon called the "movable break," which has puzzled so many in their investigations of the registers of the child's voice. The constant, though of course extremely slow, hardening of the cartilaginous portions of the larynx, and the steady increase in the strength of its muscles and ligaments is not in the least inconsistent with the previously noted fact, that the vocal bands during this time increase to no appreciable extent in length; for, it may be observed, after the change of voice, which often occurs with great rapidity, and during which the vocal bands increase to double their previous length in males, that, though the pitch of the voice, owing to increased length of the bands, suddenly lowers, yet not until full maturity is reached, do the laryngeal cartilages attain that rigidity, or the vocal bands that ready elasticity essential to the production of pure, resonant voice. Yet, during these years, while the voice is developing, the vocal bands remain unchanged in length. Even in those cases where the voice changes slowly in consequence of the slow growth in length and thickness of the vocal cords, it takes several years, after laryngeal development has ceased, for the voice to attain its full size and resonance.

Furthermore, the continual increase in strength and firmness of the larynx from six years onward to puberty, is consistent with the constant growth in strength and firmness of tissue characterizing the entire body. It is again proven by the continual improvement in the power and timbre of the tone through this period, always premising, be it understood, that the voice is used properly, and never forced beyond its natural capabilities. The voice, at the age of eleven or twelve, is far stronger, and is capable of more sustained effort than at the age of six or seven years, and, for the year or two preceding the break of voice, the brilliance and power of boys' voices, especially in the higher tones, is often phenomenal, and in all cases is far superior to that of previous years.

The resemblance between the voices of boys and girls, a resemblance which amounts to identity, save that the voices of boys are stronger and more brilliant in quality, disappears at puberty.

Among the physical changes which occur at this period is a marked growth of the larynx, sufficient to alter entirely the pitch and character of the boy's voice. As a female larynx is affected to a lesser extent, the voices of girls undergo little change in pitch, but become eventually more powerful, and richer in tone.

This break of the voice, as it is called, occurs at about the age of fifteen years in this climate, but often a year or two earlier, and not infrequently a year or two later. The growth of the larynx goes on, with greater or less rapidity, varying in different individuals, for from six months to two or three years, until it attains its final size. In boys, the larynx doubles in size, and the vocal bands increase in the proportion of five to ten in length. This great gain in the length of the vocal cords is due to the lateral development of the larynx, for the male larynx, in its entirety, increases more in depth than in height. The result is a drop of an octave in the average boy's voice, the longer bands producing lower tones. The change in size in the female larynx is in the proportion of five to seven, and the increase is in height instead of depth or width as in the male larynx. The vocal cords of women are, therefore, shorter, thinner and narrower than are those of men.

The reason assigned for the peculiar antics of the boy's voice, during the break, is unequal rapidity in the growth and development of the cartilages and of the muscles of the larynx. The muscles develop more slowly than do the cartilages, and so abnormal physical conditions produce abnormal results in phonation.

No further changes occur in the laryngeal structure until middle life, when ossification of the cartilages commences. The thyroid is first affected, then the cricoid, and the arytenoids much later.

The consequent rigidity of the larynx occasions diminished compass of the singing-voice, the notes of the upper register being the first to disappear. In some few cases of arrested development, the voice of the man retains the soprano compass of the boy through life.



It may be observed, in listening to an ascending series of tones sung by an untrained or by a badly-trained adult voice, that at certain pitches the tone-quality undergoes a radical change; while a well-trained singer will sing the same series of tones without showing any appreciable break or change in tone-quality, although the highest note will present a marked contrast in timbre to the lowest. The breaks or changes in register so noticeable in the untrained voice are covered or equalized in the voice trained by correct methods. These breaks in both male and female voices occur at certain pitches where the tone-producing mechanism of the larynx changes action, and brings the vocal bands into a new vibratory form. "A register consists of a series of tones produced by the same mechanism."— Emil Behnke in "Voice, Song, and Speech." G. Edward Stubbs, in commenting upon the above definition, says:

"By mechanism is meant the action of the larynx which produces different sets of vibrations, and by register is meant the range of voice confined to a given set of vibrations. In passing the voice from one register to another, the larynx changes its mechanism and calls into play a different form of vibration."

The number of vocal registers, or vibratory forms, which the vocal bands assume, is still a matter of dispute, and their nomenclature is equally unsettled. The old Italian singing-masters gave names to parts of the vocal compass corresponding to the real or imaginary bodily sensations experienced in singing them; as chest-voice, throat-voice, head-voice. Madame Seiler, in "The Voice in Singing," gives as the result of original investigations with the laryngoscope five different actions of the vocal bands which she classifies as "first and second series of the chest-register," "first and second series of the falsetto register" and "head-register." Browne and Behnke, in "Voice, Song, and Speech," divide the male voice into three registers, and the female into five. They are termed "lower thick," "upper thick," "lower thin," "upper thin" and "small." Other writers speak of three registers, "chest," "medium" and "head," and still others of two only, viz., the chest and the head.

Modern research has shown what was after all understood before, that, if the vibratory form assumed by the vocal bands for the natural production of a certain set of tones is pushed by muscular exertion above the point where it should cease, inflammation and weakening of the vocal organs will result, while voice-deterioration is sure to follow. A physiological basis has reinforced the empirical deductions of the old Italian school. In dealing with children's voices, it is necessary to recognize only two registers, the thick, or chest-register, and the thin, or head-register. Further subdivisions will only complicate the subject without assisting in the practical management of their voices. Tones sung in the thick or chest-register are produced by the full, free vibration of the vocal bands in their entire length, breadth and thickness. The tones of the thin or head-register result from the vibration of the vocal bands along their inner edges alone.

We may then conclude from the foregoing that children up to the age of puberty, at least in class or chorus singing, should use the thin or head-register only.

1st. It is from a physiological standpoint entirely safe. The use of this register will not strain or overwork the delicate vocal organs of childhood.

2d. Its tones are musical, pure and sweet, and their use promotes the growth of musical sensibility and an appreciation of beauty in tone.

3d. The use of the thick or chest-voice in class-singing is dangerous. It is wellnigh impossible to confine it within proper limits.

It is unnecessary to discuss the second point. Anyone who has noted the contrast between the harsh quality of tone emitted from childish throats when using the chest-voice, and the pure, flute-like sound produced when the head-tones are sung will agree that the last is music and the first noise, or at any rate very noisy, barbaric music.

The third point, if true, establishes the first, for, if the chest-voice cannot be safely used, it follows that children must use the head-register or stop singing. It must be said, before proceeding further, that it is not denied that the thick voice can be used by children without injury, if properly managed; that is, if the singing be not too loud, and if it be not carried too high. It is also fully recognized, that, when theoretically the head-voice alone is used, it yet, when carried to the lower tones, insensibly blends into the thick register; but if this equalization of registers is obtained so completely that no perceptible difference in quality of voice can be observed, why then the whole compass is practically the thin or head-register.

Now, can the thick voice be used in school-singing, and confined to the lower notes? And is it fairly easy to secure soft and pure vocalizations in this register? Let the experience of thousands of teachers in the public schools of this and other lands answer the last question.

It would be as easy to stop the growth of the average boy with a word, or to persuade a crowd of youngsters to speak softly at a game of baseball, as to induce them, or girls either for that matter, to use the voice gently, when singing with that register in which it is possible to push the tone and shout.

There should be some good physiological reason for the habitual recourse to the strident chest-voice so common with boys, and nearly as usual with girls. And there is a good reason. It is lack of rigidity in the voice-box or larynx. Its cartilages harden slowly, and even just before the age of puberty the larynx falls far short of the firmness and rigidity of structure, that characterize the organ in adult life. It is physically very difficult for the adult to force the chest-voice beyond its natural limits, which become fixed when full maturity of bodily development is reached, but the child, whose laryngeal cartilages are far more flexible, and move toward and upon each other with greater freedom, can force the chest-voice up with great ease. The altitude of pitch which is attained before breaking into the thin register is with young children regulated by the amount of muscular exertion they put forth. Even up to the change of voice, boys can often force the thick register several notes higher than women sopranos.

It must be borne in mind that the thick voice is produced by the full, free vibrations of the vocal bands in their entire length, breadth and thickness.

Imagine children six years of age carrying tones formed in this manner to the extreme limit of their voice; yet they do it. The tone of infant classes in Sunday-schools, and the tone of the primary schools, as they sing their morning hymns or songs for recreation, is produced in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand in exactly the way set forth. If the vocal bands of children were less elastic, if they were composed of stronger fibres, and protected from undue exertion by firm connecting cartilage; in short, if children were not children, such forcing would not be possible. If it were not for the wonderful recuperative power of childhood, serious effects would follow such vocal habits.

We are now prepared to understand that common phenomenon of the child-voice, termed the "movable break." Every public school teacher who has had experience in teaching singing must be familiar with the meaning of the term, though possibly unaware of it. Allusion has already been made to the fact that, in primary grades, the thick quality, if permitted, will be carried as high as the children sing, to

[Music: e'']

for example. If they are required to sing the higher tones lightly, then the three or four tones, just below the pitch indicated, will be sung in a thin quality of voice. The place of the break or the absence of any break at all will depend upon the degree of loudness permitted.

Pass now to a grade in which the pupils average eleven years of age. These can use the thick tones as high as

[Music: d'' e'']

only with great exertion, and, if required to sing softly, will pass into the thin register at a lower pitch than the primary class. Now, go to a room where the children range in age from thirteen to fifteen years. The girls will still use thick tones up to

[Music: b' c'' d'']

The pitch at which the break occurs will vary in individual cases according to physique or ambition to sing well; but the boys (excluding those whose voices have begun to break) will manifest the utmost repugnance to singing the higher notes. "Can't sing high" will be the reply when you ask them why they do not sing. And they are correct. They cannot, not with the thick voice. Even when putting forth considerable exertion, they will pass to the thin voice at

[Music: g' {or} a']

and lower, if they sing softly. This phenomenon, then, is the "movable break" of the child-voice. The pitch at which the child-voice passes from the thick to the thin voice depends first upon the age; second, upon the amount of physical energy employed, and third, upon the bodily vigor of the child.

It may also be added that boys' voices break lower than girls' during the year or two preceding change of voice. When, now, it is remembered that the adult female voice leaves the chest-register at

[Music: f' f#']

it will be admitted by everyone who has had actual experience in class singing in schools or elsewhere, that the facts set forth in reference to the ability of the child to carry the thick voice from one to eight tones higher than the adult, has a very important bearing on the subject of training children's voices.

But, is it physically injurious? It may be said that, as regards upward forcing of the vocal register, authorities upon the adult voice are united. Leo Kofler, in "The Art of Breathing," p. 168, says: "I have met female trebles that used this means of forcing up the chest-tones as high as middle A, B, C, and (one can hardly conceive of the physical possibility of so doing) even as far as D and E flat. The reason why this practice is so dangerous lies in the unnatural way in which the larynx is held down in the throat, and in the force that is exercised by the tension muscles of the vocal ligaments and the hard pressure of the muscles of the tongue-bone.... I have examined with the laryngoscope many ladies who had the habit of singing the chest-tones too high, and, without exception, I have found their throats in a more or less diseased condition. Laryngitis, either alone or complicated with pharyngitis, relaxation of the vocal ligaments, and sometimes paralysis of one of them, are the most frequent results of this bad habit. If a singer is afflicted with catarrhal trouble, it is always aggravated by this abominable method of singing."

Emma Seiler, in "The Voice in Singing," p. 54, after describing the action of the vocal ligaments in the production of the chest-voice and alluding to the fact that such action can be continued several tones higher than the proper transitional point, goes on: "But such tones, especially in the female voice, have that rough and common timbre, which we are too often compelled to hear in our female singers. The glottis also in this case, as well as parts of the larynx near the glottis, betrays the effort very plainly; as the tones ascend, they grow more and more red. Thus, as at this place in the chest-register, there occurs a visible and sensible straining of the organs, so also is it in all the remaining transitions, as soon as the attempt is made to extend the action by which the lower tones are formed beyond the given limits of the same." And again: "In the ignorance existing concerning the natural transitions of the registers, and in the unnatural forcing of the voice, is found a chief cause of the decline in the art of singing, and the present inability to preserve the voice is the consequence of a method of teaching unnatural, and, therefore, imposing too great a strain upon the voice." Quotations innumerable might be made, to give more emphasis, were it needed, to the evils of register forcing.

The only point remaining is the one very often raised. Is it not natural for children to use the chest or thick voice? If their vocal organs are so flexible, may they not carry such tones higher than adults, and younger children higher than those a little older, and so on?

It is quite obvious, for reasons herein set forth, that children do not experience the same degree of difficulty in continuing the use of the thick voice to their higher tones as do adults, but as to the effect upon their vocal organs there need be no reasonable doubt. A. B. Bach, in "Principles of Singing," p. 142, says: "If children are allowed to sing their higher notes forte, before the voice is properly equalized, it will become hard, harsh and hoarse, and they will fail in correct intonation. A mistake in this direction not only ruins the middle register but destroys the voice altogether. The consequence of encouraging forte singing is to change a soprano rapidly to an alto; and they will generally sing alto equally forte because their vocal cords have lost their elasticity through overstraining and the notes will no longer answer to piano. . . . . The fact is that reckless singing often breaks tender voices and breaks them forever." It may be observed that the writer cited evidently accepts the same classification in register for children and adult women's voices, but this does not make the above extract any less applicable. The baneful effects of forcing the voice is clearly set forth. How to avoid it is another matter.

Leo Kofler, in the work previously mentioned, p. 168, refers to this point as follows: "It frequently happens that the tones of the lower range, or the so-called chest-tones, are forced up too high into the middle range. This bad habit is often contracted while the singers are quite young. Boy trebles have this habit to an unendurable degree, usually screaming those horrible chest-tones up to middle C. Of all bad habits, this one is the most liable to injure a voice and to detract from artistic singing."

To cite Madame Seiler once more, p. 176: "While it often happens that at the most critical age while the vocal organs are being developed, children sing with all the strength they can command. Boys, however, in whom the larynx at a certain period undergoes an entire transformation, reach only with difficulty the higher soprano or contralto tones, but are not assigned a lower part until perceiving themselves the impossibility of singing in this way, they beg the teacher for the change, often too late, unhappily, to prevent an irreparable injury. Moderate singing without exertion, and above all things, within the natural limits of the voice and its registers, would even during the period of growth be as little hurtful as speaking, laughing or any other exercise which cannot be forbidden to the vocal organs."

Browne and Behnke, who separately and together have given most valuable additions to the literature of the voice, in a small book entitled "The Child-Voice," have collated a large number of answers from distinguished singers, teachers and choir-trainers to various questions relating to the subject. The following citation is from this interesting work, p. 39: "The necessity of limiting the compass of children's voices is frequently insisted upon, no attention whatever being paid to registers; and yet in finitely more mischief is done by forcing the registers than would be accomplished by allowing children to exceed the compass generally assigned to them, always provided that the singing be the result of using the mechanism set apart by nature for different parts of the voice."

There can really be no doubt that the use of the chest or thick voice upon the higher tones is injurious to a child of six years, or ten years, or of any other age. The theory that in the child-voice the breaks occur at higher fixed pitches than in the adult is shown to be untenable. The fact would seem to be that comparisons between the registers of the child and the adult voice are misleading, since the adult voice has fixed points of change in the vocal mechanism, which can be transcended only with great difficulty, while the child-voice has no fixed points of change in its vocal registers. This point must not be overlooked. It is the most important fact connected with the child-voice in speech or song. It is the fundamental idea of this work and is the basis for whatever suggestions are herein contained upon the management of the child-voice. The rigidity of the adult larynx, the strength of the tensor and adductor muscles and the elastic firmness of the vocal ligaments, are to those of the child as the solid bony framework and strongly set muscles of maturity are to the imperfectly hardened bones and soft muscles of childhood. Nature makes no fixed limits of the vocal registers until full maturity is reached. A fixed register in a childish throat involving a completely developed larynx would be a startling anomaly. The laryngeal muscles of childhood are not strong. They are weak. Most of the talk about strength of voice in children is utter nonsense. When the muscles and other parts concerned in tone-production perform their physiological functions in a healthy manner, that is, in such a way that no congestion, or inflammation or undue weariness will result, the singing-tone of the child will never be loud. High or low, under these conditions it must perforce be soft, and if proper directions be followed the quality will be as good as the voice is capable of.

Everyone who has observed has also noticed the contrast in the lower tones of children and women. The chest-voice of the woman, which she uses in singing her lower register, is normally very beautiful in its quality. Its tones are the product of a perfectly developed, full-grown organ. The chest-voice of the child is an abnormal product of a weak, growing, undeveloped organ. It possesses, even when used carefully, little of the tone tints of the adult voice. The chest-voice belongs to adult life, not to childhood. The so-called chest-voice of children is only embryonic. It cannot be musical, for the larynx has not reached that stage of growth and development where it can produce these tones musically. The constant use of this hybrid register with children is injurious in many ways. Its use is justified in schools merely through custom, and it can not be doubted that as soon as the attention of teachers is called to its evils, they will no longer tolerate its use.

The usual analogies then which are drawn between the adult female voice and the child-voice, in so far as they imply a similar physiological condition of the vocal organ and similar vocal training, are not only useless, but misleading. He who tries to train the average child-voice on the theory of two, three or five clearly-defined breaks, or natural changes in the forms for vocal vibration assumed by the vocal bands will get very little help from nature.

With due consideration it is said that it is a harder task to train children's voices properly than to train the voices of adults. Where nature is so shifty in her ways, it requires keen penetration to discover her ends.

The child-voice is a delicate instrument. It ought not to be played upon by every blacksmith.



The practical application of the teaching of the two preceding chapters may at first thought seem to be difficult. On the contrary, it is quite easy. We have favorable conditions in schools; graded courses in music, regular attendance, discipline, and women and men in charge who are accustomed to teach. No more favorable conditions for teaching vocal music exist than are to be found in a well-organized and well-disciplined school. The environments of both pupils and teachers are exactly adapted to the ready reception of ideas, on the one hand, and the skilful imparting of them, on the other.

The abilities of the trained teachers of to-day are not half appreciated. They often possess professional skill of the highest order, and the supervisor of music in the public schools may count himself exceedingly fortunate in the means he has at hand for carrying on his work. But knowledge of voice is no more evolved from one's inner consciousness than is knowledge of musical notation, or of the Greek alphabet; therefore, if regular teachers in the school permit singing which is unmusical and hurtful, it is chiefly because they are following the usual customs, and their ears have thereby become dulled, or it may be that even if the singing is unpleasant to them, that they do not know how to make it better. As before said, all energies have so far been directed to the teaching of music reading. Tone has been neglected, forgotten, or at most its improvement has been sought spasmodically. The carelessness regarding tone, which is so prevalent, is due to an almost entire absence of good teaching on the subject of the child-voice— to ignorance, let us say— not altogether inexcusable.

Now and then, when listening to the soprani of some well-trained boy-choir, sounding soft and mellow on the lower notes and ringing clear and flutey on the higher, it may have dimly occurred to the teacher of public school music that there might be things as yet unheard of in his musical philosophy, a vague wonder and dissatisfaction, which has slowly disappeared under the pressure of routine work.

When one reflects upon the results which the patience and skill of our regular teachers have accomplished in teaching pupils to read music; it can never be reasonably doubted that the same patience and skill, if rightly directed, will be equally successful in teaching a correct use of the voice.

Two principles form the basis of good tone-production as applied to children's voices.

1st. They must sing softly.

2d. They must be restricted in compass of voice.

If these two rules are correctly applied in each grade, if pupils sing softly enough, and carry their tones neither too high nor too low, always taking into account the grade or average age of the class, then the voice will be used only in the thin or head-register, and the tones of the thick or chest-register will never be heard. But the two rules must be as one, for if soft singing be carried too low with infant voices, they are forced to use the thick tones; and children of all ages, even if singing within the right compass of voice, will use the thick register if permitted to sing too loud.

There is nothing particularly original in insisting upon soft singing from children. The writer has never seen a book of school music that does not mention its desirability, nor hardly a reference to the child-voice in the standard works or writings of the day of which this idea has not formed a part.

The general direction "Sing softly" is good so far as it goes, but is, first, indefinite. Softly and loudly are relative terms, and subject to wide diversity of interpretation. The pianissimo of a cultivated singer is silence compared to the tone emitted by vocalists of the main strength order, when required to produce soft tone. Secondly, the direction is seldom or never found coupled with instruction upon the vocal compass of children. Hence, it does not seem very strange that the injunction "Sing softly" has not corrected vocal errors in school singing.

It is not easy, it is even impossible, to accurately define soft singing, and no attempt will be made further than to describe as clearly as may be the degree of softness which it is necessary to insist upon if we would secure the use of the thin or head register.

The subject of register has already been discussed, but it may not be amiss to repeat just here that in the child larynx as in the adult the head-register is that series of tones which are produced by the vibration of the thin, inner edges of the vocal band. If breathing is natural, and if the throat is open and relaxed, no strain in singing this tone is possible. It is evident in a moment that children with their thin, delicate vocal ligaments can make this tone even more easily than adult sopranos, whose vocal ligaments are longer and thicker; and it is also perfectly evident that no danger of strain to the vocal bands is incurred when this voice is used, for all the muscles and ligaments of the larynx are under far less tension than is required for the production of tones in the thick register.

It must also be remembered in connection with this fact, that children often enter school at five years of age, and that according to physiologists the larynx does not reach the full growth in size, incidental to childhood until the age of six years. We must then be particularly careful with infant classes— for the vocal bands of children prior to six years of age are very, very weak. Speaking of infant voices, Mr. W. M. Miller, in Browne and Behnke's afore-mentioned work, "The Child-Voice," is quoted as saying; "Voice-training cannot be attempted, but voice-destruction may be prevented. Soft singing is the cure for all the ills of the vocal organs." It would be hard to find a more terse or truthful statement than the first sentence of the above as regards the voices of little children from five to seven or eight years of age. It is unmitigated foolishness to talk about vocal training as applied to children of that age. The voice-culture which is suited to little children is that sort of culture which promotes growth— food and sleep and play. As well train a six months' old colt for the race track, as attempt to develop the voice of a child of six or seven years with exercises on o, and ah, pianissimo and fortissimo, crescendo, diminuendo and swell. Their voices must be used in singing as lightly as possible. This answers the question, how softly should they sing?

Children during the first two or three years of school-life may be permitted to sing from

[Music: e' e'']

or if the new pitch is used from

[Music: f' f'']

Two or three practical difficulties will at once occur to the teacher with reference to songs and exercises which range lower than E first line, and with reference to the customary teaching of the scale of C as the initial step in singing.

The subject of compass of children's voices will be discussed at some length in a following chapter, but for the present it may be said that the difficulty with songs and exercises ranging below the pitch indicated may be overcome easily by pitching the songs, etc., a tone or two higher. If they then range too high, don't sing them, sing something else. In teaching the scale, take E or F as the keynote, and sing either one or the other of those scales first. The children must sing as softly as possible in all their singing exercises, whether songs or note drill. They should be taught to open their mouths well, to sit or stand erect as the case may be, and under no circumstances should the instructor sing with them. Too much importance can hardly be given to this last statement. If teachers persist in leading the songs with their own voices and in singing exercises with the children, they can and most probably will defeat all efforts to secure the right tone in either the first, or any grade up to that in which changed voices are found. This sounds rather cynical, and might seem to imply that instructors cannot sing well. The meaning, however, is quite different.

The quality or timbre of the adult woman's voice is wholly unlike that of the child's thin register. Her medium tones, even when sung softly, have a fuller and more resonant quality, and if she lead in songs, etc., the pupils, with the proverbial aptitude for imitation, will inevitably endeavor to imitate her tone-quality. They can only do so by using the thick register, which it is so desirable to utterly avoid. It is worse yet for a man to lead the singing. Neither should one of the pupils be allowed to lead, for not only will the one leading force the voice in the effort, but a chance is offered to any ambitious youngster to pitch in and outsing the leader; from all of which follows naturally the idea that all prominence of individual voice must be discouraged, forbidden even. The songs and exercises must be led, it is true, but by the teacher and silently. Then, again, unless the teacher is silent she cannot be a good critic. Think of a voice-trainer singing each solfeggio and song with his pupil during the lesson.

Certainly it is often necessary for the teacher to sing, but only to illustrate or correct, or to teach a song. In the last, if the teacher will remain silent while the class repeat the line sung to them, and will proceed in the same way until the whole is memorized by the class, not only will time be economized, but the tone can be kept as soft as is desired and individual shouters checked. Once more it must be insisted that soft, very soft singing only, can be allowed. And this applies to the entire compass used. Children of the ages mentioned can, as has already been shown, break from the thin to the thick voice at any pitch, it only requiring a little extra push for the upper tones.

Finally, as an excellent test to settle if the tone is soft enough to ensure the use of the thin register beyond doubt, require the class to sing so that no particular voice can be distinguished from the others, which will make the tone as that of one voice, and perhaps lead you to doubt if all are singing, until convinced by the movement of their mouths. The tone will seem pretty light and thin, but will be sweet as the trill of a bird.

To Distinguish Registers.

The difficulty which may be experienced in attempting to distinguish between the two registers must not be disregarded. If the voices of children were never entrusted to any save professional voice-teachers, a very few hints upon their management would perhaps suffice, for the ear of the teacher of voice and singing is presumably trained in the differentiation in tone-quality occasioned by changes in the action of the vocal mechanism. When, however, we reflect that of the thousands of teachers in our public schools very few, indeed, have ever heard of voice-registers, and much less been accustomed to note distinctions in tone-timbre between them, the need of a detailed plan of procedure is seen.

It is safe to assert that anyone with a musical ear can with a little patience learn to distinguish one register from another. There is no vocal transition so marked as the change from thick to thin register in the child-voice, unless it be the change from the chest to the head or falsetto in the man's voice. Suppose we take a class of say twelve from the fourth year averaging nine years of age. Give them the pitch of C.

[Music: c']

Require them to sing up the scale loudly. As they reach the upper tone

[Music: c'']

stop them and ask them to sing that, and the two tones above very softly. The change in tone will be quite apparent. The tone used in ascending the scale of C, singing loudly, will be reedy, thick and harsh— the thick register. The tone upon

[Music: c'' d'' e'']

singing very softly, will be flute-like, thin and clear— the thin register. Again, let them sing E first line with full strength of voice and then the octave lightly, or have them sing G second line, first softly and then loudly, or, again, let them ascend the scale of E singing as light a tone as possible, and then descend singing as loud as they can. In each case the change from thick to thin voice, or vice versa, will be illustrated; and in singing the scale of E as suggested, the break of voice a little higher or lower in individual cases will be noticed. It is quite possible that some members of the class may use the thick voice on each tone of the descending scale beginning with the highest.

Care must always be taken that in singing softly the mouth be well opened. The tendency will be to close it when required to sing lightly, but the tone, then, will be nothing but a humming noise. It may as well be said here that a great deal of future trouble and labor may be avoided, if, from the first, pupils are taught to keep the mouth fairly well opened, and the lips sufficiently apart to permit the free emission of tone. Let the lower jaw have a loose hinge, so to speak. It is well enough to point out also that when the lower jaw drops, the tongue goes down with it, and should remain extended along the floor of the mouth with the tip against the teeth while vowel-sounds are sung.

There are many other ways than those already suggested, in which the distinction between the registers may be shown. Let the whole class sing

[Music: d'' c'' b']

softly, and then the next lower tone or tones loudly. The thick quality will be heard easily enough. Or from the room select a pupil, one of the class who has, in the phraseology of the schoolroom, a good voice, to sing the scale of D ascending and descending. If the pupil be not timid, and the kind referred to are not usually, and if loud singing has been customary, the tone will be coarse and reedy throughout. Now let another pupil who has what is called a light voice, and who daily sits modestly in the shade of his boisterous brother, sing the same scale. The tone in all likelihood will be pure and flutey, at least upon the higher notes.

Take the scale of E now and have each pupil in the room sing it alone. There may certainly be some who cannot sing the scale, and if the daily singing has been harsh, the number may be large, but postponing the consideration of these so-called monotones and directing the attention wholly to the quality or timbre of tone used by the different pupils, it may be observed that some use the thick voice only, some use the thin voice, others break from the thick voice into the thin at one pitch as they ascend, and from the thin to thick voice at a lower pitch as they descend; and if required to sing again, may perhaps pass from one voice to the other at different pitches. Others again may exhibit a blending of the two voices at certain pitches. In fact, unless the degree of power is suddenly changed, a break from the thick tone upon one note to the thin tone upon the next note or vice versa seldom occurs.

The same illustrative tests may be applied to children of any grade, or of any age up to the period when the voice changes, only the break will occur lower with older pupils. Suppose, now, the teacher has obtained a tolerably clear idea of the differences between the registers; she should then arouse a perception of tone-quality in her pupils. Let the beauty of soft, light tone as contrasted with loud, harsh tone be once clearly demonstrated to a class, and the interest and best efforts of every girl or boy who has the germ of music within them will be enlisted. Those who grumble because they may not sing out good and loud may be disregarded, and with a clear conscience. The future will most likely reveal such incipient lovers of noisy music as pounders of drums and blowers of brass.

Select now a number of the class who upon trial have been found to have light, clear voices and who are not prone to shout. Let them sing

[Music: e'' {or} f'']

and then slowly descend the scale of E or F, singing each tone softly, and those below C

[Music: c'']

very lightly. This will insure the uninterrupted use of the thin register to the lowest note. Let them now sing up and down the scale several times, observing the same caution when notes below C or B are sung, and also insisting that no push be given to the upper notes. Now, first excusing monotones, let the other pupils in the room sing first down the scale and then up, imitating the quality and softness of tone of the picked class. Recollect, you are asking something of your pupils which it is perfectly easy for them to do. It may be that the strength of well-formed habits stands opposed to the change, but, on the other hand, every musical instinct latent, or partly awakened, is becoming alert and proving the truth of your teaching better and faster than can any finespun reasoning. Illustrate the difference in tone-quality between the thick and thin register as often as it is necessary, to show your pupils what you wish to avoid and how you wish them to sing. When in doubt whether or not the thin quality is being sung, require softer singing until you are sure. It is better to err upon the side of soft singing than to take any chances.

In time teachers will become quick to detect the change in register, and in time also the pupils who are trained to sing in the thin voice will yield to the force of good habit, as they once did to bad habit, and seldom offend by too loud or too harsh tone.

The inquiry may naturally have arisen ere this: Are syllables, i.e., do, re, mi, etc., to be used, or the vowel-sounds? It is immaterial from the standpoint of tone-production, whether either or both are used. Until children are thoroughly accustomed to sing softly, they will be kept upon the thin register more easily when singing with a vowel-sound, than when using the syllables. The reason is that the articulation of the initial consonants of the syllables requires considerable movement of the organs of speech, viz., the tongue, lips, etc., and these movements are accompanied by a continually-increasing outrush of air from the lungs, occasioning a corresponding increase in the volume of sound. Adult voices show the same tendency to increase the volume of tone when first applying words to a passage practiced pianissimo with a vowel-sound. It is advisable then to sing scales and drill upon them with a vowel-sound, and to recur to the same drill for a corrective, when a tendency to use the thick voice in singing note exercises appears.

Scale drill may be carried on as follows: If the scales are written upon a blackboard staff, they may from day to day be in different keys. It is a very easy matter to extend the scale neither above nor below the pitches within which it is desired to confine the voice. For example, the scale of E or F may be written complete, that of G as follows:

[Music: {scale in G running down to e' and up to e''}]

or A

[Music: {scale in A running down to e' and up to f#''}]

or B{b}

[Music: {scale in B{b} running down to e{b}' and up to f''}]

and so on. Now let the teacher with a pointer direct the singing of the class upon the selected scale in such a manner as to secure the desired result in tone, and incidentally a familiarity with pitch relations, etc. Of course, if charts are used the trouble of writing scales is saved, only it is advised that the notes lying outside the prescribed compass be omitted in the lower grades entirely, and in the upper until the habit of good tone is established, when, of course, the tones may be carried below E with safety. The extent and variety of vocal drill which can be given with a pointer and a scale of notes is wonderful; but nothing more need be now suggested, than those exercises which are peculiarly intended to secure good tone, and fix good vocal habits, although it must be evident that all such drill is very far-reaching in its effects.

A few exercises which are very simple are here suggested. First, taking the scale of

[Music: {scale in F running down to e' and up to f''}]

for example. Let the teacher, after the pitch of the keynote is given to the class, place the pointer upon F, and slowly moving it from note to note, ascend and descend the scale, the class singing a continuous tone upon some vowel, o for instance. The pointer should be passed from note to note in such a manner that the eye can easily follow it. If the notes are indicated to the class by a series of dabs at the chart or blackboard, the pointer each time being carried away from the note several inches, and then aimed at the next note and so on, the eye becomes weary in trying to follow its movements, and the mental energy of the pupils, which should be concentrated upon tone, is wasted in watching the gyrations of the pointer. If, on the other hand, the pointer is made to glide from note to note, passing very quickly over intervening spaces, then the eye is not wearied in trying to follow it. These directions may seem pretty trivial, but practical experience has proved their importance. The vowel o is suggested because it has been found easier to secure the use of the head-register with this vowel than with ah, when it is sought to break up the habit of singing loudly and coarsely.

The term continuous tone used to describe the style of singing desired is meant literally. If the class in this scale-drill all stop and take breath at the same time, making frequent breaks in the continuity of the tone, there will be found with each new attack a tendency to increase in volume of sound. For certain reasons, which will be explained in the chapter on breath-management, the attack of tone will become more and more explosive, demanding constant repression. This irritating tendency may, in a short time, be almost entirely overcome, if, instead of letting the class take breath and attack simultaneously, each pupil is told to take breath only when he or she is obliged to, and then at once and softly to join again with the others. This will effect the continuous tone, useful not alone as a corrective for the tendencies to loud singing, but also to establish good breathing-habits.

This same swift, silent breath-taking and succeeding soft attack of tone must be insisted upon in all school singing.

The exercise already suggested is slow singing or rapid singing of the scale with the vowel o softly, and with continuous tones. Other simple exercises are obtained by repetitions of the following exercise figures at higher or lower pitches throughout an entire scale, or parts of a scale, ascending and descending progressively:

[Transcriber's Note:

The exercises in Figure I are in the key of F in 4/4 time; those in Figure II are in E, 6/8 time; and those in Figure III are in B{b}, 4/4 time on eighth notes. All text is from the original.]


[Music: Ascending. (Same figure tone higher.) (Again raised.) etc.]

[Music: Descending. (Same figure tone lower.) (Again lowered) etc.]

The next figure, in which the voice ascends or descends four tones at each progressive repetition, has a different rhythm.


[Music: Ascending. (Same figure raised.) (Again raised.) etc.]

[Music: Descending. (Same, tone lower.) (Still lower.) etc.]

Another exercise figure is to use five ascending and descending tones.

In the illustration which follows, in the key of B flat, it is shown how the exercises may be sung, beginning upon the keynote, and keeping within the voice-compass.

[Music: FIGURE III. etc.]

[Music: (Same Ex. inverted.) etc.]

These exercises are to be sung with vowel-sounds, softly, four measures with one breath, if possible, and in strict time.

Only so many of these tone-groups may be sung in any one scale, as lie within the extremes of pitch set for the grade, but if different scales and upward and downward extensions of the same be used, then all possible combinations of tones in the major scale may be sung, that is, these exercise figures may upon a piano be repeated seven times in any key, in phrases of four measures each, both ascending and descending, but, owing to the limitations of the vocal compass, only a certain number of ascending or descending phrases can be sung in any one key.

While it is suggested that drill upon these musical figures or groups of tones may be given from scales, the teacher tracing out the tones with a pointer with a rhythmical movement, yet it is still better to practice these groups or some of them from memory, the teacher keeping time for and directing the class.

[NOTE.—The directions given are for rooms in which the teacher has only a pitch pipe or tuning-fork to get pitch from. If there is a piano the drill work for tone will be conducted a little differently.]

Pages of musical phrases adapted to vocal drill might be given, but to what end except to produce confusion. Our greatest singers use but few exercises to keep their voices in good condition, but they practice them very often. The exercises suggested are intended for daily practice, and the fewer in number and simpler in form they are, the better will be the results in tone. This vocal drill which should precede or begin the daily music lesson must not be for over five minutes at most. Half of that time is enough, if it be spent in singing, and not frittered away in useless talk, and questions and answers. A practical application of the vocal drill is to be made to the note-singing from the book and chart, and to the school repertoire of songs.

The phrases voice-culture, voice-training, voice-development, etc., have been avoided in treating the subject of children's voices, because of possible misapprehension of their intended meaning. The terms are not, of course, inapplicable to children's voices, but they must convey quite a different significance than they do when applied to the adult voice. In each case, the end of voice-culture is the formation of correct vocal habits; but it would seem, that while it is possible to develop the adult voice very considerably in power, range and flexibility, we ought, in dealing with children's voices, to adopt those methods which will protect weak and growing organs. The aim is not more power, but beauty and purity rather. It should not be inferred that beauty of tone is not equally the aim in culture of the adult voice, but in that case it is consistent with development of strength and brilliancy of voice, while with young children it is not. If the tone is clear, beautiful, well poised, and under the singer's control, then the training is along safe lines. If the tone is bad, harsh, pinched or throaty, then the training is along unsafe lines. When the parts act harmoniously together, and there is a proper and normal adjustment of all the organs concerned in the production of tone, the result is good. Bad tone follows from the ill-adjustment of the parts concerned in voice production. It is the office of the teacher to correct this ill-adjustment and bring about a perfect, or nearly perfect functional action. The teacher must judge of the proper or improper action of the parts concerned in tone production by the sense of hearing. No accumulation of scientific knowledge can take the place of a careful and alert critical faculty in training voice. Tone color must guide the school teacher in determining register as it does the professional voice trainer. But we can also call the mental perceptions of the child to our aid, and will find a more lively sense of discrimination in tone quality than the average adult shows. We can encourage the growth of high ideals of tone-beauty. We can cultivate nice discrimination. We can, in short, use music in our schools not to dull, but to quicken, the musical sensibilities of childhood.



There is the greatest diversity of opinion upon this subject among those who have any opinion at all. It might be supposed that, among the thousands of educators who are interested in school music and in the singing of children generally, many might be found who have given the subject careful attention, but such does not appear to be the case. If we consult the musical literature published for children, the prevalence of songs suited to the contralto voice is noticeable, indicating apparently that the compass of infant voices at least is about the same as that of the adult contralto. If there is any generally recognized theory upon the subject, it would seem to be this; but from a physiological standpoint the voices of children are totally unlike the woman contralto, and especially is this true of children of from six to eight years of age whose songs are usually written so low in range. An error, started anywhere or at any time, of theory or of practice, if it once become incorporated into the literature of a subject, is liable to be frequently copied, and enjoy a long and useless life. So with this treatment of the child-voice. The error is in supposing that it consists of a limited number of quite low tones. It has its origin in the sole use of the so-called chest-voice of the child, and when the evident strain under which a child of six or seven years labors to sing up is observed, the conclusion seems safe that they cannot sing high. While, on the other hand, they manage with apparent ease to sing down even as low as

[Music: a]

This conception has in divers ways so imbedded itself into the musical literature for little children, that all efforts to uproot it have so far been apparently futile. There are, however, very many supervisors of school music, and the number is growing, who have recognized that this treatment of little children's voices is a vocal barbarity, and the device of pitching songs higher than they are written to overcome the difficulty is more common than might be supposed. There can be no doubt that in a short time the practice of carrying the tones of little children three and four notes below the first line of the staff will not be tolerated.

The common, even universal, tendency of primary classes to drop in pitch when singing with the usual thick tone might show anyone that the voice was being used in an abnormal manner. Furthermore, the intonation of children of any age is something horrible when the thick voice is used. Even carefully-selected and trained boy choristers, if they use this voice, are frequently off the key even when supported by men's voices and the organ. So in addition to other reasons for using the thin register may be added this, that habits of faulty intonation are surely fostered by the use of the thick voice.

Picture to yourself the short, thin, weak vocal bands of a child of six or seven years attached to cartilaginous walls so devoid of rigidity that in that dreaded disease of childhood— croup— they often collapse. That is not an instrument for the production of tones in the contralto compass. No wonder the pitch is wavering. If infant classes are to sing with the usual tones, the common advice to make the singing-exercise short is extremely judicious. It would be better to omit it.

The intimation that the last word can now be said on this subject is not for a moment intended, but experience has given some tolerably safe hints in reference to the compass of the child-voice in the thin register at the ages mentioned, and it is advised never to carry the compass lower than E first line, nor higher than F fifth line of the staff, and the upper extreme must be sung sparingly. The easiest tones lie from

[Music: f' d'']

The injunction to sing very softly need hardly be repeated.

Passing now to children who range in age from nine to eleven years, who are found in the fourth and fifth years of school-life, it may be observed that there is quite a marked increase in the evenness and firmness of their tones. It is quite possible, especially at the age of about eleven years, to extent the compass to G above the staff and to D or C below; but if it does no harm, it serves no particular good end either, and unless care is taken, the children will push the highest tones. All of the necessary music drill can be kept within the suggested range, and it is just as well to keep on the safe side. Then again, the extremes in age between children of the same class grow farther apart as we ascend in grade, and the compass must be kept within the vocal powers of the youngest, and, from a voice-standpoint, weakest pupils. Protect the voice, and nature will attend to its development.

From the time children pass the age of twelve years on to the period of puberty, the child-voice is at its best, and if the use of the thin register has been faithfully adhered to in the lower grades, the singing-tone will now be both pure and brilliant. It will be found not at all difficult to carry the same voice as low or lower than middle C without any perceptible change in tone-quality, and G above the staff will be sung with absolute ease. How much higher, if any, the compass may be carried is open to discussion. It is not at all necessary in school music to go any higher, for, even where it is deemed best to raise the pitch of the song or exercise to avoid too low tones, the pitch of the highest note will seldom be above G— space above.

Still, it is the practice of choirmasters to carry the tone of soprano boys much higher in vowel-practice, as high even as

[Music: c''']

and although that is a pretty altitudinous pitch, there are very few choir-boys who, when taught to breathe properly, etc., will not take it occasionally with perfect ease. The head-register, even in woman's voice, is capable of great expansion, if good habits of tone-production are followed. But again it is well to be on the safe side; and choir-boys, who are selected because they have good vocal organs, and who are drilled far more than school children, are hardly a criterion to go by.

It must not be forgotten that the thin voice can be pushed and forced. Good judgment must be exercised in controlling the power of voice, or children will strain the vocal mechanism in trying to outsing each other on high tones.

The question, How high may boys or girls sing who have passed twelve years of age and whose voices show no signs of break, is not so very important after all, for if they have been well trained in soft tone, no danger of vocal strain need be feared even if an occasional high A or B flat is struck.

The reason for the ease with which children sing the high head-tones is found in the structure of the vocal bands. They are thin. Consequently, there is, compared to the entire substance of the vocal bands, a larger portion proportionately set in vibration than for the production of the head-tone in woman's voice. And when the child-voice is so used that no strain of the laryngeal structure is occasioned, that is, when the vocal ligaments are exercised in a normal manner, it cannot but happen that the muscles controlling the vocal bands will increase in strength, and that the bands themselves, composed as they are of numberless elastic fibres, will improve in general tone and elasticity.

The suggestions made in regard to the compass of voice are, be it said, simply suggestions based on experimental teaching and are such as it is believed may be followed with safety in school singing. If they do not square with the music of books and charts, why, as before said, it is a very simple matter to give a higher key for any exercise, than the one in which it is written. A supervisor, by marking the exercises in the desk copy, can ensure the use of the key he desires. If it is objected that the tones then sung will not represent the real pitch of the written notes, why that is at once admitted. What then? The idea of teaching absolute pitch is a chimera. Pianos are not alike in pitch, neither are tuning-forks. Classes will often for one cause or another end a half tone or a tone lower than they began even if the pitch as written is given. It may not be desirable to sing in one key music that is read in another, but it certainly is less objectionable in every way than is an unsafe use of the voice. The correct use of the voice must transcend all considerations in vocal music, and no sort of practice which misuses the vocal organs can be excused for a moment.



One way to secure good position is to require the pupils to stand. Unless the singing-period directly follows a recess, or the drill in physical exercises, the pupils will welcome the opportunity. As soon as standing becomes irksome resume the seats. No further direction in regard to sitting position is necessary than that the body should be held not stiffly, but easily erect and self-supporting, resting neither upon the back of chair nor upon the desk in front. A doubled-up, cramped position is, of course, all wrong, and may be avoided if the pupils are permitted to alternate between sitting and standing positions; but, if required to sit as suggested for too long a time, the rule will soon "be honored more in the breach than in the observance." This brings us to the consideration of


for the latter in its relations to vocalization depends much upon position. The breath is the motive power of the voice in speech or song, and the fundamental importance of managing it aright has been understood by every teacher of voice since the time of Porpora.

How for singing purposes breath shall be taken, how exhaled, how managed in short, is not yet entirely settled and presumably never will be, for people are not born wise, and some never acquire wisdom, of whom a few teach music. Browne and Behnke, in "Voice, Song, and Speech," p. 138-142, describe the process of breathing as follows:

"There are three ways of carrying on the process of respiration, namely, midriff breathing, rib-breathing, and collar-bone breathing. These three ways are not wholly independent of one another. They overlap or partly extend into one another. Nevertheless, they are sufficiently distinct and it is a general and convenient practice to give to each a separate name, according to the means by which it is chiefly called into existence. The combined forms of midriff and of rib-breathing constitute the right way, and collar-bone breathing is totally wrong and vicious, and should not in a state of health be made under any circumstances. When enlarging our chests by the descent of the midriff, we inflate our lungs where they are largest and where consequently we can get the largest amount of air into them. When expanding our chests by raising the shoulders and collar-bones, we inflate the lungs where they are smallest and where, consequently, we get the smallest amount of air into them. The criterion of correct inspiration is an increase of size of the abdomen and the lower part of the chest. Whoever draws in the abdomen and raises the upper part of the chest breathes wrongly."

In normal breathing the body at inspiration increases in girth at the waist, and the abdomen moves slightly outward as the viscera are forced downward by the descent of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large muscle which serves as a partition between the thorax or chest-cavity and the abdomen. When relaxed its middle portion is extended upward into the chest-cavity, presenting a concave surface to the abdomen. At inspiration it contracts, descending so as to assume very nearly a plane figure. At expiration the process is reversed, the diaphragm relaxes and the abdominal viscera, released from its pressure and forced by the abdominal muscles which contract as the diaphragm relaxes, moves upward and inward.

This kind of breathing in which the muscular contraction of the diaphragm calls in operation atmospheric pressure, supplies the body, when tranquil, with nearly or quite enough air. When for any reason a larger quantity of air is demanded, it may be secured by raising the ribs, thereby increasing the chest-cavity.

In singing, the breath must be managed so that the air passing through the larynx at expiration shall be set into vibration at the vocal bands. Expiration, then, which ordinarily occurs very quickly must be retarded by slowly relaxing the muscles which contract at inspiration. At the same time the throat must be open, and the muscles surrounding the resonance cavities relaxed to allow free movement of the sound-waves set up at the vocal bands. Any upward movement of the shoulders and chest at inspiration involving the contraction of many powerful muscles of back and neck will occasion a stiffening of the throat, which prevents free vibration of the vocal bands and seriously interferes with the resonance of tone.

The conclusion of the whole matter is, that in singing we should take breath exactly as in the ordinary quiet respiration, and avoid any lifting of the shoulders. This is at least enough to say to a class of children upon the subject.

The means adopted in education should be as simple and direct as possible. It will be found unnecessary to say very much about breathing in dealing with classes of children. In the first place, the moment the subject is broached and the direction "take a good breath" or a similar one given, each child will draw up the chest and shoulders prepared for a mighty effort; while, if nothing is said about it, position alone being attended to, the breathing will be all right. And again, while adult singers for various reasons, one of which may be the supposition that the more energy put forth the better the tone, often present themselves to the voice-teacher with a fine assortment of bad breathing-habits, children, on the contrary, are sent to school at so young an age that a little watchfulness on the part of the teacher only is necessary to avoid improper ways of taking breath and establish good habits. If young children, then, are not permitted to raise the shoulders, they will perforce breathe properly.

It seems inadvisable also to give any instruction regarding the emission of air from the lungs in singing. None but cultivated singers, after long practice and through a complete command of the muscles concerned, can vocalize all the air at the vocal bands. The absolute purity of tone which is thus secured is a result that may or may not be reached in any particular case. It depends upon the mental and physical organization of the pupil as well as upon the method of the teacher.

Exercises which are adapted to the formation of good breathing-habits are much more to the point in practical teaching than efforts at explanation. Therefore, a few hints are given, which, it is hoped, may be of practical value, for it is very important that good breathing-habits be formed in school singing.

The change in structure which the larynx undergoes at puberty, demolishing as it does the boy-voice, and rendering of no avail the training of childhood in so far as it affects the larynx, does not extend in its effects to the breathing-apparatus. So, a habit of breath-management, good or bad, formed in school may continue through adult life. Special breathing-exercises are sometimes recommended, but their efficacy may be doubted, even if the length of time devoted to the music lesson permits them. The inclination of pupils in such exercises is to raise the chest and fill the lungs too full of air. The result is too much air pressure at the vocal bands, and a stiffening of throat and jaw muscles. The tone then will be loud; in fact, strong pressure of air at the vocal bands is almost sure to force them into the fullest vibration; that is, into the thick register, and, as a result of contracted throat, the tone will be pinched, or throaty. It is recognized, however, that it is just as easy to teach good habits of breathing as bad.

This exercise may occasionally be given: The pupils first standing, shoulders well set, but with no pushing out of chest, place hands at the waist so that the movements of normal breathing may be felt. Now let the pupils take a little breath quickly. The movement at the waist must be outward and downward, never inward, at inspiration. The breath may be held a few seconds by keeping the waist expanded— keeping an imaginary belt filled, for instance— and then let go by relaxing at the waist. If, however, there is any stiffening of the throat, as if it were thought to cork up the air in the lungs, the object of the exercise, in so far as it relates to the formation of good breathing-habits suitable for easy vocalization, is defeated. Every teacher must use his judgment in this matter of breath-management in singing. If pupils are, unguided, using correct, easy methods, there is then no need to interfere. If some are inclined to take too much breath and lift the shoulders, a few hints may put them on the right track. Loud singing and had breathing-habits go together. If the first is desired, the lungs must work at full capacity, and hard blowing from the lungs forces the voice. On the contrary, soft singing promotes quiet habits of breathing; and, if the pressure of air at the larynx is moderate, soft tone is possible. If thin, soft singing alone be allowed, quiet deep breathing will be practiced instinctively.

The easy control of the muscles whose relaxation permits the exhalation of air from the lungs is, as already said, gained by their proper exercise in speaking and singing, for the same mechanism is called into operation in speech as in song. In childhood the lungs can neither hold as much, nor retain it so long and easily as in adult life.

There is no better way, perhaps, to acquire the ability to regulate the air-pressure at the vocal bands than by soft, sustained singing. The "continuous tone" described in a preceding chapter, secured in scale drill by letting each child breathe at will, is an excellent exercise for developing good breathing-habits. As there is no nervous tension whatever, each pupil will naturally sustain tone until the need of another breath is felt, when it will be taken quickly and the tone at once resumed.

To sum up: Sit or stand in good position, the chest neither pushed out nor in a state of collapse. Avoid any, even the slightest, upward movement of the shoulders. Point out the movements at waist occurring at inspiration and at expiration if necessary, not otherwise. Let the breath be taken quickly, not too much at a time, and as often as need be, and sing softly.


The beginning of each tone is called attack. The common faults of attack in class-singing are sliding to the pitch instead of striking it accurately, and beginning to sing with the mouth still closed, or only partly open. When the attack presents the combined effects of these two common habits, a quite realistic caterwaul is the result.

Both faults may be generally overcome or prevented by calling attention to them. Good mental attention is the most infallible cure for slovenly habits of attack. It may be that there are in all schools a certain proportion of the pupils who have very weak and imperfect vocal organs; in their cases, even good attention cannot overcome physical inability.

In repose the vocal bands are separated to allow the free passage of air to and from the lungs. At phonation the bands are drawn toward each other, meeting just as it commences. There need be no preliminary escape of air. Also the resonance cavities above should be open, that the vibrations generated at the vocal bands may find expansion and resonance. The mouth and throat should then be opened a moment before tone is attacked, when, if the pitch to be sung is clearly pictured in the mind, both the "slide" and "hum" will be avoided.

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