Experts in voice training tell us that ninety-five out of every hundred students in voice culture exhibit serious voice defects. The effort to remedy voice defects may properly be termed " tuning the instrument." To secure desired results, the piano and violin require frequent tuning. But in order to produce melodious music on a well-tuned instrument, there must be skilled knowledge of how to use the instrument. So with the voice instrument,— it is essential to tune the voice, to keep it " in tune," and to manipulate properly the tuned voice instrument so that it shall produce utterance in word and tone to the honor and glory of its Maker.
Seven of the most common voice defects are herewith presented for consideration, with due reference to cause and remedy:
1. Improper Breathing.—The larynx, containing the vocal cords, is usually regarded as the voice instrument. While the larynx is the main part of the instrument, it must be remembered that there are several accessory parts, somewhat removed, just as there are important parts to a violin in addition to the strings. These accessories are distributed along the air passage, beginning with the nostrils and ending in the minute bronchii and cells of the lungs. Above the larynx will be found the pharynx, nostrils, mouth, tongue, and lips. Below the larynx are the trachea, lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal and abdominal muscles. As the bow causes- the strings of the violin to vibrate, so the breath causes vibration of the vocal cords. It is therefore important to give attention to proper breathing, and the following simple exercises will be found effective if faithfully followed:
a. Inhale slowly and quietly through the nostrils; exhale slowly through minute opening of the lips. Repeat six to eight times.
b. Inhale quickly through the nostrils, and slowly exhale through lip opening. Repeat several times.
c. Inhale slowly and quietly through the nostrils, and quickly expel the breath through the mouth. Repeat several times.
d. Inhale and exhale freely through the nose and mouth, increasing the rate until it becomes a pant. Stop as soon as a dizzy sensation is experienced.
To secure the best results, these exercises should be taken while lying down, when there is no tension or restriction on any part of the body. Five minutes spent in these exercises before rising in the morning and just after retiring at night will prove beneficial.
2. Waste of Breath.— This voice defect tends to be overcome as proper breathing habits are established. In reading and speaking, all vowel breath is changed into tone, and there should be no waste of breath; but with most consonants only a part of the breath is changed into tone, and hence some waste is inevitable. The consonants I, m, n, r, w, y are similar to the vowels, and do not require a waste of breath. When speaking in a whisper, both vowels, consonants, and words permit no waste of breath; but it requires more effort to whisper than it does to speak, hence one quickly tires of whispering. Effective breath and tone exercises are as follows:
a. Holding a lighted candle near the mouth, whisper a short sentence into the flame.
b. Speak the same sentence into the candle flame, and note the effect in the behavior of the flame, both when whispering and when speaking.
c. Pronounce all vowels and all consonants of the alphabet, noting which disturb the flame and which do not. Vowels should not cause disturbance, nor the consonants 1, m, n, r, w, y.
3. " Swallowing " Words.— This is a very common voice defect. The words seem to be ejected from the region of the throat, instead of passing off into the air from the point where lips, teeth, and tongue meet, and hence there is a throaty, grunty sound. The cause of this defect is that the vowels e and o and the consonants p, t, w are formed forward, while the vowels a (as in father), a (as in mat), and A (as in nut), and the consonants g, k, ng seem to be formed in the throat. The defect can be overcome by connecting those sounds easily made forward with those made farther back in the throat, and thus, as it were, pull them forward. For example: (See PDF)
4. The Nasal Tone.— More correctly, this defect should be termed the " catarrhal tone." In nearly every instance this disagreeable tone is caused by the nostril passages' being closed. Constriction of the walls of the pharynx or of the soft palate produces the same tone. As a practical demonstration of this nasal quality of voice, and in order to make appropriate comparison, read a psalm, keeping the mouth and nostrils open while reading the odd-numbered verses, and nostrils closed while reading the even-numbered verses; or, read two or three sentences naturally, and reread them while closing the nasal passages with thumb and forefinger.
5. High Pitch.— To remedy the high-pitch effect, one must first of all learn to breathe properly. The entire lungs must be brought into action, with control of the breath inhale and exhale by using the diaphragm and abdominal muscles (the central power-station of the body), and thus relieve the auxiliary power station (in the region of the larynx) from the heavy strain imposed upon it. The following suggestions help to lower the high-pitched voice:
Before speaking, fill the lungs and retain the breath, except as needed to form the words. Breathe frequently,—after every few words,—and in imagination visualize what the words express. Speak the first sentence in the usual pitch, lowering the pitch for the second line: " The mountains are high; [take full breath] the valleys are low." " Higher than the highest heavens; [take full breath] deeper than the deepest sea." " King Bibbler's army [breathe] is marching down, down, down to the grave." In the last sentence, the word " down " is spoken in a successively lower pitch, and the word " grave " still lower. Full and frequent breathing, and vivid realization of the word picture, will cause gradual change of pitch.
6. Tension and Restriction of Voice Instrument.— There should be no tension in the region of the throat; there must be perfect freedom above the collar bone — throat, tongue, lips, jaw, and face. But there may be tension below that point, involving chest, diaphragm, and the intercostal and abdominal muscles. The tightness in the throat, the tension of the lips, the stiffness of the tongue, and the rigidity of the lower jaw will all be relieved in some measure by establishing the proper breathing process.
7. Monotone.— The monotone voice, however good its quality, is tiresome and induces sleepiness. The suggestions for correcting high pitch are helpful in overcoming a monotone. The reading of selections which reveal marked and striking contrasts of thought and situation, are very helpful, provided the reader will use his imaginative powers to aid his understanding and to supply what is inferred but not stated. For example, note the following quotation, in which truth and error are contrasted and call for a decided change in pitch of voice: (See PDF)
Truth is represented upon a high-plane pitch, and error upon a low plane. Should this order of pitch be reversed, the author's vindication of truth and condemnation of error, becomes lacking in power and conviction.
It is hoped that this brief consideration of voice defects will serve to awaken interest and strengthen determination to remedy specific defects in individual cases.
Washington, D. C.
Assisting the Evangelist
By J. Lowell Butler
The number of conference-employed workers frequently comprising an average tent or evangelistic company is usually three,— the speaking evangelist, the singing evangelist, and the Bible worker. It is therefore necessary that all the work involved in connection with the effort be divided among the three. The assistance which the evangelist appreciates most is efficient and faithful attention to the many details which must not be neglected, and it is worth while to make a list of these detail duties and endeavor to qualify for successfully meeting every one.
During my experience as an assistant in eight series of tent meetings, held in six States, I have observed that, to a greater or less degree, the following lines of detail work have to be looked after:
1. Selecting a good location.
2. Shipping the outfit to the location.
3. Decorating, inside and out.
4. Erecting billboards, blackboards, and other advertising devices.
5. Preparing " make-up " for handbills, window cards, newspaper ads., blackboards, billboards.
6. Lettering and illustrating blackboards and billboards.
7. Preparing " news " write-ups and pictures.
8. Making posters.
9. Displaying our literature.
10. Deciding on order of lectures.
11. Selecting best lecture titles.
12. Daily study for improvement along all lines.
13. Delivering the lectures.
14. Illustrating the lectures.
15. Working for interest and conversion.
16. Improving personal habits.
17. Selecting appropriate music.
18. Spiritual rendering of music.
19. Conducting song service.
20. Playing instruments skillfully.
21. Entering into the spirit of the occasion.
22. Manifesting personal interest in the people.
23. Writing reports for newspapers.
24. Attending to the tent special measures during dry, wet, and windy weather.
25. Answering questions in public and in the home.
26. Giving Bible studies in the home.
27. Giving talks on health and dietetics.
28. Giving demonstrations of rational treatments and cooking.
29. Exhibiting Christian courtesy at all times.
30. Being more interested in the people worked for than in the organization doing the work.
31. Taking charge of the workers' meeting daily.
32. Engaging in private prayer before each meeting.
33. Maintaining regular hours for work, rest, meals, and sleep.
34. Taking down the outfit and caring for it properly.
As we look over this list of duties falling to the lot of the evangelist and his two helpers, which particular duties would we select for ourselves? Our choice will, of course, be governed largely by natural talents; but we must be sure that there is no tendency to bury a single talent. After proper training, we can accomplish things which we formerly considered impossible. This is a lesson which I have learned to my happy surprise. I find that in my experience as an assistant to the evangelist I have had to do all the lines of work listed, with the exception of three, and in these three lines I have had the privilege of assisting others.
I fear that many of these detail duties are overlooked or slighted because the evangelist's assistants do not know how to do them, or else fail to recognize the need. I am confident that when our students in music learn to do many other things besides playing and singing, and when our students in art learn to make it of practical use, when our Bible students learn how to talk freely with the people and do practical things, when our literary experts build their castles in evangelism, and when our scientists stand ready to relieve the spiritual ills of humanity and help to broadcast the message of hope to a dying world, then there will be abundant places for them to fill in connection with the great work of gospel evangelism. Let all study to become expert as all-round assistants to the speaking evangelist, whether in church, tent, hall, tabernacle, theater, or auditorium effort.
San Fernando, Calif.