Is Voice Culture Essential?

BETTER SPEECH AND DICTION: Is Voice Culture Essential?

"A good tradesman or mechanic never works with dull tools."

Professor of Music, Australasian Missionary College

A good tradesman or mechanic never works with dull tools. In the urge of accomplishment it is always a temptation to let the dull instrument do, or "get by," until there is a slack time in which to sharpen it again. Yielding to this inclination marks the workman as inexperienced and shortsighted, but the task will be finished better and quicker even if it takes time to keep the edge keen.

The ministry of the voice in both speech and song would be greatly improved if the need of perfecting the instrument were generally realized and understood. In response to the suggestion that he should take singing lessons to develop his voice, one of our prominent singers, on denominational salary, expressed surprise that a voice could be improved with study. He felt that one either has it naturally or does not, and nothing can be done about it. This made me wonder whether many of our workers are not using dull tools from ignorance.

The great tenor Caruso stated it this way: "The marble quarried from the hills of Carraro may be ever so pure and white and flawless, but it does not become a work of art without the patient, hard work of the artist sculptor." COOK, Great Singers on the Art of Singing.

The .voice will not train itself. Just using it will not necessarily help. It will get continuously worse if not used correctly. God works through natural means. He performs no miracles in doing for us what we can do for ourselves. The instruction is very clear.

"In all our work, more attention should be given to the culture of the voice. We may have the knowledge, but unless we know how to use the voice correctly, our work will be a failure." Testimonies, vol. 6, P 380.

"Those who gain correct ideas on the subject of voice culture will see the necessity of educating and training themselves so that they may honor God and bless others. They will put themselves under patient, efficient teachers." Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 247.

To him who tries to excuse himself by saying, "I have a poor voice; it is not worth training," I would say that he is in the greater need. In more than thirty years of teaching voice culture I have never found any voice, however ugly, raucous, blatant, or feeble that could not be made pleasing and efficient if the possessor was willing to work hard enough for a sufficiently long period of time. Every voice can be improved, and we owe it to the cause we rep resent to make ourselves as efficient as possible. Neglect may be both physically and spiritually fatal.

"Instead of our ministers becoming consumptives by speaking, they may, by care, overcome all tendency to consumption. I would say to my ministering brethren, Unless you educate yourselves to speak according to physical law, you will sacrifice life, and many will mourn the loss of 'those martyrs to the cause of truth,' when the facts in the case are that by indulging in wrong habits you did injustice to yourselves and to the truth which you represented, and robbed God and the world of the service you might have rendered. Cod would have been pleased to have you live, but you slowly committed suicide." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 404.

"Many have died who might have lived had they been taught how to use the voice correctly." Coun sels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 297.

"One over-exertion or strain of the vocal organs may not soon be recovered from, and may cost the life of the speaker." Testimonies, vol. z, p. 672.

Since the human voice is a wind instrument attention must be given to breath control, for good breathing is the basis of good singing. But before one can breathe correctly right habits of posture must be formed. Inspired authority says, "Next in importance to right position are respiration and vocal culture." Education, p. 198. First the posture must be right, then it is possible to breathe correctly. And when control of the breath is acquired through practice, it is then possible to sing correctly.

"The one who sits and stands erect is more likely than others to breathe properly. But the teacher should impress upon his pupils the importance of deep breathing. Show how the healthy action of the respiratory organs, assisting the circulation of the blood, invigorates the whole system, excites the appetite, promotes digestion, and includes sound, sweet sleep, thus not only refreshing the body, but soothing and tranquilizing the mind." Ibid.

There must be no tension, restraint, or adjusting of the throat. It must be the channel, the free, open avenue of outlet. This makes possible the addition of the resonance and overtones through reverberation in all the oral cavities, which, together with sounding-board reinforcement, so wonderfully amplify and beautify the voice. The acquirement of the full use of body and head resonance takes patient, well-guided development over a considerable period of time.

Teaching methods vary widely. Personalities differ, and the approach may be made from different angles, but the fundamentals clearly laid down in the divine instruction given previously are basic and final. No subject, except religion, is the victim of so many variations from truth and common sense. And quacks are more common in the field of voice culture than in medicine. Popularity of a method does not recommend it if it is not in harmony with God's instructions and physiological and anatomical fact. Naturalness and simplicity are invariably characteristics of great voices. The diction must be as clear and understandable in singing as in speech. In most false methods the diction is not natural. Let this receive our special attention. If the breath is the motive power, then there can be utmost freedom of action in every part of the instrument, including the articulatingmechanism. It must not be labored; it must be spontaneous.

Take your Index to the writings of Mrs. White and read every paragraph referred to under the subjects of articulation, breathing, enunciation, singing, songs, speaking, speech, voice, and voice culture.

"God does not design that His human channels shall be ^uncouth." Christ's Object- Lessons, p. 336.

"O that all might search diligently to know what is truth, to study earnestly that they might have correct language and cultivated voices, that they might pre sent the truth in all its elevated and ennobling beauty." Fundamentals of Christian Education, p 256.

"And when we give ourselves to Christ in whole hearted devotion, angels rejoice that they may speak through our voices to reveal God's love." The De sire of Ages, p. 297.

 

 

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Professor of Music, Australasian Missionary College

May 1950

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