CHAPTER XXII: Singing-The Great Tonic
Singing was designed by the Creator as a means of giving vent to joyous emotions. When one is overflowing with happiness it is entirely natural for him to break forth into song. Therefore when you sing the bodily mechanical efforts associated therewith are naturally inclined to arouse the mental attitude of joy, delight and allied emotions. I have already explained the tremendous value of certain bodily positions and mechanical efforts as a means of influencing the mental attitude. If singing is naturally the expression of joy, then by forcing oneself to sing when mentally downcast one encourages, and at times actually produces, happiness and good cheer.
But it is not only for its influence upon the mind that singing is valuable. It is a physical exercise requiring considerable effort. It wakes up the diaphragm. It promotes active circulation. It improves digestion. Therefore it has a double value for stimulating the physical as well as the mental functions. I would by all means encourage every inclination towards physical efforts of this sort.
Remember that the cultivation of the singing voice especially requires the expansion of the lungs. It means that breathing exercises of unusual value will be practiced diligently and persistently on every occasion that you exercise your vocal powers. It not only affects the lungs but the action of the diaphragm involved, and serves to massage, stimulate and invigorate the internal organs lying underneath. There is no need to dilate upon the value of exercise of this sort, for I have referred to this aspect of the question in a previous chapter.
If you have no special knowledge or training in the use of the singing voice, then simply do your best. Sing at every opportunity. If there is no music in your voice do not allow this to discourage you. Follow out the idea that singing is an exercise pure and simple. Let your friends understand that you are not impressed with your vocal ability, but that it is simply a form of exercise you take with religious regularity. Naturally if you can secure the opportunities associated with a musical education you are to be congratulated, and musical training largely devoted to vocal culture is far more valuable in its influence upon physical and mental powers than when limited to instrumental work.
Even apart from singing a good voice represents capital of great value. Any efforts that you make with a view to developing the singing voice will improve the speaking voice to a similar degree. Effective speakers do not always have musical voices, but all good singers possess good speaking voices. Therefore the work that you may do with a view to improving your singing voice will surely add to your vocal capital.
Furthermore, all the time spent in the development of your voice should be looked upon as a recreation. If you can make voice culture a hobby, so much the better. There is really no better means of taking one "away from oneself." You will find no more effective means of diversion from exhausting mental responsibilities, since you cannot think of something else while devoting your entire attention to singing.
Your mental attitude makes considerable difference in the results. Singing, as I have previously explained, is an expression of joy. To sing properly you should really be influenced by joyous emotions, and, though your musical efforts may be forced and mechanical in the beginning, you will usually find that the delight ordinarily associated with vocal expression will soon appear as a result of the physical and mechanical efforts involved in the training of the voice.
Naturally it is advisable to use the singing voice in the most advantageous manner, if possible, and it would therefore be well to secure the advice of competent instructors if you can, or at least to gain what helpful information there is in books on the subject. It is, of course, impossible to give any detailed advice in this short chapter, but I may say that I am engaged in the preparation of a book on vocal culture which will deal with the subject in an unusually practical manner. Voice culture, in many instances, is a mysterious and intricate study that even many of its teachers do not seem to understand in every detail. It is a notorious fact that many so-called vocal instructors, including some of the highest-priced members of the profession, frequently ruin magnificent voices by wrong methods of instruction. It is a simple matter to build up a good voice, but it is also a simple matter to ruin one by unnatural methods of training.
It is therefore well to learn to use the voice in a strictly natural manner, and without any straining or forcing of the tone. For instance, it is advisable to avoid any constriction of the muscles of the throat; that is to say, there should be no tension in the throat when singing. One should learn how to "place" the voice. Resonance is all-important.
Many really good teachers differ as to the proper methods of using the voice. Although there may be a reasonable excuse for a difference on some of the minor details of voice culture, yet there are certain fundamental principles upon which there should be a definite agreement, and it is these basic principles which will be presented in the book to which I have just referred.
At all events, whether or not you desire to take up vocal culture in a serious way, at least you should make it a point to sing at every opportunity. Break forth into song whenever the slightest excuse appears. If your voice is harsh, unpleasant and reminds your friends of a carpenter filing a saw, do not be discouraged. Every vocal artist had to make a beginning. No matter how bad your efforts may be you can probably recall voices that are still worse. Remember also that all voices improve with training. It is a matter of common agreement among instructors that anyone who possesses a speaking voice can also learn to sing. Anyway, at the worst, your hours of practice can be so arranged as to avoid annoying other people, or you can adopt a method that I have often used. For instance, when you are on a train, or in a busy centre of the city in which there is a combination of noises which will drown your own voice, you can then sing or hum to your heart's content without annoying others. Remember that humming, if you carry it out with sufficient breath to produce real resonance, is practically as good as singing for the training of the voice.
There is one particular point of special value, and that is the advantage of singing when the stomach is empty. Vocal artists commonly refuse to sing immediately after eating. Your voice is free and full and clear when the stomach is empty. A few minutes of singing before each meal would enable one to digest his food far more satisfactorily. It would also establish the mental attitude best suited to perfect digestion.
Whenever you find responsibilities crowding upon you beyond your power to bear them, or when you realize that your mental attitude is sour, crabbed and pessimistic, then is the time to break forth into song. Nothing will bring about a pleasing change more quickly. Hum a tune. Sing some popular song. Put your soul into your efforts as much as possible, and you will literally be amazed at the value of this suggestion.
Vitality Supreme - Table of Contents
Charles Atlas Course