Julia Stacey Gould
Successful Singing: The Method of Famous Teachers
Reaching back through them
to the Italian School of Singing
of a century ago.
Explanation of Tone Resonance
A violin string, by itself, produces only a small amount of tone. If the string is on a violin this tone is amplified by vibrations of the instrument. When the violin is played by an artist, this same string can produce a tone which can be heard in a large auditorium above an entire orchestra.
We can recognize the vibrant quality in a vocal tone which we call resonance. If the tone is properly placed, we can feel in our own voice the resonance which comes from the vibration in the mouth and in the nasal cavities. The fundamental vocal tone, to have its full quality and color must have this resonance which can be produced in several ways.
1. Resonance from the mouth.
The natural sounding board of the tone is the roof of the mouth. The tone has been placed forward in the mouth against the teeth. From this position the tone receives resonance from the roof of the mouth. The roof of the mouth is bone, curved and arched in exactly the formation to reflect the tone and to project over the pulpit in an old church or the shell in back of the bandstand are examples of such a reflection of tone. The reflector in back of a bulb in an automobile headlight focuses and intensifies the light and throws it a long distance. In the same way the sounding board amplifies and directs the tone,This type of resonance which comes from the mouth can be felt most clearly in the speaking voice or in the singing or lower notes of the scale.
2. Resonance from the face and head.
As the voice is raised in pitch, the sense of vibration in the mouth grows less, and more resonance can be felt in the face and head.
It can be seen by consulting any diagram which shows the nasal passages of the head that there are cavities in, around, and in back of the nose which are backed by bone structure. These facial cavities are several times larger than the mouth cavity. In producing a tone, part of the breath can be deflected from the mouth and directed up through these cavities. The resulting vibration adds resonance which gives roundness, richness, color, and quality to the tone. The fundamental tone has little carrying quality. A tone with this added resonance, however, will carry easily and with a rich quality throughout a large hall. No amount of effort can make a tone carry, but with resonance, the tone carries without effort.
As the tone is raised in pitch, the resonance grows correspondingly higher in the head cavity until the vibration is felt above the eyes and all through the forehead and top of the head. This head tone is natural and should be unforced and free. In the open vowel sounds it is easily produced. Consonants are less easy to sing, and practice is necessary before words are easily pronounced in the higher resonance.
The resonance in "the mask" or facial cavities can be sensed and built up most quickly by practicing and singing softy. In a descending scale or in a descending interval, resonance can be brought down from the higher tones to the lower tones. For this reason, descending phrases are most valuable for vocalizes. In ascending phrases, it is necessary to plan for the higher resonances. This is done by anticipating and by using the placement which will be called for at the higher part of the phrase. It is essential, however, that the lower notes are sung softly.
In all instances, the resonance that is felt in the higher tones can be brought down through the lower parts of the phrase. The lower resonance cannot be carried into the upper tones with any success.
The muscles of the face should be relaxed, and the upper lip should be in its natural position. The length of the lip allows all the resonance of the facial cavity to be utilized and gives added richness and color to the tone. (p. 24-25)
The argumentative moderns among us will raise their voices in a loud chorus to point out that the nasal cavities having nothing to do with resonance and we should once and for all do away with this business of 'forward placement', forgetting, of course, that they raise themselves higher by cutting off the heads of the many successful vocal pedagogues who came before them. They ignore the fact that, though the Empiricists of the past may not have been scientifically correct, their methods were no less effective. The teachings of the past need not, in my view, be negated because they cannot be sufficiently explained. We use electricity all the time, but don't quite fully understand how it works. Does that mean we should sit in the dark?