Lilli Lehmann's 'How to Sing' (Meine Gesangskunst)

This post marks the beginning of three years of study to refresh my voice and prepare myself to teach singing responsibly. I have called these three years, 2020 -2023, ‘The Lilli Lehmann Project’.

The Lilli Lehmann Project will use Lilli Lehmann’s book ‘How to Sing’, as well as her other writings, reviews of her singing and her recordings of her singing, as a point of reference. ‘How to Sing’ is available for free on IMSLP. You can also listen to an audio version on Spotify or purchase it for a couple of dollars on Kindle. I will also be studying other historical vocal pedagogy and historical recordings which are now available on the internet.

My companion on this journey is my beloved guitar. Specifically, a Romantic Guitar custom made by Dr Sue Court to produce as much sound as a little guitar can make and to be as light as possible so that I can stand while I sing. The guitar is strung with synthetic strings that replicate the 19th strings which were made of gut. And, most importantly for singing, I will be re-tuning the guitar. For example, my reference will be 432HZ when I sing Verdi etc. 421HZ when I sing Mozart. Why? Because I am intrigued by Herman Klein’s comments on this subject in his essay ‘Bel Canto’.

Before I start looking at the technique in ‘How to Sing’, it is important to get back to the basics of how to stand, how to form vowels and consonants and how to breathe. To do this, Lilli Lehmann approves of Oskar Guttmann’s book ‘Gymnastics for the Voice’. This book is also free on IMSLP. It is also a wonderful little book and I will be continually referring to it.

Today’s post begins with how to stand while practicing. Mr Guttmann suggests to stand in the base position (see below) for breathing practice. I now always use it. It is fantastic. Nobody has ever suggested this posture to me before for singing. In this position one cannot stand in a slovenly manner or sway. It is not a performing posture but is excellent for the studio.

Now, let’s stand in base position and get started!

Lilli Lehmann
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