A housemaid can never become expert if she does not first learn to handle broom, brush, and duster; carpets will be worn to shreds, furniture scratched, ornaments defaced, long before they ought to show the least sign of “wear and tear.”

Sir Charles Santley, Introduction to The Art of Singing and Vocal Declamation (1908).

Learn principles rather than pieces.

Arnold Dolmetcsh, ‘quoted’ in Historical Performance of Music by Lawson/Stowell.

It is important to take time. Learn to feel. A slight adjustment can make all the difference to the sounds. Here is a quote from the Master, Manuel Garcia II.

For the pupil it is enough that, localising his sensations through his master’s explanations, he should learn to distinguish the various parts of this instrument and the manner of using them.

Manuel Garcia, Hints on Singing, new and revised edition, 1894, preface.

Manuel Garcia is held up as the pioneer of scientific teachers of singing. He was – but he taught singing, not surgery. I was a pupil of his in 1858 and a friend of his while he lived, and in all the conversations I had with him, I never heard him say a word about larynx or pharynx, glottis, or any other organ used in the production and emission of the voice. He was perfectly acquainted with their functions, but he used his knowledge for his own direction, not to make parade of it before his pupils, as he knew it would only serve to mystify them, and could serve no good purpose in acquiring a knowledge of the art of singing. My experience tells me that the less pupils know about the construction of the vocal organs the better; in fact, as I heard a master once remark, ‘better they should not be aware they had throats except for the purpose of swallowing their food.’

Sir Charles Santley, The Art of Singing and Vocal Declamation.


The virtuoso in breathing is nearest to the virtuoso in singing.

Bach, Albert Bernard. The Principles of Singing: A practical guide for vocalists and teachers. 1885. Page 120. Quoting the ‘Italian Masters’.

Support – Appoggio – is a system. So far, I have found Dame Nellie Melba’s book ‘Melba Method’ to be the most straightforward explanation. Be careful of the modern singing books. I have noticed a lot of them have forgotten the old knowledge of the importance of the expansion of the rib cage. This expansion is felt into the back as well and should be maintained as long as possible. This expansion will allow the diaphragm to do its job as effectively as possible.

SILENT Breath, expanding you like a barrel, into the back, deep down, BUT relaxed, is CRUCIAL!!!
N.B. These are breathing exercises. When you sing, don’t fill the lungs up to capacity or last as long as you can. See Melba Method for her explanation on how to treat breathing exercises.

This historic recording demonstrates poor tone and attack and then good tone and attack etc.

Tone Production Historic Demonstration


Lilli Lehmann would take forty minutes over the Great Scale (How to Sing). Begin by singing the scale on the same dynamic, aiming for steadiness of tone. Then introduce your messa di voce.

The Slow Scale
Long notes. The most important exercise.


Herman Klein, taught by Manual Garcia, says in the ‘Herman Klein Phono Vocal Method’, to sing Solfeggio on vowels, chiefly the Italian ‘a’. In Domenico Corri’s book ‘The Singer’s Preceptor’, Corri states ‘…and here I may quote my Preceptor, Porpora, whose decided opinion it was, that solfeggi were not properly understood; the improvement of the voice he maintained is best acquired by sounding the letter A – the position of the mouth in uttering this letter being most favourable to produce a free and clear tone.’ In contrast, Lucie Manen, in her book ‘The Art of Singing’ says to use ‘Do Re Mi’ and to change the ‘do re mi’ when the music changes key. For example, if you are singing in C with a passage in Am half way through, then, in the Am section the A would become Do instead of La. Domenico Corri, student of Nicola Porporo, in his book ‘The Singer’s Perceptor’, says the practice was to leave Do as C always.

Jeanne Jomelli demonstrating from Klein’s Phono – Vocal method.

I am convinced that far too much is made of the vocal mechanism, which under normal conditions always responds automatically.

Clippinger, D.A. The Head Voice and other problems: Practical talks on singing. Page 11.

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