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The pitch of its voice lies between these instruments, and its written part occupies the second stave in the score. In the hands of the academician Cooke, the neatness of its articulation surpasses that of any other instrument. Rossini has availed himself of its artless simplicity to beautify his sprightly compositions. Sometimes he combines it with other instruments in the unison, or the octave, producing a compound sound, novel and charming.
SINGING OUT OF TUNE.
It is a remarkable circumstance, that many of the greatest vocalists of the age have been justly charged with the occasional fault of singing out of tune. That persons, who have taken so much care in their musical education, and who have spent their lives in pursuit of the art, should fall into an error of such magnitude, is somewhat curious and unaccountable. This want of correctness is generally imputed to a defect in the ear; but, with persons so instructed, surely this cannot be the case. We have seen that the ear may be trained to any purpose, and that, by practice, its discriminating power can be carried to the greatest height; from which we might infer, that professional singers are
the last persons we should have to complain of in this particular. May we not then reasonably conclude, that the want of this correctness does not arise solely from a defect in the ear? The points of inaccuracy with the singer are generally, if not always, upon the 3d, 5th, and 8th of the key. These intervals, being the same as those of the speaking voice, which we utter instinctively, make us careless in producing them; but the other notes of the scale require an operation of the mind, and a peculiar formation of the voice, to produce them -hence they are always more correctly given.
As a proof of a great disposition in the voice to give the harmonic intervals too flat, we may try the experiment of raising the 5th, upon the key-note in the ordinary way; afterwards, by first glancing the voice upon the 6th, as an appogiatura note, and then descend upon the 5th, we shall find that we make it much sharper this way than the other. This mode of acquiring a point d'appui in attacking an interval, will, with many voices, ensure a correct intonation.
It will sometimes happen that the key of the piece may be rather above, or below, the natural pitch of the singer's speaking voice. If it is a trifle sharper, the most correct singer will feel a distress in making the harmonic intervals in tune; but if below, the inattentive performer, who has the fault of singing too flat, in this instance, probably, will sing too sharp. Persons who sing carelessly, and do not sufficiently attend to the instruments, on dropping the voice into a degree of softness, frequently sing too flat; and, on the contrary, upon bursting into a forte, they become too sharp- upon the same principle as blowing with great force into a wind instrument renders the notes sharper.* In either case the ear is not in fault; it is the singer, who neglects to use his ears upon such occasions. Persons accustomed to sing on a stage, are liable to sing flatter in a concert-room. This arises from the circumstance, that the sounds from an orchestra at the back of us, come upon the ear with a more obtuse and dead effect, than those in front; which may be accounted for by the shape of the external ear, which is ill adapted very nicely to appreciate sounds behind us.
Prima donnas often augment these ill effects, by wearing articles of dress that cover their ears. When fashion interposes these muffles, a depression of voice is an inevitable consequence.
The inanimate posture of the theatrical singer in a concert-room, often proves another cause for the depression of the voice. How can the exuberant sallies of a bravura be executed in the still life of a lady standing, with downcast look, by the side of the piano-forte ? Such music must ever be performed with an unmeaning effect. There wants
* A similar effect takes place on the violin ; some persons by their vigor of play in loud passages, press their fingers down with greater force upon the string, by which the ends of the fingers are extended, and the consequence is, the notes are sharpened.
the action and bustle of the stage, as a stimulus to the voice, to keep it up with vigor.
Words operate powerfully in distorting the voice. When a broad and open vowel, like the word all, comes upon any one of the harmonic tones, the throat is widened too much for the right production of the sound; and, without due care, the note will be made too flat. The same tone being connected with a more slender word, would run no risk of being sung out of tune. So the syllables used in solfaing, pronounced mee and see, assist the voice in making those notes sufficiently sharp.
A depression of spirits will cause a considerable laxity of the vocal organs, consequently a flattening of the voice. Mr. Bartleman, who never sung a note out of tune, once, in the presence of the writer, struggled through a song with much pain and difficulty, obviously from this cause; but such was the close attention and severity of his ear, that he resorted to every method of keeping up his voice— such as turning his head, or twisting it a little on one side (which had the effect of narrowing the throat)—the poking out of the chin-indeed any expedient rather than deviate from an accurate intonation.
To correct these evils, which beset the voice and perplex the singer, the first thing is, to listen, and compare attentively, the tone we are making with that of the instruments. Besides the intervals, upon which we have cautioned the singer, we may
mention the 7th, or half note below the key, which forms the major 3d to the dominant.* In ascending, this interval should be made as sharp as possible; and, in descending, it should be drawn so close to the tonic, as to partake of a whining or crying tone. To effect this, the singer must have recourse to the pinching of the voice, which is readily done by contracting the aperture of the throat;t by this means any note may be brought into tune.
PS A L M O DY.
Martin LUTHER, about the year 1517, first introduced metrical psalmody into the service of the
* The dominant is always the fifth note above the key note.
† The sounds of the human voice are formed in the larynx, which is situated immediately above the windpipe; and the notes of the musical scale are produced by the combined action of the muscles upon certain membranes in the interior of the larynx, which form an aperture called the rima glottidis. In the higher notes of the scale, this aperture is proportionably contracted, and in the deeper intonation, the membranes are relaxed, and the aperture enlarged. The office of the glottis in singing, is the same with that of the reed in a wind instrument; and the muscles are made to act upon it with such precision and agility, that it surpasses the most expressive instruments in rapidity and neatness of execution.