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Art Of Singing:
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 Vocal Hygiene From The Musical Point Of View

 Peculiarities Of Tone Incident To Different Nationalities

 Anatomy, Physiology And Hygiene Of The Vocal-organs

 Hygiene Of Voice

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Hygiene Of Voice

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Although it is well to treat singers and public speakers, it is better to give certain rules or advice for avoiding disease or trouble of any kind.

The anatomical and physiological relations between the nose and throat prove that hygienic measures suitable for one will also be good for the other.

Singing should not be attempted during periods of excitement, or after strenuous exercises, or during periods of profound fatigue. Proper concentration of the mind during exercises is of great importance. Fear and psychic (mental) disturbances have a markedly detrimental influence on singing.

Never try to sing if you do not feel like singing. In order to maintain a healthful equilibrium in singers and speakers, food should be taken regularly and with discretion. In other words, systematize your eating. Too much eating causes an overdevelopment and too much work for the digestive apparatus, thereby causing in time an enlarged stomach and engorgement of the liver; this in turn causes the formation of mucus in the throat due to the back pressure on the arterial systein, and, when you have an increased formation of mucus, the voice becomes husky and many breaks occur during singing. Perfect digestion is as important as correct breathing.

Food is material taken into the body to build up its tissues, to repair waste, or to produce energy. It is a matter of common experience that fear, worry, anger, or the reception of unexpected news, either joyous or sorrowful, will oft-times seriously interrupt gastric digestion. Singing on an empty or a full stomach will cause a suppression of motor activities, thereby resulting in a heavy feeling which has a marked effect on the respiration in singing.

A singer who attempts to sing or vocalize in the morning before breakfast will invariably find his voice husky or weak, or he or she is indifferent, because it stands to reason that, without alimentation, there is a lack of stimulation. The enthusiasm which one should possess whenever he sings is missing. In order to be physically and mentally strong, I advise that you have your breakfast first, a very light one, wait about an hour and then vocalize. You at once observe the difference; you are stimulated, full of ginger and your enthusiasm is with you.

Now, the full stomach presents a different problem. The stomach is full, it requires plenty of blood to help digestion, therefore, it is very detrimental to sing immediately after eating. If an individual should vocalize immediately after, the blood is diverted from the stomach, thus causing indigestion. It has another effect; the respiration cannot be proper, as the diaphragm lies right over the stomach and its descent is interfered with. In order that a singer should correctly attack a tone and his singing be clear and even, the diaphragm must not be hindered in its downward movement.

It is indispensable, and let it be a law, that a singer should not attempt to sing after a heavy meal but wait until digestion has taken place, which is about two or three hours after eating; or, if one is to perform at a concert, eat a very light lunch and postpone the heavy dinner until the singing is over. Systematize your exercises and eat the proper amount of food, and I am sure that your stomach will have no detrimental influence on your singing or speaking.

For professional people or artists who are not engaged in physical labor and who use principally their mental energy, I have found the following system very advantageous.

On getting up in the morning, let us say about 8 A. M., take a cold shower; follow it by a brisk rub, until the skin is quite red; wait about fifteen minutes and then begin your breakfast. The breakfast should consist of fresh fruit, oat-meal, or any cereal (change or alternate each day), poached or scrambled eggs, rolls or bread and butter, light coffee or tea. Wait for an hour, and then vocalize for fifteen minutes or one-half hour. Rest, or do any other necessary light work until dinner-time, which should be about 1 P. M.

Dinner should consist of several courses, or in other words, it should be your heavy meal, namely, soup, fish, steak or white meat, in con-junction with potatoes, other vegetables, salad, pudding, light coffee or tea. Rest two or three hours and then vocalize for one-half hour or an hour.

Individuals who arise late should partake of a light breakfast and a heavy dinner or supper. Those who eat a heavy meal at dinner should substitute a light one at supper-time, and vice versa. In other words, one should partake of but one heavy meal a day.

Exercise or increased mental work demands more food on account of the increased oxidation in the tissues, but any food or drink which causes distress, or even discomfort because of indigestion, should be avoided at all times. Also all food or drink is injurious which is so hot that it causes a sensation of burning, or so cold that it produces pain in the teeth.

Tea or Coffee, if used to excess, disturbs the digestive organs and produces nervous disturbances, such as headache, trembling and wakefulness at night.

Alcohol may be taken moderately in the form of light wines or beer, but liquors in the form of whisky, gin, highballs, etc., should be avoided entirely. Alcohol taken with sense is a food.

A man or woman who is subject to constipation should use many vegetables, fruits of all kinds, and graham bread, as these have a laxative effect on the digestive tract.

Tobacco should be used in moderation. Constant use or abuse of tobacco causes an internal congestion of the nose and throat, thereby causing a good deal of mucus to form. Tobacco acts on the heart, memory and respiration, and, as stated above, persistent abuse makes itself known to the sensitive mucous membrane.

Clothing should be used for comfort and protection. Well-clad and well-housed individuals require less food than poorly dressed individuals. Clothing and food should be regulated and properly fitted to suit the climate and the time of year. Sufficient clothing in cold weather conserves the body heat and therefore less food is required to maintain good health. During the winter, a man or woman should wear warm clothes, heavy underwear, heavy soled shoes, and, if it rains or snows, rubbers or overshoes. Most of the colds of singers and speakers are due to neglect on their part to keep their feet and legs warm. Clothes should not be too tight or snug on the body, as tight or snug clothing interferes with the rhythmical actions of the involuntary muscles. Anatomically we are so constructed or proportioned that all involuntary actions are rhythmical; for example, the heart, the lung action, and the swing of the limbs are in relation to the joint measurements.

High and tight collars should be avoided, as they have a tendency to constrict the blood vessels of the neck, and to interfere with the freedom of the larynx during singing.

Corsets have been largely instrumental in changing the female breathing from the correct inferior costal diaphragmatic to the incorrect superior costal type. Naturally there is no respiratory difference in male and female. If you find the superior costal breathing in a female, you will invariably find it due to the corset. In fact, if the male chest were encased in a corset, the breathing from the inferior costal diaphragmatic type would change at once into the superior costal type. Corsets have a tendency to weaken the abdominal contents as found in females; they not only interfere with breathing but the lungs fail to expand fully. In order to obtain the proper breathing, the lower chest and upper abdominal walls must be free to act.

Teeth.—Every man or woman should make it a habit carefully to guard the health of the teeth. It is a known fact that decayed and filthy teeth will cause indigestion and lower the resistance of an individual markedly Decayed teeth have produced a subacute and chronic catarrhal condition of the throat and nasal structure. It is also very unbecoming for a singer or speaker to expose uncleanly teeth. The habit of caring and guarding the health of the teeth should be formed in early childhood and continued through-out life.

Skin.—Another important matter is keeping the skin in a healthy state. The skin is one of the great structures which throws off waste mat-ter; it also helps the kidneys to cast off the poisonous material present in the system. In order to maintain a healthy skin, it behooves you to know when to take a cold bath and when a hot or warm bath. Warm bathing should be used for cleansing purposes. The heat helps to open the small orifices, commonly called the pores, in the skin. Cold baths stimulate, refresh and invigorate the nervous system. If you wish to pre-vent colds, take a cold shower or bath in the morning; this aids the skin to protect us from the cold. After a cold bath or shower, it is absolutely necessary to rub the skin briskly until a reaction takes place, that is, until it becomes red. If we do not get this reaction the good effects of the bath are lost.

If it is inconvenient or impossible to take a cold shower or bath, cold sponging of the throat followed by massage is very beneficial and, healthful; this also helps to harden the skin against colds.

Ventilation is very important and is indispensable to good health. Singers and speakers should not stay in a room where there is not a free circulation of pure air. A stuffy, badly ventilated room causes a depressed feeling and produces a harsh, husky or very thin voice. It also predisposes to many ailments. Congestion of the nose is easily produced in a badly ventilated place, and, when you suffer with a congestion of the nasal structures, your resonance will suffer. Neither should you expose yourself to bad weather nor stay out late at night, as the night air is not beneficial to a singer. It predisposes to hoarseness and catarrh. Foggy and smoky air has the same ill effect.

Exercise, as stated before, causes an increased amount of oxidation in the tissues, therefore a person demands more food. It also helps to steady the nervous system, and keep it under control. Singers and speakers, as a rule, are our chief neurotics. Nervousness plays a salient rôle in their lives. Music is instrumental in producing such a condition. It causes a marked effect on the nervous system through its varied vibrations. Temperament in a singer or speaker is but tributary to nervousness. Temperament will cause an increased reaction, both mental and physical, to external impression. An overstimulation of the above will cause an exhausted or debilitated condition of the nervous system; a condition found very frequently among singers. Most of the singers possess an abundance of temperament characterized by mental force and high- strung sensibilities, manifesting terseness and vigor, as an expression of style. In other words, temperament is a preponderance of the activity of the mental over the physical qualities. Temperament is affected by different conditions, such as elevation, temperature, change of climate and altitude and environment. If singers can control their temperament or nervousness, their singing will be clear, but should they lack power of adaptation, sudden nervousness may result, thereby causing straining, clouding, muffling of the voice and improper breathing.

The treatment of this neurosis usually falls upon the nose and throat specialist, and it re-quires the greatest amount of care on the physician's part to cope with it. The singer's food, sleep, exercises and work should be systematically regulated. Personal hygiene is very important in such subjects. Their intellectual work especially should be judiciously limited, and should alternate frequently with periods of re-pose. Excitement of all kinds should be avoided, and such individuals will do well to be abstemious in the use of tobacco, coffee and tea, and especially alcohol, which primarily produces a stimulating effect and then rapidly causes a depression.

The habit of taking a prolonged holiday, away from the ordinary environment, such as a trip to the woods, the mountains, or the seashore, at least twice a year should be urgently insisted upon. Cold baths in the morning help to harden the nervous system. Exercises in the gymnasium, tennis, rowing, sailing are of value in maintaining the general nutrition and help the nervous system a great deal Drugs should be avoided as much as possible, especially habit-forming ones. If the exercises during the day 'are systematized and the proper hygiene of health observed singers or speakers will find that their neurosis will begin to disappear in a short time, their singing will improve, and confidence in themselves, a great and very essential requisite, will thereby be acquired.

In concluding this chapter, let me say that it should be the invariable practice of every singer or speaker to spend at least two or three hours each day in the open air, and as many more as possible. If the weather is pleasant, walking is a valuable form of exercise. Pleasant, open-air occupations invigorate the muscles, stimulate the sweat glands and other execretory organs, strengthen and restore the nervous tissues, clear the brain, and increase the heart action, thereby sending a greater supply of blood to all parts of the body, thus promoting digestion and assimilation of food.

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