Teachers love to use it to explain placement. On this page we have already talked many times about why placement is scientifically impossible and completely against the nature of sound so we will not talk about it again in this particular post. What we will talk about though is the problem of trying to teach based on your sensations when you sing and this is how placement became a thing. It does not show HOW she sung. It shows the side-effect, not the way to do it or the goal. You may or may not ever feel this when you sing because different singers have different understanding of their bodies and different feelings.
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Teachers love to use it to explain placement. On this page we have already talked many times about why placement is scientifically impossible and completely against the nature of sound so we will not talk about it again in this particular post. What we will talk about though is the problem of trying to teach based on your sensations when you sing and this is how placement became a thing.
It does not show HOW she sung. It shows the side-effect, not the way to do it or the goal. You may or may not ever feel this when you sing because different singers have different understanding of their bodies and different feelings.
Lilli Lehmann was a great singer but in order to understand HOW she sung, listening to her recordings is a lot more useful than looking at that chart! Here is what you can hear in this recording: Low larynx dark singing, pharyngeal space A lot of participation of the chest voice in the head voice. This is how she could sing over a Wagner orchestra. Because this is not how she was singing. Something even more ironic here: in this picture you can see that the low notes are connected with lines to the CHEST.
A clear indication of the real reason why Lehmann sounded like this: the registers. Of course chest voice has nothing to do with the physical chest area, but in this case the lines connecting low notes to the chest and high notes to the head have an obvious correspondence to the two registers. But NONE of the teachers who will show you this chart will actually develop the registers and they will more than likely tell you that chest voice is bad and you should avoid it!
They teach single-register singing based on placement and a very bad version of head voice, since you cannot have real head voice without chest voice, because head voice is a coordination of the chest and the falsetto registers.
Clear and dark singing. Clear because of the chest voice, dark because of the low larynx. Of course there are more details to great singing, but these two things are the foundation. So if the chart and placement theories are nonsense, how did Farrar become so great?
Lehmann, despite being so wrong about placement, had two very important tools that are powerful enough to make someone a great singer. The first one is aural tradition. The correct sound was still everywhere, great singers still existed. So Lehmann not only recognized correct sounds, but being a great singer herself, she was able to demonstrate them.
If Farrar made a wrong sound, Lehmann could understand that it was wrong and demonstrate the right one. Of course this is directly connected to the first one. Single-register singing did not exist back then. Using two registers was pretty much self-explanatory for the singers of that time.
They knew you must have both registers. So if Farrar was to sing low notes without chest voice, like the vast majority of female singers do now, Lehmann would stop her and demonstrate chest notes.
Farrar would imitate, and she would get her chest voice. Then Lehmann, through a combination of demonstrations and using probably the same exercises that she did as a voice student would develop her registers.
What happens nowadays is that teachers try to teach based on descriptions of sensations that are a result of register development, without actually developing the registers. And as was already mentioned above, sensations vary from person to person. If you tell someone to place a high note at the back of the mouth and high, good luck getting them to sing a proper high note. If you guide them through exercises to sing a dark, hooty high note with a lot of core the correct sound , they might or might not feel this sensation.
The goal is a great sound, not a particular sensation. You cannot teach a sound by telling people to feel the side-effect of the sound.
How to Sing
Equally enchanting are the anatomical diagrams — an inadvertent recurring theme around here lately — illustrating her theories. Lehmann begins with an articulate assertion about the osmosis of nature and nurture: The true art of song has always been possessed and will always be possessed by such individuals as are dowered by nature with all that is needful for it — that is, healthy vocal organs, uninjured by vicious habits of speech; a good ear, a talent for singing, intelligence, industry, and energy. She expresses a concern, eloquently echoed a century later by Sir Ken Robinson , about the industrialization of education: But art to-day must be pursued like everything else, by steam. Artists are turned out in factories, that is, in so-called conservatories, or by teachers who give lessons ten or twelve hours a day. In two years they receive a certificate of competence, or at least the diploma of the factory. The latter, especially, I consider a crime, that the state should prohibit.
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Her younger sister, Marie , also went on to become an operatic soprano. She subsequently became so successful that she was appointed an Imperial Chamber Singer for life in Lehmann sang in the first Bayreuth Festival in , singing in the first complete performances of The Ring Cycle as Woglinde and Helmwige. By remaining in America beyond the leave granted her by the Berlin Opera, she faced a ban following her return to Germany. After the personal intervention of the Emperor , the ban was lifted. Lehmann was also renowned as a Lieder singer. She continued to give recitals until her retirement from the concert stage in the s.