So much misunderstanding exists in regard to vocal resonance. However, without resonance there can be no good tone or voice. This has been understood all along and by every teacher, singer, speaker, as well as by all manufacturers of musical instruments everywhere. But whereas the musical instrument makers have in most cases succeeded in producing resonance by natural means, the vocalists have gone far astray. The musical instrument manufacturers recognize that the resonance depends upon the quality of the material used and the superiority of the instrument which they manufacture the vocalists, on the contrary, look to some mysterious, mythical, exterior source for the resonance. What sins have been committed in the name of resonance! With the utmost gravity and pompous assurance, the silliest and inconceivably stupid theories have been promulgated and accepted by unthinking people.
The following statement is compiled from the (false) theories most commonly held concerning resonance:
“The resonance chambers perform the same functions as the sounding board of a piano, or the cavity of a violin. If it were not for the vibration of the air in the mouth cavity, nose cavity, and sinuses of the bones, the voice could have neither volume nor quality. The size and form of these cavities determines the tones and quality to which the air confined in them will vibrate.”
Out of this theory have grown many systems which have for their aim to produce vocal resonance. These systems are called “voice placing,” meaning thereby, that each tone has a certain place in the human anatomy. The low tones are supposed to be place in the chest, the medium tones in the face or “mask,” the high tones far up in the head and skull. This voice placing is also called “focusing” the voice.
Strange and weird exercises are employed to obtain resonance and to place or focus the voice. The most common among these exercises is “humming” the tone, or using the consonant “hng,” or the vowels “e,” “i,” “oh,” or “ooh.”
As this method is based entirely upon facts and reason, it becomes necessary to go somewhat deeper into the study of the laws of physics as related to the voice, in order to clear up this matter of resonance. The main face to be proven is, that the VOLUME AND QUALITY AND RESONANCE ARE THE RESULT OF A PERFECT VOICE and not, as has heretofore been assumed, that the perfect voice is the result of resonance. Or, in other words, THE PERFECT VOICE IS THE RESULT OF A PERFECT VOCAL ORGAN, which because it is complete and without fault will produce the complete and faultless voice. Good resonance cavities without a good vocal organ will never give you a good voice and the quicker you make up your mind to accept this fact, just that much quicker you will be on the road to a PERFECT VOICE.
In the old way you were taught to make a voice perfect by doing something in addition to vocal utterance, adding something to the tone AFTER it was created.
In this new way, you are taught to complete the instrument so that a perfect voice will be the result automatically and instantaneously.
THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AND SOUND – CHARACTER OF SONOROUS MOTION
Extracts from Tyndall’s excellent work will explain the nature of sound.
“The various nerves of the body have their origin in the brain, which is the seat of sensation. When a finger is wounded, the nerves convey to the brain intelligence of the injury, but if these nerves were severed no pain would be experienced no matter how serious the injury might be.
“Applying a flame to a small collodion balloon which contains a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen, the gases explode and the ear is conscious of a shock, which we name sound. How was this shock transmitted form the balloon to our organs of hearing? The process was this: When the flame touched the mixed gases in the balloon they combined chemically and their union causes the development of intense heat. This heated air expanded suddenly, violently forcing the surrounding air away on all side. This motion of the air close to the balloon was rapidly imparted to the air a little farther off. The air at the little distance passed its motion to the air at a greater distance, thus each particle of air took up th emotion of the one preceding and transmitted it to the succeeding particle of air, thus propagating a pulse of air wave.”
The propagation of sound may be explained by a homely but useful illustration. In Figure 136 are placed five boys in a row, one behind the other, each boy’s hand resting against the back of the boy in front of him. E is foremost and A finished the row. Suppose somebody suddenly pushes A, then A pushes B, and by the resistance afforded by B, regains his upright position. B pushes C, and so on E, having no one in front of him, is thrown forward. Had E been standing on the edge of a precipice, he would have fallen over. Had he stood in front of a window he would have broken the glass. Had he been close to at drumhead he would have struck the drum. Thus sound is sent through the air and strikes the drum of the distant ear.
INTENSITY OF SOUND
In the case of the exploding balloon the wave of sound expands on all sides, the motion produced by the explosion being thus diffused over a continually augmenting mass of air. Suppose our balloon to be a thin shell with a radius of one foot, reckoned from the center of explosion. A balloon of the same thickness, but of two feet radius, will contain four times the quantity of matter; it its radius be three feet, it will contain nine times the quantity of matter; if our feet, it will contain sixteen time the quantity of matter; if four feet, it will contain sixteen times the quantity of matter, and so on. Thus the intensity of loudness of sound increases as the quantity of matter set in motion augments.
VELOCITY OF SOUND WAVES
By sending a sound through a tube with a smooth interior surface, it may be transmitted to a great distance with very little diminution of intensity. Figure 137 represents a tin tube, fifteen feet long.
At the pointed end of the tube is placed a lighted candle C. When the hands are clapped at one end of the tube, the flame instantly ducks down at the other. It is not quite extinguished, but it is forcibly depressed. At the instant two blocks of wood BB are clapped together, the candle is blown out. This shows a rough way the speed with which wound waves are propagated. The instant the clap is heard the flame is extinguished, though the sound had to travel fifteen feet. The time required for the sound to travel through this tube is too short for our senses to appreciate. (This also disposes of the mistaken notion that a tone can be direct at the will of the singer to the chest, the face or to the head, for the very simple reason that the tone has left the singer’s throat and is beyond his control before he hears it.)
VELOCITY AND INTENSITY
In regard to sound and the medium through which it passes, four distinct things are to be borne in mind: velocity, elasticity, density and intensity.
The velocity of sound depends upon the elasticity in relation to its density. The greater the elasticity, the swifter is the propagation. The greater the density, the slower is the propagation. Thus a steel rod will propagate sound four times faster than the same rod made of lead, because lead is four times as dense as steel.
The velocity is directly proportional to the square root of the elasticity. The intensity of sound is proportional to the square root of the sounding material.
By VELOCITY of sound is meant the speed or rate of motion in which sound travels.
By elasticity is meant, for instance: When an external force produces alterations in the form of a solid body, and if, when this force ceases to act, the solid body instantly resumes its previous form. In the proportion that such a body resumes its natural form quickly or slowly, its elasticity is extreme or not. The propagation of waves of sound through solid bodies depends upon their elasticity. An elastic body will transmit sound faster than a non-elastic body.
DENSITY, when of two bodies of equal volume, one of them contains more matter (is heavier) than the other, it is said to have greater density. For instance: A board of a certain shape and size make of pine wood is of much less density than a board of the same shape and size but made of oak. For this reason a sound coming through a pine board is soft and mellow, while the sound from oak would be sharp and hard.
THE SQUARE ROOT OF A NUMBER I is that number which when used twice as a factor, produces the number; thus two is the square root of four, since two times two equals four. Also the square root of nine is three, because three times three are nine, etc.
INTENSITY means the louder, more energetic or vigorous sound as compared with the soft and mellow sound. The sound of steel is more intense than the sound which comes from wood, and the sound of a violin string or of a vocal muscle is more mellow than that from wood, etc.