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To rattle on without paying strict attention to the stops or the meaning of the author is like playing a musical instrument without giving proper care to the kind of notes. While it is, therefore, proper to take the time as the author marks it, it is a matter for careful consideration how and when to pause. It must be made long or short according to the character of the subject, especially when the passage is one of reflection ; the woice should, as it were, hang on, making all the distinction between a break and a pause. Take the following examples :
To be ever active in laudable pursuits / is the distinguishing characteristic of a man of merit.
To practise virtue | is the sure way to love it.
Riches, pleasure and health become evils to those who do not know how to use them.
The preceding illustrations show the point of rest,” the word on which the voice lays a lingering emphasis. The following extract indicates the use of the pause, or actual stoppages.
To be- or not to be ?—that is the question:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing end them ?–To die-to sleep No more ; and, by a sleep, to say we end The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d. To die-to sleepTo sleep !-perchance to dream--ay, there's the rub ! Alack, I am afraid they have awak'd, And 'tis not done. The attempt, and not the deed, Confounds us.--Hark! I laid their daggers ready ; He could not miss 'em.-Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't-My husband !”. These illustrations will show that stops and pauses are of as much importance as variety in tone, emphasis, action, &c.
Finally, having done all you think best to attain perfection, before you appear in public,
11. GET A FRIEND TO CRITICISE YOUR ATTEMPTS.—Of course you will select one on whose judgment you have good reasons to depend. You will by this means be able to ascertain whether your own conclusions are sound, and the pronunciation and delivery of the words correct. Nor need you find much difficulty with the subject you select, for good reading will be readily recognised even by the way in which an ordinary paragraph in a newspaper is read. How much more so will this be the case if it is a selection of a first-class character. If you will do this you will be able to ascertain if you have caught the right meaning of the author, and, at the same time, feel you are drinking in the very spirit of what he has said or written, yourself, and so become the living embodiment of the author himself,
CHAPTER II. THE VOICE-ITS MANAGEMENT AND IMPROVEMENT. LIKE every other good gift, the voice is capable of improvement by effort, and of greatly extended power by proper management. At the same time it is easy to understand that complete command over the voice in its pitch, tone, inflection, emphasis, or rate will not come to anyone without proper attention and constant study of the best methods. It is to these we now intend to devote some attention. This will be better understood when we remark that there are seven varieties of voice to be found among men and women. Among men they are called bass, baritone, tenor-robusto, or full tenor, and tenor-legiardo, or counter-tenor. Among the women they are called contralto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. The compass or range of the voice varies considerably, and is dependent upon the length of the vocal chords and windpipe. Those who possess the longes: have the power of producing the greatest number of notes. It will thus be seen that while one may contain a range of twelve notes, and another sixteen, yet they may be both of the same character in sound. With such capabilities, it will be obvious that much will depend upon the training and other circumstances whether the most is made of such a wonderful organ; and, at the same time, how impossible it is to expect uniformity. Hence the importance of each person ascertaining the quality and power of the voice, and then endeavouring to make the best use of it in the direction for which it is the most adapted,
Everyone can see that to give proper effect to all the changes needful in an ordinary speech, or in the reading of a selection of prose or poetry, the pitch of the voice is a prime necessity. Now, everyone has a natural pitch or key-note-a tone in which he spontaneously gives expression to his thoughts; but when the occasion or the subject requires it this varies, and it either rises higher or descends lower ; hence the importance of cultivating the habit of having the voice under complete command. Nothing can be more absurd, or calculated to weaken the effect intended to be produced, than to speak or read anything all in one key or one tone. The dull monotony which would result would of itself condemn such a course, even if nothing worse resulted. Now, while it will be readily admitted that to be possessed of a natural musical voice is of great value, inasmuch as it will always prove more attractive and pleasing than a harsh, discordant voice, yet at the same time much may be done to adapt the capabilities of even an indifferent voice, so as to make it appear to the best advantage ; hence one of the very first things you should do is to
1. ASCERTAIN WHAT IS THE PITCH, compass, or register of your voice. Just as singers differ in the power and quality of their voice, so speakers and readers will be found to do the same, and if it would be absurd for a person with a tenor voice to try to sing with proper effect a bass song, in like manner a reader, if he is wise, will, before he attempts to read even a piece which he thoroughly understands, ascertain the character of his voice, and whether it will be in harmony with the words he intends to read.
If you wish to discover the exact pitch of your voice ask a friend to play some musical instrument, or even play yourself, and sing from the lowest to the highest note you can reach
with your voice; then find out which is the prevailing or dominant note. Having done this you will have no difficulty in noticing that the tone in which you generally speak in common conversation has a leading pitch. Suppose, for example, the natural key of your voice to be B flat in the bass, then the middle pitch of your voice may be considered to extend as high as a fifth above that tone. So it will be found, as a rule, that the mean pitch of all voices may be considered to extend to a fifth above its key-note, or the closing cadence of its ordinary speech. Above the range of the middle pitch are the high and the low pitch. Thus it will be seen that where the middle pitch ascending ends, high pitch begins; where the middle pitch descending ends, low pitch begins. Each, of course, in its range, whether high or low, depends on the compass of the person's voice.
We see every day how the tones of the voice vary according to circumstances under which a person speaks. We hear a man entreating a favour with one tone, but giving a command with quite another; and even again different if he is in a rage, and so on. The voice is light and rapid in pleasure ; low, moaning, broken in grief; dull and heavy in pain; cracked, wild, and shrieking in despair. The voice, therefore, is largely under the influence of our own power for expression or adaptation of tone to the sentiment or subject we wish to illustrate. The pitch of the speaking voice has been generally divided into
Low PITCH. The ordinary pitch of a person's voice, or that with which he speaks in common every-day conversation, is called the middle pitch. This of course varies with the character or the quality of the voice, and may, therefore, be either soprano, tenor, or bass, and all above and below the range of the middle pitch are either high or low pitch. The range depends on the compass of the voice, and the appropriateness of the piece selected may be illustrated by the following :
THE MIDDLE PITCH. This is the proper pitch for narration, ordinary description,
statement, reflection, or calm reasoning. The following extract would suit such a pitch :
Sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish;
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
High PITch. ..
“ If I may trust the flattering trust of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand;
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts."