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Breathing-exercises are intended to increase the power and capacity of the lungs.
Standing in the Speaker's Position, place both hands at the front of the waist, just below the breastbone, in such a manner that the middle fingers of one hand just touch the middle fingers of the other. (1) Keeping the mouth closed, breathe in through the nose until the lungs are comfortably filled with air. Send the breath down toward the waist as if to push away the hands. (2) Breathe out slowly until you feel a sense of perfect relaxation (not exhaustion) at the waist; then inhale as before.
Repeat this exercise several times. Let the hand follow the inward movement at the waist when you exhale, without exerting pressure.
Have the same action of the breath, with the hands at the sides of the waist as in Exercise I. Here the hands may gently assist the inward movement.
Place the hands at the small of the back and breathe as before. There should be a feeling of expansion and relaxation here, also, but it will not be so marked as in the other exercises.
In all breathing-exercises there must be no consciousness of muscular effort. This is an important point. It is easy to push out and draw in the diaphragm or the abdomen by more or less violent muscular action; and, with a little practice, an abnormal power of expansion and contraction may be developed in the waist-region, with the result of producing a strained and "muscular" quality of the voice, and utterly destroying the ease, flexibility and unconscious activity which are characteristic of all normal operations of the healthy body.
Expansion of the lungs everywhere must seem to be purely an act of the will, and not of the muscles. The air must seem to expand the lungs as a balloon is expanded by gas; instead of which, vocalists often try to produce a vacuum by a violent pulling apart of the walls of the chest, and letting the air rush in as it will. I call attention to this misconception of the subject, because it is held by teachers who should know better, and is a fruitful source of vocal faults, to say nothing of physical derangements.
See that the waist and not the abdomen is the active centre.
Beware of overcrowding the lungs; it is not the amount, but the control of breath that produces results.
EXAMPLES OF DEEP BREATHING.
Now glory to the Lord of hosts, from whom all glories are!
Hurrah! The foes are moving! Hark to the mingled din
Lord of the universe! shield us and guide us,
Thou hast united us, who shall divide us?
Up with our banner bright,
Sprinkled with starry light,
Spread its fair emblems from mountain to shore,
Loud rings the Nation's cry—
Union and Liberty! One evermore!-Holmes.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.—Addison.
TO THE TEACHER:-Breathing-exercises should be performed very gently and slowly, with only a medium supply of breath at first, and for but a short time each day. Delicate pupils are sometimes unequal to more than a few minutes of lung. exercise. Never force them beyond what can be done with perfect comfort. I am tempted to insert the customary protest against the barbarous and silly custom of tight lacing, but so much has been written and spoken against this utterly indefensible method of self destruction, that ignorance on such a vital point is inexcusable. Sensible parents and teachers know their duty: the law of the survival of the fittest will take care of the rest.
JOHN IS SHORT, JAMES IS TALL.
You could hardly make a mistake in the division of this sentence if you tried; but it may be read in many ways, each of which would convey a different meaning. For instance, if some one had asked which of the boys was short, you would say: "John is short." If he should contradict you, you would assert emphatically: "John is short." If he had asked whether John was short or tall, your reply would be: John is short.' If he had asked how he might know the boys apart, you might answer: "John is short, James is tall." Each of these meanings is brought out by means of what is called emphasis, and the word that is made prominent is said to be emphatic. The unimportant words are said to be subordinate.
In ordinary conversation we generally make the emphatic word prominent by giving it a higher pitch. When we are more earnest, we dwell a little longer upon the emphatic word than upon the other words in the phrase. If we wish to be very impressive, or to
give the emphatic word extraordinary weight, we pause before it, as if to gather strength for utterance. This keeps the hearer in suspense, and compels him to notice the emphatic word when it is finally spoken.
Reading should seem like conversation, and we should try to use these three methods of emphasis, as far as possible, just as we do in speech.
It is not only unnecessary but vulgar in conversation to make the emphatic word louder or rougher than the rest, unless we are expressing some emotion that calls for greater power, or are trying to make ourselves heard, as in the following example:
Call naturally "come here! come HERE! come HERE!" increasing the emphasis with each repetition of the words. You will notice that the pitch of the word "here" is higher at each increase of emphasis. This will serve to illustrate the principle that the greater the emphasis, the higher is the pitch of the emphatic word compared with the pitch of the other words in the phrase, and the longer is it dwelt upon.
Practise the following exercises. Notice that in natural speech the voice rises step by step, until the emphatic word is reached, and that if any words follow the emphatic word they are spoken more rapidly and with a downward movement of the voice: