How to Succeed in Singing: A Practical Guide

Publication details: 1925. Philadelphia: Theo. Presser Co.

Who was Arturo Buzzi-Peccia? (1854 – 1943) Italian voice teacher and song composer. He studied composition with both Jules Massenet and Camille Saint-Saens in Paris, and taught voice in the United States from 1898 on. His voice students included Dorothy Caruso, the wife of the famous operatic tenor Enrico Caruso.

What is How to Succeed in Singing: A Practical Guide for Singers Desiring to Enter the Profession? This vocal pedagogy book addresses topics including the author’s views on the “Old Italian Method”, the difference between European and American voice teachers in the early 20th Century, and “Modern Scientific Voice Makers”, whom he clearly deplored. He firmly believed that knowing the anatomical and physiological workings of the human voice would not be useful to a singer (although it was necessary for a voice teacher), and that, in fact, voice scientists had done much to throw the whole field of vocal pedagogy into chaos.

Great Quotes from How to Succeed in Singing:

The old Italian method did not do a lot of boasting about anatomical knowledge, nor scientific descriptions of muscular contractions of the vocal organs—for the simple reason that such knowledge is of no help to the pupil. It would only serve to confuse him and perhaps distract his artistic conception by conceiving the anatomical action of the vocal organs. Their action is only consequence and not direct cause. The direct cause is the mind which conceives the tone. The vocal organs adjust themselves to perform the tone preconceived by the mind. The ear discovers whether the tone produced corresponds to the one pre-imagined by the mind; and that is all.” (Buzzi-Peccia 12-13)

“In America…when the pupil begins his studies, he stands before the teacher and asks what he should do. He wants the technical explanation of the Art of Singing, the rules of its foundation…. The vocal teacher, who is considered a Well of Vocal Science, has to give all the general rules, anatomical explanations, description of the action of the vocal organs, and so forth, besides practical examples of how to stand, to open the mouth, to lower the tongue, to expand the diaphragm, to relax the jaw, and other details. When the pupil is well filled up with all these technical and scientific explanations, he starts to sing. However, he no longer sings with any degree of freedom of his own natural impulse. . . . His personality and the quality of voice almost disappear, suffocated, as it were, but this multitude of given rules to remember and to put into action while singing.” (Buzzi-Peccia 23)

Every pupil should be in love with his vocalization! Instead of going through his daily exercises like a machine, without any artistic feeling, he should put his soul and mind into it.” (Buzzi-Peccia 28)

Between a perfect technique and an artist with some technical faults, but at the same time a natural expression of emotion, the public will always prefer the latter, because he gives something to the audience. He gives a part of himself.” (Buzzi-Peccia 41)

“But seriously speaking—it would be interesting after all, for the singer to hear his own voice. Certain it is, he does not hear it in the same way that other people do.” (Buzzi-Peccia 85)

“Of course there are pupils who need more or less explanation than others; but here comes the care with which the master, who must have all the scientific knowledge of vocal organs and understand the mental and psychological nature of the pupil, must turn this scientific and his practical experience into practical and artistic advice in correcting the pupil’s faults—just as a doctor would cure his patient. What the patient needs is the result of the doctor’s knowledge and not the knowledge itself.” (Buzzi-Peccia 99-100)

Hover the cursor over any quote to pause it.

Note: The quotes I have selected do not necessarily reflect my own views on the subjects they address, and they may not be scientifically accurate. They were chosen because they are representative of the author’s views. –Dr. Nielsen