I've found a couple of books on Project Guthenberg about singing; in particular I'm interested in "How to sing" by Lilli Lehman.

Is the information contained in this book outdated? (Just as one example, there's quite a lot of passages on phonology, a field I can imagine have progressed quite heavily since 1906 when the book was written, even if the information in the book might be of a more basic nature and therefore haven't changed.)

  • Well, we know more about voice today than 100 years ago. So, there are two ways to go about it. Find a technique that is healthy and based on evidence: here, Jo Estill's technique (EVT) as well as Complete Vocal Technique (CVT) are great. In some way, CVT is complementary to EVT. There are many ways to teach some skill: some skills are kinda handed down from teachers to students, and so on (For instance, humming through a straw is a traditional technique taught in Italy; Ingo Titze found evidence for that technique). Alan Green's new voice is another great book.
    – RainDoctor
    Sep 10, 2012 at 23:51

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I did not read these books.

But from my own study of singing I think the biggest problem will be style(performance) not the medicine or method. From the oldest recordings we have we can tell that even less time ago the singing style is not preferred by todays standards. But maybe in 20 years it is again.

So yes, I would expect outdated, but not as in "not working" or even unhealthy. Just not the trend. The human from ~100 years ago is exactly the same human as today, so what worked then for your voice works now.

A rule of thumb: If there are lessons and units in that book, just do them. Follow the strategy of the book. If there is talk about anatomy and medicine, read them but don't trust them. 1906 may not sound far away, in music terms, but in medicine it really it. And the important part: It is only text in these books, no teacher from that time and no Audio-CD to imitate :).

Technical lessons to connect your lower register with your middle register (for example) are still perfectly valid. There is a good chance that the same lessons are still done today somewhere (on professional/university level).

Point is: Don't worry, the style is made by your ears and by trying to reach a certain sound you may already aim at, not dictated by your practice method.

Any book which goes basically like "try to sing these notes in the following manner to achieve the following goal" will work.

  • "The human from ~100 years ago is exactly the same human as today, so what worked then for your voice works now." The human from ~100 years ago was about 8% smaller than today, including chest size. Pitches were about 2% lower. Taken together, this puts you off about 10%. Good for basses and contralti, bad for tenors and sopranos. It does not affect the principles of singing, but there's an offset to the average ranges.
    – User8773
    Dec 26, 2013 at 18:40

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