Every Class Is A Voice Lesson

You may be the only voice teacher your students ever get.

 

I take the weight of this responsibility very seriously. Meaning, in the 1-3 years that I have my students, my goal is to do my very best to prepare and provide them with as much solid vocal technique as possible. That way, when they leave my room for the final time, they have the best chance to continue growing as the amazing singers they are.

 

In our classroom, warm-up is sacred. I’ve had multiple students tell me that warm-up is actually their favorite part of class.

During my voice lessons in undergrad, I never touched repertoire; it was all warm-up and vocal technique. My professor would help build my skills in whatever was necessary: chest voice, vowel placement, focused tone, tuning, consistent vibrato, transitioning through breaks, etc. I treat my classes the same way.

 

Obviously, I throw sight singing and theory into the mix here, too. But isolating vocal technique for the sake of itself is SUPER IMPORTANT! Don’t skip warm-ups!!

 

I have two examples for you. The first is from a 6th grade class, and the second is from a 7th grade class.  Both sequences are completely different as far as what we are actually singing, but here is what they have in common:

 

  1. Focus and highlight the importance of solid basic technique like:

    • Vowel formation

    • Breathing

    • Placement

    • Balance/blend.

  2. Addressing areas that need improvement

    • Don’t sing through your warm-ups on auto-pilot. Take the time to listen and correct, and teach your kids to be better listeners themselves.

  3. Movement, Energy, and Engagement

    • Make it interesting, and keep them on their toes. ( I’m not really a “let’s do the same three warm-ups in the same order every day" kinda gal.)

6th Grade

What, How, and Why

  • Chocolate Cookie-Echo chant the text to isolate correct diction

  • Chocolate Cookie-Chunk small phrases to listen carefully for correct pitch, diction, tuning, etc. Stop to fix any errors.

  • Sometimes, I solfege what I’m singing to give them another visual to attach notes to

  • Learning by wrote= increased pitch/memory retention

  • Add a beat! Mix it up, and make it fun. (Check out the smiles on their faces when I start adding it in!)

  • Add in an second part, work on balance/blend

  • Solfege scale with motions to reinforce correct vowel space

  • Same scale, but rounded

  • On the last do, students held the note, and worked on crescendo/decrescendo by responding to my gesture. (Teach your kids to follow your gesture!!!)

7th Grade

What, How, and Why

  • State the focus: projecting, and finding resonance in different ranges of the voice

  • Touch the ribs, work to keep them lifted while exhaling

  • Give specific feedback, like “remember to do this”, or “ try to see if you  notice this”

  • Sigh, focusing on feeling vibration in the mask for head voice

  • Applying motion for kinesthetic engagement- throwing the ball

  • Did you hear one of my girls ask me about why our voices were shaking? Great way to start a discussion about natural vibrato, lol!

  • Chest voice: speaking to find the placement, then transition into singing

  • Transition from chest voice into mixed voice

  • I make sure to describe the sensations I’m feeling in each area of my voice to give them something to look for when figuring out what the correct placement feels like for them

What I love about this particular warm-up is that you can see how they’re getting to experiment with finding their own sound. Sure, it’s not the best balanced sound, but they’re finding what works the best for their own individual voices. I’ve noticed with my own students that starting in extremes like chest or head voice provides faster results with placement, because it’s easier to hear/ feel. Then, you can move into that nice, comfy middle range, and have them play with chiaroscuro….that’s light/dark for all of you non-Italians out there. Basically, aiming your sound more forward, or more backwards.

 

Both of these sequences were only five minutes. As long as you are intentional, it really doesn’t take much time to pack a lot of quality technique into a warm-up. I tailor my warm-ups based on what I’m noticing in class. For example: I focused on placement with 7th grade in the video above, because my girls are working on Seal Lullaby, by Eric Whitacre. If you aren’t familiar with it, the vocal line has some pretty spread intervals and transitions from head into chest voice, so I really want my girls to be comfortable transitioning into their different ranges.

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