Voicing

The first few days of school, all of my classes sit in alphabetical order. It's easier for several reasons:

  •  every student has a place to go. 

  • checking attendance is much faster

  • I learn new names faster

But after those first couple days, we really do need to start moving into sections. Here's how I voiced each grade this week:

7th Grade

Why am I starting with 7th grade, you ask?

Because I forgot to video 8th grade while they were voicing.

This is actually perfect, because I usually spend the most time voicing 7th graders. I allow beginners in 7th grade, so it's important to get to know new voices, plus it's peak male voice change time.

So I take extra special care with 7th graders!

In the video above, I am going through the voicing process with my fourth period class. I really appreciated how patient and well-behaved they were while we were doing this.

Here's what's happening:

Range

  1. Students sing a vocalise they know going up/down. I’m listening for those that immediately sound comfortable and clear in their higher range. If you watch carefully, I lightly tap on individual shoulders as I’m walking around and listening.

  2. Students that get "tap-tapped" on the shoulder move over towards the soprano section. Then, I focus on listening to clarity in the lower range to make sure I didn’t miss anyone that could move into the soprano section.

  3. I change the vocalize to a descending scale so to better hear the transition into the lower range. All students still sing even though I'm really only listening to one side of the room.

  4. I ask everyone to let me know what feels better. That way, I can help insure that students are in the section that ultimately works best for them.

Balance

  1.  Each section sings as I listen for volume. To help with confidence, I rearranged the girls into a block formation. Guys were moved to the middle so they can easily sing parts with the girls, or sing on their own.

  2.  Sing a round.  Rounds and canons are a great way to check for balance. I'm listening for equal volume between all sections.

For The Dudes: Tap Tap Jingle Bells

  1. Start in D major and sing the first line of Jingle Bells. They will either sing it at pitch, or drop it an octave. Those that drop an octave successfully are my Baritones/Basses.

  2. Change the key to something higher, usually around A major. Guys that drop the octave here ( and by dropped octave, I mean they're hovering around middle c) usually do well in the cambiata or mid-tenor range.

  3. Sometimes, I'll test out additional keys to see exactly where the ranges are falling with my men's sections. Sometimes, I save that for later.

Blend

  1. Now that we're split by voice, I make adjustments within each section. I walk  around and listen while  students sing another vocalize, and generally place them in the following order:

    • Row 3: louder/heavier voices

    • Row 2: medium, easily blendable voices

    • Row 1: lighter voices

  2. My goal is to hear each individual voice as I walk by. No one feels like they have to push to be heard, nor do they have to back off so they don’t stick out. Before I start the voicing process, we talk about how it’s not good or bad to be on a certain row, it’s about what’s going to be best for your vocal health and natural tone color.

How Did I Voice 6th and 8th Grades?

For 6th graders, I forgo the first step. My 6th grade students are all beginners with me, and I want them to have plenty of experience singing in all areas of their range. Extended range will come over time. If you notice in the video, when I ask this class what their preferences are, many of them say they feel comfortable in all of their range, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT!!!!!

 

For 8th graders, I expedite the process by allowing them to go ahead and move to the section they sang in last year. (I only have one or two in 8th grade who have not been in chorus with me, but were in chorus at a different school).  I go back and listen to see if I need to make any changes, but there usually aren’t as many. My primary focus in 8th grade is achieving the best possible blend and balance.

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