How do you train 6-year-olds to sing well? How do you train high school students? While students’ voices mature as they grow older, Jeff encourages teachers to use the same techniques—and expect similar performance—at all levels. In this video, he discusses the value of regular practices that incorporate music theory, vocal training, and singing technique.
One of the things that benefited me and really everybody else that was successful in being an instrumentalist was a daily routine that had short-term and long-term goals in it. Over time, I actually started incorporating that into my teaching, and I’m very happy with the results. I’m not saying it’s the only way to go for sure, but it seems to have gotten on a level for all of the grades to where I’d like it to be.
I’d like to talk to you about that routine. It would include music theory, and it would include vocal training, and singing technique, and choral expectations in general.
Chins up… Relax a little bit… Alright, “It came.” (blows pitch)
(singing) “It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old.”
I think that the students should be singing together three or four times a week or five. I know it’s not one of the core subjects and it is an investment for the teachers and the schools to make, but I think that it’s something that’s really valuable. I’m passionate about singing correctly, and I am also passionate that my first graders, second graders, and third graders can sing within reality as good a technique as the high schoolers can.
Obviously, the boys’ voices haven’t changed, the little girls vocal cords haven’t come together, and that’s why they are breathy. But I think as far as vowels, and mouth formation, and resonance, I think that a lot of what the high schoolers are attempting to do, we can get with the first and second graders. I think we have too low expectations. My goal, which hasn’t been realized yet, is for my school, the elementary school, to sound like a boys’ choir. It may never happen because boys’ choirs are audition-only, and I get every student that wants to sing or wants to be in school, but it’s still how I like them to sound.
(singing) “And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.”
…your hands, nice and relaxed by your sides. …your necks, squeeze the muscles…
There is a question about expectations for the different grade levels, and my answer and my expectations might be different in some ways than what people are actually asking for or hoping for. The voice takes a long time to develop. If you play an instrument, or if you play sports, if you will commit yourself to three or four hours a day, you can progress very, very fast and become very good at sports, or typing, or instruments.
The voice doesn’t develop like that. We really aren’t supposed to sing that long a day. It’s just too much for our voices, and it takes years to develop a beautiful voice. It’s nothing that can be rushed. And so daily practice is huge.
All right. Good job. Go like this. Mmm. Mmm. Higher. Mmm.
Dena and I, my wife taught in a school, a church school for four years where there were only three classrooms, and we would sing every morning in devotions, we would sing our Scripture songs. We could get a little warm up, and then sing those songs. Then we would have choir four times a week, so we were singing twice a day. Now, choir practice was probably only 25 minutes long, and devotions, we would only sing for five or eight minutes, but that’s golden.
As much as we can have the children singing, it’s a huge blessing, and I think that it’s something that they need to do.
Unless otherwise noted, you are free to use this work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
CONTRIBUTOR: Jeff Swanson