Developing the Child’s Singing Voice I recently read this question on a music teachers facebook page: I’m teaching grade 1 and 2 music. I had 2 of my classes for the first time today and did some call and response tone-matching activities. I was shocked to find that 75% of the students could not sing in their head voice. At least 40% of those students couldn’t reproduce so-mi in a singing voice at all! Any ideas on where I start to help these students develop singing/head voices? In this newsletter, I’ve got some suggestions for warmups, vocalizes and activities to get your kids matching pitch.
Start with the speaking voice and work on high and low sounds.
Alphabet Echo: Say the letters of the alphabet in lots of different voices – high, low, silly, scary, monster, and have the kids echo each letter or group of letters. (A or A B C) It’s a fun warmup and for your preK and kindergarten students will reinforce letter recognition.
Vocalise: Do lots of vocalises with them. I bought a toy fire engine and play the siren for the kids and have them make siren sounds. I’ve found one Fire Engine storybook, and would welcome suggestions of fire engine stories that you’ve found!
I love the slide whistle! Have them echo the sounds that you make on a slide whistle. Do this with your entire group, and then try it with individual students. In John Feirabend’s research, he’s found that children need opportunities to sing alone as well as with the group.
Make vocal exploration cards, or have your students make them, and have kids sing the shapes on oo, ah, bbb. We’ve put some vocal exploration cards on www.musicplay.ca in the Free Downloads section. If you want printed versions of these cards, they’ll be available soon. (Sometimes buying them printed is cheaper than getting them printed in color yourself)
Say poems in low and high voices – for example:
low voice – Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?
high voice – I’ve been to London to visit the Queen
low voice – Pussycat, pussycat what did you there?
High voice – I frightened a little mouse under a chair.
Dramatize the poem!
Have the kids create ostinatos to chant with the poem, and have them chant in low voices, then high voices –
meow, meow, kitty says meow
Grandma’s Glasses Source: Musicplay K and 1
High Voice – These are Grandma’s glasses. This is Grandma’s hat. This is the way she folds her hands and puts them in her lap.
Low Voice – These are Grandpa’s glasses. This is Grandpa’s hat. This is the way he folds his hands, and then he takes a nap.
I use stories to get kids using different voices. Retell the story of the three bears, and use low voices for Papa Bear, a middle voice for Mama Bear and a high voice for Baby Bear. Have the kids say all the spoken parts with you. “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Papa Bear. (low voice)
The Three Bears in Musicplay 1, The Billy Goats Gruff in Musicplay for Kindergarten, and The Three Little Pigs in Musicplay 3 are all good for this activity.
The absolute favorite low-middle-high activity is the
Three Little Monkeys poem.
Three little monkeys swinging from a tree Along came a crocodile quiet as can be
The low monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!
Two little monkeys swinging from a tree Along came a crocodile quiet as can be
The middle monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!
One little monkeys swinging from a tree Along came a crocodile quiet as can be
The high monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!
“Missed me, missed me – now you gotta kiss me!”
I have great puppets to use with this poem, and you can find them at www.musicplay.ca – search for puppets.
Other songs/poems to use for high/middle/low practice:
Eensy Weensy Spider – Great Big Spider, Teeny Tiny Spider (in Musicplay 1 and Action Songs 1)
Boom Chicka Boom in Musicplay 5 is a good chant to use with your older students.
Leader: Class echoes:
Boom chicka boom echo Boom chicka boom
Boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom echo
All right? All right?
Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!
One more time One more time
Little bit louder Little bit louder
Create ostinato patterns with body percussion to accompany the chant. For example: Pat left, pat right, clap, snap
After the chant activities do lots of echo singing. Echo so-mi, la-so-mi, so-mi-do, so-fa-mi-re-do patterns.
Do 3-4 minutes of these warmups every time you see them and you’ll start to build some flexibility in their voices.
Give them 5 or 6 classes of this and you’ll see a big improvement!