Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musical Monday - How Do We Help People Sing More Comfortably?

Image result for clip art children's choirOne of the things that bothers me hugely is listening to a children's "choir" shouting out a song.  Children have lovely natural voices and when encouraged to breathe and sing easily, the sound is delightful.  I don't know who thought that that shout-y sound was a good one, but they need to stop.

Adults think sometimes that in order to sing effectively they have to be loud and to be loud they have to go to that place where they too are shouting.  So how do we help people to find that safe but strong voice they need to sing successfully?  How do we get people to sing as easily as they talk?

1. So talk all ready - One of the best ways to get people to understand what kind of sound you are looking for is to get them to speak a sentence.  e.g. This is just a lovely day.  Now, get them to chant that same sentence on a single note.  Once they get past the seeming silliness of this, get them to feel the support of breath on the sound.  As they gain confidence, then start to add expression.  You may want to move onto making this exercise more like recitative singing on a few notes.  Once that feeling of ease is firmly entrenched, take the first line of a song and see if you can bring that same ease of singing to the song.
This may take a bit of time but keep it fun.  Keep the focus on the placement of the voice.

2. Breathe, just breathe - My first voice teacher asked me to sing at my first lesson and announced that I didn't know how to breathe.  My young brain thought she was losing it because there I was breathing.  What was the matter with her?
She placed tissue on the floor to protect me apparently and put an encyclopedia on my abdomen and had me breathe while pushing the book up.  That was the greatest way to understand the diaphragm.  I loved the feeling of filling the lungs from the base.
At choir practice having everyone lie on the floor with books is probably not possible.  I have them use the fingers of one hand and find the diaphragm under the ribs.  Then, breathe while pushing out the fingers and letting out the breath in a controlled manner.  My teacher suggested that I breathe at the first hydro pole and hiss it out until I reached the next.  I am sure people thought I was crazy but it worked.

3. Remind them, then remind them again and again and again and again--- Nuff said.  We must be continually reminded of correct posture, breathing and sound placement.  Go back and speak, chant and breathe to remind us of the ease of singing well.  It is simple but needs repetition and it certainly should be fun.

If you make certain to keep these simple steps in mind and go back to them often, the sounds created will not only be more enjoyable to listen to but more comfortable for the singers to produce.  Do you have other suggestions that might help?

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