PROBABLY THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF TEACHING MUSIC FOR THE NON-MUSIC SPECIALIST IS VOCAL HEALTH. THE FOLLOWING TIPS WILL HELP INSURE THAT YOUR STUDENTS ARE NOT INJURING THEIR VOICES IN YOUR MUSIC LESSONS.
These exercises are also excellent for all teachers. We teachers use our voices far more rigourously than most. Learning these simple guidelines will help you protect your voice as well!
The single most important thing you can do for you students vocal health is to start off any singing activity with vocal wearm-ups. Putting your music lesson at the beginning of the day can really be a big plus for your students' health! However these are beneficial exercises whenever you choose to use them.
These Warm-ups have 3 basic principles behind them:
1. Good Posture
2. Proper Breathing
3. Be gentle with your voice and Warm-up before intensive use.
Try the following vocal exercises with your class:
Good posture is very important if you want to get the best out of your and your students' voices. When you are going to sing, watch that the students are in a position of minimum tension and maximum flexibility with ears directly over shoulders, shoulders over your hips. Ask them to check that they can still see their shoulders out of their peripheral vision.
1. GOOD POSTURE - An exercise for practising is to have students pretend they are all puppets dangling on a single string attached to the top of their heads.
Be conscious of how you and your students breathe. Deep breathing is essential for safe, healthy, effective voice production. When you breathe in, aim to feel as if you take in air as low down in your body as possible without your shoulders having to rise. Allow tummy muscles to relax outwards as you breathe in.
2. PROPER BREATHING - Begin your singing with exercices that focus on proper breathing. Panting like a dog or holding hands on the diaphram to feel it expanding outward while breathing in deeply are two such exercises.
After that it's time for a gentle vocal warm-up.
3. VOCAL WARM-UP - First, ask students to massage their faces, lips, and throat to relax tension. Have the class hum an "m" sound gently up and down their voice range to to start the vocal warm-up.
Then, sing a series of round open vowels such as "Mmmeee-Mmmay-Mmmah-Mmmoe-Mmmoo" on one note and then repeating moving up and down the scale.
Check breathing - relax your tummy muscles outwards as you take a breath in.
These exercises will insure properly warmed-up voices. you will be amazed how these simple exercises will make voices (including your own!) sound alive and free.
Other vocal health hints for both you and your students:
- Be sure you keep your vocal folds moist and well lubricated. You can do this by drinking plenty of liquids throughout the day. Be sure your students do this as well.
- Keep tea and coffee consumption to a minimum though, as the caffeine in these drinks dries out the vocal folds and can make the voice sound raspy and scratchy. Alcohol is also bad for the voice, as it dehydrates the body and therefore the vocal folds.
- Take time to take a relaxed, deep breath when you need to before you start to sing or speak. It will make you and your students feel calmer and more confident.
- Don't do all the talking in class - getting others to participate by challenging your listeners, asking them questions and stimulating discussion not only is good teaching practise, it is also important for your health to give your voice a restnow and again!
- After speaking for a long time, warm-down by drinking some tepid water. Yawn and then breathe deeply. A yawn is a good exercise for your kids singing as well.
- To nurse your voice through a cold or a throat infection, steam it - put some hot water in a basin, lean over it gently with a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Be careful not to scald yourself! For the best results, do this several times a day for approximately 10 minutes at a time.
- Look after your voice. Don't strain it. Eliminate background noise before you try to speak loudly over it. If you have to project your voice, always use breath support.
- Watch that you and your students DO NOT push your voices from the throat. When you speak, your navel should move towards your backbone. If this doesn't happen, you won't get the best from your voice and you may even damage your voice without realising it. Look for this in the breathing exercises above.
This page partly adapted from CONRAD VOICE CONSULTANCY site in England
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