Student Feedback

Weekly Teaching Tip – July 3, 2018
by Earl Harville

In order to maximize the benefits of our lesson time together, I have been intentional about putting greater responsibility on my students in terms of evaluation of their vocal output. It is imperative, of course, for the informed and experienced ear of the voice teacher to take the lead in determining the efficiency and safety of the sounds coming from our singers. We should, however, give them the tools and vocabulary to increasingly cooperate with us in this process. We cannot be with them at every gig, rehearsal, or recording session, so it is important for them to grow in the area of describing and critiquing their singing and vocalizing. They have to get their own voices better than anyone else, including us trainers.

Here are the processes that I find helpful in training clients’ awareness of their growing technique:

1) The ‘dial of difficulty — I use a scale of ‘1 to 5’ for students to measure their own perceived level of effort or exertion while vocalizing or singing. They are told that ‘1’ represents sound made with little effort and ‘5’ being the equivalent of the force felt of being hit by a truck. After doing an exercise or a song phrase, the singers share their responses with me. It is helpful for both those who undersing and those aggressive chest pullers as well as they get a better perspective on how they utilize their energy.

2) ‘What does your voice sound like in your own ears?’ — Understanding that we don’t hear ourselves with great accuracy the way others hear us, students are asked to give me a description of what their sound is like in their own ears. I then follow with my evaluation of their tonal quality and the level of efficiency in what was produced. This, again, affects their perspective on how they are phonating and prepares them for a healthier reliance on the next point.

3) ‘Describe the sensations of how you just sang or phonated’ — Our singers need to become more sensitive to the feelings associated with their tonal production, which can be a much better way to guide their developing technique. After answering the previous question about how they perceived their sound, their are then asked to describe the sensations involved with their voicing. This includes resonance location, ease in the throat, and awareness of the support muscles. Even my elementary-aged students are getting really good at articulating what they feel happening in their own bodies, which makes adjusting their approach to vocalizing quicker and more efficient.

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