The Pitch Range of the Exercise
Hello IVTOM teachers!
I think as a teacher it is a really good idea every so often to go back and review. Each time you do, things get easier and make more sense. Things seem to get more and more complicated the more you teach and the more you learn. The voice becomes more and more intricate and we become aware of all the fine tuning and minor details that need to be addressed and sometimes it can get overwhelming.
So my tip today is a reminder of what it is we are trying to do as teachers and to remind you that you really do know what you are doing and you really are helping your students!
My Number One Goal:
Unless they are coming in for specific help on a song for an immediate audition or performance, my number one goal with any student is to help them get as comfortable as possible with as many notes as possible in a sound that is conducive to the style of music they would like to sing. This means that they are going to have to get through at least one of the bridges (or transitions) in their voice (and hopefully more).
I start by asking myself 3 things as I am listening to them sing an exercise or a song:
1. What am I hearing that I don’t like?
2. What is causing the problem?
3. What should I have them do that would help counter the problem they are having?
Notice that these questions are fairly non-technical. I am just using my ear as a listener to hear what I don’t like. The most important of these questions is coming up with the correct answer to question 2, What is causing the problem that I am hearing?
I have found that many teachers run a student through an exercise, then they just plunge in to some exercise that they think is a good one or that they have had success with in the past.
But the key to being an effective teacher is to be able to pick the best exercise at the right time that will help the singer feel the feeling they need to feel at that exact moment so they can progress.
This ability will develop and you will get faster at recognizing what the student needs through trial and error and experience. However, if you understand what it is that the student eventually needs to do (get a balance of air and muscle, complemented by an appropriate vowel) and learn to recognize what they are doing that is making it difficult to mix properly (where is the imbalance) you will be helping your student, even if you are not as fast at finding that perfect exercise yet.
Keep it Simple
To keep it simple, always ask yourself this question: Is what I am hearing too heavy or too light? If it is too “heavy”, the singer probably has too much tension (too much “chest” voice). If the singer is too “light” they probably need more vocal cord closure (more “chest” voice).
Usually, having the student do an exercise is the quickest way to help him/her feel the feeling they should be feeling instead of the feeling that they are currently feeling.
There are several elements to any exercise: scale pattern, vowel, consonant, pitch range of the exercise, direction of the exercise (bottom up, or top down) and the speed at which the scale is played.
May I propose that the most important (and probably the simplest) of all of these ingredients is the pitch range of the exercise?
Let me tell you why.
If the student is too heavy all you have to do to get them to lighten up is to go high enough that they can’t “pull up” anymore to get the note, so they have to “let go”.
If the singer is singing too much in his/her “head voice”, all you have to do is to go low enough in their range that they can’t pull head voice any lower and they are forced to bring their vocal folds together and go into “chest” voice.
This will happen no matter what vowel or consonant you use. So yes, choosing the right vowel and consonant is important, especially for fine tuning the voice, but initially don’t discount the importance of just putting the exercise in the right pitch range to help the singer more easily find and develop the proper balance.
Once a student has found their “low” and “high” voice, all you have to do is continue to make them move back and forth between the 2 voices until their body gets used to the idea of having to transition and the body figures out a way to start blending between the two voices instead of cracking between the two.
And yes, this will happen. Many times much quicker than you think it will. Make sure the student realizes that there is no shame in cracking. The body is just trying to figure out how to blend or “mix” the 2 voices.
And yes, using the right vowel, consonant and scale pattern and doing the exercise at the right tempo will definitely help, but as long as the pitch range of the exercise forces the student to move between their low and high voice they will improve and eventually find the balance!
Video Coming Soon!
I will be sending out a short video that will explain this concept in more depth as well. Also, remember that there are MANY videos on the IVTOM website you can access which talk about, explain and demonstrate many wonderful teaching ideas.
Here is a good one that explains and simplifies the process of helping a student get their voice in balance: https://vimeo.com/160301632
The password to watch it is mixsinging.
Also, consider going to ivtom.org/ Training/ Education Modules/ Teaching Good Singing and then scrolling down to be able to access all of the IVTOM videosin a context relating to different topics.
It is an easy way to find a video that addresses something you may specifically be looking for.
Keep Singing. Dean Kaelin