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A guide for teaching singing to adolescent boys
This poses many challenges when trying to put on performance work as ensembles can be left sounding female heavy and shows are produced with girls playing male parts. I know just how hard it can be to engage teenage boys into singing and the arts. ensembles and classes full of willing girls with very few if any boys wanting to participate in anything singing or theatre related.Introduction As a Musical Director and leader of theatre groups for over 6 years and a performer for 10. As a teacher you are constantly faced with choirs. In this booklet I have tried to address the key issues of this vocal change and provided key information on how to care for and nurture the boys through their change safely and productively. Over the last few years I have worked at trying to engage more teenage boys into singing and this booklet provides a summary of my research and experiences and also provides helpful advice and guidance from engaging boys. . keeping their interest and most importantly helping them improve safely! Teaching boys around their early teenage years is a daunting prospect for even an accomplished singing teacher with their voice being so fragile as it advances through the changes associated with puberty.
Dealing With The Change . The Challenges . Cambiata .How to effectively warm up for singing 8.The Cambiata system of classiﬁcation for boys going through the vocal change . The Vocal Change . Warm Up .What Happens to the voice during the vocal change? 5.Contents 1.How to deal with the physical problems that come with the vocal change 7.The Problems and Solutions to getting boys involved with singing 3.
By creating events where singing is seen as a competition like choir competitions. ensembles and theatre groups. All actions and interactions are then questioned to make sure that the perception from peers is good and that they are not embarrassing themselves. These are some of the common perceptions of singing by young boys and are part of the reason for the lack of participation in singing related activities. Embracing the competition and team spirit attributes of sporting activities we can then promote this within choirs. By making sure that your classes do not clash with any other activities like sports clubs etc you are then opening up the opportunity for more boys to potentially join.E. As boys grow up. Singing is a very personal and exposing act for everyone not just young boys. Boys generally embrace that their voice will drop or has dropped in pitch so when they sing and they then have to take their pitch into higher register this then sounds like a girls voice and together with the higher participation of girls in singing activities this is the reason for the common use of the phrase ‘singing is for girls’. with these two things in mind you can then tailor your classes to be more inviting to boys. What is also key in sport is the promotion of team spirit and working together. there can then be something gained from joining one of these groups and if any achievement within these groups is then widely promoted to their peers it becomes a more inviting prospect to join in! It is extremely important to try to use the competition tool within an ensemble rather than individual singers as ﬁghting to be the best in the group is destructive for the individual but also the group dynamic as well! 1 . What is important to note about the psychology of sport is the competition aspect of the game. Emotions and feelings suddenly become something to hide for fear or ridicule from peers. move schools try to ﬁt in with new friendships they naturally feel they need to also ﬁnd their masculinity and start questioning what this means to them.Singing Is Gay! Singing Is Uncool! Singing Is For Girls! I Can’t Sing! Masculinity and Singing The Challenges Im sure at some point in the past you have heard a young boy say one of the above phrases or something similar. theatre festivals or inter school talent competitions. Boys play football. Teenage boys especially love competition as they compete each day to become more respected by their peers and this psychology is especially relevant in sports where the aim is to win someone else.. Finding a male role model in your staff or even in the students themselves can be a very useful tool to changing boys opinions on singing! If you know there is a male staff member who can give it some on karaoke or genuinely has singing talent.. for boys who are trying to ﬁt in and embrace their new masculinity the act of singing is very exposing and leaves them open to ridicule and failure..Not Sing in Choir Competing with the P. however.. try to promote them at every opportunity and get them to promote singing activities themselves. Department who offer boys masculine activities like football and other sports can be a difﬁcult rival to face...
they can build on this conﬁdence knowing how to improve and what obstacles they have already achieved. We talk about vocal technique later in the booklet however by making sure the singer understands what they need to do and what they are doing right. Singing Is Uncool For many teenage boys choirs. Rock of Ages. With the rise of popular shows like Xfactor. It is of upmost importance in a singing practice room to be positive. There is a very simple solution to this problem and that is modernising your projects and curriculum. With musicals in particular the modern shows like We Will Rock You. Over my career I have heard so many stories from unconﬁdent singers who tell me that they were once knocked back by a negative comment from a teacher or peer and this has stayed with them and held them back. could have a personal impact on the pupil that could affect them for the rest of their life. however. The key is promoting the material! In schools try creating an exciting assembly perhaps showing clips from the show or number you are going to do and get the assembly hall laughing and genuinely interested in the project. Nurturing singing conﬁdence is a challenge for singing teachers. Getting older boys to assist with the younger students could persuade them to start singing if they see their older peers doing it too. The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent. Adolescent boys need role-models especially if their singing teacher is female. musical theatre and singing lessons are seen as something that doesn’t appeal to them because the choirs just sing ‘church songs’ and musicals are all about dancing and are really old school. you then have the platform to build performance conﬁdence for public performances to outside audiences. A good tip would be to try and stage a number or an ensemble with some of the teachers and with a focus on some of the more well loved and respected male staff to show the boys that it is ok to sing or perform. Getting male staff involved I understand could be a challenge however by hook or by crook try to involve them in creating interest in the show or ensemble even if they do not want to be directly involved. through promoting good vocal technique and managing each singers journey carefully it can certainly be achieved. As an educator it is vitally important that the feedback and instruction you give is constructive rather than negative as even the smallest negative comment that you feel was nothing. the nation now is accustomed to watching these talent shows and making their own judgments about people singing voices and are very much aware of the criticism that can come from singing in public. By taking ownership of the rehearsal room and creating a supportive environment where each individual supports everyone and feels comfortable singing within the ensemble and to the group. Rent and American Idiot have some amazingly fun and exciting numbers that have great opportunities for teenage boys and the main aim is to tell them about how much fun they can have! Choirs should try to avoid classic repertoire as there is some fantastic arrangements of modern songs that adolescent boys boys will love available online and from good music retailers.But I Can’t Sing! This is a common problem for not just young boys but for a large majority of people when it comes to participating in singing activities. Once the embraced phase is over for a singer the next step is to build and maintain a conﬁdence in their abilities. 2 . As human beings we are very sensitive about our feelings and this is especially evident in teenage boys who would see the risk of embarrassing themselves in public as too great a risk so would rather not put themselves in the situation in the ﬁrst place.
Voice Anatomy It would be difﬁcult to give you the speciﬁc details of vocal technique in such a small booklet however the next sections aim to give you some basic exercises speciﬁcally targeted for use with boys at this time. There is no one way to deal with a boy going through this vocal change as each experience is completely individual. From the age of 11/12 many things happen to the voice during puberty and the affects are different for every voice. Nasal.The Vocal Change A Fragile Time The vocal change is a fragile time for young males with the onset of puberty having a big effect on many aspects of their life but especially in the voice. however armed with the knowledge of what is physically happening at this time you can help guide your students through the change safely and productively. ! 3 . For more detailed information about the voice anatomy and singing technique please refer to materials such as Singing and The Actor By Gyllianne Kayes which is based around the Jo Estill Singing model. In its simplest form the process of singing is as follows: • The Diaphragm expands to allow air into the lungs • The Diaphragm then contracts pushing air back up the trachea (windpipe) towards the larynx • The larynx positions itself as Air passes through the vocal folds causing them to vibrate • The Vibrations from the vocal folds then resonate in the resonating spaces (Oral. Many singing teachers avoid teaching boys when they are going through the vocal change for fear of damaging the voice and lack of understanding of what is happening. These are all very common and natural processes as the muscles that form vocal production are growing and expanding like any other muscle in the body. Chest) • The Tongue and lips then create the diction and words It is important for anyone teaching singing to understand this process and try and promote the physical action of singing to their students so they understand how they are making the sound. At the time of the vocal change it is more important than ever to promote good singing technique and to provide students with the tools and support they need to go through this transition safely. Through this time many boys will experience what people can describe as a crack or a breaking voice with uncontrolled pitch changes and ultimately a substantial drop in speaking pitch.
(Ritze.. This pitch change is caused by the disproportionate growth of the larynx mainly in the thyroid cartilage which then causes a protruding adams apple. The obvious observation of what happens during puberty to the voice is the dramatic lowering of pitch. This is basically the muscles that sit behind the vocal folds and provide support to the folds to keep them in place. You should use the phrase the Vocal Change which promotes the fact that the voice is changing and developing rather than breaking which is a very negative description and worrying for a young boy experiencing this change. NATS Journal. and pitch drops.What Happens To The Voice During The Change? Firstly it is important to note that describing the changes in the voice as breaking or cracking is a complete misunderstanding of what is happening and promotes the wrong idea to students. when higher levels of testosterone force it to grow during puberty. Ingo R. Another problem that boys face during puberty is the increase in the bulk of the thyroartytenoid muscle. Jaunary/February 1993) Thyroartytenoid Muscle Grows 4 . With the thyroid cartilage playing such a vital part of voice production. the vocal folds then are forced to expand to a rectangular wedge shape which then allows more closure of the vocal fold causing more vibrations and resulting in a richer deeper sound. It is during this time that boys are more likely to experience problems with pitch as the muscles and structures are trying to grow and are very unstable as they do so. With the shape of the vocal folds changing. The thyroid cartilage surrounds the vocal folds and plays a big part in the production of sound as the vocal folds are connected to this and other cartilage structures that then stretch the folds thinner or bunch them thicker to resonate at different pitches. With an increased thyrartytenoid mass. the vocal folds and the other supporting mechanisms of the voice then have to speed up their growth to match the thyroid cartilage. adolescent boys are faced with the challenge of their body trying to develop new muscle patterns to use with this new shape and as this happens the unstable nature of this growth then causes register ﬂicks.
the breathing pattern is often changed too much and this is when problems occur. Breathing is a natural bodily function that we all do every second of every day to survive. What I provide below are some tips on promoting healthy use of the voice at this time and things to look out for and prevent. 5 . the diaphragm will automatically recoil taking in enough air to repeat the process once again Breathing Exercise 1.Dealing With The Change As we have discovered. For boys going through the change with such unstable voices it is even more important to discourage this driven sound so you must promote healthy sustained breathing by using the above exercise and constantly monitor how they are doing in class or rehearsals. 3. By only taking in the right amount of air for the phrase you are removing the excess pressure and allowing the diaphragm to freely provide a ﬂow of air to the larynx. Problems to look out for: • Shouting/Driving the breath . Below are the simple steps to good breathing technique followed by problems to look out for and how to ﬁx them.This is one of the most common problems for breathing technique when singers have had no prior training. the unstable nature of the boys voice and the uncertainty between each individual means that having a general way of teaching adolescent boys through the change is challenging. Once the lungs reach negative pressure and you are running out of air. • Over-breathing . Good breathing should come from the diaphragm and should be monitored when singing to provide the right amount of breath to suit the needs of each verse or phrase. Increase the out breath for longer each time to work the diaphragm and strengthen the muscle to improve vocal stamina and control of the breath. Often the songs are too high for them and they are pushing their range way beyond their abilities. Modern music is constantly pushing boundaries of range and vocal ability and as children listen to their favorite artists and songs they try to copy what they are hearing on the recordings. This often causes people to drive the breath at the sound to try and force the note out ultimately putting way too much pressure on the vocal folds and potentially causing lasting damage. Breathing Breathing is an incredibly important part of all singers technique however it is critically important in adolescent males going through the vocal change. • Breathing In the Chest . Let your abdomen relax as the diaphragm contracts pushing the air out of the lungs back up the trachea towards the larynx where the air is turned into the sound 3.By taking too much air into the lungs you are causing extra pressure in the body and this can cause the sound to be constricted or forced or even not come out.This is the most dangerous of all vocal issues I have come across for boys during the change. Breathe in through the mouth and as you do the abdomen should go out meaning that the diaphragm has allowed the air to enter the lungs 2. 2. By getting students to stand in front of a mirror sideways and watch where the air ﬂow goes you can help them monitor the breath and show them that it should just be their tummy that goes out not their chest. Breathing high in the chest causes pressure to build up near the larynx and does not have the support of the diaphragmatic muscles to control the pressure. 1. Breath in for four counts Hold for Four counts Out for four counts 4. however in singing.
If they do not bring their own try to provide a water fountain or a jug and provide regular breaks for students to have a drink. You should feel a tension in the larynx which is the vocal folds coming into play. Warm Up .Telling adolescent boys to not shout can be a very difﬁcult task with their excitable personalities dominating the playground and shouting during sports games etc. Drink Water . On long days before a performance etc. 2. The below exercise helps you feel the false vocal folds and when they are constricted and how to abduct them to allow an unconstricted sound. Try to make rehearsals short and manageable with plenty of breaks.This seems like a simple obvious point however it is one that is often overlooked. Slowly start to remove the sound from your laugh until it is silent.Warming up efﬁciently and safely is the key to having a safe and healthy rehearsal and we shall talk more about the warm up in the next section. Try to Pull up. Vocal health is often common sense and simple every day actions that we take for granted but are extremely necessary for singers especially young boys who need to monitor their fragile growth. 5. Avoid singing or talking if there is a problem . Flavored water and ﬁzzy drinks are not suitable for the rehearsal room as the ﬂavoring can be sticky or dry up the larynx. If the problem persists they should seek medical advice. When we laugh or are happy the false vocal folds naturally retract to the side of the thyroid. When they are constricted and adducted. Try laughing to yourself.Singing for long periods of time without a rest is harmful to the voice as it could damage and overwork the vocal folds causing them to dry up and scratch. 2. air gets trapped as it hits them and causes a strained sound. 3. scratchy or they are loosing their voice. Avoid singing for long periods of time . You should still be keeping the open feel in the larynx. they should immediately stop singing. 1. This is the safe and fun way to promote retraction to young students and by telling them to smile and giggle through a song will open up the false vocal folds safely. The easiest way to abduct the vocal folds is an exercise called the silent laugh. let the students vocally mark the performance or be on voice rest in between each run to allow the vocal folds to rest.If anyone is feeling that their voice is not like it should be. You should feel the space in the larynx open up. Avoid Shouting . During singing the false vocal folds should be retracted and abducted to the sides of the thyroid to allow air to freely pass through the larynx. Water is important in vocal production as it provides hydration and lubrication to the vocal folds so they can meet safely and not scratch if dried out.Vocal Health Promoting vocal health is a must for all singers but especially in adolescent boys. 4. 6 . 1. For boys going through the vocal change it is especially important to stop singing as continuing to sing through the pain could be causing permanent damage that could last for their entire life as the muscles are growing and settling into place. Make sure that students are bringing bottles of water to the rehearsals and are constantly drinking throughout. Retraction Above the vocal folds are the false vocal folds which are there to protect the larynx but can get in the way when we are singing. Sit on a chair and place your hands underneath the sides of the chair. This strain and extra pressure is particularly dangerous for an adolescent boy as the trapped sound causes pressure on the true vocal folds. You should try your best to discourage shouting as shouting unsafely provides too much pressure to the vocal folds causing them to meet too harshly. stop talking if possible and go on complete voice rest until the voice is better again.
shhh. Body Singing involves the whole body and all tensions should be released before any vocalisation.g. eh-oh. Za. (Hips and neck should be centered) • Unlock the knees • Silent Cheer (This removes constriction from the false vocal folds and should be considered throughout) Breathing Breathing and vocalising on sounds is the key to warming up the voice throughly. hh. • Siren on Sing (This engages the vocal folds to control their transition through pitch) • Lip & Tongue Trills . Twang. 7 . Many warm up books and singing teachers will start straight away with scales or range exercises. Opera etc. • Tongue Twisters (These engage the lips and the tongue where diction is mostly created. Zu (Chest Resonator/Sob) • Nye Nye Nye. Not only does this engage the diaphragm correctly but allows the airﬂow and the sounds to gently start resonating the vocal folds at more sustained frequencies.The Warm-Up Why Warm Up? ! Warming up the voice is incredibly important because the vocal folds and singing mechanisms are muscles like any other and you wouldn't start a marathon without warming up your body so you shouldn't start a singing rehearsal without effectively warming up the vocal muscles before. Belt. Zo. fff. (Nasal Resonator/Twang) • Yeah Yeah Yeah. sgsh Voiced Sounds (These start to engage the voice at speaking pitch with the vocal folds resonating for longer than • when in conversation. (Oral Resonator/Speech) • AEIOU Breathing exercise (Engages the diaphragm and works on breathing stamina) Introducing Range At this point it is important to start introducing a wider range but safely and gently with sounds and light breaths to avoid driving too much air in the higher range. Speech/ Twang Mix.Full Range Slides and Octave Slides (Trills add gentle sound to the breath to gently engage the vocal folds at different resonating levels) • 5ths on vowel sounds (Adding full voice to the range for the ﬁrst time without taking it too high) Diction Diction is extremely important so it is important to engage the tongue and the lips correctly. • Arpeggios On Vowels/Pepperoni & Mozzarella for diction • Yee Octave Slides (Yee in a cry quality allows the voice to travel through the octave slowly through each resonating frequency requiring control of the muscles) Speciﬁc Exercises! At this point you should warm up for any speciﬁc qualities you will be using after the warm up. these are wonderful and can be used to engage students however they must be used after the voice has been used properly so that range can be extended safely. • Start with some light stretches to release tension especially in the neck and shoulders. E. Voice Check Finally make sure that your voice is throughly warm by checking that your siren moves through the range cleanly and smoothly. • Unvoiced Sounds (These engage the diaphragm and provide a gentle ﬂow of air to the vocal folds) • Basic Breathing. Ta to Tu Te Etc (Encourage diction within singing) Range Now that the breath is engaged and the vocal chords are vibrating safely it is safe to extend on the range work with more full voice exercises. Jazz. Ze. Also each sound is designed to engage a speciﬁc resonating space. Below is a warm up that is speciﬁcally stuttered to steadily warm up the voice effectively as well as extending upon technique and promoting good vocal health. It is important to swap tongue twisters occasionally) • 5ths on T sounds. • Align the spine and make sure posture is correct. • Ze. s. vvv.
Often these boys are just placed with the baritone voices which can be too low for them at the start of their vocal change. Research by the author John Cooksey in America revealed that there should be middle stages for these boys called the cambiata stages.com 8 . This is where music is orchestrated around speciﬁc ranges that ﬁt for the middle voices between a young unchanged voice and a new baritone voice. make it an informal light hearted occasion where you are informing them of their current capabilities or why they are moving between classiﬁcations. Cambiata Ranges Stage Treble Midvoice I / Cambiata 1 Midvoice II / Cambiata 2 New Baritone Emerging Adult Voice Average Age 11-12 11-12 12-13 13-15+ 14-15+ Comfortable Singing Range C#4-A#4 B3-G4 F3-A4 D#3-A#4 B2-G#3 Mean Ranges For Singing A3-F5 A3-C5 G#3-F4 B2-D#4 G2-D4 The above table was compiled from works by John Cooksey (1999) and Martin Ashley (2008) Before undertaking a project you should create a scenario where you are able to test where each students voice at the beginning of working with them so you can then closely monitor its development through the stages and place them in the right category.cambiatapress. You can have a wonderful soprano boy who sings beautifully and the week after he has dropped in pitch causing much headache for the choral director. Try not to make listening to their voices an audition scenario as this could put boys of starting altogether.Cambiata Pitching it Right Choral directors for years have struggled to place young boys going through the vocal change into choral arrangements. Material for Cambiata Cambiata material has now become more widely available for choirs and a good resource is: www. You should explain to the student what each category means and support them as they move between them as often it can be a confusing time as sometimes the move between the stages can be very swift in some voices. Below are the details of the cambiata system and the stages that a changing voice will go through.
co. Gillyanne 1999 2004 Author TJ Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank You This booklet Was designed with promoting vocal health in adolescent boys and dealing with the issue of the lack of knowledge about he vocal change. References Ashley. Kayes. Martin 2008 Cooksey. 2009 Ashley. Martin How high should boys sing? : Gender.com/tjtaylor Published 2013 . John M.uk http://tjtaylo3. authenticity and credibility in the young male voice Teaching singing to boys and teenagers : the young male voice and the problem of masculinity Working with Adolescent Voices Singing and the Actor : Second Edition Ashgate Publishing The Edward Mellen Press Concordia Publishing House A &C Black Pulishers Ltd. I hope you have found it extremely informative and if you would like any more information on this area please refer to the below references or feel free to contact me through the email below for more advice or to send in comments or questions about information within.