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Vocal Exploration to Match Pitch

by Shannon McGuire McGuire.Shannon@MacPhail.org

Children signing carolsSinging is extremely personal. It is important for the educator to have an open mind to provide encouragement in a gentle and kind manner, which will encourage the human voice to match pitch. It is definitely OK to be honest when the student does not match a specific pitch. Each singer needs to know what it feels like and sounds like to sing on and off pitch.

The following are Strategies I use to guide the human voice to match pitch. These are successful strategies that work with all ages. It is beneficial for the teacher to model the strategies before having the student sing. When modeling with elementary age students it is best to refrain from using the adult full vibrato. This can confuse the ear, making it more difficult to hear the correct pitch.

1. Sirens – make sounds like an ambulance, police car, tornado warning etc.Use any vowels that lend themselves to really open the voice, open vowels.Closed vowels tend to constrict the voice which can cause tension.

a. Call attention to the vibrational feelings. This can take singers hours, days, or weeks to figure out what the educator is asking them to feel. Patience is key. Every voice is on its own time line.

2. Singer makes the sounds first, and then the educator (or another student singer) matches the sounds the student is creating. Once you have established matching your students’ voice, ask them to move with you up or down. Use your finger up and down for a visual while you make sounds together moving in and upward or downward motion.

a. Be aware that students may change back and forth from their speaking voice to singing voice. Also, some will stay in their speaking voice until the ear catches up to recognizing the difference between singing and speaking. Go slow. This process cannot be hurried.

3. Rollercoaster –  Pretend you’re in a roller coaster getting ready for a big ride. Make all the sounds a roller coaster makes or people on the ride make. i.e. the clicking(chk chk chk ) sounds climbing to the top, to oh’s and ah’s. Also, be sure to incorporate arm and body motions that reflect up and down movements.

4. Solfege and Curwin Hand signs – Place DO hand sign right around the belly button, out in front of the body. Move hands upward for each pitch till you reach DO1 parallel to the forehead. This physically identifies up, and down melodic movement which is necessary to matching pitch with more success.

a. Once your students are singing Solfege and using hand signs efficiently, invite them to sing various ascending descending patterns, steps, skips, arpeggios etc.

5. Yawn-Sigh – Begin with a high pitched sound, yawn and move downward on an open vowel sigh.

6. Character Voices – Have students echo the teacher. Whisper Voice, Talking Voice, Calling Voice, Recess Voice, Singing Voice, Football voice, Tea time voice, Greeting Voice, Good-bye Voice.... Be creative using the full range of the voice and the various character qualities we hear daily or in the movies.

7. Pictures – Draw squiggly lines or arches on the board. Have students trace in the air singing open vowel shaped sounds high and low. Post Art Work that has melodic movement, earth elements, cars, people talking etc. Have students imitate what they see in the picture.

Photo credit: Children Singing Carols by Nick Webb via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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