Free vocal sheet music, because it's almost sure to happen -- if you teach piano, guitar, or sing yourself, eventually someone will ask if you will teach their child voice. If you ever relent and take on a student, people will never stop asking!
Duets and Ensembles
Hymns, Anthems,and Christmas Songs
America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
America the Beautiful
Angels We Have Heard On High in 6 Different Keys
Away in a Manger
Be Thou My Vision
Christ Was Born On Christmas Day
Come, Ye Sinners (I Will Arise and Go to Jesus)
Ding Dong Merrily On High
Donum Maximus, a 24-page Mass
Entre le boeuf (Between the Ox and Donkey)
To: Gabrielle, Address: Heaven
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
He is Born (Il est ne)
I'll Fly Away
Holly and the Ivy
Lo, I Bring You Tidings
Masters In This Hall
O Holy Night
On Christmas Night (Sussex Carol)
Sing We Noel
Softly and Tenderly
Up On the Housetop
We Three Kings
What Wondrous Love
What Wondrous Love for Four Parts
When He Cometh
Vocal Exercises & Teaching Tips
Yes, people will want voice lessons for themselves or their children. And that's a good thing...unless you feel unprepared. But in a small town where one, two, or three piano teachers may be the only live culture going, it is worth it to go out on a limb, psychologically, and learn how to teach beginning voice (while you improve your own technique, of course). You'll certainly need vocal books and the audio examples which can, fortunately, be found on Youtube these days, but you can get started without them if you have free vocal sheet music.
If you are a musician who feels the drama inherent in a phrase of music, you can communicate that drama to others. If you have sung in a good choir, taken vocal lessons yourself, continue to listen to good singing, and have the discipline to keep improving your own voice, then teaching voice is something you can do!
For a young beginner, voice lessons are exciting, and also perhaps a little scary. Even for an older beginner, voice lessons mean putting the ego on the line. There may be a lot of just-above-a-whisper singing at first... the very opposite of the heartiness that a singer needs to throw into their part? In fact, even older beginners such as adults can be VERY shy. Their lips may tremble and their hearts pound when they first start singing with you.
But that's okay -- they signed up for voice lessons for a reason. They love music, and they want to know how to make music more effectively. To put them at their ease, I do a lot of singing along WITH them during their lessons (when they are first starting out), especially during vocalises. (And that gives me an opportunity to exercise my voice, too.) The louder I sing, the louder they will sing. I let them know that I think they are very brave to sing in front of me, or anyone, and I tell them that not many people have that kind of courage!
When I hear off-key notes or other funny sounds the first lesson, I never, ever pounce,or act like something is wrong. They need to get to know me and trust me, and to trust that I believe they have the ability to sing.
People can develop a lot of funny habits when they sing, and they rarely hear themselves. Sometimes the habits are visual -- they pull their mouth sideways a little (very common) or raise their eyebrows with tension. Little by little -- not all at once -- you can point out corrections they need to make.
It's best to think in a holistic manner about singing; instead of trying to fix every little thing you notice, try to promote healthy and good habits. When they learn what to listen for,they will start correcting themselves more and more. And they will start to notice the technique of other singers, too. "Wow, you could sure hear her take a breath," or, "She really drops her jaw when she goes up high."
Primarily, as a vocal teacher, you want to be like a doctor: "First, do no harm!" Don't let your students shout like Annie singing "Tomorrow." If you don't understand "belting," stay away from it. Don't force young voices to sing loudly -- volume will come by-and-by, with confidence and an understanding of focus.
If they don't already have a natural-sounding vibrato in their voice, don't worry about encouraging vibrato until they have good habits in hand. What do I mean, good habits?
Well, take the case of Miss Prima Donna.
Occasionally you will start a singer who has been imitating pop stars all her young life. For years, perhaps, people have been fawning over her, saying nice things about her voice. She has really come for lessons not to learn vocal basics, but for the opportunity to show off her style at recitals and other venues. She sees you not really as her teacher, but as her booking agent. And she may have real talent, and a very appealing voice!
But this girl may have cultivated an uncontrolled vibrato that will keep her from blending well in choral groups. She probably scoops and dips with her voice, and is apparently unable to meet a note head-on without sliding up to it. She may want to wiggle her body instead of standing in a relaxed but poised posture.
It is your job to break her of all those bad habits and teach her simple, basic classical style. That will almost certainly sound like NO FUN to this girl.
Assure her that she can always pick up those different styles of singing, whether gospel,rock, or country, later! First she needs to learn to really hear herself and know what a straight style is.
She needs to learn how to breathe, how to phrase, how to articulate words so people can understand her, how to keep energy in her vocal lines...
She, along with all students, needs to learn these basics of Singing 101, and she won't get these basics by singing along with her iPod (kids' and even adults' preferred warm-up and practice approach).
I make it my mission to find for students music they will love, but I make the exception when they ask for rock music. "Very hard," I tell both voice and piano students. What I really mean is, "A waste of time for you, right now, at this stage in your singing/playing." Not that they can't learn plenty by imitation -- they certainly can and should -- but that is not why they should be at your music studio. I tell them that we will be looking at that style of music BY AND BY.
Many of my voice students began music instruction with private piano lessons, or with a band instrument at school. What a huge advantage for them -- note-reading ability is of great benefit to singers.
"Well, that's obvious," I can hear you saying. "OF COURSE any musician should be a notereader!"
But all musicians are NOT notereaders. And some of them don't care! They will happily pop in a CD or plug themselves into their iPod, or sit at music lessons and listen to you, the teacher, repeat a song section over and over again until they "get" it.
Singers in particular are notorious for this lackadaisacal attitude. Sometimes a person will be blessed with a beautiful or interesting voice, but have no interest in the work required to DO something with his or her talent.
When I say "DO something," I'm not even speaking of going on to a music career... I'm just talking about practical musical skills such as being able to:
Count out the rhythm of a song or choir part without someone's help.
Read the notes of a song or choral part.
Notice the repeats, the "D.C. al fine"s, etc.
Interpret musical phrases, figuring out where to breathe, and how to make the song expressive.
Read enough of the pianist's part -- the accompaniment -- so that they can count and make their entrances correctly!
I tell my voice students that if they can't read music, they will be a drag on any group of which they are a part. That if they CAN read and interpret music intelligently, their future choir directors will bless them for it, and come to rely upon them as an important member of the group.
As a vocal teacher, you need to keep your own voice in shape so you can constantly demonstrate techniques and ways of using the voice. That means you will need to be singing a little bit every day. Maybe you even want a course on singing for yourself to give you the confidence to teach others.
There are lots of great books for singers and teachers, too. Some I've benefited most from are:
Discover Your Voice: How to Develop Healthy Voice Habits by Oren Brown. He was a teacher at Julliard School of Music. The book comes with a CD, but is unfortunately quite expensive -- I paid over $60 for it, several years ago.
The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults: A Manual for Teachers of Singing and for Choir Directors (with accompanying CD of sample vocal faults)" by James C. McKinney was also not cheap -- over $25 -- but it is very worthwhile.
How to Sing by Graham Hewitt is a slim book, right to the point, with lots of exercises. It gives a good overview, and is inexpensive.
The Rock-N-Roll Singer's Survival Manual by Mark Baxter was an interesting read. I bought it with a video of the same name. I was floored by how relaxed Mark Baxter's singing voice sounded. His business is helping people who scream for a living -- rock singers -- get up every day and do it all over again without permanent damage to their voices. He has a DVD by now, which can be found, along with a Q and A forum and lots of good advice, on his website, www.voicelesson.com. There are some older CDs and DVDs, books and VHSs available from a couple named "Beatty" whose company is called "The Vocal Coach." They have many products, and it looks like some of them might be hard to find, but still available -- I found mine new in a homeschool catalog called "Rainbow Resource." Amazon lists quite a few of them, such as Maximum Vocal Performance. One of their CDs about breathing exercises has been very useful to me, and I continue to use some of the exercises.
Another one I like is Singing for Dummies. Yes! There's a lot of information that is obvious in it, as must be the case with all beginning manuals, but there is also much that is very insightful, and advice stated in ways I haven't run across elsewhere. That's helpful, because singing is a funny process...
Words and images are the necessary tools of a voice teacher. And different words will get concepts across to different singers. After all, you can't say, "Press this key and you will hear an 'A.' Pluck these strings and there is your chord." Instead, the body is the instrument.
So, vocal teachers rely on images and words to get their singers' muscles working the right way. Listen in on a voice studio, and you are bound to hear the funniest suggestions: "Hook the sound forward, behind your teeth...Make your jaw heavy, like it's filled with lead and slowly dropping...'Spin' the tone; imagine an orange spinning just beyond your forehead..." And much WEIRDER things than that! Teachers seek to manipulate sound as if it has the kind of physical substance you can touch.
All the voice books mentioned above bear re-reading; they are almost like holding a conversation with a master vocal teacher.
And be sure to check out the many tiny (and frequently contradictory) vocal lessons offered all over Youtube; comparing them can be very instructive. Listen to opera singers.
In future pages, I will share more about starting voice students, and how they can be a very fun addition to your music studio. Recitals are much more interesting when you can mix things up, alternating piano with voice, and maybe guitar. Young girls just love to sing! Voice lessons might be their dream, and you might be the answer to it!
If there is a shortage of voice teachers in your town, AND you have the piano skills to play musicals and classical music (or simplified versions), AND you have some singing background, AND you are willing to educate yourself in your weak areas, then you will be doing your community a wonderful service by taking on voice students. Avail yourself of the free vocal sheet music offered here, and you will be off to a head start.
People love to sing! If you can help them learn, you will make your community a more beautiful place to live.
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