How to Get Children to Sing out without Them Yelling (Part 1)

Many children’s choirs often have one of two sounds, and those sounds are not pleasant. The problem sounds are not unique to children’s choirs. I have heard them in concerts of singers of all ages. But they are very noticeable in children’s choirs. The choirs either cannot be heard at all (under-producing), or they are almost screaming (over-producing).

If a choir under-produces sound, the concert will have several characteristics:

  • The singer’s voices will sound breathy and weak.
  • The performance will be so quiet the audience cannot really hear what is being sung.
  • The performance will be boring because everything is quiet. There is no contrast in the loudness or quietness of the sound.

Choir directors, in order to avoid a small, wimpy sound, often tell their choirs to sing “louder.”  The result is a choir that over-produces. If a choir pushes the sound too hard, several things will begin to happen:

  • The singer’s voices will sound pinched and forced.
  • The choir will tire themselves by the end of the concert. The concert starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.
  • The choir will sing out of tune, particularly by the end of the concert.
  • The performance will be boring because everything is loud. There is no contrast.

Balance is important in life, but choral directors should not be looking for some balance between these two sounds. This is what we call the fallacy of the false dilemma. There is a third option. Choirs need to be trained how to sing loudly and softly in a healthy way that can be heard by the audience.

Learning how to produce healthy “louds” and “softs” is not intuitive. If it was, everyone would do it all the time. This is highly apparent when people are singing. Nevertheless, it can be learned.

There are three major ways that I teach my choirs to healthily project sound:

  1. Healthy breathing technique
  2. Singing with a raised soft palate
  3. The image of distance

We’ll go over these three techniques in a later post.

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