Anticipatory Set/Hook Play a variety of different (good) vocal artists including opera, musical theatre, pop artists, jazz singers etc.
Step 1: Ask the class what they noticed and liked about each of the singers. Tell them that the one thing they all have in common is good vocal technique. Ask them if they’ve ever blown their voice out at a football game or a rock concert. How did it feel? Tell them that good vocal technique is used more than for simply singing but can help us in numerous situations.
Step 2: Breathing. Have the class do a quick breathing exercise by lying down on their backs with their feet flat on the floor and their knees bent. Have them relax and just focus on breathing. Ask them where their breath is initiating. Have them focus on putting their breath down low so it feels like they are filling up their pelvis with air. They can also use the image of breathing into their belt buckle. Get them to try to not let their shoulders or their chest move but to get the air straight from the pelvis. Explain that there is a muscle beneath the lungs that helps to initiate correct breathing called the diaphragm. Explain that all vocal sound begins with the breath.
Step 3: Posture. Have them sit up while you turn sideways and demonstrate some different (correct and incorrect) singing postures. Have a student come up to the board and draw a line that represents what your body looks like in each posture. Ask them if they can tell which posture looks correct. Why? Which one would give the air the easiest and most direct line to your vocal chords and out your mouth?
Step 4: Vocal mechanism. Explain that the air travels up your trachea until reaches the vocal folds or vocal chords which are protected by the larynx (voice box) which is made of cartilage. The chords themselves are two infoldings of mucus membrane located just above the trachea. The air rushes in between these folds (chords) causing them to vibrate thus producing a sound. The sound then continues up the through the pharynx which acts as a passageway to the mouth.
Step 5: Resonance. Resonance is how and where the sound vibrates. Have them sing a note and plug their nose. If the sound stops they were resonating in their nasal cavity. Have them try to produce a note that resonates somewhere else. Have them do an imploded “K” (or make a Darth Vader sound) Ask them if they felt anything happening in the back of their throat. Explain to them that this is the soft palate lifting. In singing, having a raised soft palate helps to create more space in the back of their throat and helps create a more open resonance.
Step 6: Diction. Explain that once the air reaches the mouth, the sound must be shaped. This is done by a number of parts. Have them try out the different sounds first before you give them the correct names and see if they can tell what parts of the mouth are involved in the production of that sound. Hard Palate- Directly in front of the soft palate is the hard palate. Sounds that are made using the hard palate are called palatal consonants. They are made when the tongue rests on or close to the hard palate. These include “y”, “sh”, “k” etc. Alveolar Ridge- The alveolar ridge is located between the hard palate and the teeth and refers to the sockets of the upper teeth. Sounds that are made using the alveolar ridge are called alveolar consonants. These include “n”, “t”, “d” etc. Teeth- Sounds that use the teeth are called dental sounds. They include “th” as in “this” and “th” as in “thing”. Lips- sounds that use the lips are referred to as labial consonants such as “m”, “v” etc. Be sure to point out that most sounds use more than one of these parts to create a sound. When this is the case the, two names are put together to form a longer one such as labial-dental (using the teeth and the lips i.e. “v”). See how good the class is at labeling the different sounds. You can also give them some tongue twisters to illustrate how important these parts of the mouth are to distinguishing sound.
Step 7: Teach the students a song that acts as a review of the basic vocal processes (see supplements) and have them perform it as a class, in small groups or as solos depending on time.