Introduction to different styles of Singing


Beginning Musical Theater


Materials Needed:

Images, Video of Jason Brown, Video of Kristin Chenoweth.


Educational Objective:

Students will demonstrate their understanding of the importance of healthy singing by participating in a class discussion.



When students enter the classroom show images of Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan and Idina Menzel and ask the students if they know who each of these people are? Then ask them what do they all have in common? Have a conversation with the students about the fact that each of these are all respected genius’ within their given fields. As you discuss read the following description of why Michael Phelps can swim so fast.
“What sets Michael Phelps above even those genetic geniuses is a unique endowment; he was born with a body that makes him a nearly perfect swimming machine. Not only is he 6 feet 4 inches with 195 lbs perfectly distributed on a classic swimmer’s build – broad shoulders and slim hips. His unusually long torso and short legs are perfect for impeccable balance and minimal resistance, while his wingspan of 6 feet 7 inches gives him unusually long levers for holding onto the water as he strokes. And then there are his size 14 feet and hyper flexibility that gives him a range of motion that provides tremendous propulsive efficiency. Finally, he has demonstrated, virtually from his first laps at age 7, a natural relationship with the water. While “feel for the water” – a natural instinct for finding just the right positions in which to slink through the water and work with it effectively – cannot be measured, Phelps just has it.” (


Step 1: Discussion/Transition:

Tell the students you have one more person to show them and show a brief clip from the ice skater video. Ask how does this relate to singing and performing? Not everyone has the ability to sing a belt in chest voice above a high E and not even break a sweat like Idina Menzel. If you don’t know what I am talking about think through the notes in Defying Gravity. Explain that through training it is possible but the problem is, especially with young singers we hear a song on the radio or a Broadway show and try to force our bodies to sound like the particular singer. Why would we want to do that?
Talk with students about the importance of finding your own voice, it is distinct to you and only you can sound like you. Explain that I am not a vocal coach, and although I have had training the purpose of this unit is not for me to attempt to be a vocal coach but rather to help teach some basic singing principles in order to protect your voice. Ask if anyone can guess what age men are before their voice matures? (33 years old) Then ask what they think a females age is? (28 years old) Talk with them about the fact that the most important thing for students to do now is to practice good habits. Ask why they think that is important?


Step 2: Discussion/Practice-

Ask for a volunteer to come up to the board to write, then ask students what are some different styles of singing they have heard of? (i.e. Belt, Mix, Pop, Jazz, Classical/Legit, Opera) and ask them to describe what each of these styles sound like, also ask that if they have an example from their ipod to share and explain what style of singing is in the song.
Then share with them the song 14G by Kristin Chenoweth and ask for them to take notes in their head about what different styles of singing they are hearing. After the video ask what styles of singing did they hear and what defines that style of singing? Talk about performance too.


Step 3:Transition-

Ask when they think of a musical theater sound what do they think of? (i.e. bright sounds) Tell the students that in this unit we will mostly be focusing on good habits for belt and mix singing. Ask for four volunteers to read the following and as you hand each of the papers out explain the following about singing belt…. Ask the students to read them and discuss the ideas at the end of each quote.
1) Many classically trained singers who now teach were taught that belting was automatically injurious to the vocal folds (cords). This is based on a lack of accurate understanding and experience. ANY use of the voice has the potential for harm. There is no right or wrong, but which sounds can you sustain for long periods and which are more fatiguing? ALL sounds are on the table but pacing, pacing, pacing!
2) Any kind of squeezing, pushing, forcing, yelling, and extreme nasality in belting can lead to both musical and vocal health problems over time. The sound should be free, easy and comfortable, and the vocalist should also be able to sing softly in most pitches without undue effort. If it is pushed, that’s not belting, that’s just pushing. If it is yelling, that’s not belting, that’s just yelling. If you can’t sing a range of dynamics, that’s not belt either.
3) The face, neck, head and body should be in harmony and look comfortable in a belt sound, although the louder, higher sounds will require more activity on the part of the vocalist in order to be done correctly. It all works holistically and organically with the entire body. It’s not isolated in the throat. “Activity” does not necessarily mean tension or work.
4) General advice: if it feels good, and sounds good, and does the job over and over, it probably is good. If it feels bad and sounds good, be suspicious. If it feels good but sounds bad, something is not working correctly, and if it feels bad and sounds bad, it is bad and should be stopped. This is true in any style of music. It should be exciting to hear and exciting to sing in this way. If you’re uncomfortable as a singer, so are we as an audience. We don’t want to hear technique, we want to hear story and expression and emotion. We can’t do that if your technique (or lack thereof) makes us feel uncomfortable.


Step 4: Assessment-

Explain that we have spent this first lesson going over the first principle of singing…Awareness. Ask the students to each share one thing that they learned from the lesson about awareness and singing.