Friday, 20 February 2009


This is a way of getting reluctant singers, especially young children, to activate their vocal cords. First you need to get them humming. If you anticipate resistance even here then break the ice by treating them to your impression of a refrigerator and ask them to name them the familiar household item you are pretending to be. Obviously, if they are unfamiliar with fridges you'll have to think of something else. Before you head off down a tangent, invite them to try their own refrigerator impression.

By now everyone should be humming. Try getting them to explore the tingling feeling in their lips. If they can't feel any tingling ask them to smile and, at the same time, hold their lips together less tightly, so they are just touching. Now see if they can move the sound up into their nose for a more nasal tone. And down into their throat – is it less buzzy on the lips down there? Humming at a higher pitch can help bring the sound into the head, a lower pitch can bring it naturally into the chest.

All this, useful as it is, is just to distract them so they are willing to attempt the next step. By now they should be happy to copy whatever you are doing. As you hum and smile, let your lips part for a moment, making a mummmm sound. Repeat this action: mum-mum-mum and so on, on a single out-breath. If your students are copying you then they are singing. Before you share the fact with, try the following escalation.

Instead of just opening your mouth slightly to make a mum sound, make longer mah-mmah-mmah sounds. The mouth should alternate between open and shut in a steady and even rhythm. Make a big show of opening your mouth wide and closing it again. Your students will naturally copy this, some more emphatically than others, and now you can tell them what wonderful singers they are. A simple song for them to sing would be a good way of consolidating your gains at this point.

Don't dwell on any stage of this activity. As soon as you think they are getting it move on quickly. Time in which to become self-conscious will be stop the flow and scupper your efforts.

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