STUDENT RESOURCES:

A Beginners Guide to Voice Lessons

by Jill L. Beram-Liimatta, Music Educator and Music & Arts Lesson Instructor

THE COMPONENTS

The following are major components of written music that students must become familiar with in order to become comfortable with singing from sheet music.

  • THE NOTES: Every note written on sheet music or staff paper corresponds to a key on the voice. The notes on the music will tell you which notes to sing.
  • THE RHYTHMS: Each note will be a certain shape and color. These differences in shape and color dictate how long each note should be held for.
  • THE TIME SIGNATURES: The time signature tells you how many beats are in each measure. This will give you the “feel” for how a piece is to be played.
  • THE DYNAMICS: Communicates volume and intensity of the music being sung.
  • THE TEMPO: How fast or slow the music moves in time.
  • THE INTERPRETATION: A combination of a composer’s written intentions for performance and the vocalist’s technique. Character is often associated with interpretation.
  • THE LANGUAGE: If a piece of music is in a foreign language; teachers will often assist students in the pronunciation. See optional IPA book of choice below.

Tools for Success

Pencils

Pencils are necessary in taking notes to compose notes and helpful reminders for best practices. Your teacher is a trained singer with the insight and skill to instruct. Taking notes increases the likelihood of a student remembering important technical skills. Audio recording devices are often helpful to record critical instructions. Ask your instructor about this practice.

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This device provides steady beats through clicks (tempo can be adjusted to fit your needs) in order to help develop the player’s sense of rhythm and steady beat.

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Whether a beginner or a professional, no vocalist is complete without sheet music. This is the literature from which the singer will learn to read and perform. The student’s teacher will have good judgement as to which pieces are best for study based on age, range, character, style, time period, and content. Selecting age and character appropriate music is the key to growth, vocal health, and technique. Singing music that is not appropriate for one’s own voice can lead to vocal issues such as hoarseness and nodules. See vocal health below.

It is imperative that vocalists read music since many of a composer’s intentions are expressed not only through melody and rhythm; but through dynamics, language, and tempo markings. A well-rounded singer will interpret multiple aspects of sheet music at the same time. Singers should plan to sing from all categories of music including, but not limited to: Broadway, foreign languages, jazz, opera, art songs, pop, and standards.

Supplemental Books - Pronounciation (IPA) (Optional)

Supplemental Book on phonetic alphabet Supplemental Book on diction

Vocal Health

Warming-Up: Just as an athlete trains for a marathon, a singer will train for vocal production. Technical skills that build the instrument (your voice) and the skill (your brain) are advised. Warm-ups are meant to gently stretch the vocal folds and diaphragm mechanisms.

An example of a standard warm-up

The mechanism of breathing

The mechanism of breathing

The mechanism of breathing

Anatomy of the vocal cords

Anatomy of the vocal cords

Posture and good practice habits

Practicing with the correct posture will lead not only to correct acquisition of skills, but a healthy routine as well. Singing with incorrect posture can lead to fatigue and possibly worse, injury!

Practice Time

Make sure the following are met each time before you begin singing:

  • Lean slightly forward with one foot spaced in front of the other so you have balance, intention, and focus.
  • Your head should be straight by using the “Puppet Method.” By gently lifting a hair in the middle-top of your head, as if you were on a puppet string will align your posture instantly.
  • The jaw and tongue remain relaxed and gently loose
  • Keep knees loose and relaxed
  • Shoulders should be down and relaxed at all times. Avoid raising shoulders at inhalation (See diagram of breathing above)
  • Arms and hands should remain loose and relaxed

Practice Log

A practice log is essentially a journal that helps you to keep track of what you practiced, when you practiced, and for how long you practiced. This is not only helpful to the teacher, who will help keep track of your progress, but it will help the vocalist develop a sense of routine and to keep track of what you may need any extra help with. Your instructor will direct you to the number of minutes advised for practice each week.

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