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Voicing Junior High Girls

This is long overdue, but here is the compilation of responses for my query
of voicing Jr. High Girls:
From: "Angela Mitchell" :

Here's a suggestion for seating girls.
I bought a book this summer by John Cooksey called "Working with Adolescent Voices" in it he gives the following suggestion for seating young girls:

1.Sing "My Country.." in C or Bb. Touch the shoulder of the girls with the strongest, most clear voices, who are producing their tones with relative ease. Then have all the girls sing the song in the key of F or G, and again touch the shoulders of the girls who are singing clearly, strongly, and with relative ease but not forcing.

2. Singers who were touched in both keys, may be divided evenly into two sections. Voices that sing with relative ease in only the upper or only the lower keys may be assigned accordingly. The remaining girls with 'weaker' voices may be assingned evenly between the two sections. Note that girl's voices are also changing at this age and are not at all like adult soprano or alto voices.

3. Ask the two goups of girls, one after the other, to sing "My Country" in both keys, Bb and G, and then together in the two keys. Listen for uniformity of tonal quality and balance within and between the groups. There should not be a great difference in quality or volume between the two sections.

Note: I don't work with junior high girls but Sue Gilsdorf my colleague at the Junior High does. She often has the two groups switch off soprano and alto in different peices as long as neither part is too extreme.

From: Mark Munson


I think that the best thing to do with j.h. girls is divide them in half
and let half sing the melody, the other half sing the harmony on your first
piece. Have them switch on the second piece and continue to alternate.
Personally, I am hesitant to name them sopranos or altos even in the tenth
grade! Hopefully the repertoire that you choose for j.h. does not have
extreme ranges in either direction.

About the boys however -- I would do voice checks every three months!

Best wishes.

Mark Munson
College of Musical Arts
Bowling Green State University


From: rhouseh(a) (Richard Householder)

I highly recommend to you a book called "Working With Adolescent Voices" by
John Cooksey. He bases his theory in part on Irwin Cooper's work, and the
final product is not unlike Cooper's. A new, expanded second edition has
just been released this year, and in it he describes the stages of
development of the female changing voice as well as the male changing

The book is published by Concordia Publishing House.

Richard Householder

Prof. Richard Householder
Director of Choral Activities
School of Music Phone: (519) 253-3000, ext. 2797
University of Windsor Fax: (519) 971-3614
Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3P4 e-mail: rhouseh(a)


From: John Howell

I'm not familiar with that method, but I suggest you first figure out what
you want to determine with the girls.

Try it in F. The leap up to C2 should immediately identify those who are
singing in chest voice and cannot bridge up to head. They will be your
altos by default, until you can get them singing in head voice.

Then with the low voices, try the first complete phrase of the Star
Spangled Banner in Ab, giving you a 10th from Ab up to C2. If the low Ab
is solid, try it in Gb or F.

With the high voices, try SSB in Db or Eb, taking them up to F2 or G2.


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034


From: "David Baccadutre"

Girls -
I hear them sing four at a time up in front of the piano so I can lean my
ear in towards them-they are often too embarassed when first enrolled
inchoir to sing by themselves. It can be traumatic and the last thing I
want is a traumatic, negative experience in choir. We go up and back down
thescale 5 notes at a time on "Scoo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo.." I
start an A below middle C. I tell them to sing as high as they can, even
if it
is very airy. Girls who make it to an F (1.5 octaves above middle C) are
altos or 2nd sopranos. I judge this by the timbre of their voices -
particularly the resonance in the lower tones for altos. All those young
women who can sing (even softly) in tune around two octaves above middle C
are sopranos. With 70 girls, this was a 2-day procedure at the beginning
of the year, but it had to be done. This was I could also assess potential
soloists and problems. It seems to work--I balance the numbers and the
sound. I tell my students to come see me before or after class in a couple
of weeks if they feel they are not placed in the correct section.

Some of my middle school girls have more mature voices and better breath
support and projection than some of the beginning high school girls. I've
found a lot of it depends on the elementary music experience.

I teach six choirs a day - remember those 70 mid school girls?--I combine
them with 70 high school girls for a Women's Choir of 140 girls. We've
started on some basic 2-part literature and are slowly moving to three part
harmony. I also have a High School Men's Chorus, 9th & 10th Select Choir,
High School Chamber/Show Choir, Women's Jazz Choir, and a Middle School
Mixed/Show Choir.

So--good luck! Placing the women may be easier than you think.

Denise Baccadutre
Choral Music Instructor
Moriarty Middle and High School
Moriarty, NM


From: Drew Collins

I don't know what you'll think of this, but I had my girls in two groups,
each with the same number of "sopranos"" and "altos." Then, I had them
switch each piece. Sometimes, the group on the left sang the soprano line,
other songs the alto line. The goal was for all girls to connect with
their high voice. I don't know what Cooksey would say, but it worked for
me quite well.

I don't know if this was a help or hindrance, but good luck.


From: LizJayne(a)

May I make a suggestion that will allow the developing voices to later find
their position? All girls of that age need to find their head voice,
and all girls of that age need to learn to read music. If they are
classified and put into either soprano or alto parts exclusively, they will
be handicapped later on.

If you ask them to switch parts regularly, they will be better musicians
later on.

This is not just my idea........ many choral conductors support this. The
one that comes to my mind first is Donald Neuen of UCLA.

That's my 2 cents worth. Good luck.

Nancy Cobb, Conductor
Oklahoma Baptist University Chorale

Hope this helps others who had the same query.

Garrett W. Lathe

Director of Choral Activities
Staples Motley Schools
401 Centennial Lane
Staples, MN 56479
218.894.5411 (voice)
218.894.1828 (fax)

on November 6, 2002 10:00pm
For some reason, my J.H. girls seem very resistant to the switching back and forth approach. I think persistence will pay off,
but do any of you have any tips for dealing with that? (I think it's because most of them want to sing melody all the time, but I have
one or two that just *swear* they're altos.) This is a small-school junior high choir of 17 students (13 girls, 4 boys), and I am the new
director. I do try to call them "Soprano I" and "Soprano II" (rather than alto) when dealing with 3-part mixed arrangements, and it has
helped some, but are there any other tips?
on May 30, 2004 10:00pm
I think the switching method works well at Grade 6, but by the time we get into Grade 7 voices begin to differentiate. This is partly natural, mostly confidence and lack of technique. My girls fall into four broad categories: Confident singers with strong technique and developed headvoices who can often sing everything from high sop to low alto (switch these regularly), confident singers with strong technique and developed head voice who can sing only soprano (switch only when tessitura is not uncomfortable), confident singers with strong technique but not necessarily a developed head voice who can not yet sing high soprano (these need to be encouraged up into their head voices, but gradually, so take care and watch carefully when switching, non confident singers (unlikely to sing anything other than alto and mostly need huge amounts of encouragement). To help students sing "out of their box" I try to make sure that when I am teaching parts everybody learns every part. I also do some unison pieces. Warm ups of course, are the major way of extending ranges and building technique.

By Grade 8 some kids seem to be gravitating towards one voice part or another, but not most, and I still believe the two largest factors are what they have been used to singing and personal confidence. I believe most kids can still switch parts depending on the song.

One thing - you do have to be aware of the ramifications of switching parts when it comes to concerts.

Another things is that you need to take seriously any student who complains of straining or sore or uncomfortable throats.

I regularly record all of my students on microphone (8 mikes recording to computer). This gives me a very quick way of checking vocal health, individual technical problems and of course vocal range and range potential. I'd recommend it to anyone who can get the budget. Ask your parent support organisation to pay for the set up.
on July 14, 2004 10:00pm
what are some rehearsal tachniques??
on April 22, 2007 10:00pm
i'm 18 years old and i'm music director of a school choir that consist of 120 girls and as a director of a community gospel choir that consistof 35 singer and as well as a pionist in both these choirs.i technic and tip in how to write better songs
on September 13, 2008 10:00pm
In response to Andrew Brobston's junior high singers who swear they're altos: that may very well be the case! Not all of us girls can even hit the soprano notes past a certain age.