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Quick reminders for children to sing in Head voice


Here is a compilation about reminders for head voice singing.


Allyn Phelps

Original Post:

I’m looking for sayings or reminders to remind children to use their head
voices. Not vocal "technique" suggestions--but simple things to say just to
remind them. I find the kids do a good job in the short warm-up we do, but
carrying it over to the songs is what they need the reminding for. I use the
"unicorn horn," singing from the third eye, pulling off the winter hat, "oo"
vowel vocalization, lip trills...

These are effective but looking for others.


Allyn Phelps

Sorry I'm just now getting around to replying. It's been a few years
since I taught. Now I teach teachers! But I used to tell them to cut a
hole in the top of their head to let the light (high) notes float out.
Then as a reminder, I'd just pull on a few hairs on the top of my head
as if I were using my "hole" (or theirs--gently, during class) as a

We toss balls (nerf) to each other several times at the beginning of the
year, like shooting a basketball that goes "whoosh" (said in high energized
voice). We also pass them hand to hand and say "whoa" in a strong chest.
It's easy for the students to feel that the "whoosh" does not feel like
speech, but it is a fun sound and associated with an "up" gesture which also
suggests a desirable sound.

Later I can ask for the "whoosh" voice and not the "whoa" voice. I can give
the gesture while singing as well, without interrupting the music or speaking.

This works with middle school. It even works with my boys' chorus if not
overused. I borrowed it from someone, I'm sorry not to remember who.

I have them hoot like an owl (whoo whoo) and then remind them of it
later, or hoot again as needed!

I don't know if this is exactly what you are looking
for but when my kids (3rd, 4th, and 5th graders) lapse
into chest voice I hold up a picture of Barney the
purple dinosaur. At that age, anything smacking of
Barney is undesirable! (We have already talked about
how the kids on Barney use their chest voice as
opposed to using their siren voice or head voice.)

singing voice, not playground voice
owl hooting
siren sounds! (whoops)

Mary Goetze is very effective by telling them (while using the
registers as she speaks), "This is your play voice (in chest voice),
and this is your singing voice (in head voice)." She is also a real
stickler for not using compositions or arrangements that start on a
low note that would cause them to start in chest voice.

The most effective teaching I've ever seen in action was the summer
we did "Annie" as our community summer musical. We had 15 orphans
(at the request of our choreographer) and two double cast Annies (for
safety). I had my wife, who is very experienced in working with
children's voices, take over their first vocal rehearsal, and she
explained the vocal registers and got them all up into head voice and
comfortable with it. (I had freaked out when we got the music and I
saw all those high F#s for the kids, which the Broadway crew had
tried to chest and never made it!)

As it happened, my mother passed away suddenly and we had to leave
town for about 6-8 weeks, so that was their only voice lesson. When
we got back, those kids were using healthy vocal production and head
voice but NOT sounding like choirboys, and giving our stage director
all the intensity she wanted. I was SO PROUD of them all!

If you can sing, the key is to demonstrate, demonstrate.

Don't know how old your children are but saying "singing voice" and
"speaking voice" is
something I use and demonstrate for very young ones.

Linda Swears' excellent book Teaching the Elementary School Chorus
offers 3 pages of directives (p. 64-66), as well as suggestions for
children hearing the use of head voice.

"attic" voice
(of course, if anyone remembers what an attic is!)

I'm glad you asked this. This is something I've been pondering as well.
I've experienced the same difficulties. It's no problem getting the kids to
sing that way on vocalises, but once they start singing words, much of it
goes out the window. One thing I've had some success with is not a "catch
phrase" reminder, but rather using a phrase or two from the song as a
vocalise, then moving directly to the song and have them sing it on an "oo"
vowel several times, then when we sing it with the text, tell them to keep
the same feel as the "oo" vowel. This can be fun. You can tell them to
sing the entire song through the shape of an "oo" vowel, and have them speak
it that way, then sing it that way. They inevitably laugh when doing this
and have fun, but it does help.

Another idea just hit me as I was typing this response. That would be to
pick one vowel, "oo" for example, and do one's vocalises. Then have them
look through the music for every word with an "oo" in it, and go through and
sing each of those words in turn with the proper "oo" vowel. If one only did
one vowel a week, including diphthongs, it would take a couple of months
(for a church choir, but a school choir working every day could do it in two
weeks), but might be a way to get them to program in the proper vowels when
singing the song and get them thinking more about vowels.

I think the use of a tape recorder to let them hear themselves singing the
good vowels on vocalises and the distorted vowels when they sing the words,
and then contrasting that with recordings of excellent children's choirs can
help as well.

I believe the key is to find a way make it fun and a game, if possible.

I use some non-verbal cues WHILE they are singing. I often cup my hand
(fingers down) next to my eyes or tap the bridge of my nose with side of
my index finger. Also (and this is really weird) will but the BACKS of
my hands (fingers down) in front of my ears and wiggle my fingers. This
raises the eyebrows and lifts the soft palate. I teach primarily ladies
(8 through 12 at a very large high school) and they call this "bunny
feet". I told you. weird. BUT it works!

I have them do the "here kitty, kitty" thing or pretend to be a also keep a picture of a kitty cat and a ghost on hand and
when I need to remind them of singing in their head voice I just hold up the
picture. You can even do this while you're accompanying them

I tell them to sing from the air, not from the throat.

I use the phrase, "Be Julia Childs". This usually reminds them to
raise their velum and helps a majority of my new singers.

I talk in my "cartoon voice". That seems to help.

place palm on forehead while singing "put voice here"
yawn space; demonstrate using chest with phrase/then head voice and have
them choose what is correct. Sometimes its a matter of being able to
identify when they are/aren't in the right space. If they can hear it,
they are more likely to go there more often with practice.

"cave mouth" "pear mouth" (With the big part in the back of your mouth--
bring in a pear) "let the sound come out your ears (eyes)" "Open" (instead of
"breathe"), "tilt the head down slightly and look up at the ceiling" work for