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Basement Dwellers

Hello My Choral Coworkers!
I just started teaching elementary choir this week and am already hearing several 4th-6th grade boys sing an octave below everyone else. We do not exceed a "d" in our current repertoire. We warm up with sirens and several head voice activities which they are able to achieve. Do you have suggestions/talking points to get them to sing up with everyone else? 
on August 28, 2015 5:11am
Hi Annelies,
I have 6th-grade boys who have had that trouble and telling them that their voices are like fish in an ocean.  Currently, they are being bottom feeders like a flounder, but it is so much more fun to be able to explore the entire ocean while they can.  I then explain how the time will come when the low notes they are trying for, and potentially hurting their voices for, will develop naturally.  Then as a whole class we try yawn-sighs and sirens just exploring the head voice.  Optimism and a sense of humor reminding them to join the other fish rather than sink to the bottom has taken care of most boy's mindset to drop the octave.
Good luck!
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on August 28, 2015 9:04pm
Spend some time alone with them and get them to practice singing portions of the repertoire. There could be a million different reasons that this is happening. It probably won't take more than 5 minutes or so to figure out what they are doing wrong and get them to fix the problem. Many times, it is about sustaining the energy on the high notes. Other times, it is psychological. They think that they are going to sound wimpy or girly up there (NOTE: I personally think that comparing girls and wimps is stupid. My mom is one of the mightiest people I know. That said, my viewpoint is not shared by all members of my gender). Sometimes, it's a matter of hearing. They can't hear themselves sing and it bugs them.
And then, on occasion, they're having problems because their voice has changed or is changing. I've taught elementary music for almost 10 years. Every year, I've had two or three boys in that age range whose voices are changing. Some of them have even dropped the octave. At that point, your situation becomes philosophical. Do you encourage them to develop their falsetto sound? Do you modify their part? Do you allow the octave doubling for that individual? In my opinion, there's no effective way around having them sing for you by themselves. You'll learn a lot and have a much better course of action planned out if you do.
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