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- April 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm #312661I’ve tried a handful of exercises to get a young male voice student of mine to use his head voice, but nothing is working. It’s like his voice cuts out a few steps above middle C, as if it’s still changing. And it makes me wonder if his voice IS still changing and should be left alone for a while. But I can’t even get him to speak in an “old lady” voice or hoot like an owl up there, as some responders in this forum have suggested to keep the head voice in development as the voice changes.Help?April 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm #312682Austen WilsonParticipantAmy –Does this student have a solid low range? For some boys, they might not be able to hoot like an owl for a period of time. (Sidenote – someone please correct me if this is incorrect. The changing voice is very mysterious).Just as a point of clarification, does he sing in all chest voice? In my experience, I do not equate the “siren sound” with head voice. Instead, I usually think of it as falsetto. At least for me, falsetto and head voice are two different concepts.In my Youth Choir at church last year, one of the boys really struggled with singing the right octave. He would usually sing down an octave at first. As a result, I would start him where he was comfortable and have him sing up the scale. For example, if he had to start a passage in C Major on a G below Middle C, I would start him on a C below Middle C, then have him sing Do Re Mi Fa Sol. After several months, he finally started singing the correct octave consistently. This year, he has been able to do sirens and he can sing in falsetto in some warm-ups in certain parts of his range.AustenApril 6, 2012 at 7:26 am #312700Joy HirokawaParticipantAmy –You do not mention how old your student is. The voice can take a long time to settle, and boys often go through periods during which they are unable to access all the notes that might eventually be possible. You might want to take a look at Ken Phillips’ book Teaching Kids to Sing, an excellent resource, as well as John Cooksey’s book on the changing male voice. Also check Henry Leck’s video Take the High Road that models a wide variety of approaches for working with changing male voices.Good luck!JoyApril 6, 2012 at 10:29 am #312723His low range does have some presence, and he has a habit of using all chest voice. I’m thinking that I’ve assigned a song that’s a little too high for him right now, so what I’ll do is give him another copy of the same score in a lower transposition. Not only is he young and still changing, but he’s also at a level of vocal development where he’s still getting to know his voice and make friends with it in formal settings like choir and musical theater. Probably best to go easy, I think.April 6, 2012 at 10:29 am #312724He’s 14, as my title states. Thanks for the book suggestions!April 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm #312749Tim GetzParticipantI’m now in my 40s and have NEVER been able to sing in falsetto. At best I have about 3 pitches, and many days cannot hoot like an owl. This after singing in choirs all my life and having studied with several teachers. I have been successful in teaching young people, mainly by quickly identifying kids who can serve as models on my behalf. I keep hoping someday the light will magically go on for me, but have really stopped trying.April 7, 2012 at 7:17 am #312771Patrick K. FreerParticipantAmy — according to scientific research with both singing and non-singing boys, the falsetto begins to emerge at the midway point of the voice change process. And, the voice change process is, paradoxically, beginning both earlier in some boys and beginning later in others than it has in previous decades. You’ll find this and much more related information in the April issue of the Choral Journal, particularly in Leon Thurman’s article, “Boys’ Changing Voices, What Do We Know Now?” I served as guest editor for the upcoming April and May CJ issues which explore the development of the male choral singer from adolescence to early college. Finally, be aware that the resources suggested by others in this thread vary substantially in both content and rigor. You might see one of my CJ articles for a starting point when trying to assess the different approaches:Freer, P.K. (2010). Foundations of the Boy’s Expanding Voice: A Response to Henry Leck. Choral Journal, 50(7), 27-30.Best wishes,Patrick FreerApril 8, 2012 at 11:25 am #312812Thom BakerParticipantAs the conductor of a men’s choir and as a voice teacher, I can tell you that there is a high number of men who cannot produce a falsetto or head voice. In my experience, they have all been low basses, though some professional tenors have claimed to have lost their falsettos (i.e., Jussi Bjoerling, et al). I have scoured all the literature I have been able to get my hands on, and no one addresses this phenomenon satisfactorily. I have queried otolaryngologists and other voice health professionals, viewed/heard scopings of such men and can come to no other conclusion that there is no concrete understanding for a lack of ability to access the head voice (of which falsetto is one facet). Have you ever heard of a woman who cannot access here high voice (apart from Ethel Mermin)? I have not.I will eagerly watch to see if anyone has some real light to shed on this subject.April 9, 2012 at 9:11 am #312861Dennis McKinleyParticipantThis is certainly not a very “scientific” way to approach the situation, but it’s one with which I have had good results over the years. With at least a small group of other boys – to help him feel more secure and less isolated or “weird” – have them sing the “Wi-meh-wah” refrain from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” They usually know it from having seen The Lion King (rather than from the pop charts as I learned back in the day), and they enjoy singing it. Try it in various keys. If this song doesn’t bring out a falsetto or head voice, he probaby doesn’t yet have it or, as stated in others’ comments, may never have it. Not very complicated but it’s worked for me and my students.April 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm #312907Paul TownsendParticipantWhere are the young man’s passaggi and register breaks? Perhaps have him LISTEN and imitate? Go to YouTube and search “head voice”.April 10, 2012 at 9:35 am #312968Jay LaneParticipantHi Amy,In my experience teaching adolescent males, the voice can be very erratic. The best results (long-term) have come when I teach skills, using whatever notes, in whatever register, happen to be present at the moment. I do not work on range and register issues during this unstable time. I focus instead on musicianship, breathing/support, posture, and relaxation of the throat, all of which take a while to learn and will help the singer once the voice “settles down.” For a choral singer during this time, I usually say something like, “Be comfortable! Sing the notes you can sing, and leave out the ones that don’t come out easily. Your voice is going through a transition.”Hope this helps!Jay LanePresident, McClosky Institute of Voice
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