As anyone following a Kodaly-inspired program knows, the voice should be the first instrument students learn music through and should continue to be a key source of musical engagement throughout their learning journey.
This means that it's really important that students learn how to use their voice properly!
At the beginning of prep, a big part of my lessons for at least the first term involves a variety of vocalisation exercises and warm ups to teach my students to:
a) find their singing voice, and
b) use it properly!
A singing voice is vastly different from a speaking voice and its essential that our students learn the difference and know how to manipulate their vocal cords in order to perform one or the other.
So one part of these vocalisations involves helping students to recognise the difference.
"This is my speaking voice...."
In this activity, the teacher says a simple sentence using a variety of voice types, such as "this is my high voice" (in a high pitch) or "this is my whisper voice" / "this is my laughing voice". The sky is the limit with this activity, you can get creative with the types of voices you're bringing such as
- robot voice
- sad voice etc.
It's also a great way to introduce some simple musical concepts such as fast/slow, loud/soft.
Along the way, make sure you drop in "this is my speaking voice" and "this is my singing voice" (usually on a melody alternating between so & mi) several times throughout the activity.
Once students have found their singing voices, we want them to expand and explore the range of pitches they can perform with it!
There are several ways to get students to make sirens and other pitch-bending effects. Here are a few of my favourites.
Use a dancing scarf and wave it in the air to make different patterns, toss it up high and let it fall or scrunch it up into a ball and daub different pitches in the air, getting the students to copy the shapes with their voice - the higher the scarf goes, the higher their voice goes. (This is important foundational work for melodic reading later on!)
You can also extend this activity into a solo singing/improvisation task of sorts, in which each student gets a turn with the scarf to make a shape. It's amazing what some kids will come up with!
Similar to the dancing scarf, let a feather float down through the air and have students follow its path with their voices.
This one is always a winner! Have students "bubble" their lips (a bit like a motorbike engine sound) and follow the path of a bubble as it floats through the air.
Giant bubble wands and an outdoor teaching segment make for a memorable lesson. Just make sure you establish boundaries first about whether students are allowed to touch the bubbles (I usually say that no one is allowed to pop a bubble during the activity and then at the end, give them 30 seconds of bubble-based free play)
Students LOVE moving the slinky up and down! Let each student be the conductor and the class follows the slinky with their voice. The more it expands, the higher the voice goes! Then, as it compresses back down, the voice lowers in pitch.
Using either printed pictures or shapes you draw on the whiteboard, create some different symbols such as a spiky speech bubble, a series of wavy lines, some dots and dashes like morse code etc. and have students read and perform them.
Vocalisation is important at any age and so this kind of symbol-based reading can also be used with older students and tied into a unit of study on graphic notation or a listening lesson based on Cathy Berberian's "Stripsody"
"What is your name?"
This is an activity I picked up in a Kokas pedagogy class. The teacher draws on the palm of a student and sings or intones "what is your name?" (using a variety of vocal sirens and sounds and matching the drawing to the sound). The student then responds "My name is...." using a similar vocal pattern.
The student then turns to the next student in the circle and does the same to them, making up a new vocal pattern.
This is a great stress-free first improvisation experience and also begins to link sound to imagery and symbol.
This wouldn't be a Kodaly Crafts post without reference to puppets! Go through your collection of furry friends and see which ones have a voice that can be manipulated high and low and you're onto a winner!
Some particular favourites of mine include:
- bee (students can buzz on a "z" sound and follow the bee path
- frog jumping to different pitches on different lily pads (this one is good for slightly older students, maybe grade 1 or 2, once they have an awareness of pitch)