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Male Directors teaching Female Voices

What tips do you have for male directors teaching young treble choirs? Specificallly, how do you handle vocal issues when your own voice is in another register?
on April 29, 2014 2:13pm
Certain technical issues are the same for males and females: breathing, open throat, pure vowels, etc. The main difference I see is register. The male falsetto is produced in a very similar manner to the female head voice in that the vocalis muscle in the vocal fold is "turned off" in both. When I direct any choir I sing as little as possbile. When I direct girls or boys whose voices have not changed, I sing in falsetto.
on April 29, 2014 5:16pm
If it is at all possible I have a treble voice teach treble voices. Beautiful treble (female) voices teaching kids to sing is something I really endorse. I have taught treble choirs both ways and the best results are with a female coach/director/teacher. As far as tips I'm sorry I can only offer that you have females sing for your young treble choir as much as possible - as a guest solist, coach or what ever term works for your age group.
on April 30, 2014 7:55am
My husband recently retired after teaching grades K-5 classroom music and chorus for 33 years. He used his falsetto exclusively with grades K-3 in the classroom and chorus. In grades 4 & 5, he started all new music in falsetto to get the students in the right place and then switched later. The choruses he produced always had the most pure angelic sounds and I credit his vocal modelling. 
on April 30, 2014 11:39am
Brian,
Having a vocally skilled female treble singer to model various vocal abilities for singers in young treble choirs is the most helpful way to proceed, but if that is not possible, then vocally efficient use of your falsetto register would be the next most helpful way to go (the two voice qualities do have subtle differences). When girls' auditory systems hear pitches and voice qualities that relatively match their own pitches and voice qualities, their auditory systems can more readily trigger their motor systems to produce the modeled voice quality. This has to do with the motor neurons in the brain that have been referred to as mirror neurons.
 
At some point, however, it will help the girls to learn to hear the pitches in your octave-lower pitch range and voice quality, as in, "When I sing this pitch in my changed male voice, your pitch will be this (sing in your falsetto and/or play it on a piano)." Eventually, sing some mutually well known melodies in 'unison' (but really an octave apart).
 
Just to clarify vocal functions related to your question: Your own changed male voice produces pitches that are approximately one octave lower than the girls' voices, and your vocal folds are longer and thicker than theirs, but you may be (or may not be) in the same functional voice register. If the girls are singing in their upper register (commonly referred to as "head" register/voice) and you are modeling in your falsetto register, then your laryngeal coordinations will be different from theirs. It's true that when changed voice male "pure" falsetto register is produced, only the larynx muscles that have the primary lengthening influence on the vocal folds are active to produce your pitch changes and basic voice quality. The muscles that have a shortening influence on your vocal folds (embedded in the core of your folds), then, are not activated. Your unactivated shortener muscles allow your vocal folds to be more thin, thus producing a "thinner," "lighter-sounding" voice quality (by comparison to the voice quality that is produced when both your shortener and lengthener muscles are activated at the same pitch). Under those pitch-matching circumstances, however, the girls' voices will have engaged both their less mature lengthener muscles and shortener muscles at the same time, but...their lengthener muscles will be contracted with a bit more intensity than their shortener muscles, thus a relatively subtle difference of voice quality. That is the mechanism that produces the voice quality that is usually referred to as "head" register/voice.
 
Hope that is reasonably clear to you. If not, 'tis OK to let me know what is not clear and I'll do some more clarifying.
 
 
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