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Changing Boys Voices. A Practical Approach . After today you should know…. Strategies for quickly identifying where adolescent males are in the voice change process. Ways to structure your choir based on what you have to work with.

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changing boys voices

Changing Boys Voices

A Practical Approach

after today you should know
After today you should know…
  • Strategies for quickly identifying where adolescent males are in the voice change process.
  • Ways to structure your choir based on what you have to work with.
  • Examples of literature that works well for adolescent voices.
my country tis of thee the 5 minute seating arrangement
“My Country Tis of Thee” (the 5-minute seating arrangement)
  • A big circle around the piano works for me. Risers are okay too.
  • Key of B Major
    • Separate the low voices
  • Key of F Major
    • Separate the low voices
  • Double-Check
    • 5-3-1 / Sol-Mi-Do / No-Oh-Na
    • “Ah” is the vowel that will give you the most information, but be careful.
    • A re-do promotes solo singing, an investment in the process, and a culture of collaborative learning and teaching
changed changing and unchanged
“Changed, Changing and Unchanged”
  • Labels for each section – “not the total truth”
    • You must share this with the boys. Lack of understanding is the root of bullying and teasing. It is YOUR JOB to create the necessary environment for success. Every boy in the classroom has a “changing” voice – everyone.
  • The “Changed” section is mostly comprised of boys in stages 5 and 4.
    • If a boy can easily sing down to a D (middle line bass clef) or lower, I usually put them in the “changed” section.
  • The “Changing” section is comprised of boys in stages 2 and 3.
    • Boys singing comfortably down to F or G (4th line / top space bass clef), are put in the “changing” section.
  • The “Unchanged” section is mostly comprised of boys who are in stage 1 or actually unchanged.
    • Many of these boys can sing down to B or A below middle C. The freedom of the upper register and lack of strength in the lower range are telltale signs of who belongs in this section.
what else am i listening for
What else am I listening for?
  • Speaking voice. (height as well)
  • Resonance. Where is the sound hangin’ out?
  • Posture/Technique. How efficiently/freely do they sing?
    • Alignment, head-voice, chin, breathiness, etc.
  • “Fake” notes. Is he forcing notes out?
  • Hesitation is normal.
    • Young boys may not want to be “unchanged” voices, but more importantly, they don’t want to be embarrassed. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you are listening for. Don’t confuse hesitation for a lack of ability.
  • Heaviness and Huskiness vs. Lyrical and Relaxed
    • Breathiness is often a result of a rapidly changing voice.
    • Regardless of range, I may move them if they can’t sing with reasonably efficient posture (chin especially). It is not fair to them if I don’t. It’s better to fake it with good technique than to force it with bad!
what else am i listening for continued
What else am I listening for? (continued)
  • “Grovelers!” What can I do with a “groveler?”
    • BE AGGRESSIVE, TALL IN BACK OF HEAD, RELAX THE JAW and SNOTTY TONE. A snotty tone should be encouraged!
    • Nasal resonance really seems to help boys, and men, release tension in their throat, ultimately helping them move through pitches that they don’t trust.
    • Be patient. I have had several grovelers that took 6 months to fix, but I’ve NEVER had one that went on forever!
  • All changed voices seem to be considered basses.
    • Too often the earliest voices to change are considered the basses and the later ones are considered the tenors. Then in 9th and 10th grade, half the boys are in the wrong section!
    • It is quite common for boys to switch from the bass section to the tenor section. Why?
    • EVERY boy becomes a New/Settling baritone at some point. Therefore, most tenors start their “career” as baritone/basses. Be ready for this, and explain it to them. Late bloomers are no less likely to become basses than students who mature early.
my core beliefs about middle school choirs
My core beliefs about middle school choirs…
  • EVERYONE is a “changing” voice…
    • If you don’t consciously teach vocal techniques that will “build” good singers, you won’t have any… or you’ll have very few. This can, and should be done, regardless of stage of change.
  • Number of voice parts (TTB, TB, B, etc.) has nothing to do with skill. It has EVERYTHING to do with vocal range. Wrong vocal range – THE CHILD WILL HAVE NO SKILL! Use 3-part music for boys middle school boy’s choirs. This is the most efficient way to accommodate the various stages of change.
    • Most 3-part music for MEN doesn’t work for middle school BOYS. TBB vs. TTB.
    • Number of boys doesn’t matter, you still need 3 parts, even if you leave one out.
  • Balance… WHO CARES!? They need to sing where they belong, not where you need them.
  • Adjust music as needed. Respectfully of course!
    • create solos, adjust voice leading, etc.
my core beliefs about middle school choirs continued
My core beliefs about middle school choirs…(continued)
  • With mixed middle school choirs, try to use SATB arrangements. SAB isn’t as logical as it might seem. Why do I think that?
    • Often the “B” part utilizes full octave ranges, which many young men don’t have yet… or at least not the same octave as the guy next to them! 
      • Separate 7th & 8th mixed groups can be especially challenging for this reason.
    • When using SATB arrangments, who’s a tenor and who’s a bass?
      • It all depends… It may be necessary to make adjustments to the music in order to accommodate success for your singers.
      • Tenors at this age aren’t really tenors because they haven’t become new baritones yet. Therefore limited in range. Same for basses.
      • There are a number of composers who are mindful of developing voice ranges. (Spevacek, Harris, Parks, Perry, Althouse, Crocker, etc.)
    • There is a belief by many that SAB music is necessary because young choirs (boys) are unable to handle the complexity of other voicings. Complexity is better than impossibility.
my core beliefs about middle school choirs continued again
My core beliefs about middle school choirs…(continued…again!)
  • Refer to them as MEN.
    • “Real Men” handle adversity by challenging themselves and each other.
    • Being a “Real Man” requires a willingness to accept one’s capabilities and a desire to improve.
    • A “Real Man” can handle a crushed butterfly once in a while.
    • A “Real Man” respects, and builds up, his brothers. There is no room in a young choir for anyone who wants to tear down another. (bullying)
    • “Real Men” are terrified of looking foolish in front of girls.
literature examples for adolescent girls
Literature Examples for Adolescent Girls
  • For Girls:
    • Sweet Talkin’ Guy, arr. HUFF, SSA, HL08730075
    • Something Told the Wild Geese, Porterfield, 2-part, Heritage Music Press H5890
    • I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, arr. Brymer, SSA, HL08720802
    • The First Snowfall, Ellen, SSA, Shawnee Press B 0547
    • She Sings, Bernon, SSA, Heritage Press, 15/1863H
literature examples for adolescent boys
Literature Examples for Adolescent Boys
  • For Boys:
    • It Takes A Worried Man, arr. Krunnfusz, TTB, Alliance Pub. AP-1150
    • Boatmen Stomp, by Gray, 3-part, G. Schirmer 12396 (out of print?)
    • Rosalee, by Perry, TTB, HL42318041
    • Ballad of the Cross-Eyed Sailor, Perry, TTB, Shawnee Press C-272
    • Salty Dog, arr. Bobby Siltman, CBB, Cambiata Press U485183
    • Children Go Where I Send Thee, arr. Crocker, TTB, HL47103041
    • Drill Ye Tarriers, arr. Crocker, TTB, HL47104011
    • The Little Book Spiritual, arr. Moore, TTB, BriLee Music BL287
    • Songs for Tenor-Bass Chorus, arr. Crocker, TB/TBB, HL47123077
      • Aura Lee, SansaKroma, Passing By, Viva Tutti, Chorus from “Sleepers Awake,” Blow Ye Winds
changing boys honesty passion consideration and aggression
Changing Boys – Honesty, Passion, Consideration, and Aggression.
    • This is the situation and IT IS NORMAL!
    • “This is part of becoming a man!” (not just a cave man, but a real man)
    • Have fun with the reality. Laugh together. Bullies get CRUSHED by me!
    • Be excited about what is happening for the young men. Let them know that you are enjoying the process for them.
    • Don’t for a second believe that they aren’t picking up on how you really feel.
    • Rachmaninoff got me here, but it isn’t what kept me.
    • You must be considerate of their limitations by not asking them to do things that they can not be successful at. (throw your ego aside and do the music that you are supposed to do, not always what you want to do)
    • Boys will develop a hierarchy within the classroom – be sure that it isn’t hurtful or painful. Find ways to even the playing field so that ALL BOYS are part of the difficult transition.
    • We will be aggressive about singing!
    • Voice change is not an excuse for inaccurate singing.
    • Doing nothing, or bowing out, are seldom helpful.
i am a big brother parent
  • At times I am their friend. Not because I’m cool, or because I play video games, but because I have their back and I hold them accountable like a true friend would.
  • Although they are unruly and smelly, in their hearts they want me to be proud of them. THEY TRUST ME, and this trust is earned through my passion for their success.
  • Every year I make this promise – “I will not let you make a fool of yourself.”
  • My expectations are always high. This shows the boys that I have confidence in them, even when so often they don’t believe in themselves. Over time, they too will expect more from themselves!
i am always right
I am always right!!!
  • And… I’m a liar!
  • You will make mistakes, and your kids will see it, and this is the most import part of why they trust you!
    • Because I am willing to admit that I am sometimes wrong, they trust that I am always considering what is best for them.
find a mentor get inspired
Find a mentor. Get inspired.
  • Although mentorship programs can be helpful, you may still want to seek out others on your own.
  • Influential People for me:
    • Stan Carlson, Carlin Berg, Axel Theimer, Mike Smith, Chris Aspaas, Brian Stubbs, Ann Motl, Gene Mattilla, John Gagliardi… many, many more!
  • My contact information:

Steve Hoemberg –