Syllabus for Music 227, 228 and 229--Singing Techniques
Peggy Sears, Instructor
Office hours: T at 11:30, or by arrangement*
(due to studio teaching, my weekly schedule changes constantly. Please refer to
schedule on door of office for updates. I will find a time for you!)
Materials: Sheet music with a piano part for songs of your choice.
Description: This course introduces techniques of body awareness, breathing,
posture, and alignment so that the student may learn to sing freely and with
beauty. We shall also deal with solo performance issues such as memorization,
interpretation, style, confidence and sincerity.
Format: We will spend some time each class period learning new vocal
techniques, relaxing and aligning the body, visualizing, concentrating on our
breathing, and vocalizing. (Weeks 2/4/6/8 are floor days so wear comfortable
clothing for lying on the floor.) Next we will work on specific vocal skills, such as
the whispered breath, the slide, the staccato, etc. From there, we shall move on
into the singing, including a few minutes of solfege, and practicing of the
students' individual songs.
Assignments: Each student must memorize and perform three songs for the
class. Song 1 and Song 2 will be chosen by the teacher and learned by
everyone. Song 3 is your own choice with instructor approval. You must attend
two concerts or listen to dvds or cds of classical, jazz, ethnic, or musical theater
vocal music. Concert and listening reports are due by the beginning of the
final exam time. CSUB concerts are listed at www.csub.edu/PAD/music on
the calendar link. (Any that involve vocal music are acceptable.) Use
guidelines below. The mid-term project is a skills test and there is a 1-2 page
written vocal autobiography.
Week 1: Introduction to technique
Write me a autobiography of your singing life from first memories til now—1-2
pages type-written. If you have written one for me before, tell me what is
happening with your voice since the last autobiography. You may email this to
me. (10 points)
Start working on song #1, Linden Lea, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, to be
handed out the first day of class.
Work on abdominal breath and thoracic to pelvic diaphragm connection.
Week 2: Floor day.
Work on whispered breath.
Start working on Song #2, Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen, copies
Continue memorizing Song 1.
Week 3: Song #1
Memorized and performed by Group #1. (first half of 33 points possible)
Work on jaw/tongue position using yawn/stretch, jaw-sling, etc as aids.
Week 4: Floor day.
Song #1: Memorized and performed by Group #2.
Work on slides on ee and oo.
Practice Song #2.
Have your piano/vocal music of your choice of Song 3 with an extra copy for
Week 5: Finish Song #1, start Song #2
Second time through Song #1. (2nd half of the 33 points)
Song #2: Memorized and performed by Group #1 (1st half of 33 points)
Work on whispered breaths on vowels—ah, eh, ee, oh, oo.
Week 6: Floor day.
Assign mid-term project and make appointments.
Do larynx rocking and sliding exercises in class. Work on rib stability.
Song #2: Memorized and performed by Group #2
Week 7: Perform Song #2 for the second time. (2nd half of 33 points)
Week 8: Practice song #3 with Dr. Chang
Week 9: Song #3, group 1-- be sure to warm your voice up yourself before
class starts. (34 points)
Week 10: Song #3, group 2—be sure to warm your voice up yourself before
Each song is performed twice except for the 3 rd song: the first time we will work
on several different vocal techniques and the second time will be a more formal
performance with less technical input. Both performances will be graded; the
grade will be lowered one grade if the song is not memorized.
Tests: The only formal test is the final exam, for which each student performs
from memory all his/her songs in a recital venue. Check online for the assigned
time for this final.
Grading: 100 pts--final exam performance
100pts--three performances of the memorized songs.
50 pts--mid-term project
10 pts—personal vocal history
20 pts--concert and listening reports.
20 pts--class attendance and participation: this is not a subject that
one can learn entirely on your own. Please make coming regularly to class a
priority and be prepared to sing your memorized song at any class period from
the due date on. (Always have your music with you, just in case.) The
beginning of the class is particularly important as that is the time we work on
body alignment, breathing, and other technical basics.
You must give a copy of any music you choose outside of the text to our
accompanist that is deemed acceptable by the instructor and the
What makes this voice/these voices and performances unique? How are they
different from other performers I have heard? What are my reasons for liking or disliking
this voice/these voices? This music? Can I understand every word, or the meaning of the
text? How effective is the presentation? How is the vocal tone, intonation, quality,
range? How is the diction and expressiveness? How is the posture and alignment of the
Midterm project for Voice Class
Personal assessment of:
Abdominal breath—10 pts.
Diaphragmatic pump around bottom rib
Support muscles expanding and contracting
Rectus Abdominis muscle
Coura or shoelace muscles in back
Pelvic floor membrane
Whispered breath with mouth closed and on all vowels—10 pts.
Rib stability and flexibility—10 pts.
Slides on ee and oo vowels—10 pts.
Head alignment and jaw/tongue position, lion face—10 pts.
Review for the midtem project with the below checklist:
Intake/outlet mechanism of thoracic diaphragm at tip of sternum—expanding
outward strongly as you breathe in? contracting inward as you exhale?
Vestibular system—ear drum to sphenoid bone behind the bridge of the nose,
how much of this do you feel?
Three conches of the nasopharynx area—nostrils, tip of nose, bridge of nose
Diaphragms—which ones you feel responding to breath and how complete?
1. Cranial—attaching around eyebrows, over ears, around base of skull
2. Top of the naso-pharynx area if you sense it more accurately
3. palatal—alveolar ridge behind upper teeth, hard palate at top, soft
palate at back
4. vocal—middle of throat, how cave-like is the whisper
5. thoracic—(how far up can you release it, how full is the pump of the
breath in it)
6. pelvic diaphragm—from tailbone to pubic bone, sitz bone to sitz
7. attachment from thoracic to pelvic down rectus abdominis in front—
8. Attachment from thoracic to pelvic down the coura in back—how
Ribs—which ones do you feel expanding on inhalation, which ones stay
expanded on exhalation? (1-12 from top to bottom, 11 and 12 are floaters).
Using nerve pathways to support ribs, breathe from:
1. Thumb to back floater ribs
2. Forefinger to front bottom ribs
3. Middle finger to ribs 6-10
4. 4th finger to ribs 3-6
5. pinky finger to top ribs under collarbone
Whispered breath to identify vocal tract
1. Can you hear a clear ee, ay, ah, oh and oo?
2. Is there a deep whisper sound in the larynx with each vowel?
3. How open and relaxed is jaw with each vowel? How much space from top
back molar to bottom back molar on each side?
4. Is the tip of the tongue (first inch or so) relaxed, curled under and resting
against the back of the bottom front teeth with each vowel?
5. Are all diaphragms moving with the breath around this vowel?
6. Are all nasopharyngeal conches open over cave?
1. Tip of tongue at bottom of well behind bottom front teeth and relaxed
2. Jaw heavy at joint and responsive to breath and swinging backwards
Exercises for alignment and breathing
Diaphragm awareness exercises—
pelvic diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable while
inhaling and exhaling on a whispered breath; Tail bone as lower fulcrum in sitting or
standing position. Find space between sacrum and lowest vertebrae, inhale and
widen that space. Find leg joint (just outside of pubic bone) and make space around
the joint with yawn/stretch breath. Find sitz bones. Attach front of pelvic diaphragm
to bottom of rectus abdominus. Attach back of pelvic diaphragm to croura.
thoracic diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable
while inhaling and exhaling with a whispered breath; partner exercise with support on
back lower ribs and gentle touch at vertebrae T 10-12, lying on side with head on
arm to support ribs. Find complete perimeter by locating the circle created by the
bottom rib and pumping the diaphragm (like a cough) below that all the way around.
Feel back ribs lift which feeds front ribs, which lifts the breastbone or sternum. Feel
attachment of rectus abdominus at the xiphoid process or tip of sternum. Connect
yawn/stretch breath to T-10-12.
Thoracic and pelvic diaphragm connection, feel the strap-like rectus abdominis
connect from tip of sternum to pubic bone down front of the abdomen. Feel the
shoelace-like coura connect down back to tail bone. Let out all air, open ribs without
inhaling and feel the thoracic diaphragm tuck itself up inside the ribcage.
shoulder diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable
while inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath; partner exercise with hands
on shoulders and upper back and at vertebrae T1-2 to increase awareness of air into
top lobe of the lungs. Find joint of collarbone with breast bone and inhale extra
space around that joint. Find triangle of collarbone meeting shoulder blade and
soften that triangle. Connect leg joint and arm joint with yawn/stretch breath.
vocal diaphragm, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and stable while
inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath, partner with gentle touch at
vertebrae C3-4. Connect the yawn/stretch breath to C 3-4. Widen space between
skull bones at bottom back of ears. Visualize the carotid arteries with a carotid body
in the fork on each side of the vocal diaphragm and allow space for that structure as
well. Feel esophagus behind and behind that 4 spinal ligaments and the spinal cord.
palate diaphragm, hands parallel to upper teeth, feel upper teeth lift from back top
molar to front incisors, alveolar ridge, hard palate and soft palate respond. Feel jaw
joint separate into three parts: the top is the side conncection of the palate
diaphragm framework, the middle is the joint itself and feels soft and transparent
with the breath, the bottom part is the jaw bone and it releases downward like a free
hinge. When the jaw joint fully relaxes, feel the release in muscles at the base of the
skull in the back. The nasopharynx area opens like a snore with no sound and the
top can feel like another diaphragm when you open up this area fully. Locate the
hard palate by directing breath into the space half-way between the tip of the nose
and the top of the 1st vertebra. Locate the soft palate by directing breath in the
bridge of the nose and out to the ears.Locate the perimeter of this diaphragm, the
alveolar ridge by feeling space and lift around every upper tooth as you breathe in.
cerebral diaphragm or sac, keeping rib cage and naso-pharynx areas open and
stable while inhaling and exhaling with the whispered breath; partner exercise with
fingers „haloing‟ the head (eyebrows, over ears, dropping to base of skull in back,
gentle touch at vertebrae C1-2). Trace the skull with fingers. Connect yawn/stretch
breath to jaw joint and Atlas or C-1. Feel the double “pony tail” inside the skull.
Vocabulary list for Voice Class
alveolar ridge-- the hard gum behind the top teeth at the front of the palate
cerebral or cranial diaphragm—horizontal membrane under the brain attaching at
eyebrow level and dropping to base of skull in the back.
thoracic diaphragm—horizontal membrane attaching at T12 (12th thoracic
pelvic diaphragm—horizontal membrane creating a pelvic floor.
shoulder diaphragm—horizontal muscle structure covering the top of the rib cage
under collar bones.
vocal diaphragm— horizontal circular membrane housing the vocal folds located
in the Adam‟s Apple.
cervical vertebrae--neck spine bones, seven in all
cricoid cartilage—houses the larynx at the bottom of the neck, like a large class
ring with the large side in the back
larynx--voice box, the Adam‟s apple, the part that houses the vocal cords or
nasopharynx--nose area and pharynx combined; with the mouth makes up most
of the vocal tract
palate--the top of the mouth
hard palate--bony top of the mouth, in the center
soft palate--squishy top of the mouth (in the back), flutters during snore
pharynx--throat; goes from the larynx up to the back of the mouth
resonance--from the root resound, ringing sound
upper resonance--the sound ringing in the naso-pharynx area
lower resonance--the sound ringing in the larynx and upper chest.
solar plexus--the area directly below the breast bone, the top of the abdomen
sphincter or circle muscles—a system of circular muscles creating inner
strength, including eyes, ears, nose, lips, and several on the pelvic floor.
thyroid cartilage—houses the larynx in the front of the throat
vocal tract--the part of the body in which singing sound is actually made
thoracic vertebrae--spine bones from top of shoulders down to the waist
lumbar vertebrae--spine bones from waist to tailbone
tailbone--final bottom vertebra
sitz bones—bony tips of pelvic bone
croura—shoelace-like muscles interior of spine from bottom of shoulder blades
to tailbone, which are support muscles for diaphragm motion
rectus abdominis muscle—a strap muscle that extends from the tip of the
sternum to the pubic bone, which is a support muscle for diaphragm motion
xiphoid process—the spongy bottom tip of the sternum or breastbone, which is
the top, front attachment of the diaphragm