Teaching Choral Concepts – 35 powerful “mini-lessons” teaching key choral-singing skills

Teaching Choral Concepts is a bonanza of time-saving teaching tools every school choir teacher can use and enjoy! It’s a comprehensive choral music curriculum featuring 35 simple “mini-lesson” plans that yield powerful results. The 15-20 minute lessons are easily prepared, easily taught, easily remembered, and meaningful to the students. They quickly result in better-prepared, better-sounding choirs, and they result in students who are thrilled to be acquiring musical skills they’ll use all their lives! Teachers love them because using them saves them many dozens of preparation hours throughout the school years. Each of the lessons states a series of essential choral concepts in brief, easily understood sentences. Every lesson can be taught in 20 minutes or less—that’s less than twelve hours of rehearsal time per school year. Add in time for effective review and demonstrations and the total still comes to less than 20 hours per year needed to effective­ly teach the essential principles, but what a tremendous impact those hours can have on the quality, sound, and increased learning ability of your choirs! The curriculum is supported with valuable teaching aids: classroom posters, a year-full of meaningful quotations that can be written on the board each day, student learning booklets, visual aids for bulletin-board displays, and a comprehensive test that can be used as a pre-test at the beginning of the year and then as a post-test at the end of the school year.




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by Duane S. Crowther

Teaching Choral Concepts is a successful result-oriented 35-lesson choral-music curriculum.

 It provides teacher-friendly, simple-to-prepare lesson plans and supplements them with numerous presentation aids for in-rehearsal choir instruction.  Developed as a doctoral dissertation, the program consists of thirty-five powerful choral concepts “mini-lessons”–carefully crafted presentations that can be taught in 20 minutes or less.

Each of the 35 lessons states a series of essential choral concepts in brief, easily understood sentences.  every Teaching Choral Concepts lesson really can be effectively taught in 20 minutes or less—that’s less than twelve hours of rehearsal time per school year. When you add time for short reviews and demonstrations, the total still comes to less than 20 hours per year needed to effective­ly teach the dozens of essential principles.

But what a tremendous impact those hours can have on the quality, sound, and increased learning ability of your choirs! And what a great time-saving tool it is for teachers who want to significantly increase the quality of their teaching but greatly reduce their preparation hours. And using the Teaching Choral Concepts curriculum can increase teacher evaluation ratings from average to superior!

The simple-in-format lessons can be adapted to any age group, from junior high through college. The mini-lesson format also makes it an ideal training program for adult community choirs, church choirs, barber shoppers—it’s great for any choral group!

What Guidelines Were Used in Developing the Mini-lessons? The thirty-five lessons were developed to meet the following criteria:

  • Ease of teacher preparation.
  • Availability of background reference material.
  • A  precise definition of learning objectives.
  • A precise definition of behavioral objectives.
  • Lesson outlines should follow the natural order of learning.
  • Lesson plans should be easily followed, meaningfully stated, and consistent in format.
  • Each lesson should be in “mini-lesson” style which can be taught in 20 minutes or less.
  • Matters of controversy should be avoided—the lessons are based on principles generally accepted among qualified teachers of singing.

How is the curriculum organized? The 35 lessons are divided into four units. Each unit is supported with tools which instructors can use to make their teaching more effective. These include (1) a statement of unit objectives, (2) a teaching schedule planner, (3) three to ten brief but significant quotations from major sources about each topic, (4) a notebook checklist, (5) suggestions for review techniques for each lesson, (6) and an overall unit review. Each lesson also contains (7) suggestions for background readings for the teacher from a recommended basic library. Here’s what the lessons cover:

Teaching Choral Concepts Unit 1

  1. Introduction and Course Participation Commitment—prepares your students for a positive learning experience, explains the curriculum and tells what they will be expected to do.
  2. Correct Sitting Posture—shows your students the effects of poor posture on singing and teaches four rules for good posture.
  3. Correct Standing Posture—describes good posture for each part of the anatomy and presents various body-movement techniques for assuming correct standing posture.
  4. The Breathing Mechanism—based on an explanation of the functioning of antagonistic muscles, your stu­dents learn key concepts about how their body func­tions in the breathing process. 
  5. Controlled Breathing—your students learn the relationships of air quantity, expulsion rate and throat-opening size to breath control. They learn six suggestions for breath economy, five practice tech­niques, and the need for personal physical vitality.
  6. Voice-part Classifications—your students learn the fac­tors which determine voice classifications are timbre, tessitura, change-of-color points, and range. They review basic 2-, 3-, 4-, and 8-part classifications and examine the tone and style descriptions used to identify various solo voices (coloratura soprano, lyric tenor, etc.)
  7. Vocal Ranges—after learning the octave numbering system (c1 , c2, c3, etc.), your students learn the typical good and extreme ranges for each voice part, and deter­mine their own “good” and “extreme” ranges.
  8. The Reed-flute Tone Continuum—a presentation of the tone-color continuum which explains “reed,” “flute” and “mixed” voices, this lesson helps your students conceptualize “ideal” tone quality and learn how they can move their own tone quality toward that ideal.
  9. Change-of-color Points—after learning that untrained voices have obvious change-of-color points where the vocal mechanism changes and adjusts, your students learn where those points are typically found for each voice part and how the points can be identified. They learn that a vocal training objective is to smooth out the voice so these points are not easily heard.
  10. Audition Preparation—your students learn that the qualities being evaluated when vocal auditions are held are vocal ability, musicianship, and personality. They are taught how to prepare for auditions effectively.

In the ten lessons above are dozens of key concepts and behavioral objectives that your students should be applying on a daily basis—understandings that will make a remarkable change in the sound of your choir. But there’s much, much more!

Teaching Choral Concepts Unit 2

  1. Objectives of Vocal Training—this lesson identifies ten objectives of personal or group voice lessons and encourages students to seek outside instruction.
  2. The Singing Mechanism—in this non-technical expla­nation of the singing apparatus, the students acquire enough background concerning the generator, vibrators, resonators, and articulators to be able to receive later instructions on adjustments the instructor seeks from various individuals during rehearsals.
  3. Open Throat—choir members learn how tension in the throat affects tone quality, and they acquire several techniques for achieving an open throat. They begin to evaluate their own tonal quality.
  4. Personal Warmup—the students learn how to conduct a personal warmup prior to each rehearsal and practice period, and gain understanding of the importance and purposes of the warmup.
  5. Care of the Voice—using information provided in the lesson outline, students present reports on vocal abuse, vocal-cord damage, head colds, laryngitis, allergies, tonsillitis, smoking, and correct speech levels.
  6. Vocal Resonance—choir members experiment with changes in lip, mouth, and tongue positions, plus adjustments in nasality and tension of cavity walls to discover how each can affect vocal resonance.
  7. Good Singing Tone—after learning that good singing tone is recognized by comparison to a correct tonal image, choir members learn appropriate criteria for judging the sound and feel of their singing tone.
  8. Tone Color—students learn how and when to use “dark,” “bright,” and “straight” tone.
  9. Attacks and Releases—emphasis is placed on choral precision, with explanations and demonstrations of good and poor vocal attacks and releases. Instruction for determining the exact time for releases is given.
  10. Effective Practice—choir members are taught that prac­tice based on the accomplishment of meaningful goals is essential to musical growth and satisfaction, and they set personal goals for growth.

Teaching Choral Concepts Unit 3

  1. Dynamic Levels—this lesson focuses on six levels in the soft-to-loud dynamic range, helps choir members sing with greater dynamic variety and contrast, and aids them in making the vocal adjustments needed to sing softly or loudly.
  2. Extending Vocal Ranges—shows choir members how to practice in order to extend their vocal ranges, while alerting them to the visible signs of vocal tension.
  3. Head Resonance and Head Tone—choir members are taught to recognize tones produced with “head reso­nance” and “head voice,” and are helped in improving the quality of their tone on higher pitches.
  4. Humming—choir members are shown how to hum properly, improve their blend and resonance in hummed passages, and use humming in practice ses­sions to improve their vocal skills.
  5. Basic Musical Styles—choir members are taught to recognize and perform correctly in legato, staccato, marcato, and rubato styles.
  6. Correct Phrasing—the basic rules of phrasing are pre­sented, and choir members learn the techniques used for singing long phrases, taking catch-breaths, stagger­ing their breathing, and learning to better control their breathing.
  7. Vocal Flexibility—choir members are shown how to strive for greater agility, more variation of tone color and dynamics, and more control of accents and embell­ishments in their singing.
  8. Intonation—the lesson focuses on overcoming errors in vocal production which are the source of intonation problems, dealing also with mental laziness, specific tuning of chords, and cooperating to eliminate intona­tion errors in the choir’s repertoire.

Teaching Choral Concepts Unit 4

  1. Introduction to the Phonetic Alphabet—using the Inter­national Phonetic Alphabet as the basis for the lesson, choir members are taught to begin refining their tone quality by singing pure vowels instead of the schwa.
  2. Balance and Blend—choir members are taught to blend by brightening or darkening their tone, and to adjust their individual volume to improve the choir’s balance.
  3. Singing the Vowels—this lesson shows that correct lip and tongue positions are essential to singing vowels with good quality, that vowels migrate to certain areas of the vocal range, plus the production needed for “bright” and “dark,” and also “open” and “closed” vowels.
  4. Diphthongs—choir members learn the proper procedure for singing diphthongs and learn to recognize the vowel combinations which form the six most common diphthongs.
  5. Articulation—the lesson focuses on the characteristics of good articulation, the common causes of poor articu­lation, and the basic rules for performing voiced and voiceless consonants.
  6. Enunciation—choir members learn that correct enunciation, articulation and pronunciation comprise good dic­tion; how to minimize the undesirable sounds of the neutral vowel and of sibilants; and commit themselves to fulfilling the articulation and enunciation goals established by the choir.
  7. Pronunciation—choir members learn the general rule for pronunciation while singing, the five most common pronunciation errors, and how to handle difficult pronunciation problems when singing.

An Adaptable Curriculum. This curriculum can be taught on several levels: from mere exposure to the concepts to a more productive level in which choir members maintain notebooks, have frequent reviews, and are tested on a unit basis. The course allows considerable flexibility, and teachers can individualize each lesson to their personal styles and manner of delivery.

Doctoral Dissertation Format. Since this book actually was written in the form of a doctoral dissertation, the first brief six chapters describe “The Model Program Experiment,” which documents the structure and methodology by which the validity of the program was established. The chapters are: (1) The Problem: Lack of an Organized Program for the Conceptual Teaching of Choral Principles. (2) Methodology and Procedures Followed. (3) Description of Schools and Instructors Participating in the Model Program Experiment. (4) Conceptual Teaching and Related Criteria for Development of Lessons for the Model Program. (5) Test Results and Evaluations of the Model Program. (6) Summary of Results of the Study and Related Items. This structure can be of considerable value to anyone pursuing a doctoral program which requires the writing of a dissertation.

448 pages. {tcc 01}

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