Recommended Materials for Voice Students

There are many different music anthologies and songbooks out there, so I thought I’d put together a list of the ones that I recommend for my students.  I’m always looking for more music for my students, so I’ll keep adding to this list as my music library grows.  If you have any favorite books, I’d love to hear your suggestions as well!

MUSICAL THEATER ANTHOLOGIES

The Teen’s Musical Theater Collection – Young Women’s edition or Young Men’s edition, with available piano accompaniment CD.  Great collection of standard repertoire in a variety of styles and ranges.  Recommended for beginners.

Broadway Presents: Teens’ Musical Theatre Anthology – Female Edition or Male Edition, with piano accompaniment CD.   Slightly more advanced songs that venture outside of the standard repertoire, with some mature themes.  Contains songs in a variety of vocal ranges, so not all of the songs will work for each singer.  Recommended for older teens who may not have settled into a specific voice type yet.

Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology Series – Several volumes available for each voice type: Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano/Belter, Tenor, and Baritone/Bass.  Piano accompaniment CDs available.  Volume 1 generally contains standard songs from classic musicals, while the later volumes have songs from newer musicals.   Highly recommended for serious musical theater singers.

FOR CLASSICAL SINGERS

Easy Solos for Beginning Singers series – For Soprano, Mezzo-soprano/Alto, Tenor, and Baritone, with available CD of piano accompaniment.  Edited and compiled by Joan Frey Boytim.   A great starting point for students interested in classical singing.

First Book of Solos series – for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano/Alto, Tenor, Baritone, with available CD of piano accompaniment.  Several volumes of songs for each voice type.  Most songs are in English, with some in other languages as well.  There is also a Second Book of Solos series with even more challenging songs.  Edited and compiled by Joan Frey Boytim.   This series is highly recommended for all high school age students interested in classical singing, but many of the pieces will be too difficult for absolute beginners (see Easy Solos for Beginning Singers series above).

26 Italian Songs and Arias – available for Medium High or Medium Low voice, with available accompaniment CD.   Great collection of Italian songs for beginning to intermediate singers, and an essential part of the repertoire for young classical singers.

The Lieder Anthology – from the Singer’s Library series, available for High Voice or Low Voice, with accompaniment CD.  Collection of German art songs for intermediate to advanced singers.

French Song Anthology – from the Singer’s Library series, available for High Voice or Low Voice, with accompaniment CD.  Collection of French art songs for intermediate to advanced singers.

FOR YOUNGER STUDENTS

36 Solos for Young Singers – compiled by Joan Frey Boytim.  Accompaniment CD available.  Classical-type songs chosen to be accessible to younger singers, but may be too challenging for my youngest students or absolute beginners.

Contemporary Disney – collection of 50 songs from a variety of Disney movies.  Great for young singers but some songs have vocal ranges that are too large for many young students.

Kids’ Musical Theatre Collection – 29 songs with CD of piano accompaniments.  Good selection of songs from popular musicals that are appropriate for younger singers.  There is also a second volume available with even more songs.

Broadway Presents: Kids’ Musical Theatre Anthology – with CD of piano accompaniments.  Contains some of the same songs as the Kids’ Musical Theatre Collection above, but also has some more challenging pieces from a wide variety of shows and movies.

Practice Tips for Beginning Singers

How to Practice Singing

Step 1: Always Warm Up!

Loosen up your body with some stretches, shoulder rolls, and deep breaths

Start singing gently, with some of the warm up exercises you’ve learned in your lessons

It’s usually best to start each exercise in the middle of your range, and then move by half steps up or down to stretch your range.  Don’t push your voice to extreme high or low notes, instead you should stay within the range that is comfortable for you.

Once your voice has had a chance to warm up with simple exercises, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes singing some of the more challenging scales that we have worked on in your lessons.  This is the most effective way to build technique and strengthen your voice.

Step 2: Practicing Songs

When learning a new song, it’s best to practice the words and the melody separately at first:

  1. Speak the words as if they were lines in a play, so that you can feel connected to the meaning of the song.
  2. Speak the words in rhythm.  Do this slowly at first to make sure your rhythms are accurate.
  3. Learn the melody without the words, on a neutral syllable like “ah” or “oo”
  4. When you are ready, put the words and melody together.

Try not to rely on listening to recordings to learn new songs.  It’s important to come up with your own interpretation, rather than imitating another singer’s performance.

Rather than singing through the whole song over and over, try focusing on the sections that are most difficult first.  You can try singing these passages on an open vowel “ah” or “oh,” or on a lip trill to help relax the tone.  Pay attention to which sounds are most comfortable, and use those to help relax your voice when you have trouble.

Step 3: Learning to Read Music

I encourage all of my students to develop their music reading skills and learn the basics of music theory.  This will improve your overall performance, improve pitch and tuning, and make learning new songs much easier.  I use several sets of exercises that focus on developing basic music reading skills using Solfege (or Solfeggio) Syllables: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.  I will try to work through at least one of these exercises during each lesson, but it is very beneficial to practice them regularly at home.

When learning a song, try to get as much information as you can from the printed music, rather than learning by ear.  Which direction are the notes moving?  Are the pitches close together or far apart?  How many beats does each note get?  Are they loud or soft?  Asking yourself these types of questions about the music will help you become more skilled at interpreting the symbols of music notation.

Step 4: Follow Up

I recommend keeping track of your practice sessions, and writing down any questions or concerns that come up so that they can be addressed in your next lesson.  I’d like to hear about improvements you notice as well as difficulties you might have during the week.  If something is not working for you, we can try another approach.

If you are not sure what to practice, please ask!  Remember that the goal of practice is to reinforce the new skills introduced in your lesson, so that is usually a good place to start.  Also remember that consistent practice at home will help you learn songs faster, which allows us to focus on more advanced (and more fun!) concepts in lessons, instead of spending our time learning the notes and rhythms.  Also keep in mind that taking time to learn new music carefully and accurately will save the time you’d spend re-learning music learned incorrectly or undoing bad habits.

Additional Tips

I’d recommend using some kind of system to keep track of your progress.  You could try keeping a singing journal, where you write thoughts and reactions to lessons, practice sessions, and performances.  A journal is also a great way to keep track of goals and your progress toward them.  Or you can track of your practice time in a calendar or planner.  I use my Google Calendar to schedule practice time, because it helps me make sure I stay on track and practice as often as I’d like to.

Set a timer while you’re practicing so that you can stay focused.  I’m much less distracted if I know I need to keep going until the timer goes off, rather than constantly checking the clock.

Even if you’re busy and it seems like you have no time to practice, 15 minutes of practice is better than nothing.  It’s better to practice a little every day than for an hour at a time only once or twice a week.

If you are struggling with something and can’t seem to make progress, take a break and work on something else for a while.  Doing the same thing over and over unsuccessfully is not productive and will only make you frustrated.

Practicing in front of a mirror can help in two ways: first, it will let you keep track of your facial expressions and help develop your acting skills.  Secondly, it lets you see when you are doing something that will get in the way of your singing, like tightening your jaw or lifting your shoulders.

When you do listen to recordings of other singers, try to analyze what they are doing and find things that you specifically like or don’t like about their performance.  For example, is the tone breathy or bright?  Is the singer using head voice, chest voice, or a mix of both?  Where does the singer change the tone, and why do you think he/she does that?  Asking these questions will improve your listening skills and make you a more analytical singer.

Happy Practicing!