Wander the World with Vocal Warm – Ups Pt. 2

By Marcus McReynolds - Oct 26 , 2018

This blog focuses on the benefits of teaching your music students songs from different cultures. It talks about how these songs not only teach the students about the culture of those countries but they also help them develop and learn new skills quicker than songs from our culture. There are also multiple examples of how to use these folk songs to improve singing in this blog.

If you are learning how to teach choir or just want to learn to sing, using approaches and songs from other cultures can be super beneficial to your success. Folk songs are songs that are created and sang throughout generations in all different cultures. These songs can help students learn about music in different cultures and how to use certain techniques in different songs. Folk songs tend to be easy to learn and have catchy tunes, making learning these songs not only catchy but enjoyable to learn as well. There are a few skills that are either necessary or beneficial to people who are beginning to learn to sing.

One of the first skills we are going to talk about it audiation. Audiation skills are vital to students when they first start to learn to sing. What are audiation skills you might ask? Audiation is the comprehension of music even when the physical music sounds aren’t there. For example, you audiate when you are “playing by ear”, you don’t actually have the music in front of you but you still know what to play. An example of how to improve this skill is to ask your students to sing only measures 1, 3,  and 5 in a song. This will force them to audiate measures 2, 4, and 6. Lynn Brinckmeyer, a past NAfME president explains that using this technique with the Israeli dance “ Artza Alinu” is a great way for students to develop these super necessary audiation skills.

Another way to improve your singing when you are trying to learn to sing is to sing a lot of folk songs. There are a few reasons folk songs are extra beneficial over other types of songs. First, folk songs are songs that come from different cultures all over the world. You can learn not only about the culture, but you can also learn some musical context that is required for music lessons. Folk songs are also easy to switch up the style to as well. This is a creative way to teach students how to sing in different styles, which is also an important skill to possess as a singer. Singing a classic folk song swing or gospel style is also just a really fun thing to do.

Lynn also recommends a song from West Africa called “Funwa Alafia.” She explains that it is a really quick and easy song to learn. This gives students a lot of room to mess around with things like lightness and darkness of tone qualities. Once the students figure out how to execute these different choral tones, they can take the skill to different and more advanced songs. They can choose songs they want to sing and apply these same choral tones to them. This is a great exercise for people that are just beginning to learn to sing.

Lynn gives a few more examples of how you as a teacher can use the music from the folk songs found all around the world to help students learn. A few of her many ideas include singing a folk song and clapping on all of the 8th notes, lip syncing a song and singing only the last word in each phrase, and singing a folk song on a neutral pitch only. Doing these things with folk songs at first will help students gain more confidence and skill so that later on they are able to use these techniques on more advanced songs.

Overall, using music and folk songs from cultures all over the world can be super beneficial to your music students when they are starting to learn to sing. These songs can not only help teach students about literature context but can also teach these students singing techniques that are easier practiced on folk songs as a beginner.