Teaching Harmony Singing to Beginners

The NO SINGING Voice Lesson

Sep 13, 2018


Today I did my first ‘No singing singing lesson’ and it was a total hit. ‘That was fun’ croaked the student (her voice just wasn’t working today!), whilst her mum was worried she’d enjoyed it a bit too much!!! Before listening to your podcast, I’d have just told her not to come! Thank you for making things easier and so generously sharing. ~ Mandy Griffin

What do you do when your student can’t/shouldn’t/won’t sing?

Your original lesson plan is not going to work. Don’t panic! There are PLENTY of musical activities that allow vocal students to participate in a music lesson and let them rest their voices.

Hey, I don’t like a sick, germy student either. But illness is only one of many reasons that a student may need to have a no singing lesson! You may wish to take advantage of these lesson ideas when:

  • the student is tired

  • the student is anxious

  • the student has overused the voice

  • the student has had their braces tightened, and they are in pain (ouch!)

  • the student has had an extended illness and still needs to recover (even though they are well enough to attend the lesson

  • the student needs a change of lesson pacing

All of the above can apply to the teacher. If we are sick or on vocal rest, we can utilize a no singing lesson to save our voices/minds too!

(Teacher Tip: Include information in your studio policies about no singing lessons, so parents understand their value!)

Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking a productive singing lesson requires endless song.

Music is a collaborative art form, and comprehensive voice lessons include more than just singing. Here are some of the essential activities that can enhance the music lesson and support our students while allowing them (or us) to rest the voice.

Common sense is never common practice. Perhaps this would be a great opportunity to gently remind young singers (and parents) how to take care of their precious instruments.

Hopefully music theory is included in every vocal lesson – but now is an excellent time for written work. It doesn’t have to be regular textbook work either. Theory can easily be applied by analyzing current repertoire and asking simple questions about keys signatures, dynamics, musical terms, and form.

Do they really know what the song is about? Every little detail? I bet there is a word or phrase that is outside of their understanding. There is a great teaching opportunity here to discover more profound meaning in the song. Another excellent exercise for more expression is to identify all the descriptive words (adjectives) and underline them.

Important skills for all musicians, singers can benefit from exercises of identifying intervals, triads, scales and melodic dictation (for more advanced students). Make it fun and introduce your favorite ear training app to your student.

Rhythmic clap-back is always a challenge and yet fun activity for young music students. Have your singers listen to a piece of music and practice tapping on beats 2 & 4. (This is very difficult for many vocal students) Better yet – teach your young singers how to count in the accompanist.

Let them rest their voices while you sing/play some future repertoire. Give them a few selections and let them choose what their next song will be. Then discuss the lyrics and story of the new material.

Why not play them a recording/video of your favorite singers. Discuss the uniqueness of the voice and why this singer is one of your favorites. Then allow them to share one of their favorite singers with you. Ask them to describe the vocal qualities of this performer with you.

Perform for your student and ask them to critique it. (Hopefully, they will go easy on you!) Throw in some ‘not so awesome’ moments (negative practice) and see if they notice. Let them be the teacher and offer you some suggestions for improvement

Check out our FREE lesson plan when you need a fun lesson that allows the singers to rest their voices!


The NO SINGING Lesson plan