assessment learning Nov 03, 2022


Using the same vocal exercise for everyone actually has a respectable place in a voice teachers development. Here’s what I mean.

One of the most useful assessments I run on singers is singing with the arms above their head, reaching up.

One, because it’s very telling on the rib cage, breath and related things. Two, because a large percentage of singers experience a transformation of tone and/or comfort with it.

Now, there was a time when I was working out how this could be useful without really knowing exactly how to move forward with it. So, the best way I could speed that along was to set aside *quite literally* one minute of EVERY persons singing lesson to sing with the arms up.

It was so casual, wasn’t jarring to the session at all, and the singer just went with it every time without questioning a thing.


Here, to indiscriminately apply the same thing to everyone allowed me to do what specialists do when they want great information, which is to see patterns. A certain type of singer would often benefit from the arms up, when another type of singer would find singing like that impossible.

That became golden, because the arms up assessment could then give me an easier decision, once I understood WHY one person might struggle and one might not. Why one person should prioritise breath and another should prioritise registers.

I made it my mission to understand that once I saw the patterns gathering. Now, it’s a main assessment in my teacher training program.


You can’t quite get information like that peppering it in here and there, so everything stays blurry for longer unless you are willing to use the same thing on absolutely everyone for a period of time.

I encourage everyone to do this, carefully of course. There were many times when putting the arms up blew the singers mind, and they said:

“That’s amazing…. what now???”

My answer: “Give me a week and I’ll work it out.”

And this is the problem that often stops teachers from moving forward with new techniques. IE, looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. Truth is, that isn’t how it comes across. It usually looks to the singer like an important discovery which no-one else has spotted so far, and needs further investigation.

It’s also very exciting/intriguing/interesting/etc for the singer, and there’s also a chance THEY might also figure something out about it while they’re at home playing around.

The alternative is to only try something new on one or two people and disregard it as being useless because they didn’t respond with an improvement. This is a similar mistake to trying something on yourself only, it not working for you, so it goes in the bin.


Bottom line is, you can’t know everything. Just the fact that you are clearly turning over every stone to help that singer will foster mutual respect rather than damage it. Just as with singers, the uncertainty of this is a necessary struggle YOU have to go through as a teacher to learn.

Once you can take that pressure off yourself, you can start experimenting like a specialist and eventually carve out your unique expertise!

If you're not sure how you are going to carve out your expertise and serve singers more deeply, let's talk about how you can move forward on a free consultation call.


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