Top vocal coach Line Hilton explains how to tailor vocal exercises to suit the needs of a student.
With decades of vocal coaching experience under her belt, Line Hilton, the founder of BAST Training, knows a thing or two about teaching singing.
And one of the most important lessons she has learned along the way is that unless you understand how the voice functions, you can’t deliver the individualised teaching that every singer deserves. Instead, you have to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t work for all students.
Speaking on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast, Line explains: “When I first started, I didn’t really understand what was going on with a voice functionally.
“The only exercises I had access to were the ones that my singing teachers gave me [when I was a student]. I would be doing those exercises and then realise that they weren’t helping everybody; they helped some people, but not everybody.
“Teachers who don’t understand what’s going on in terms of voice function may not have the tools to go in and correct what they’re hearing. They might hear and understand that someone is breathy or yelly, or that they’re getting a crack through the passaggio. But they don’t understand functionally what’s going on and therefore don’t have the tools to counteract whatever that functional issue is.”
Six questions to help identify the right vocal exercises
In the podcast, Line outlines the functional questions she asks before diving in and suggesting vocal exercises to students.
1 The larynx – Is it too high or too low?
2 Vocal folds – What kind of closure have we got? Is it too weak or too strong?
3 Airflow – Is there too much air coming through or not enough?
4 Intrinsic muscle coordination – Is that happening in a balanced, well-coordinated way?
5 Extrinsic muscles – Are they interfering with the process?
6 What’s happening with the rest of the body? Look at things like posture (if the neck is forward, that will hinder the voice box. If the student is slouched, they’re not going to be able to take a decent breath.)
“I zoom in on all of these areas and then figure out what the issue is,” Line says. “When I have identified what I think the problem is, I start to think about the different exercises that can help. Or I might suggest a visualisation or give advice about posture.
“And of course, quite often, there’s more than one thing happening at the same time. It’s a matter of trying to ascertain if what I’m hearing is a symptom of a functional issue or a side effect – or is it a secondary issue?”