New Student Guide: Voice

Modified on Thu, 22 Sep 2022 at 05:11 PM

Thank you for choosing Octopus Music School for your or your child’s musical education! Learning to play music can be a fulfilling lifelong journey and we couldn’t be happier that you have chosen us to be your guide!


What to expect

Learning to sing is both exciting and challenging! Understanding the anatomy of the body in relation to that of the vocal tract is key to aid in healthy singing. Octopus Music School fosters the creation of the well rounded singer: technically, musically, theoretically, and linguistically through varied repertoire. Vocal students regardless of natural ability, will need a strong technical foundation to ensure healthy and consistent vocal production. It is important to remind students that practice and patience are very important. If things don’t immediately sound the way you or your child expect, don’t worry! This is normal. Our teaching staff will let you know if they feel there is something extra you can do to help the student’s progress.

First song

At the first lesson, students' natural ability to sing will be assessed. Then after, the student and teacher will agree on a simple song to begin working. The fundamentals must be in place first: regular practice habits, correct posture, breath management, support, and the basics of producing a clear sound. It is important to be patient, we want to make sure that a student is adequately prepared before beginning to work on repertoire.

OPUS curriculum

Students studying at OMS will benefit from our proprietary curriculum and assessment system, OPUS (Octopus Poly-instrumental Units of Study). OPUS comprises ten grade levels, each with an accompanying assessment. Our voice curriculum emphasizes key skills that are crucial to students’ proper development. From the beginning, we emphasize safe vocal practices, sight-singing, aural training, proper breath control techniques, and overall musicianship to ensure vocal students are not just learning to use their voices, but developing skills that will translate to other musical ventures.


Ensembles at OMS are an integral part of our OPUS curriculum and are designed to provide students with a collaborative environment to experience the joys of making music in an intimate group with their peers. Students may begin signing up for ensembles the moment they begin studying at OMS! Barnacle Band (OPUS grade 1) is designed for complete beginners  with absolutely no experience whatsoever! Tentacle Band (OPUS grades 2-4) is for students who have completed grade 1 and have more experience than complete beginners, while OctoRock (OPUS grades 5+) is for advancing students who are very proficient at their instruments.

Advancing grade levels

Our curriculum features a 10-tiered program of advancement wherein graduation from each level is increasingly difficult. For reference, we expect students on the traditional track to graduate from Level 1 in 3-5 months. In contrast, students in Levels 8-10 who practice regularly are expected to advance in a year, or perhaps even longer, depending on the challenges presented in their studies.  In order to advance to Grades 2, 5, and 7, students must complete an ensemble class; Barnacle Band (for grade 2), Tentacle Band (for grade 5), and OctoRock (for grade 7) are our OPUS curriculum ensembles that are open to any currently enrolled students.

Practice, practice, practice!

The absolute most important aspect of learning any musical instrument is consistent daily practice. Students should aim to practice each day for the same amount of time they spend in their weekly lessons. If a student is taking a 30-minute lesson, the daily practice goal should be 30 minutes. Of course, that is the goal, and students shouldn’t aim too high in the beginning!

Tips for practice success

Try to help facilitate success by setting a time each day that the student should practice. In the beginning, it can be just a few minutes, with the intention of eventually building up to the full daily goal. It helps to set a timer and have a “practice space” where all their materials and instrument are easily accessible.

For vocalists, it is very helpful for students to record during their lessons in order to listen back, make corrections, and use to facilitate their own practice sessions. Students are encouraged to record their practice sessions also. This creates a system of checks and balances. It is important to keep practice associated with positivity rather than negativity to encourage the right habits. For example, instead of an ultimatum (“Practice, or no screen time), try to make it a reward (“Every 20 minutes of practice earns you 20 minutes of screen time”). Talk to your child’s private instructor to form a plan if you have ongoing concerns. The amount of adult attention a student needs when practicing varies by age; Beginner vocalists may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention in order to succeed in forming good practice habits and absorbing the material. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study.

If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.

How can I help my child?

The amount of adult help students need varies by age; very young students may need 15-30 minutes of parents’ daily, hands-on attention. Students should become increasingly independent in their practice over their months and years of study. If your child has trouble making practice part of their daily routine, we recommend starting small and making goals to increase time as your child’s attention span and interest is cultivated.

Listen, watch, repeat

Encourage your child to listen to music that prominently features the instrument they are learning. This can be done by simply listening to music in the car or at home, or, taking your child to live music events so they can see first-hand where all of the hard work they are putting in can lead.

Vocal health

Unlike learning an instrument that is outside the human body, the human voice requires that all parts work in tandem at the very early stages of lessons to create ease of functionality and healthy and consistent sound production. Vocal health is directly linked to personal health. Singers should treat their bodies with as much care as athletes to ensure consistent vocal production. Students should be completely honest with their teachers if they are experiencing vocal fatigue during the lesson or after practice.


• Drink sufficient water on a daily basis, and engage in cardio exercises regularly.

• Vocalize carefully daily/regularly.

• Steam and use a humidifier regularly.

• Dress appropriately for changing weather conditions to protect from illness.

• Avoid foods that cause: inflammation, excessive mucus build-up, and acid refux.

• Talk to your ENT, doctor, and/or teacher if you experience recurring vocal fatigue.

• Rest your voice and make sure to get tons of sleep.

• Be aware of the effect emotions can have on you. Stress and anxiety can contribute to

physical tension in sites like the throat, neck, chest and shoulders. These areas should be

relaxed to produce an easy voice.


• Abuse voice by excessive: screaming, belting, no smoking, inhaling harsh chemicals etc...

• Try to “stretch range”

• Sing/Talk when sick

• Try to mimic another person’s singing voice (your voice is enough)!

• Cough or clear your throat habitually, which can contribute to vocal cord injury. Swallow

your saliva and take sips of water instead.

• Talk or shout above high noise levels, or across large spaces. Instead, move nearer and face

the person you are talking to. Use non-verbal means such as gestures to gain attention and

convey some of your messages. If needed, use a microphone to speak to a large audience.

• Expose your voice to dusty, polluted and dry environments. This includes keeping away

from smokers or smoky places.

• Whisper or peaking on a vocal “fry” –‘underusing’ your voice can cause strain and muscle

tension in your voice box.

Tools of the trade

Tuner & metronome

Tuners and metronomes are on our required materials list for enrollment at OMS. That is because they are absolutely vital tools for progress! Tuner apps, such as the recommended InsTuner, are available for free on your smart device. Our recommended metronome app is called Pro Metronome. It requires a one-time fee of $2.99 and is available on Android and iOS. A physical tuner/metronome device can be generally between $15-$30.

Recording device

Video and sound recordings allow for an objective view of what you/your child is doing and what changes may need to be made. Having a cell phone to record, a small camera, or even a hand-held recorder each serves as helpful tools. If you do not have a cell phone to record, a hand-held recorder or small camera run between $20-60 dollars.

Digital piano

You do not necessarily have to be a virtuoso, but it is important to know your way around the keyboard. Ask your teacher for help to navigate the notes of the keyboard. A keyboard with 88, fully-weighted keys is recommended. Even if you aren’t an accomplished accompanist yourself, you will want an instrument that any good accompanist will feel comfortable playing. Take a look at our recommended digital pianos for one that might work best for your budget!


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