17 Ways to Work with Singers with a Disability

The arts are able to inspire people of all ages and from all walks of life. Through the arts people with a disability can acquire the freedom to express themselves, develop confidence and gain communication and social interaction skills. Diversity makes all art forms richer and more interesting – singing is no exception! Our performance singing group tutor, Heidi Acraman, has put together some handy tips for working with singers with a disability:

  1. Sign key words when delivering instructions.
  2. Use imagery to describe breath support, e.g. diaphragm being like an inflating tyre.
  3. Encourage students to relax by gently stretching muscles especially in the head and neck which will release tension; especially around the larynx.
  4. Assess understanding of vocal instructions through questioning.
  5. Ask students to demonstrate to each other.
  6. Fun tongue twisters that involve upper body movement to complement words e.g. ‘which shop sells Swiss wrist watches?’.
  7. When describing which register to place voice in, physically demonstrate the different levels with a hand gesture.
  8. Repetition of phrase, vocal line etc.
  9. Use shapes in the musical melody to describe movement of vocal line.
  10. Create a safe environment where students feel confident to make bold choices with the performance aspect of singing.
  11. Clap or ‘sniff’ in musical rests so students appreciate and understand the necessity of observing rests in music.
  12. Visual prompts to help students remember certain aspects of a song that may need a different emotion or something highlighting.
  13. Peer support; encourage students to help each other learn.
  14. Differentiation; break down instructions to different levels according to individual students’ needs.
  15. Use the technique of singing up a scale starting on a note of the students’ choice to enable them to find the note they are looking for.
  16. Ensure the learning experience is fun to maintain motivation and concentration levels.
  17. Praise all students and acknowledge each students’ individual successes.