Your Music Library: What You Need Your First Year of Teaching Voice

Your Music Library_

You’ve just opened up your own voice studio and started to advertise.  Maybe you’ve even booked your first couple of students.  Then the reality hits. . . what on earth are we going to sing?  Here’s all the things they didn’t tell you in that vocal repertoire class you took. . .

Disclaimer before we go any further: This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase something from one of the links I make a small commission, at no cost to you, that helps keep this site running. 

Budget at Least $300-$500 for new books for the next 5 years.

Unless you know a retiring voice teacher who is willing to sell you their books for very cheap, this is going to be your largest expenditure.  Even if you manage to spend less this fall, you will likely need Christmas rep in November, extra copies of songs at competition time, and random sheet music for that student who just doesn’t like anything.

Books to Cover Most Students

I’m making a couple of big assumptions in this section.  I’m assuming that your students are all new to voice lessons, have little experience, and range from ages 8-13.  I’m also assuming that you don’t have any older students who are transferring from another teacher or adult beginners.  Don’t worry, I’ll cover those situations further along in the post.  Here’s my basic checklist:

    • Graded repertoire books in levels intro to at least level 4.  A 12 or 13 year old may be able to handle level 5 in the second half of the year, but you can always purchase that later.  In Canada, we use the Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada books.  I use both methods with every student and they are my go-to books that everyone must do something from.
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Resonance: Preparatory Voice Repertoire
Composed by The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. For voice. This edition: 4th edition. Resonance series. Preparatory. Book & CD. 48 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.RSR00U).
    • A Folk Song Book.  My go to is the Folk Songs for Solo Singers Series in both the medium high and medium low keys.  The songs are very approachable for your older singers in this age range.  You can use these books all the way up to age 18, or as a good place to start for your adult beginners.
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Folk Songs for Solo Singers – Vol. 1, Medium High (Book)
(11 Folk Songs Arranged for Solo Voice and Piano… For Recitals, Concerts and Contests). Edited by Jay Althouse. For medium high voice solo and piano accompaniment (High voice (Medium-High)). SmartMusic; Vocal Collection. For Solo Singers. Folk. Difficulty: medium. Songbook. Vocal melody, lyrics and piano accompaniment. 63 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.4952).
    • 2 Musical Theatre Anthologies.  If your budget is limited, buy the Kid’s Musical Theatre Collection for the younger kids and the Teen’s Musical Theatre Collection for the older kids in this age range.  Avoid the big anthologies for specific voice types at this age.  You want songs that are good for young voices with age appropriate lyrics.  If you have a little extra money, I also like You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Into the Woods, and Anne of Green Gables for singers 12 and under.
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The Teen’s Musical Theatre Collection – Young Women’s Edition
(Young Women’s Edition). For Vocal. Vocal Collection. Piece for the NFMC Vocal event with the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Festivals Bulletin 2008-2009-2010. Broadway and Play Along. Difficulty: easy-medium. Softcover Audio Online. Vocal melody, piano accompaniment, lyrics, chord names and guitar chord diagrams. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.740160).
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Kids’ Musical Theatre Collection – Volume 1
Composed by Various. For Voice, Piano Accompaniment. Vocal Collection. Softcover Audio Online. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.230029).
    • A Sight Reading Book.  I am very partial to Nancy Telfer’s Successful Sight Singing.  I use it with almost every student in my studio and they all seem to love it.  The pace is nice and slow, and you can assign the different choir parts for different weeks if needed.  It’s also good to try sight reading the different parts with your student and get them used to singing in parts at an early age.
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Successful Sight-Singing, Bk 1 – Vocal Edition
Composed by Nancy Telfer. For choir. Telfer Successful Choral Curriculum. Choral. Book A,1. Choral score. Published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company (KJ.V77S).
    • A Disney Book.  I avoided teaching Disney for years, but kids love it and the songs are generally in singer friendly ranges.  The only reason that I did not like to teach Disney is that if I started with Disney songs, the kids expected them all year and wouldn’t do anything from the graded books.  Make Disney a treat.  Don’t let them sing Frozen the entire year.
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Disney Songs for Singers – Revised Edition
(Low Voice). Composed by Various. For Vocal. Vocal Collection. Piece for the NFMC Vocal event with the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Festivals Bulletin 2008-2009-2010. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.740296).
    • A Christmas Book.  If you can afford only one book, get the Reader’s Digest Christmas Anthology.  Tons of songs, lots of variety, and most numbers are easy to play.  Really though, any Christmas anthology will do.  Make sure you have a mix of secular and sacred songs.  Your church going kids might have an extra performance opportunity at their church, and your non-church going kids might not feel comfortable singing about God.  Maybe your community or culture celebrates Hannukah, Kwanza, or something else at winter.  Adjust for what is popular in your community.
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Reader’s Digest Piano Library: Christmas Classics
(50 Christmas Favorites Arranged for Piano and Voice). Composed by Various. Edited by David Pearl. For Piano, Voice. Music Sales America. Christmas. Softcover with CD. Music Sales #AM993971. Published by Music Sales (HL.14026958).

Transfer Students

If you have older, more experienced students coming to you from other teachers, you will need additional books.  If possible, chat with the former teacher about the student’s progress.  If not, ask the student to bring their voice binder to the first lesson, and try and find out what grade level they were working at.

Students who have been singing mostly classical music before coming to you will need:

    • The next level up of graded repertoire book, likely somewhere in levels 5-8.  You will likely not teach a lot, if any, of level 9 or 10 at this point in your career.
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New Millennium Voice Grade 5 Conservatory Canada
NOVUS VIA MUSIC GROUP. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.139059).
    • A musical theatre book for their voice type.  This is where those big anthologies for specific voice types come in handy.
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The Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology – Volume 5 – Mezzo-Soprano
Edited by Richard Walters. For Vocal (Mezzo-Soprano Voice and Piano). Vocal Collection. Book and 2 accompaniment CDs. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.1163).
    • If you are teaching languages (which I hope you are!) you will also want to consider some beginner song anthologies in other languages.  24 Italian Songs or 26 Italian Songs is a great place to start for Italian.  Schubert and  Schumann will do for German.  Faure is always a safe bet for French.  There are of course MANY other composers and anthologies you could use at this age and stage.
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26 Italian Songs and Arias – Medium High Voice (Book/CD)
(Medium High Voice). Edited by John Glenn Paton. For medium high voice solo and piano accompaniment (High voice (Medium-High)). SmartMusic; Vocal Collection. Renaissance, Baroque and Play Along. Difficulty: medium. Collection and accompaniment CD. Vocal melody, lyrics, piano accompaniment, performance notes and introductory text. 153 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.3396).
    • An anthology by Boytim in their voice type.  This is also a great place to start if you don’t have the budget for multiple song anthologies in other languages, but want something other than the next grade up for books.
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The First Book of Solos Complete – Parts I, II and III
(Soprano). Edited by Joan Frey Boytim. For Vocal, Soprano, Piano Accompaniment. Vocal Collection. Published by G. Schirmer (HL.50498741).

Adult Students

Adult students often have their own specific agenda in lessons.  Find out what it is and honour it.  Some will want to do classical, some will want to do pop, and others will come specifically to get help for upcoming performances.  If an adult gives me free reign on repertoire, I start with folk songs and musical theatre and work my way over to classical once they have gained skill and confidence.

I don’t have any go-to books for adults, because each student is so different.  If you can’t find any repertoire they like in the books you have, insist that they print something off of www.sheetmusicplus.com or www.musicnotes.com.  Just make sure they run the selection by you first!  Also, helpful: Require them to pick songs by singers of the same gender or voice type as they are.  It will save you a lot of stress, trust me!!

Very Young Students

I personally do not like to accept voice students under the age of 8, but I know there are situations and students who can handle lessons earlier.  If you have these very young students in your studio, I also recommend the following types of books:

    • Rhythms to clap with rhythm instruments.  Most children 7 or younger simply can not focus on singing for 30 minutes.  You will need musical activities to break things up.
    • A Children’s Anthology.  There are many good children’s anthologies out there!  It can be hard to get very young children to sing new songs for you, so compromise by picking one they have heard before and one they maybe haven’t.  I personally use 36 Solos for Young Singers & The Big Book of Children’s Songs in my studio.
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36 Solos for Young Singers
Arranged by Joan Frey Boytim. For Vocal. Vocal Collection. Piece for the NFMC Vocal event with the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) Festivals Bulletin 2008-2009-2010. Play Along. Softcover Audio Online. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.740143).
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The Big Book of Children’s Songs
Composed by Various. For Guitar, Piano/Keyboard, Vocal. Piano/Vocal/Guitar Songbook. Children’s. Difficulty: medium. Songbook. Vocal melody, piano accompaniment, lyrics, chord names and guitar chord diagrams. 128 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.359261).
  • Consider offering basic piano as part of the lesson.  If you are able to teach beginner piano, this is a great option for very young singers.  It breaks up the lesson, and the child gets to learn two instruments.  Obviously you would not want to keep this format up much past age 8, but this has worked so well in my studio that I think it is worth mentioning.
  • Music games.  This is not necessarily a book per se, but if you like to make simple music games, this is the age group to make them for!

There are lots of other awesome anthologies for singers out there!  Look around online or peruse the shelves of your local music store to find what works for you.

I hope this helps you out your first year in business.  Don’t be afraid to ask other music teachers for what works well for them!  Let me know in the comments which suggestions you found helpful and what your go-to books are.

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