So, you thought about getting your kid singing lessons, but you want to have them start off in the right foot. We don’t blame you one bit, and developing healthy habits early on will help down the road. Before we start with lessons, we want to speak about some of the pitfalls that children might face today.
Practice ideally should be standing up in front of a match and singing along with the most recent lesson. Much less-than-ideal practicing could be vocalizing in the car on the way to school. Just find a way to include it in the day. This is the only way improvement and change occurs.
Kids Singing Lessons and Developing Healthy Habits
Creating the habit of daily practice usually require a great deal of parental involvement for at least the first few months until good habits are established. Parents often make the mistake of thinking that if their child really wants to sing, they will be able to discipline themselves and practice regularly. That is just not the case. In a kid’s mind, voice lessons are all about singing songs. Of course, that is something they can do at home, for free. We would like them to become better at singing. By developing various muscles through scales and sometimes strange sounds that drive everyone in the family crazy, we do that. But they really work!
At any age, because we are focused on changing a behavior or learning a new behavior, takes concentration, practicing something unfamiliar. It’s fun to do things you are already good at, but challenging to do something you are not good at yet. To see change and improvement they will have to get into the habit of doing it, although developing the practicing habit is a little like eating vegetables instead of MacDonald’s- your child may not love it at first.
Most children are not developmentally able to maintain a practice routine consistently on their own, so you will have to schedule that. It is not true that “if children will discipline themelves to practice if they love music”. Their brains don’t work that way yet. Parents have to be very proactive, sometimes all the way through high school!
A good way to encourage singing lessons for kids is to start small- even 10 minutes a day will result in change and improvement. The key to creating good habits is daily consistency, preferably at the same time every day.
In vocal technique for singers of all ages we are developing specific muscles. If those muscles are not exercised daily with the correct exercises by singing along with the recorded lesson those muscles just do not change. You have to do the work to see the results.
If possible, to create a habit you should try to do it at the same time every day. We suggest kids singing lessons the first thing you do when they walk in the door right after school.
Sometimes this involves making choices. Many kids are way over-booked, rushing from one activity to another, leaving no time for practice. If you want to be successful at music of any kind, room must be left in the schedule for daily practice. If you want your child to be successful at music lessons, don’t allow them to be over-booked, create a spot in the daily schedule that is just for practice, and practice at the same time every day so it becomes a habit rather than a random when-I-get-around-to-it approach. If you do this consistently you will soon see major improvements in your child’s singing. After your children begin to see the benefits of hard work- a stronger voice,stronger high notes, and their new skills to sing like some of their favorite artist, the practice habit is easier to pick up!
What is the best way to get children to do anything? Model the good behavior! If you have ever wanted to sing, this is a great thing to do with your child. Take lessons with us too! It’s an amazing bonding experience. When they see you practicing, they will form the practice habit- and you will have great fun singing with your child!
When listening and working with child prodigy’s, I have seen many different things work with children’s voice lessons; some of these techniques may conflict with what is considered safe during private singing lessons for kids. I have seen many parents lean (mostly in contemporary or commercial music) toward giving children voice lessons at a very early age, as early as 5 or 6 years old. My greatest concern is a child’s safety and I don’t promote some of the techniques like heavy belting for young children. In the music theatre or pop music encourages our children to sing loudly, which most vocal professionals conclude can be very damaging to the voice, most importantly when your child just starting out. Belting has been more and more popular today because most people think louder is better than being softer, which is a huge dillema. There is nothing wrong with belting, but with heavy belting on a regular basis, you can damage a child’s voice.
Singing lessons that focus on producing big adult sound can damage the young voice in a short period of time, though learning limited range folk songs or sight singing in a limited range is fine at an early age. Considering that fame or ‘living a parent’s dream’ can often take priority over what is best for the child, we need to develop public awareness on what is healthy singing for a child. There is not enough information out there about proper techniques in training children’s voices.
A child’s larynx should never be pushed with the same vocal pressure put upon it as a grown ups larynx. Also, there shouldn’t doesn’t need to be such a thing as a ‘child vocal prodigy’. Children who sing like adults sometimes use laryngeal tongue depression including an overstretching of the laryngeal muscles, which has destroyed young singers of their healthy voice.
Over-singing or under-singing can be destructive to the young voice during the process of the voice changing in puberty. One need only look at the career of Charlotte Church, who tried to keep the ‘angelic sound’ in her voice as it was changing, instead of allowing it to naturally drop and open. She lost her ability to sing over time, because the laryngeal position had to be so squeezed in order to sustain her little girl sound. Not so long ago, a 10-year-old girl won a talent contest singing with an adult operatic sound. The audience was blown away to hear this type of child vocal prodigy. At this time there is not enough public knowledge when concerning vocal health and your child’s voice, this type of vocal production is celebrated. By seeing a shaking jaw we can promise that this is the first sign of someone loosing their voice. That’s why it is very important to ask good questions to parents about their children’s voices.
Healthy vocalism in a child’s voice really means allowing them to sound like a child, and allowing their voices to change gradually with the physical growth of the vocal mechanism. Most children’s singing have a small amount of breathiness of sound. This will go away with the development of vocal cords and larynx. You should never encourage squeezing the throat to change a child’s vocal folds. Any squeezing of the vocal folds opens the door for major vocal issues later, including a closed throat. Range is also a great consideration when dealing with a child’s voice. When working with kids I like to use a limited range which helps with laryngeal release and will not have the child resort to laryngeal manipulation.
Begin each singing lesson for children with some simple stretches and posture exercises. It actually teaches them how to properly participate in a voice lesson by giving them simple, achievable tasks to succeed, although not only is this important to teach the child to sing with good posture. Children are very kinesthetic and love to do physical activities.
A simple technique would be a breathing exercise: when taking a breathe in, the stomach needs to bulge. When exhaling, the stomach needs to tighten. The chest and shoulders should stay level and not move. You can work on this sitting or standing, or lying with a book on their belly. Then practice humming, eventually, buzzing and hissing singing “Ah” by preparing with a good deep breath and steadily supporting with the stomach. Focus on getting good, even sounds while exhaling that do not sputter or die off.
Starting Off With Basic Singing Lessons for Your Child
Start off by teaching your child about the registers. Their high voice will probably be weak at first but insist on its use and it will grow stronger over time. Children should learn to recognize the sensation of vibration in their chest and mouth for low notes and in their head for high notes.
Begin ear-training. Teach them to match pitch and then to sing steps going lower and higher. Begin by having them sing “ah” and match their pitch with the piano. Then explore a couple steps up and down. Since many children do not immediately understand the concept of raising and lowering pitch, it can be demonstrated by the raising and lowering of your hand. If they don’t get it right away, they usually do soon, be patient.
Teach scales. Start with teaching the 5 and 3 note major scales, make sure to include the solfege syllables Do Re Mi Fa Sol. Make sure to use the starting note down and up by half-steps as long as they hold good pitch. After they make decent progress, include the entire scale (Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do).
The last thing before starting to sing actual songs is to focus on vowels. Make sure your children sing every vowel with the correct mouth shape. Opening your mouth far enought will help with the Oh and Ah and that round shape will help with the Oo and Oh..
Work on an open throat and also a focused tone. Instruct your child to “sing through a yawn” including their tongue flat behind your childs bottom teeth. By telling them to focus the vibration on the roof of their mouth, work on tone. This is especially effective by having them hum and asking them to maximize the vibration on the roof of their mouth. Tones in the upper register will feel like they vibrate above the roof of the mouth, in the head and even above the head when high enough.
Begin learning songs for kids to sing. Practice sight reading by first singing in solfege while watching the contour of the notes. Begin teaching children to read music this way. Then move on to holding the vowel sounds out to the length of the notes (rather than closing them off quickly as in normal speech) and singing with pure vowels.
Give performance opportunities like singing auditions for kids. Learning to perform is considered one of the best experiences in voice lessons. On a regular basis conduct performances in the back yard where the child will perform an entire song, while facing you. If they are comfortable with it, encourage students to sing for their parents and even friends. Finally, hold a recital every 6 months or so for which they can prepare 1-3 songs to perform for parents and other students.