By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator
Vocal Tips for Little Ones
If your child enjoys singing along with movies and the radio, you might wonder whether voice lessons are the next step and what you can expect from studying the technical elements of singing at a young age. Teachers have debated the subject intensely for years, and many agree that children will sing regardless, especially since shows like Annie, The Secret Garden, and Matilda are so often performed. In lessons, your child can expect to learn how to sing sustainably and how to learn new songs. When making the choice to pursue private lessons, you may have a few questions.
“Sing out, Louise!” What standards will my child be expected to meet?
In a healthy voice lesson, your child will learn how to use his or her own voice just as it is. The voice is produced from a combination of muscles and cartilages that are still growing in children. In fact, the voice does not reach maturity until well into adulthood! Lessons teach children how to navigate the growth and changes which occur while being patient with themselves. Children may expect to learn new songs with the help of their teacher and to master a few basic techniques.
Breathing, Phonation, and Resonance
Singing begins with breathing. Your child will learn how to breathe deeply and will practice concentration. Though the vocal instrument is located in the throat, it is heard through resonance found in the face. Your child should not expect to feel a sore or tired throat after singing, and lessons are a great way to help children to avoid straining their voices. Teachers will help them to master using their breath and finding a space for tougher notes rather than reaching for them. They will also guide children to a natural phonation which relies on resonance rather than on excessive pressure.
Diction and Expressiveness
Singing words requires clear diction, or enunciation. Children will learn how to pronounce words clearly and efficiently, removing excessive effort which may hinder their speech or result in tension. They will also learn how to evaluate a character and his or her words in each song and how to express what they have discovered in the text. They will learn to use their breath to support their expressiveness, which will prevent “acting” from negatively impacting their singing.
What will my child gain from singing?
Aside from the ability to sing healthily and confidently, the complex physical and mental coordination required to learn and sing music will help your child to engage multiple sections of their brain which may improve their ability to connect other school subjects. Kenneth Phillips classifies singing as a psychomotor skill involving pitch perception and vocal coordination (Teaching Kids to Sing, p. 15). This connection is reflected well in the connection between breathing and acting. As children learn to connect breath with intention, they will learn how to use their breathing as a method for emotional control and healthy communication outside the classroom as well. Researcher Aniruddh Patel has discovered that singing benefits the connection between different parts of the brain and that language and prediction become more accessible through melodic learning. This means that your child may see improvements in language arts classes and may also become more confident due to being able to successfully recognize patterns and predict what will come next musically and linguistically.
Singing provides children with a fun, engaging way to develop their mental and physical coordination, focus, and communication. The physical engagement of singing offers a productive outlet for energy, while the mental focus and listening skills required helps children to refine their intellectual development. Ultimately, they’ll gain confidence and creativity, so that next sing-a-long children’s movie might be a good idea after all!
Phillips, Kenneth H. Teaching Kids to Sing. New York: Schirmer Books, 1992.