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Is It Safe to Teach Children to Sing?

Teaching Kids to Sing
Photo by dlofink

I received this question recently from a Mother who is wondering when is the right time to start Vocal Training for children. Read on to find out My opinion on the matter.

Your Question:

My daughter’s school trains children on musical instruments, which is great. But there’s no systematic voice training because they are afraid of injuring the undeveloped voice. I get that, but can’t a qualified teacher teach a lot of good habits and principles without risking damage? She’s ready to learn and we want her to be encouraged, not held back. Can you help me present my case?

My Answer

I totally understand where people on both sides of this argument are coming from. On one side, parents/teachers are trying to protect the young, not-fully-developed voice. On the other hand, children love singing, shouldn’t they learn the right way? Especially since they will be imitating pop recordings of singers who had lots of electronic help making those sounds.

Children’s voices are fragile, and any teacher who treats a young voice like an adult voice should not be teaching children. However, children are more than capable of learning to do things the right way if they are taught correctly.

Here is why I believe children* should be taught the right way to sing.

*I’m referring generally to singers in grades 2 through 6

All Children, Even Those With No Musical Aptitude, Will Benefit From a Good Understanding of the Foundations.

Here are some examples of the benefits children can receive from good foundational vocal training:

  1. Singers and speakers are vocal athletes, because singing is a physical process.
  2. Good, upright, balanced posture is healthy for all. It allows efficient breathing, which helps the brain work better and it looks good.
  3. Understanding natural, efficient breathing is great for not only communicating but for living, period.
  4. Speaking or singing without straining the voice is a great way be a better communicator. Finding and feeling resonant tone is good for anyone, and it’s a fun study.
  5. Understanding how the articulators (lips, tongue, teeth) give us clear words leads to clearer speaking, and that means being better understood. That’s a strong life-skill.

None of the above benefits are necessarily musical, but for those who do love to sing, or want to, these can all be studied very, very safely. In fact, you can head off lots of voice damage by being pro-active in sharing these principles.

It is Necessary to Provide Young Singers With The Same Care We Do Any Young Athlete.

In the case of a 10, 11 or 12 year old who shows musical aptitude and is actively using his/her voice singing just for fun I think it’s NECESSARY to provide them with the same care we do any young athlete. Athletes often have coaches available and even 6 yr olds are taught to stretch and warm up before soccer or T-ball. What about our young singers? Most of them are not taught principles. They are just taught songs, which is terribly incomplete.

As an Active Vocal Coach, This Is My Personal Policy For Training Children.

I regularly teach large and small groups of 2nd–6th graders the foundations of good singing and they absolutely love it. It gives them understanding and accountability, which is a lot more fun than just memorizing songs. I only take on individual students that are obviously gifted and disciplined children, and then only if they are 10 or older and have full parental support for follow-through.

Well, those are my thoughts. Needless to say, all of our training materials allow for all of the above. Our Teaching Kids To Sing DVD/CD series covers a lot of our principles and are proven, successful tools for those needing curriculum. Check them out at vocalcoach.com

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  1. I think it is imperative to teach children to sing. However I agree the author it must be done correctly. I’m not an expert on how to teach children, but I think my own experience was good: I had an elementary music teacher who could teach anyone to sing. She taught us music theory and breathing, but the thing I remember most was that she taught boys to sing falsetto as long as she could (She LOVED the Vienna Boys Choir). In 6th grade we sang 3 part music. Soprano, 1st Soprano and the really deep voices sang Alto (I was a 2nd Soprano). I am now a 52 year old granddad and I still sing publicly.

  2. The Royal School of Church Music has a program for young singers as well as Choristers Guild.

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