Teaching Children

Weekly Teaching Tip – May 20, 2013
by Dean Kaelin

(This is in answer to a question about when to begin teaching children.)

Contrary to what a lot of “old school” teachers say, I feel that children should get into good habits as soon as possible. Many have said for years that children should wait until their voice changes before beginning to study, and I think that if they are going to study a bad technique that they should definitely wait as long as possible (haha!). But children are going to sing whether they get lessons or not. So, the question is not whether they are going to sing or not, but rather “how” they are going to sing, correctly or incorrectly?

Having said that, most young children do not need a lot of lessons and they should definitely not be trying to sing too hard. However, with many of the things they are hearing on the radio and imitating that are low and aggressive I find that children are getting into bad habits earlier and earlier. I have even worked with 5 and 9 year olds that have already developed vocal nodules. The key to “when to start a child in lessons” depends on the child’s interest level and their attention span. Some children are ready at age 5, others not until 9 or 10. They must be old enough to be able to concentrate and focus.

The most important thing for a child is to get used to moving over “the break” area in the voice as early as possible. (Bb4 – B4) If they can get good at sliding back and forth over this area they will never be far off in their technique. The problem is that many children are only singing under the break now and never learning how to navigate the bridges in the voice. As the child’s voice gets deeper as they get older this becomes even more of a problem and a frustration. So, even if a child is not taking regular lessons they should be encouraged to sing songs that take them over the “break”.

I teach children to remember 3 things:
#1 – Take a low breath
#2 – Keep their mouth round
#3 – Don’t reach their head up when the note goes higher

The shorter version of this is “Round, Open and Down”, which I remind children of constantly.

I have found that if they remember and do these three things and sing songs that take them over their bridge they will develop pretty good technique and be prepared for more aggressive singing at some point.

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