Teaching Children To Sing [ Vocal Warm Ups [ Singing Lessons [ Music Lessons [ How To Sing Better
Many voice teachers avoid teaching children out of fear of hurting their voices or disappointment that they won’t sound like adults. If done in the right way, however, singing lessons can be crucial in training a child’s ear and vocal technique. Children not exposed to singing can grow up tone deaf, and children who sing but were never taught proper technique often develop hard-to-break bad habits that can even lead to vocal damage. It is important that the following steps be taken so that the child will learn actual vocal technique (as opposed to just learning songs) while doing nothing to damage their vocal instrument. Parents interested in enrolling their children in voice lessons should find a voice teacher who has experience teaching children and who uses these methods.
Begin each lesson with some simple stretches and posture exercises. Not only is this important to teach the child to sing with good posture, but it actually teaches them how to properly participate in a voice lesson by giving them simple, achievable tasks to succeed. Children are very kinesthetic and love to do physical activities.
Work on simple breathing technique: when breathing in, the stomach should bulge. When breathing out, the stomach should tighten. The shoulders and chest should never raise or drop. You can work on this standing, or lying with a book on their stomach. Then practice hissing, buzzing, humming and eventually 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.
Introduce the registers. Practice long glissando “sirens,” lifting up into the upper register (sometimes called falsetto or head voice) for high notes, rather than “belting” or straining in the speaking voice. 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 mouth and chest for low notes and in their head for high notes.
Begin ear-training. Teach them to match pitch and then to sing steps going higher and lower. 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. Be patient if they don’t get it right away, they usually do soon.
Teach scales. Begin to practice 3 and 5 note major scales, using the solfege syllables Do Re Mi Fa So. Transpose the starting note up and down by half-steps as far as they can hold the pitch. Once they make good progress, try the whole scale()
Teach intervals. Begin to work on major/perfect intervals beginning with seconds and progressing to octaves. Always use solfege syllables.
Begin working on vowels. Make sure the child sings each vowel with the proper mouth shape. Make sure they open their mouths enough for Ah and Oh and round enough for Oh and Oo.
Work on focused tone and open throat. Instruct them to “sing through a yawn” but with their tongue flat behind their bottom teeth. Work on tone by asking them to focus the vibration on the roof of their mouth. 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. 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. Learning to successfully perform is one of the indispensable experiences in voice lessons. Frequently conduct informal performances where the child will sing an entire song, facing you. Encourage students to sing for their parents and even friends, if they are comfortable with it. Finally, hold a recital every 6 months or so for which they can prepare 1-3 songs to perform for parents and other students.