If your son or daughter loves to sing, a private teacher can teach him or her how to sing correctly and stay excited about learning! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares 10 ways you can support your child throughout the journey…
Kids are simply made to sing. In most of the lessons that I teach, no matter the student’s age, I inevitably find myself teaching her how to be a kid in some way. Shaking out tense muscles, dancing to the beat, making animal sounds, keeping it simple, opening your heart — these are things that kids do naturally all the time. That, in turn, makes it easier for most children to learn how to sing correctly and well.
Be that as it may, it can seem difficult at times to find ways to support your young singer effectively. Here’s a list of 10 ways to support your child.
1. Say positive and encouraging.
Humans, especially children, will desire to live up to the qualities that are expected, or even simply named to them. Telling your child that you’re proud of him simply for choosing to take voice lessons or calling that song that he’s been working on “beautiful” can make his entire week. On the other hand, one harsh, overly critical word could make him want to quit altogether.
2. Encourage healthy speaking habits.
What we call “the voice” is really a group of different muscles and tissues working together to create sound. They may be fairly resilient in adults, but in children they can be easily damaged, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Encourage your child to learn and practice healthy speaking habits:
• No whispering
• No screaming
• No vocal fry (a phonation that sounds like popcorn popping)
• No straining or belting (unless being trained by a specialist)
Listen for swelling of the vocal folds — uneven vocal tone, breathiness, roughness — and ask your child to go into “low voice” mode for a few days, where their voice is warm, but low in volume. She could pretend to be talking to a secret fairy or a bug right in front of her nose.
3. Provide a healthy diet.
“Healthy diet” means something different to everyone. One that’s supportive of singing (and staying well-behaved in a voice lesson or choir practice) includes lots of non-dairy fluids for hydration, raw vegetable and fruits to combat inflammation in the vocal folds and surrounding tissues (especially apples and dark, leafy greens), and fish for focus and concentration. Now, as a parent, I understand how impossible this diet can be at times. But what’s great about highly nutritive food is that even a little bit can make a difference.
4. Help with home practice.
Sit down with your child, look at her schedule, and plan out practice sessions. They don’t have be very long (15 minutes a day is fine) but they should be daily. Set a timer, encourage gentle warm-ups, like humming or lip bubbles, and let your child sing his assigned songs in as much privacy as you’re willing to give. Feeling self-conscious affects a singer’s voice more than anything, so try to give some space. That is, unless your child invites an audience!
5. Experience live music together.
So much of the music that our children experience these days is from a phone or tablet. Give your child the special gift of experiencing live music with you. This gives you the chance to talk about it together: What did you like? What didn’t you like? Was the music fast or slow? Loud or soft? Getting your kid thinking critically about music, even if you’re not a musician yourself, is so important in keeping music interesting and fun.
6. Load fun music games onto your devices.
Look for apps like NoteWorks or Juno’s Piano. They’re fun, educational, and easy to learn. Your little one will know her musical alphabet by heart in no time.
7. Get a keyboard.
Even keyboards that aren’t the full 88 keys are beneficial for singers, especially young ones. The voice is a musical instrument that essentially is the human body itself, so being able to go to an outside instrument for reference and support can be really helpful.
8. Play “animals”.
Getting kids to understand vocal language like “space” or “registers” can be tricky. Pretending to be specific animals, like an owl to demonstrate an open, floating, and well-supported sound, can be a lot of fun and supports what your child’s teacher is teacher. Consult your child’s teacher for more exercises.
9. Eliminate secondhand smoke.
If you or someone in your household smokes, then consider smoking only outside or in the garage. Secondhand smoke is harmful in many ways, most notably to the voice.
10. Be there.
Be the parent who attends the big recitals and concerts. Knowing your mom and dad are in an audience means the world to a kid.
You, as a parent, could be the single most important part of your child’s vocal education. The trust and confidence that your child places in you every day is so precious. Use it wisely to motivate, nurture, and guide your young singer, and she’ll learn much more than just how to carry a tune.
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!
Photo by Nick J Webb