Does your son or daughter love to sing? If you’re wondering when to start voice lessons, you’re not alone. Singing in the car or in front of the mirror is fun, but a professional teacher can take your child far! Here, online voice teacher Atalia M. shares her advice…
As a voice teacher, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “When is the right age for my child to start singing lessons?”
The answer is that there is no correct age for a child to start singing lessons, but that there are different ways of teaching, different vocal techniques and exercises, different repertoire to learn, and different areas of the voice that should be trained in each stage of the development of a child’s vocal folds or cords. It is important to be aware of the changes and the proper techniques in each stage in order to keep your child’s voice in ultimate health and shape. In this article, I will outline the different developmental stages of the vocal folds and explain how your child can correctly sing in each one.
How do a child’s vocal cords look like and act before puberty?
The young child’s vocal cords before the age of puberty are small and thin — with no difference between a pre-pubescent male and a pre-pubescent female. When an adult sings high notes, their vocal cords become thin and small, and the opposite is true when he or she sings low notes. Therefore, because of the nature of a young child’s vocal cords, their tessitura (the place where it feels the most natural and comfortable to sing) will be higher and lighter and they will have some difficulty singing lower notes.
What and how should your child sing at the age before puberty?
The pre-pubescent child — both male and female — should be singing and doing vocal exercises mostly in the higher range, and should be focusing on repertoire that sits high in their voice. It is important for your elementary-aged child to avoid singing songs that are too low, because the vocal cords have not developed in that area yet and will not be able to produce a healthy sound in the lower range. Singing too low too early can wear on your young child’s constantly developing voice, while not singing high enough will inhibit him or her from improving vocal range.
What happens to the vocal cords during puberty?
Puberty is the most delicate vocal developmental stage for the young singer. This is because both genders undergo a very dramatic change in their bodies, their emotions, and their vocal cords. The female vocal cords start undergoing changes from around age 10 to age 14. During this time, her vocal cords start to thicken, which results in breathiness, huskiness, and a little unsteadiness in the voice. A male’s vocal cords also thicken during puberty, resulting in a significant pitch drop in his voice. However, he is still able to sing in his previous high range, and should continue to do so during puberty in order to keep his upper range after puberty.
What and how should your child sing at the age of puberty?
For a female singer to successfully get through this change, it is important for her to focus on singing lightly (singing too loudly will harm the changing female voice), and explore singing repertoire in high, middle, and low ranges. The breathiness in the changing female voice is caused by an inability to properly close the vocal cords, and can be corrected by different techniques that focus on chord closure and that focus on preventing air from escaping through the vocal cords.
For a male singer to maximize range after puberty and to reach his full potential in range, he should sing low, middle, and high notes in the lower chest register, the middle mix register, and the upper “soprano” head register. The use of this last register is often neglected or forgotten in the male changing voice, but is the most important register to sing in to keep his high range in the future. In order to maintain a healthy transition into the mature adult vocal cords, the pubescent male should not sing too loud or too soft, just like the pubescent female. For both males and females during the pubertal stage of development, natural vibrato will find its way into the voice, but should not be manufactured or consciously made by any means.
What about after puberty?
While the vocal cords reach full maturity by age 18, vocal development does not stop for the majority of the singer’s life. Therefore, it is important to continue furthering vocal instruction and technique for as long as the singer would like to pursue singing. The most important technique that a singer should focus on throughout all the ages and stages of vocal development is correct diaphragmatic breathing and support of the voice with the body.
So, what REALLY is the right age to start singing?
The most successful singers start their vocal instruction very early in life. If they are correctly instructed throughout the developmental stages of the vocal cords, the result of the mature vocal cords will be beautiful, healthy, and rewarding. So, to answer the question simply — there is no age too young to start voice lessons, but at every age different instructional techniques must be employed in order to create a healthy, strong, long-lasting, and beautiful voice.
Atalia M. teaches singing, composition, ear training, music theory, and more via online lessons. She received her Bachelor of Music, as well as her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Redlands. Atalia has performed many opera roles and currently teaches online students all over the world. Learn more about Atalia here!
Photo by morgan.davis