Saturday, September 26, 2009

Singing Lessons for Children

I wish I had a nickel for every time a parent has asked me "Where can I get singing lessons for my child?" The answer to this is not until they have gone through puberty. Most educators and voice specialists will tell you that pre-pubescent children should NEVER be given voice lessons. Their voices are just too delicate.

Yes, we've all seen those child stars singing an aria on TV complete with adult vibratos. Many parents believe that their child could be doing the same thing. Don't even think about it. The young larynx is a delicate instrument and should be treated with the utmost of care.

We have all heard children whose voices always seem raspy and never seem to sound clear. Many things can cause this. When I teach preschooler I am always reminding them to take care of their voices. It's the only musical instrument that we're born with and we only get one. Too much yelling or loud singing can cause the vocal folds to thicken with growths such as cysts or nodules. These bumps on the chords are what gives the voice the raspy sound. To remove these growths from the chords the patient must seek voice therapy. If therapy doesn't work the chords must be removed by surgery. Imagine a surgeon operating on a child's small larynx. It's very delicate surgery.

Instead of voice lessons it is better to find a local choir or chorus where the child can be one of many singers making music together. Singing with other children using gentle singing techniques and child appropriate arrangements can foster good ear training and nurture a child's musical abilities without harming the voice. Some choirs such as The Children's Chorus of Maryland provide music training along with group singing. If money is tight be sure to check out your local churches and synagogues for choir training they provide.

I'll write more about the adolescent changing voice another time. For now I'd love to hear about your experiences with children's choirs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lullabies: Your Baby's First Musical Experience

Lullabies are usually your baby's first musical experience. Think about it. Maybe you were sung to when you were very young. There is no more intimate experience for a baby than being sung to while holding him close. Add a rocking chair and gentle rocking motion and you have the ultimate experience for baby and adult. It just doesn't get any better than this for babies or adults.

Now, what to sing. A lullaby can be any soothing song. It can be sung or hummed. Any kind of music can be used as long as it is performed quietly. I'd probably save the hard rock for another time, sometime when you'd like your child to wake up. What is your favorite quiet song? "You Are My Sunshine" works for many people. It may be a top 40 song just sung quietly. It might be a song sung to you when you were small.

Can't sing, you say? Chances are that you are a better singer than you think. Very few people are truly "tone deaf". What will it teach her if you choose not to sing because you're not good at it? The point of this activity is to set a mood and quiet the child for sleep. Secondly, it is a good time to stimulate your babies brain synapses relating to music and language. More about that later.

For a fun activity ask your parents or grandparents what lullabies they sang to you. I'm sure you'll hear some stories that you've never heard before. You might even ask them what lullabies were sung to them when they were small.

John Feierabend of Hartt School of Music researched lullabies and other children's songs by visiting nursing homes and having the residents talk about music from their youth. He came away with books of songs that he has passed on to parents and teachers.

Tell me about your favorite lullaby experience. Did your parents or grandparents sing to you at bedtime? Do you sing or play songs for your child? Please let me know. I'd love to hear your stories.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Melodically Challenged Parent

Many parents who are melodically challenged are reluctant to sing to their children. If you are one of these people I would encourage you to keep singing to your child. The children really don't care if you can sing on key or not. By singing to your child you're showing the child that you care about music and that you think that it's important.

Chances are that you are a better singer than you think. Many people are reluctant to sing because of a comment of a friend or music teacher. I shutter to think how many people have been turned off to singing by something said to them by another. The first year I taught no less than 5 fellow teachers begged me not to hold "try outs" for the choir because of their experiences in school. So many people have been scarred for life by not having been chosen for a choir or told to stand quietly and "mouth the words".

There is nothing better for a child to be rocked to sleep by a loving parent singing to them.