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Thread: Is it good or bad to teach child different voice improvement Techniques?

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    Question Is it good or bad to teach child different voice improvement Techniques?

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    I would like to ask for a professional opinion of vocal coaches. My daughter (6 years old) goes for a vocal classes where she is being trained some specific vocal Techniques, her coach pays a lot of attention to the exercises that would increase her voice range, make her voice sound deeper and louder. This coach is working only with kids and is doing it for a long time already. All her students (from 6 to 14 years old) sing pretty well. Initially, I thought that it's good for my daughter, she has very good ear for music, good intonation and I thought that learning vocal Techniques would help her sing better. She loves singing. However, recently I spoke with another vocal coach who is not working with kids at all, just because, as he says, giving some special vocal Techniques to a child at very early age can significantly damage future development of voice, that it's forbidden to do exercises that are aimed to increase voice range and other kind of voice improvement exercises. Coaches who are doing that are just trying to achieve their own ambitious results by training kids those "forbidden for kids voices Techniques", then sending them to a different vocal shows, having happy with results parents and getting their own laurels and earning good money. All those kids when they grow up are having problems with their voices. He strongly recommends us to stop going to those classes. However, as she likes going there and doesn't actually wants to quit it, I have doubts if we should quit or not? Is it really that dangerous for her voice development?

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    Lovely - but flawed.

    There is solid science behind it. Kids that do gymnastics or dance from an early age are more prone to joint issues like arthritis or meniscus tears, so you can find these people at say mid-twenties with issues that can be quite severe. Lot's of course don't suffer.

    In singing terms, based on nothing other than experience of many different singing teachers, there seems some truth in the fact that poorly training teachers can encourage kids to damage their voices by wrong techniques, but what you are describing is the classic 'proper' singing technique. A very good example of the types can be seen by comparing Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, two extremely experienced professional UK singers who have in the last few years teamed up and do concerts and recordings together. Michael Ball was trained in musical theatre singing, and Alfie Boe in Opera - with what sounds like techniques you are talking about. Both have good voices, but Alfie Boe can only sing in the way he was taught, which is very similar to the technique base you are describing. His voice has not been damaged at all, but he is unable to sing in any style outside the one he was taught. In a way, his voice, and his brain separately developed in a certain way. Michael Ball, on the other hand, cannot sing like Alfie Boe - never having been taught that style. My theatre production over Christmas features a young 20 yr old singer chosen at audition because she had the classical training, a pronounced style and vibrato/tremelo that we wanted for her role. She had real trouble NOT singing like that at 20! For the period songs her voice worked amazingly well, for the pop songs, often in ensemble, her voice was the one that stood out, because it was different.

    The word FORBIDDEN is a little strong. Forbidden by whom? If you watch the horrible TV shows like the Voice - you see people with and without training, and those with training can often be uncontrolled and a random chance?

    What I think is for certain is that we're really NOT talking about damage, but we are talking about developing techniques that will be very difficult to change later. For good or bad. What she does now at her age does matter. The trouble is, at her age, how does she know what she wants to do later? Maybe this is what the 'non-classical' teacher believes? Perhaps this teacher want and likes modern singing styles and sees classical traditionalist ones as not what is needed?

    Left to her own choices, what does your daughter sing in her bedroom to herself? If you hear her singing operetta, then maybe there's more to the singing lessons that you are aware? If on the other hand she's singing the stuff other 6 year olds are singing, but doing it better than them - her training is paying off. Too many kids get pushed into a style trap. I don't think there's any evidence I've seen that one kind of vocal development is worse for your health, but it can be worse for your career. The issue is about what she is singing for? Fun or career development. Maybe 6 is too young for her to choose, and you can't choose for her. Does she enjoy it? Is it giving her confidence? Is she still 'normal'? If she's happy and enjoying it, I seriously doubt there is any physical harm being done - but there is no doubt that early training will alter her vocal development. That's a parental call. The only thing I think about is that there are careers for average pop singers, but very few for average classical singers - and I put into that category those trained for jazz style too. Proper technique is always a support. However, is she singing for fun, or for the future?

    I also note that many of the young people 16-21 at college, university and dance schools have problems with learning singing later in their formative years - good singers, who have been taught well at say 18 in (for my work) musical theatre style, have not got the muscles and staying power to be able to sing 2 shows a day for 8 weeks. The ones who were taught the old fashioned way from an early age have the muscle power and muscle memory to support their voices much better, deal with the usual coughs colds and sore throats. The ones who started properly singing at 16 cannot do this - their voices get tired and then they suffer badly.

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    My daughter teaches singing professionally. She trained at the Conservatorium of Music here and majored in Contemporary Vocal. She has a variety of singing engagements herself. For example, she sings with the Gilbert & Sullivan society and has just finished a season of Trial by Jury, and she also sings jazz, sometimes with a jazz duo, and sometimes with a big band. For a while she was also with an a capella jazz quartet.

    Her teaching approach has two parts. The first is to teach techniques that develop breathing, stabilise pitch, increase range and do not damage vocal chords. The second is to work with the singer to develop the singer's personal style, whatever that might be.

    Contemporary vocal differs from classical vocal in that to pursue a career in the latter you cannot avoid the requirement for highly developed vocal techniques. With contemporary vocals, there are no rules as such. Or rather, there is one rule . . . you need to be able to sing in a way that engages an audience (and we can easily point to many singers with rough and ready voices who have been able to do this).

    Learning typical classical techniques should not preclude someone from developing their own contemporary vocal style. And they would not be physically damaging. If they are psychologically limiting, it could be because the teacher is declaring non-classical to be bad, or that the person is themselves unable to move from style to style.

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    Thank you very much for such a detailed response!

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    Alfie Boe in Opera - with what sounds like techniques you are talking about. Both have good voices, but Alfie Boe can only sing in the way he was taught, which is very similar to the technique base you are describing.
    It's interesting that you thought that the techniques I am describing come from classical vocal teacher. No, this teacher is teaching pure pop singing, but her exercises focused on the voice rage and strength increase. They spend 40 minutes at the lesson just singing different exercises, then 20 minutes to sing pop songs. The other person who is against this method for kids is from a classic school, singing operetta, training operetta singers as well. He says that such an intensive practice of the voice improvement techniques can lead to kind of "stretching of the chords" at this early age and can lead to bad singing for adult.

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    The word FORBIDDEN is a little strong. Forbidden by whom?
    Huh, forbidden by Nature may be :-) this is what I understood from all the explanations about voice anatomy and specifics of young voice development

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    What I think is for certain is that we're really NOT talking about damage, but we are talking about developing techniques that will be very difficult to change later. For good or bad. What she does now at her age does matter. The trouble is, at her age, how does she know what she wants to do later?
    Agree! For example, the current teacher teaches her to sing like pop singer, making her mouth smiling while singing. She tries to do it and it looks very unnatural. But she can't do better yet. All the exercises that they do she asks her to sing with a smile on the face, do not make her mouth rounded like in a classical singing. The other teacher who is the opponent here says that this is wrong because child at this age should just sing with a feeling like she likes, trying to repeat after original.

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    The issue is about what she is singing for? Fun or career development. Maybe 6 is too young for her to choose, and you can't choose for her.
    You know, both of them say that she has an in-born talent that should be taken care for the future, but one teacher says that she should be trained and her vocals should be improved by learning special techniques and the other says that at this age it's enough just giving her good reference music to listen and sing, some lessons of actors skills would benefit now more than teaching techniques. I am as a parent have to make a choice who is right it's so hard for a person who is far from professional singing.

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    Does she enjoy it? Is it giving her confidence? Is she still 'normal'?
    She enjoys singing, she sings all kind of songs, but there are some songs that she likes and some she doesn't like. to my opinion, besides singing little bit better than other kids, she is absolutely normal child :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    However, is she singing for fun, or for the future?
    I really don't know. So many many things depend on this decision and I simply don't know. We try not to focus too much on singing, we focus on learning languages at this moment. But I am getting in doubts each time when hear from someone that the child is talented in music and needs to be developed in this area more. How to know that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gecko zzed View Post
    My daughter teaches singing professionally. She trained at the Conservatorium of Music here and majored in Contemporary Vocal. She has a variety of singing engagements herself. For example, she sings with the Gilbert & Sullivan society and has just finished a season of Trial by Jury, and she also sings jazz, sometimes with a jazz duo, and sometimes with a big band. For a while she was also with an a capella jazz quartet.

    Her teaching approach has two parts. The first is to teach techniques that develop breathing, stabilise pitch, increase range and do not damage vocal chords. The second is to work with the singer to develop the singer's personal style, whatever that might be.

    Contemporary vocal differs from classical vocal in that to pursue a career in the latter you cannot avoid the requirement for highly developed vocal techniques. With contemporary vocals, there are no rules as such. Or rather, there is one rule . . . you need to be able to sing in a way that engages an audience (and we can easily point to many singers with rough and ready voices who have been able to do this).

    Learning typical classical techniques should not preclude someone from developing their own contemporary vocal style. And they would not be physically damaging. If they are psychologically limiting, it could be because the teacher is declaring non-classical to be bad, or that the person is themselves unable to move from style to style.
    thank you very much for your comment!

    As a Dad of professionally singing daughter :-) could you please share your parental experience? At what age did she start taking vocal lessons? When did you understand that she is going to become professional singer?

    She definitely has the right approach in teaching, I think. Does she teach young children?

    People keep saying to me that it's very difficult to become contemporary singer if you have been learning classic singing techniques and vise versa. Here i have one teacher who is teaching pop singing stile "to sing with a smile" and do not make voice vibrato and the other teacher is saying that this is absolutely wrong and would spoil the future. Who is right? It's so hard to make a decision when you are not a specialist in this area. I would appreciate if you could share your experience as a parent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiAn View Post
    As a Dad of professionally singing daughter :-) could you please share your parental experience? At what age did she start taking vocal lessons? When did you understand that she is going to become professional singer?
    She was always singing when she was very little. At school she had a supportive music teacher who encouraged her to audition for an acclaimed children's choir which she subsequently joined and stayed with for many years. In high school she became involved with the local theatre company and had roles in a number of musicals including Wizard of Oz, Calamity Jane and others. On leaving high school she went to the Conservatorium and studied contemporary vocal (among other things). Up until this time, her lessons were effectively on-the-job training, rather than formal lessons. The Choir had a good development regime. During her course at the Conservatorium we realised that music was going to form a significant part of her life. It was during these years that she worked a lot in bands. However, it turned out that professional singing would not be her primary career, but vocal teaching would be. She teaches singing to kids as young as eight.

    Quote Originally Posted by MiAn View Post
    People keep saying to me that it's very difficult to become contemporary singer if you have been learning classic singing techniques and vise versa. Here i have one teacher who is teaching pop singing stile "to sing with a smile" and do not make voice vibrato and the other teacher is saying that this is absolutely wrong and would spoil the future. Who is right? It's so hard to make a decision when you are not a specialist in this area. I would appreciate if you could share your experience as a parent.
    My daughter would teach by demonstrating the difference between singing with a smile or with a rounded mouth, or with or without vibrato, and encourage the pupils to be able to do both. The greater your arsenal of singing techniques, the greater your chance of finding work. Getting stuck with one or the other is something she would regard as a limitation. What would also be a limitation is damaging your voice, and that is something that she is very careful about, i.e. teaching kids how to sing without damaging themselves.

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    If it's pop singing mimicking what some of the divas do, then maybe this could be damaging - Lots of my singing teacher friends of all styles hate what I've heard called 'early belters' - the technique an already developed voice can do when the song needs it. If they are teaching that while the kids are still growing and developing, I can see why your singing friends council against that. In fairness, the advice of multiple singing teachers you trust who have heard what's going on are the important ones. I 'assumed' wrongly a severely traditional and classical approach was what concerned you, and I've never heard of harm being caused through that, because there is hundreds of years of history to support it - as for screamy pop - that would worry me. Best of luck with it. Personally, when I hear kids on the TV talent shows with adult sounding voices, I cringe - something wrong has happened .

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    Could you please listen to a record I made during the lesson, this kind of exercise they do with her teacher. If you patient enough to listen until the very end (it's almost 2 mins), you can hear that teacher makes her sing until she physically can't do it. They sing from low sound to very very high as much as she can. I wonder if this is correct? Can this lead to some problems in the future or is it a common practice?

    vocal_exercize by MiAn | Mi An | Free Listening on SoundCloud

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    I will ask further afield.

    There's really not enough context to make a judgement. They're laughing at the end, so it wasn't too distressing. If it's an exercise to determine range I don't see a problem. It it's an exercise to extend range, that may be a different story.

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    Ha! Every afternoon before our theatre shows the MD would do vocal warm ups with the ensemble and featured cast and do a similar thing with them. Here, it's usually straight arpeggios. The mode they're using for that clip is a bit tough for youngsters and it's clear that they are actually not singing the correct notes because they've not got the skill to hit those intervals. I don't think it's a pitching thing, just that it's too fast for them to be able to predict the next note and sing it accurately. However - in these sessions, it's usually for people to try to sing the notes up to the point they can't then drop out. The next time, they may be able to progress, or maybe not. I'd seriously question its suitability for a 6 yr old - not from the singing perspective but the motivation perspective. Semi-tone increments on such a long sequence is a big and boring workout.

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