#26 The Goldilocks Principle and Children's Voices
There isn’t much written about vocal technique for children’s voices, other than the frequently repeated caution that young singers ought not sing “ too long, too loudly, too high, or too softly”. This ultra-reasonable approach, which I call The Goldilocks Principle, works well with children.
From week to week a child’s voice may be quite different, and figuring out how the student is feeling vocally takes a little experimenting. Their comfortable range may vary from lesson to lesson, and so for a good opening exercise, have the student make a free downward sigh and base the pitch of a downward scale pattern on their starting pitch. Repeat this process, and then encourage the singer to make sliding sirens, on which you can also base scale like patterns, paying close attention to the range of the sirens. Gradually as the student warms up, the pitch of the voice may move upward, yet if it doesn’t, this may be an indication that the voice (or the student) is tired. Young students need to be encouraged to be conscious of the sensations of their voice, and to accept how different their voice may feel from day to day. In the long run this will foster good habits for their future singing.
In Betty Jeanne Chipmans’s book Singing With Mind Body and Soul she states “ Singing is an art that requires time, patience and skill. Vocal freedom and control must be properly established at a young age to enable the students to sing effectively in later years”
A variety of activities for young singers offer opportunities for developing skills as well as vocal ease.
· School and community youth choruses provide wonderful experiences for young singers. They are engaged in an expressive pursuit, learning about musicianship and being part of a group. It’s also an ideal way for young voices to mature gradually.
· Theater programs are an excellent arena for integrating and developing imagination, movement and singing skills.
· Short singing lessons are fine for young singers, as long as the focus is on process not product. Find a capable teacher that understands the importance of letting the singer’s voice occur naturally, and sit in on lessons to insure that your child is not being encouraged to push their voice. Make sure that the teacher communicates positively and encourages ease and flexibility.
Young singers are terrific mimics and they will be inclined to copy or imitate voices they hear, and they will certainly experiment towards making their own voices impersonate those singers they listen to most. Do a little listening research on your own for healthy voice qualities, and choose an eclectic array. All forms of vocal music are worth listening to, including Jazz, Pop, Rock, Vocal Recital Music, Musical Theater, Opera, Choral, and Disney Musicals.
1. Support school and community youth choruses.
2. Encourage acting, dancing and singing in combined activities that includes improvisation and developing the imagination.
3. Arrange for short private lessons with teachers that place emphasis on letting the voice occur naturally and singing for fun.
4. Develop ear training and musicianship skills along with singing skills.
5. Expose children to healthy singing as role models.
6. Practice the “Goldilocks Principle”
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