What Age Should We Start Vocal Lessons?
Singing is great! But when should we start letting our children take voice lessons?
This has always been a tough question to answer. Never mind the sometimes competing opinions, talking about voice training gets into developmental issues, which as any parent knows, is always an inexact science. Children develop differently. They grow mentally, socially, psychologically, and (of course) physically at tremendously different rates. There are still guidelines that can be followed, though. Here are some things to consider when trying to decide if your little songbird is ready for vocal lessons.
- There’s A Difference Between Singing and Vocal Training
A common misconception is that vocal training is just learning how to sing. It’s true that vocal training teaches you how to sing better, but your child learning songs and singing at camp is very different from proper vocal coaching. As long as your child isn’t straining to reach the notes of their favorite pop song, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be singing. In fact, many of our younger students integrate singing with piano. It keeps classes extra-fun, reinforces theory, and helps get students comfortable with self-expression. Vocal training on the other hand is learning to use the instrument of the voice. The reason we recommend holding off vocal training until at least age seven is because young bodies don’t have the muscle control to do vocal exercises safely. You wouldn’t give a 5-year-old a set of dumbbells. It’s the same concept.
- Try A Choir First
For younger voices just getting used to music, most experts suggest singing in a choir. A choir helps prevent young voices from straining for pitch or volume and is a great way for students to learn principles like breathing, harmony, staying in tune, and other important basics. If there isn’t a choir available, or if your child is excelling there, voice lessons can be a great way to protect your child’s voice.
- Vocal Training is Protective – But Only For Those Physically Ready
One of the best things about vocal training is that it teaches students proper technique – how best to form a note, how to open their airway, how to warm up properly, how to avoid undue stress that can damage vocal cords, and how to sing better at the top and bottom of their vocal registers. But to do all that requires careful physical effort. For most younger students, they simply don’t have the physical coordination or stamina to do vocal exercises properly. Also, their voices are changing so much that it becomes hard to achieve meaningful progress. Therefore, most experts recommend waiting until a child’s voice stabilizes somewhat (although all voices continue to change throughout a singer’s life).
- Pick The Right Teacher
The single best way to protect younger singers who want to take vocal lessons is to match them with teachers who understand their physical and developmental limitations and work within those limitations to develop strong, healthy voices. Children shouldn’t be trying to slur through three octaves in half a measure. They should be focusing on proper technique within their own range, pushing the boundaries little by little so they improve instead of getting hurt. This is where we’re most proud of our voice teachers. Every one is university trained, and has experience teaching students how to make the most of their own unique instrument.