Welcome to the Vocal Coach Teaching Kids To Sing series. These training materials are the result of over 40 years of study and teaching. They are a unique blend of proven principles and fun, interactive exercises presented by Chris & Carole Beatty and the Vocal Coach Kids. What is learned and experienced in this process will impact not only singing, but perhaps even more importantly speaking and everyday use of the voice. That means better communications at every level.
There are a number of different ways to apply this material to a Home School setting. Some, prefer to take one topic a week and dig deep. That would mean scheduling two or three sessions to view (DVD) or listen to (CD) that topic. Then, begin using the Accompaniment CD to reinforce what is being learned. Using this method you could space it out over 8 or more weeks. Doing review sessions could expand it to 10–12 weeks.
The most common method however is topically and the best order is the way they occur on the DVD’s or CD’s. The reason for this is simple: Certain things like Posture and Breathing are necessary foundations for areas such as Tone, Warm-ups and Diction.
As you continue through the topics I strongly recommend regular review of those areas that have gone before. The reason for this is that unlike math, or reading where once you have mastered an idea you can apply it, singing is physical, mechanical and acoustical. Good free singing relies on muscle memory, and that just takes time.
This is the order we recommend:
One of the great parts of working on the voice is that it is used each, and every day. Many choose to begin as above and add the element of recording, and evaluating your student singing with the Accompaniment CD. Letting the student hear him or her self recorded on a neutral device can be very revealing and helpful. Quality recordings can be done on most video cameras, computers and even iPhones using free apps. That, of course can be good news, if you’re using it right, or bad news if you’re not. As we say at Vocal Coach, “Practice makes permanent no matter how you’re practicing, so let’s do it right.”
Q: What are the goal and objectives of the Teaching Kids To Sing series?
A: Teaching Kids To Sing is a systematic, interactive and fun tool for teaching the young singers in your life about their voices using either our DVD or CDs. The Teaching Kids To Sing series presents principles and exercises in a way that can be easily understood and implemented by children from age 5 through 6th grade.
Q: Which Is Better, The TKS DVD/CD Set Or The TKS CD Bundle?
A: Both the DVD and CD sets are thorough and effective. The 2-DVD/1-CD package has the advantage of letting you see as well as hear what Chris, Carole and the Vocal Coach Kids are doing. It also includes a CD of Accompaniment Tracks so you can conveniently get to any of the songs or warm-up exercises. As a bonus, each song & exercise is offered both with Chris and the Vocal Coach Kids singing and without them. This gives you actual performance accompaniment tracks your kids can use to perform the songs.
The 3-CD set goes into more detail explanations since you can see what is going on. There is also a special section just for parents/teachers to help get them up to speed on what is going to be taught.
Q: How do you define “The Voice?”
A: What we call the voice, is really a number of different systems working together. It entails upright posture, breath management, vibration in the larynx, amplification in several areas and, of course the lips, tongue and teeth doing their part for diction.
Q: What is your overall approach to training young voices?
A: As with most physical areas, children need to be treated differently that adults. Their physical, vocal mechanisms are not fully developed and can be easily damaged by overuse, or being asked to produce more volume of a wider range than they are physically ready to. That being said, most children are capable of a reasonably clear tone, good control and very clear diction. As these areas are presented in fun, meaningful ways they can all be maximized.
Q: How much time do we need to dedicate to this vocal curriculum?
A: In the study of voice there are two very separate times when growth occurs. The first is in the structured study time. The second is the remainder of every day and how posture, breathing, tone and diction are being used. That opens the possibility for some very fast growth as long as teacher and student are voice-aware, and having fun along the way.
Q: Can any child learn to sing?
A: Not every child can sing accurately and well, but the vast majority eventually will. What we’re really talking about is the ability to match pitch, have a sense of rhythm and the ability to “speak on notes.” That’s what singing is: Speaking on assigned pitches for specific lengths of time. Some, especially those raised in musical environments will do this automatically, and many of those will also harmonize and feel appropriate dynamics instinctively.
Q: How can I help a student who doesn’t seem able to match pitch?
A: If you know that you have accurate pitch and can tell when someone is above or below the intended pitch you will be able to help. You will need an instrument with which to first produce individual pitches, then intervals of two pitches. As the student hears the pitch it’s their job to mimic exactly the same note. If they are low, you should point up until they move up to the right pitch. “That’s it,” should be your response. If they are above pitch center you will keep pointing down until they are on target and they say, “That’s perfect.” As the student’s larynx, hearing and brain learn to reproduce the desired pitch it will become easier and easier.
In rare instances the student has no idea whether they are high, low or on target. It is still worth repeated sessions to see if it will “click.” After several weeks you may need to abandon the musical part and focus on Posture, Breathing, Tone and Diction relating it only to singing. As they do begin to become more accurate you should consider using the Vocal Coach Groups Warm-Ups that will allow harmonizing with other singers. This tool is best used with teen and adult voices but an be adapted to younger voice.
Q: How does Teaching Kids To Sing help with speaking?
A: Singing is really “Speaking On Notes.” Therefore, every aspect of singing will promote more refined hearing and vocal quality awareness. The Posture, Breathing, Tone and Diction will have a profound effect on the speaking voice. Perhaps most important is the vocal awareness aspect that will make every day speaking more fun and special.
Q: My boys voice is about to change. What can I do to help him go through this smoothly?
(This answer also appears in the Using Vocal Coach Singer Series in the Homeschool Environment for Jr & Sr High section of this site.)
A: When a boy’s voice is transitioning into a young man’s voice it can be unsettling. It is also normal, and can also be a really, really fun and special time. Here are my thoughts on the boy’s voice in transition:
Your job is to educate your young singer, anticipate what’s happening, or going to happen and enjoy the journey. It’s not unlike explaining puberty and adolescence. It is better done sooner, than later to avoid any misunderstanding. When a boy understands how and why his voice will be changing there is no fear and no surprise, just life happening.Singing is not primarily a strength-related motor task like much of what goes on in football, basketball or soccer. Instead, it depends on efficiency, coordination and precision in the motor function of the larynx, respiratory system and articulators. That takes, maturity, fitness and discipline.
In their early teenage years, both boys and girls are still very much developing and should not push their voices beyond what the instrument can easily do. These young singers should, however, be working to perfect their posture, breathing, basic tone and musicianship.
Some of my favorite students are those in vocal transition. Leading them through this period of vocal instability and on into victorious stability is a delight. The main issue is that the vocal folds will almost double, sometimes within a few months. This leaves the voice unstable and flipping back and forth between their child voice and their new adult voice. As the vocal folds become thicker and more rectangular, different muscle patterns need to be developed to control the vibrations. It is not unusual for a boy to start a school year as a soprano, be an alto by Christmas and a tenor by the end of the year.
For the boy, learning to control the changing voice is partially a trial-and-error process. There are, however, several things that can be done to smooth out and speed up this process.
Here are several powerful and proven exercises, not only for the voice in transition, but, for all singers. They can be found on the Complete Expanding Your Range CD, but I thought it was worth explaining here.
Exercise 1: The Descending Hah. Begin doing a descending ‘Hah’ sound. It can be on a continuous slide or on five tone scales (GFEDC etc) This should start high in the light falsetto, or “child” voice and continue down into the lower, speaking register without allowing it to change into the new, lower speaking sound. It will resemble someone imitating Mickey Mouse. The goal is to literally overlap the registers by taking the falsetto, or child sound into the lower notes. Ultimately, this will begin to eliminate the flip, or crack in that area between the registers. The ultimate goal is that there would only be one, long and fully connected range.
Exercise 2: In my mind this is the singly most effective warmup and range-smoothing exercise there is. The sound is similar to what we hear babies do. Even horses are a great example when they allow their loose, floppy lips to flutter. Listen to this audio demonstration
Exercise 3: The other great exercise for bridging that new and unfamiliar, in-between area is the siren exercise. Here are the siren and lip trill exercises used together:
Finally, when it comes to any young singer, please remember this: Don’t allow any singer to sing in a range that is clearly uncomfortable and invites pushing and straining. This can injure the physical voice and make the whole idea of singing unattractive… for ever.
Q: If I get completely stumped with a particular problem is there someplace I can turn?
A: Yes. Vocal Coach Chris Beatty is happy to respond briefly to emails and can even take scheduled, short phone calls. For more extensive input and feedback our Online video/audio coaching is perfect. Using Skype or FaceTime Chris, you and your students can see and hear each other and accomplish a tremendous amount in a single session. For details, click here: Personal Lessons.