Handle With Care: How Young Voices are Connected to Young Singers
Updated: Mar 3
This video is posted a dozen times on YouTube (the picture is a link):
It’s a video of a little girl trying to sing I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton. There are many reposts, and the captions say things like “Fail!” and “can’t sing the song worth her life,” and “can’t hit the right notes.” I know it’s supposed to be funny, but it breaks my heart.
This little girl’s issue in the video elicits one of my Queen of the World thoughts. Do you ever have those If I Were Queen/King of the World thoughts? Those times when you identify something that’s obviously wrong and could be easily fixed?
(Isn’t it nice that we all just have that out there?)
In the world under my sovereignty, all middle school music teachers would have to know basic things about the voice, and would be expected to explain it to the children.
The kids would learn a bit about vocal registers, their natural break, and that their voices change as they get older. They would learn that there’s nothing wrong with them, that it’s natural, and that they can work on their singing to build singing skills.
Also, the girls would learn that their singing voices may sound a little fuzzy right now, and they'd be reassured that they'll sound more grown-up in a year or two.
Kids at that age are at a critical point in their developmental lives. They’re constantly comparing themselves to others, and deciding who they are. They feel very grown-up, but they’ve only been on the planet for 12 or 13 years, so they don’t really have much perspective.
More often than not, when I first meet a tween student, I’m starting our relationship by reassuring them that that “break” in their voice is a natural thing that everybody has. There’s nothing wrong with them or their voices.
It’s really concerning how much shame these students seem to carry about their inability to sing high in their chest register. They think they’re the only ones with this problem, and they’re embarrassed.
Often, because they’re embarrassed about that “fake” voice that comes out when they hit higher notes, they avoid using it. Any time they sing - since most songs are more than an octave – they’re faced with the choice of singing in tune in the “fake” voice that sounds bad and feels funny, or remaining in their comfortable and familiar chest register and singing out of tune.
More than one well-meaning parent has expressed concern that their child, who loves to sing, can’t. Then, after 45 minutes in my studio, they’ve watched their child sing in tune, and thought I worked a miracle.
What I did was share some relevant information and tools with a perfectly intelligent young singer.
I explain: "Everybody's voice does that. It's called a "register", and here's kind of how it works..."
I reassure: "That high voice is kind of airy for now, but it won't always be that way. It's changing just like you are."
I introduce a skill: "Let's practice hitting the high and low notes and letting them feel different from one another."
For every young singer who is helped by a kind voice professional, there are a hundred who will stop singing because they’ve been criticized, or because they think something’s wrong with them. Every voice teacher knows this reality, because we’ve all taught the grown-up version of that wounded, shamed, or suppressed singer.
So when I’m Queen of the World, all kids will know that their voices are just fine, that singing is for feeling good and finding joy, and that nobody has the right to criticize them unkindly for their singing.
And my world will be a happy place.
#Youngsingers sometimes have #troublewithpitch. #Tweensingers don't know about #vocalchanges they're expereincing. I wish all #middleschoolchoirteachers would educate young #singers about their #voices.