Singing lessons can harm young voices, can anyone advise on this?

(104 Posts)
ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 11:12:16

I have been reading that it is unwise to really train a girl's voice before the age of 14, some say even 16 because it is fragile while they are developing and can easily be damaged. I don't personally know anything about this but it might be wise to investigate.

My dd is 12 and has started having lessons which she enjoys. I am a bit concerned now after googling it whether she shouldn't wait a couple of years. Apparently you can really damage the voice if you train it in the wrong way, too intensively or too early.

AFAIK she does some warm up exercises, is working with Vaccai bel canto course (which I think is singing scales) and then they sing a couple of songs. Does this sound alright for her age or is it better to leave it till she is older? I like the teacher and so does dd, she enjoys the lessons. Dd has quite a low speaking voice and the teacher does rewrite if dd is finding the higher notes difficult.

Gruntfuttocks Tue 02-Apr-13 11:16:50

Sounds like the teacher is doing sensible things with her. Perfectly ok to have singing lessons at any age as long as the teacher knows what they are doing. Forcing the voice too hard certainly can do some damage, but it doesn't sound like that is happening with your dd.

pollypandemonium Tue 02-Apr-13 11:19:50

Grunt - when you say forcing the voice does damage, does that mean that the untrained school choir voice is more damaging for children? I am interested in this as dd is frequently told to push her voice very hard in choir.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 11:23:43

Thank you for that Gruntfuttocks. Polly, I have read that singing in a choir can cause the same damage, I suppose it depends on how the choir is handling things. There are good and bad choirs presumably when it comes to training dc. Perhaps singing once a week in choir is not as bad as daily practise of the wrong things?

senua Tue 02-Apr-13 11:24:00

Charlotte Church must have missed this memo.grin

I believe the big danger is belting out Songs From The Shows. Stick to folk/classical and you should be OK.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 11:28:04

dd doesn't do belting out thank goodness. She likes old fashioned voices and singing styles where I don't think it was that usual. Also don't think she has the volume for that anyway.

I have also read that trying to sing notes which are not easily within your range is a problem, in particular higher notes. Dd told me she found it difficult in one part where she had to move up quite a bit from a low note to a high one to get the slide (or whatever it is called) sounding nice but otherwise she hasn't commented on difficulty so far. (Has only had lessons for about 6 months).

Might just have a word with her teacher who is lovely.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 11:28:52

have seen a lot of comments online about CC. Was her voice really ruined by all the early singing she did? Seems such a shame if it is true.

seeker Tue 02-Apr-13 11:31:09

There's a mumsnetter whose dp is a singing teacher- can't remember who.....

momb Tue 02-Apr-13 11:32:49

One of my best friends is a singing teacher and has stepped away from the school community choir because the teacher (music teacher based at a school) was not doing the requisite warm ups and training with the children in the choir. She also pulled her son out of the school choir for the same reason.
I don't think that singing lessons are the problem, but like any exercise, can be dangerous if the proper warm ups and training are not done. It sounds like your daughter's teacher is on the ball, but why not discuss it with her? If she is any good she will be fully aware of the potential risks if it isn't done properly and will be happy to discuss.

pollypandemonium Tue 02-Apr-13 11:35:07

I know the vocal chords are a muscle like any other but apart from that I know nothing.

mummytime Tue 02-Apr-13 11:39:54

A bad singing teacher could do harm, regardless of the age. However a good one who understands young voices and trains the properly will not. Jenevora Williams has done the most academic research that I know in this area, and the damage that can be done to boys voices, andhow to train them whilst their voices are "breaking".

senua Tue 02-Apr-13 11:39:55

oops, did I pick the wrong person to talk about in mentioning CC? Mid you, she is /?was a smoker which doesn't help.

you can certainly harm a person's voice if you don't train it properly.

It's not inevitable, though, that's silly.

If proper warm-ups are done, and the voice is not stretched beyond what it can do, then it is fine.

A bad singing teacher will most likely get someone to start singing without doing warm-ups, causing the vocal cords to be stretched wrong and that can cause damage.
Like polly said - they are a muscle. you give them the same attention that you give any other muscle before exercising.

ZZZ - another thing is that girls must not try falsetto - I personally think it's impossible for a girl to sing falsetto, but my book says not to.
I have a low speaking voice, but can sing very high. Again, with practice and warm-ups.
eg: if I don't warm up properly, I find it hard to sing a D (2 above middle C), but when I am properly warmed-up, I can sing the D above that (3 above middle C)

singing in a choir is exactly the same as 1-to-1.
the rules are the same. warm up properly, only sing what's within your range, drink lots of water, rest your voice.

Sparklymommy Tue 02-Apr-13 13:29:17

This is an interesting topic and one that I too have had concerns about. I remember being told myself as a child that a 'decent' singing teacher wouldn't take on a child under 8 years old. My Dd1 is ten now and has singing lessons. However I believe the emphasis for her is on learning a wide variety of songs in different genres rather than actually 'training' the voice. Dd1 is about to start preparations for her Grade 1 singing exam, which her teacher feels she is capable of. Lots of Dd1s friends have singing lessons (some of whom really don't have nice voices at all!). I think it depends on the teacher. Dd1s teacher spends a good quarter of the lesson on warm ups and I think this is important.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 14:30:31

no senua, you didn't, CC seems to be the classic example used to illustrate this problem. Seems a shame that a girl who enjoyed singing and was talented wasn't guided better IMO. What werexthe adults around her thinking? I don't place my dd in a similar league. I was just wondering whether to drop it and come back to it in a couple of years. She is not attracted to the rock/pop style so she would go for classical training which is the one you should leave till later I presume since it would involve expanding your range. Atn she sings comfortably 2 octaves and some of the octave below but not all. She couldn't singchigher than that though I don't think. Don't really know. Her songs are all in those 2 octaves so far anyway.

Will ask dd what the warm-ups involve.

I wanted to ask the teacher if she could recommend a song book actually so I'll have a chat with her about she sees the whole thing. I am sure she knows what she is doing actually

pollypandemonium Tue 02-Apr-13 14:38:07

What about when children in a choir are asked to sing louder? It is often the case - does that cause damage and if so what kind of damage and is it long term?

most teachers wouldn't take anyone under 8 because they can't read fluently, not because their voice would be ruined.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 14:41:04

thanks for all the comments everyone, really don't know much about singing at all.

A lot of dc do grade exams in singing, sparkly, and singing seems quite a natural thing to do so I presume singing lessons must be ok at this age so long as the voice is not being forced, the dc has warmed up and so on.

So singing is ok but training the voice as such is not. I wonder what training the voice actually entails.

Spokecto a choirmaster about dd joining this choir (but dd was not keen so didn't follow it up). She told me at dd's age, the girls get individual voice training once a month

if you sing louder, you still don't have to strain.
a child must be taught how to sing louder without shouting, in order not to strain their voice.
a good teacher knows how to do that.

ReallyTired Tue 02-Apr-13 14:43:19

A good choir will teach children how to project their voices rather than sing louder. Simple things like good posture, not covering your mouth with a hymn book make a dramatic difference to volume.

Many primary school teachers have no idea how to teach singing and school choirs sound dreadful as a result.

training the voice is better than dinging.
training the voice means that you learn how to use the voice without straining it.

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 14:46:17

oh I see thanks. So the problem is straining the voice

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 14:49:34

bit wary of speaking to the singing teacher, she is always trying to get me to sing!

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