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!

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 15:04:47

What I have read is that straining the voice can lead to nodules or scaring on the vocal cords. Apparently Julie Andrews was operated on unsuccessfully for this. I think once the nodules form, the damage is permanent since surgery seems to be the way forward. I suppose this kind of damage would be caused by intensive singing and/or bad habits such as belting. Probably isn't a concern with a dc who has a lesson a week and short daily practice or a choir once or twice a week

pollypandemonium Tue 02-Apr-13 17:29:56

So when a school choir sounds kind of shouty, which is cute and all, but there's not a 'singing' sound - is that damaging their voice? More often than not they may get a bit of a warm up but it's not teaching them how to sing (posture, facial muscles, tongue position etc).

seeker Tue 02-Apr-13 18:00:05

When a school choir sounds shouty,the teacher should be shot.

Inncogneetow Tue 02-Apr-13 18:16:58

Like instrumental teaching, this is all about the professional experience and qualifications of the teachers. Children can sing in choirs from the age of 4 if they have appropriate (fun) leadership. There is no reason why children should not have singing lessons with skilled and talented teachers.

But there are far too many charlatans out there. ds2 (13) sings quite seriously, but when his teacher moved away, I was unable to find a teacher that I believed was suitably qualified and experienced, especially for a boy's changing voice.

One of his friends was having lessons and was being encouraged to sing very high treble lines, long after his voice had started changing and he should have been moved down to alto.

I am a professional classical singer and my husband is a top singing teacher with a reputation for getting boys into Oxbridge colleges with choral scholarships. There is absolutely nothing wrong with training young voices, the problem is that very few teachers do it well/carefully enough.

Zzzen, I'm afraid you are not correct when you say that girls shouldn't sing in 'falsetto'. Girls/women do not have a falsetto, but a head voice and a chest voice and it is very important not to prematurely develop the chest voice.

OP you mention your daughter having issues with going from low to high notes so maybe it could be worth checking that she isn't getting stuck in chest voice (the more 'shouty' and pop sounding part).

Another poster mention being pushed in a choir, and whilst I understand that choir leaders want to encourage the best sound they should never be asking anyone to push for more sound as the children will tend to strain and damage their voices.

Charlotte Church was never taught to sing properly and always sang with a fake, imposed vibrato which was destined to crash and burn vocally, but hey, she did pretty well out of it I guess!

Yy to nodules being pretty bad and mostly requiring surgery, or at least many months of exacting reparative exercises which might well be beyond the ability/interest of a child!

X-post, but pp, if you're in the London area I can give you suggestions for your DS!

You're quite right about charlatans, although even plenty of my professional colleagues with music college PG degrees freely admit they have no idea how to teach young voices (especially trebles and the subsequent transition).

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 19:44:56

thanks singsong, I didn't mention falsetto, can't really comment on it I am afraid.

Dd doesn't sing pop or shouty style, it is all church hymns, a lot in Latin, some mold folksongs, things like Greensleeves, an old Norwegian folksong, traditional German ones etc so I don't think she can have a chest voice issue yet.

It was just one song where she had a big jump from quite a low note to a very high one and she found it difficult to make the move sound good. The high note was not a hard one to reach but she didn't like the sound of the move (maybe I cannot really explain it). Other than that I don't think she is given anything to sing which would be a struggle for her to reach easily, which sounds like it is a good thing. Don't think she uses a chest voice at all, sounds like a head voice to me, but am not an expert.

When do girls start to use a chest voice and when do you use one and when the other, if you don't mind me asking?

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 19:47:55

singsong, at what age did you begin classical singing training? Could you say something about how you were taught?

Sorry if I am asking a lot of questions, finding this quite helpful

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 19:56:38

inncogneetow, that is a shame when your ds is already a good singer. I suppose you will already have asked around for recommendations. I hope you can find a teacher you are comfortable with before too long. Maybe someone in the know could make a suggestion. A neighbour of mine is ancopera singer and we havectwo more at church so if dd was advanced and serious about it , I might ask one of them or one of her instrumental teachers.

BCBG Tue 02-Apr-13 20:07:05

Singsong, can I just ask you a question, then, please? DS2 has just got a choral scholarship from Cambridge, has been singing since he was seven, has a great choral baritone but Cambridge Head of Music did comment at audition that he has an 'amazing' voice which should be 'unleashed' and DS thought she meant more vibrato, more operatic....which made me wonder if all his choral training up until now has been somehow limiting? I ask because DD2 who is 11, sings in her school choir, but her choir master (who DS had at the same age) says that she has a very unusually low register which she could start developing that 'forcing' the voice too young, do you think? DD is exceptionally tall for her age 161cm, and it looks as though she will have an alto/contralto sound; she also has a huge chest voice compared to her brother at the same age. Reading this thread I am just worried that she might be pushed too soon, and I personally know nowt about singing!

singsong it was me that mentioned falsetto. I also said that I didn't think it was possible too.

*in girls

yy. one thing that I have learned as a choir trainer (and all singing teachers and choir trainers are constantly learning ) is that children should use their head voice for high notes and never to force their voice to go to lower notes if they find them unnatural.
and they will find them unnatural as their vocal cords are short (hence high notes being so easy).

I'm an adult, so this might not sound relevant...
I sing with my chest voice below a middle c. they call it my tenor voice.
when.I was in 6th form, some girls would use their chest voices to help with tenor parts.
so maybe 15/16? would be okay

ZZZenEggain Tue 02-Apr-13 22:26:46

thanks unique, am learning a lot on this thread

Schmedz Tue 02-Apr-13 23:47:32

Nothing wrong with good training but a woman's voice does not really fully start to mature until after puberty hits! Good technique, posture, phrasing, expression, varying vocal tone etc.. can all be learnt at much younger ages ( and probably SHOULD be learnt at a younger age). Babies make a huge variety of loud and quiet, high and low sounds without damaging their voices, so singing should really be an extension of the 'natural' voice. Operatic singing artificially forces the larynx into a low position which takes much more control and specific technique. Belting out high notes using a speech-level voice ( I.e. imitating most pop singers or trying to be Idina Menzel at the end of Defying Gravity!) will almost certainly damage your vocal is the equivalent to shouting if done incorrectly.
Ensure you are happy with the vocal teacher's pedagogy and all should be well.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 00:35:12

School choirs seem to train young children to sing in a falsetto voice as mostly the teachers don't know what they are doing! It can lead to tension but produces the kind if sound done teachers think children should produce.

Dd is 11 and belts but safely under dh's expert supervision the key us retraction retraction retraction (or keeping the feeling if a silent laugh in your larynx)

We tell dd to ignie her school music teacher and to sing her way. Dh is teaching her how to produce the type of voice quality her teacher wants but in a different way. He teaches very technically Nd doesn't usually take on young children as they don't have the understanding.

MortenHasNiceShirts Wed 03-Apr-13 00:41:40

Young children and indeed all women don't have a falsetto - only adult men.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 00:41:55

Belting if I remember correctly requires retraction and a high larynx. Speech quality is used a lot in children's songs

Nodules can be caused by constriction if the false vocal folds. There is one school if though which says that all singing should be done with the larynx in a speech level position. Dh disagrees with this and scientific research agrees with him.

Siren ing is a good excercise you need to allow your larynx to rise as you go up and watch head and neck positions.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 00:42:37

Women and children do have falsetto

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 00:43:57

It's quite a thin sound. Am on holiday at the moment do can't reference the exact set up of falsetto and dh would kill
Me if I asked him to on holiday at this time of night!!!!!

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 00:46:33

Dh uses different terminology. For chest voice he uses speech quality. He teaches exactly what to do to safely create different types of singing. I cover my ears when he twangs!!!!

Pictures - please do not give people mis - information. There is no such thing as falsetto in females. You are using some very dubious pseudo musical theatre terms with little understanding of vocal anatomy or pedagogy. If/when you have multiple qualifications from one of the leading UK music conservatoires, feel free to come back and comment.

BCBG - there is quite a difference between the standard English/Oxbridge 'choral' sound and the classical opera sound and usually at the age of starting university it is not an unwise thing to be singing in a youthful 'choral' way. However there are certain voices which at undeniably more 'operatic' in nature, even at an early age, so maybe your DS is one of these. If he is keen on a choral scholarship, there at ways and means to discipline the voice somewhat so that he would be suitable in the short term.

With regards to your DD, height/build is often an indicator of natural voice type and she could well be an authentic alto/mezzo. If so, at this stage it would be even more important to concentrate on her middle voice and ability to blend between the registers (i.e. not just pure chest register) in order to preserve the strength of her head voice and not to over develop the prominent low notes (only using thick vocal chord occlusion) and not be exercising the middle register which is essential for any classical singing!

BCBG - also meant to say that many of my operatic colleagues started out a Oxbridge choristers and then developed their voices, when ready, into a more operatic sound, often set postgrad level at music college. The choral scholar experience is an amazing musical one which will put him at an advantage for the rest of his musical career (if he chooses one!). Just try to ensure that he sees a great teacher who understands his potential as more than the rather restricted choral sound. Good examples of baritone choral scholars turned opera stars include Simon Keenlyside and Gerard Finley.

montmartre Wed 03-Apr-13 01:28:33

Cathedral choirs start at 7, and you already need to be able to carry a tune!
I doubt they would be 'ruining' young people's voices. (indeed my chorister DB went on to have a Cambridge college choral scholarship, so definitely still a v good voice!)

All the opera singers I know began singing as young children, before 11 at least.

mummytime Wed 03-Apr-13 07:39:10

Well I know Opera singers who only started serious singing at Music College. But most Musicians will belong to choirs, especially pianists and Organists.

Lots of Cathedral choirs select on potential rather than ability. Being able to carry a tune isn't that rare a skill, or one that usually needs lessons to learn. Cathedral choirs also teach a lot about singing technique.

I wonder what "people" mean when they say falsetto in females - when I was trying to understand it from my book, which mentions it, I couldn't work it out how it could even be achieved - women/girls are best singing in their head voice (which is the high notes), as their chest voice (which has now been referred to on this thread as speech level) is harder to manage and control.
I wonder if "falsetto" in females is intended to be this chest voice, rather than a high head voice?
I have tried and tried and tried, and cannot conceive how a female voice can be artificially made higher. It's your head voice all the way through.
It's exactly the same voice as boys are taught to use.

Opera voices done properly are great, opera voices done badly is the "opera sound" that you can get - the hideous vibrato done by people who have no idea how to use their vocal chords properly. the operatic vibrato is very very difficult to control, and is one of the last things to learn after making sure that you can sing correctly and well with a steady voice. trying to do vibrato without the correct training could damage your voice.

and if you sing in a choir, it's even more important not to use an opera voice at all - you need to blend. Choral singing and opera singing are completely different beasts.

even the information on wikipedia is doubtful - they are citing one bloke who reckons " this failure to recognize the female falsetto voice has led to the misidentification of young contraltos and mezzo-sopranos as sopranos, as it is easier for these lower voice types to sing in the soprano tessitura using their falsetto register."

can't happen. A mezzo or contralto (female alto voice) cannot possibly get high enough to fake a soprano voice. You have your range and that's it. It might be that the singers who have been tested in this way have warmed up to such an extent that in a vocal test, they were able to reach higher notes, but that doesn't mean that that's their range (in much the same way as a car could reach 120mph, but they shouldn't because the bolts are rattling and the engine is falling apart - that car would be more comfortable using its top speed of 110mph, for example)

We often warm up and practise singing to the very top of our voices - it means that we don't struggle so much singing higher notes when we sing for real, but no one would expect us to sing those very high notes as a matter of course.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 10:55:55

Hi singsong - you mention singing with thick folds. What other gold masses are there?

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 10:56:45

Sorry predictive text. What other fold masses are there?

Hi pictures. The vocal folds should thin and stretch as the singer goes up in register - something like a high siren or 'ng' is a good example of using thin folds.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 16:22:15

What are the folds doing when someone sings in falsetto?

Females do not have a falsetto, it is only a term which should be applied to men!

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:22:07

That's not the question I asked. What do the folds do when someone is singing in falsetto?

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:35:13

If falsetto doesnt exist in women what happens when a woman yodels?

yodelling is just vibrato.
it's not falsetto, it's going between notes very quickly.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:52:34

So when opera singers use vibrato are they yodelling?

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:53:19

Which would be the logical assumption from that assertion.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:56:31

Yodelling is moving in between modal voice quality and falsetto or to put it another way a change of true vocal fold body cover condition from thick to stiff folds. Sometimes referred to in some textbooks as a plane shift or "flipping the plane"

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 03-Apr-13 21:57:14

An example of this in pop singing is someone like Leona Lewis.

MortenHasNiceShirts Thu 04-Apr-13 12:00:52

When a woman yodels I imagine she goes between her chest and head voice. Not her falsetto. Which women don't have.

Morten is right!

Vibrato is a natural oscillation of the vocal chords when the correct air pressure is running through them. There are plenty of people with an incorrect or 'imposed' vibrato usually involving serious tension!

A correct operatic vibrato is inevitable when singing correctly in the classical style and is often suppressed by choral singers who prefer a straight sound which in itself can lead to vocal problems, especially in the not so youthful!

i didn't say that vibrato was yodelling, i said that yodelling was just vibrato - it was a clumsy way of saying it, but it's changing notes.
Morten said it better than me.
chest voice and head voice.

your thing was like saying all fire engines are red therefore everything that's red must be a fire engine.

Schmedz Fri 05-Apr-13 00:08:35

Pictures..your DH's terminology makes me think of Lin Marsh! Fantastic vocal leader!! All backed up by solid physical understanding of how the voice works...

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 05-Apr-13 10:06:04

He's met Lin.

Are you familiar with the research of Jo Estill?

Schmedz Fri 05-Apr-13 10:11:54

Not directly, but I believe it is her research and vocal teaching program that has most influenced Lin. I have been fortunate to have done a number of workshops with Lin and use the techniques with all my choirs (junior school level). It is amazing how effective, sensible and simple they are!

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 05-Apr-13 10:24:07

And research is still continuing but I agree about Lin Marsh. Gillyanne Kayes is well worth a read too.

JustFoofy Fri 05-Apr-13 12:53:38

Just wondering if I can jump on here and ask about my son.

He's 11 very tall and although his voice isnt actually breaking, it's getting deeper gradually and is considerably deeper than his peers. He's recently started singing lessons but changed teachers. His first teacher wasn't doing any warm ups, launching straight into singing and had him belting out musical theatre songs with no reference to head and chest voice.
Ds is now with a new teacher who does warm ups andcis trying to teach him where to sing with head ir chest voice (which ds is now finding difficult).
I suppose I'm asking what should I be expecting from his singing teacher especially in light of his developmental stage?

Sorry for the hijack grin

if his singing teacher is already teaching him good technique (not impressed with his old teacher), then they'll also be teaching him how to deal with his changing voice.

They have to be ever so careful with changing voices, as this is when the damage can really happen.
He's finding it difficult because he's never had to do it before.

ZZZenagain Fri 05-Apr-13 14:49:52

Hi foofy, might be worth reading up on it yourself too. (Anyone can post anything on any thread I start btw, it is never a hijack for me). I am always interested in how threads spin off.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 05-Apr-13 15:15:17

I can recommend a book by Deirdre Trundle on the subject.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 05-Apr-13 15:31:36

Or jenevora Williams

Inncogneetow Fri 05-Apr-13 15:34:15

Jenevora Williams is a good place to start for learning about boys' changing voices Foofy. There is lots of info and articles on her site. (Please don't talk about voices breaking, which suggests damage; voices don't break and shouldn't be damaged - unless they are mistreated.)


Inncogneetow Fri 05-Apr-13 15:34:53

Cross posted with Pictures. LOL
What's the book recommendation?

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 15:56:56

Ok this is for the singers / singing teachers on this thread!

All my life (well since about 7) I have been singing in choirs and groups and joined a local musical society at 15 as a soprano. I am now 28 but find I sometimes have to strain a bit to reach notes I used to.

I've had literally one year of lessons when I was 17 but no more. I still sing once a week in my local operatic society as a soprano. We rarely do warmups. Am I damaging my voice and what can I do?

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 15:59:05

(I should add, my singing teacher thought I had about a 3 8va range and I regularly use it to the max!)

Schmedz Fri 05-Apr-13 16:21:01

Always warmup ...if you dont do them as a choir, do them before you arrive. Don't sing if you have a sore throat or feel strain and dont whisper if you are losing your voice for any reason. That will damage. Keep hydrated. You can learn techniques to gradually extend your range ( or get it back!) but never force.
All easier said than done!

Major - you are definitely ruining your voice without warming up.
I'm upset to see that you've spent so many years singing in choirs that don't warm up!

You can warm up by yourself as Schmedz sys.
all you have to do is walk around and sing - start in your most comfortable register and sing up a bit and down a bit (scales are excellent for this) and then just keep doing that - try to go higher and lower as your voice warms up (you should be able to feel this happening)

the reason I say walk around doing it, is because you're then warming up your whole body.

but yes, the reason you find the higher notes a struggle (assuming you haven't had any problems with throat infections) is because your voice hasn't been warmed up - it's losing its elasticity.

Ideally, you need to warm up your voice by doing scales etc at least every day.
but not when you have a cold or throat infection, and always keep drinking water.

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 16:36:43

Thanks. What sort of warmups should I do?

I'm always careful not to sing on a sore throat (unless I really 'have' to for a show, but then rest my voice carefully before and after.)

It does sound easier said than done but I really don't want to damage my voice as I love singing, and despite never having had many lessons, keep getting compliments from singer friends.

Loving this post as a whole as my DS is 4 and singing mad do it's given me loads of tips about how far and when to let him push himself. (Not for a while yet, he does singing in his kodaly class but only very light singing of simple songs - very good teacher!)

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 16:39:48

X post with unique Thanks. :smile:

Some of my choirs warm up, some don't. Luckily when I do a week long intense rehearsal for shows with one group they always warm up - probably not surprising that I always have felt I've sung my best in those shows!


another great thing to do in warming up is to sing one long note on one breath. it really helps with tone in general.
it's always best to do it with notes in the middle of your range (and you can vary the notes too, but don't stop them or change breath while you're doing it- you'll sound more like a trombone, but that's good for this exercise)

and when you're singing your scales, don't always do La.
you don't do just that voice shape when you sing, so it makes no sense to do it with warm-ups either. We usually go through the range of farm animals grin (moo, baa, oink, neigh, eek, caw, etc)

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 17:20:06

Ooh loving the farmyard noises! grin

it's good fun grin
especially when you have juniorsgrin

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 17:31:42

Haha! I do remember a high school choir that warmed up to "Clean cracked copper kettle" - always funny!

One we do in our adult choir is really hilarious but sounds so innocent when explained or written down: Start singing one one note, "One smart fellow he felt smart" up a note "Two smart fellows they felt smart" up a note "Three smart fellows they felt smart" up a note "They all felt smart together!" I'm not going to give it away but try singing it a few times at a medium to fast speed and you should get it! grin

i love doing tongue twisters!

we like to make up rhyming ones.

one chorister's name sounded like Guy, so we did

" Guy likes ice-cream but dreams of apple pie" which made him yelp in protest! grin

I just sang yours!! grin

i only got to 3 before i got it wrong grin

MajorDivvy Fri 05-Apr-13 17:42:31

Same here don't worry! It's one we do on the 'intensive' rehearsals - its a great icebreaker!

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 05-Apr-13 22:43:01


Changing Voices by Deirdre Trundle

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 06-Apr-13 00:21:37

To zzzen

A clear tone is the basis of healthy voicing. If your dd is producing a clear tone, isn't clearing her throat after singing and is happy working with the teacher there is no problem. My suggestion for any singer working with a teacher is if you are unsure of the benefit of an exercise then ask. The teacher should be able to answer. My other suggestion is make sure that the teacher actually teaches the style that your daughter wants to sing in. Classical technique and style is great for classical singing but not so good for other styles.

Falsetto does occur in the female voice but it is more noticable in a man for fairly obvious reasons. On a spectrograph, which is a piece of equipment used to analyse the voice, falsetto produces a very different picture than either thick fold , thin fold or slack fold closure. There are numerous research papers produced on vocal fold vibration for anybody interested enough to find them. Now I am not suggesting for one minute that all girls or women sing in falsetto above the break but some do.

As for pseudo-vocal terminology actually head and chest voice could be described in the same way as you do not have a voice in your head or your chest. You have one voice, the source of which are the true vocal folds situated in your larynx. Now clearly there is much more going on there but my aim is to help a layperson trying to do the best for her daughter. Should anybody wish me to go further into anatomy and physiology I am more than capable.

There have been some excellent suggestions on here about exercises and I wholeheartedly agree with the poster who suggested sirening on an ng sound. In fact singing through a song like that can be very advantageous and a great warm up in itself for reasons I won't go into on here. In an ideal world the teacher would devise scale patterns based around the music the student is singing. My caution with scales is though to make sure that the underlying voice use is good. A good teacher will also teach the student to cool down the voice as well.

I do have a degree from a major conservatoire and have extensive knowledge of vocal function. I teach internationally and have worked at conservatoire level within musical theatre training with many of my former students working in the West End and beyond. I have also worked to enable singers to recover from vocal injuries. As part of this I regularly speak to speech and language therapists using professionally appropriate terminology. I hope that his entitles me to comment.

Picture's husband

ZZZenagain Mon 08-Apr-13 16:43:25

Thanks for taking the time to come on MN and comment. I know a bit more about singing after reading this thread so I'll have a chat with the teacher about it and see what she has to say about her method/way forward.

difficultpickle Tue 09-Apr-13 14:06:58

Ds (8) is in a choir. They do warm up exercises, learn how to breathe properly and see a voice coach to ensure they are not straining their voices. He can watch someone sing and know if they are breathing correctly or not by the way they stand. It has made him very judgey of other singers grin

Pictures husband clearly got a bit defensive there! I will agree to disagree with what I would regard as harmful MT ideas in the same way that he dismisses classical technique as only good for classical singing!

Good luck with your daughter Zzzen.

ZZZenagain Wed 10-Apr-13 13:56:34

Thank you. Yes, I feel I know a bit more about it now , so feeling reassured. Dd is not doing any of the more strenuous type of sining which I believe causes the problems.

Actually she has her lesson right now. I think this bel canto course she is working through sounds good ( I personally like a bel canto voice so that is perhaps a nice coincidence) and then in a couple of years time, she will know if she wants to look into something more like Lieder or opera - and the teacher will know if she has the right voice and the prerequisites for pursuing that. At the moment I would say that is more her taste, although she is not attracted to the more (I would describe it as shrieky-style) perhaps powerful operatic voice. We will see.

I don't think she will ever want to sing pop style but she does like some musicals and I can see her singing along to those. Shame she doesn't want to go back to a choir but tis not to be.

Thanks to everyone who contributed.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 13-Apr-13 14:16:57

After recently looking at the instruments offered at Chets, have found they rarely take singing as a first instrument until 6th form. After asking them why this is their reply was because they teach classical and it is not appropriate for younger voices to have a classical training.
Classical training is not just classical music it covers folk and some musical numbers. It is a style of singing, not music.
The advice I received was go gentle until puberty and concentrate on things such as breathe control.
I'm sure they know what they are talking about.

Theas18 Tue 23-Apr-13 16:37:33

My 3 have always sung a lot (choristers) including DS singing through his voice breaking and it's been fine. The eldest (19) is a fab singer in the cathedral chorister mould with a bell clear voice rather than a " big sing" voice IYSWIM

Totally agree re primary choirs and primary teachers though. None of mine did primary school choir as the " shout singing" was awful.

FriendlyLadybird Fri 03-May-13 22:27:57

I remember Vaccai! If she's using that and being taught properly, it'll be fine. My worry about school choirs is that they can tend to sing from the throat, rather than from the stomach, if you see what I mean. Classical singing is with a nice, open throat and the sound just comes out; most pop singing and musicals singing seems to get stuck in the throat, which is what does the damage. I always tell people to try to sing like Elvis -- immediately they relax their throats and start singing properly.

ZZZenagain Wed 08-May-13 17:01:46

Thanks Ladybird. They are going into a recording studio next week to record a couple of dd's songs, so I will see a bit of how they go about it. I feel confident now that the lessons are fine for dd at this stage of development, so thanks to everyone who contributed.

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