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Q&A with singing coaches,TV presenters and children's book authors Carrie and David Grant. Post a question about getting children involved in music.- ANSWERS BACK

(66 Posts)
LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 06-Jun-13 11:01:18

There's still time to apply for one of 50 copies of Carrie and David Grant's Lion's Speedy Sauce. Apply before 10am on Wednesday 12th June.

We're delighted that Carrie and David are joining us this week for a Q&A about children and music. Carrie and David are two of the best known pop vocal coaches in the UK (having coached Take That and The Spice Girls amongst others) and many will recognise them from the likes of Fame Academy, The One Show and Cbeebies  Carrie and Davids Popshop!  Parents to four children, they are passionate about getting all children to sing.  They are ambassadors for Sing Up, a singing programme going to every school in England, and they believe that children of every age should be given the tools to enjoy and feel confident about music. Their new picture book series, Jump Up and Join In, is a fun and interactive way of introducing pre-schoolers to music.

Post a question to Carrie and David before the end of Monday 17th June and we'll be linking to their answers on 24th June.
More about Jump Up and Join In
Anyone with a baby or toddler will have noticed how positively they respond to music and how engaged they can be listening to songs, even from the earliest of ages.  The six book series features a colourful cast of characters including Lion, Elephant and Meerkat and each story focuses on a different aspect of music. For example,Lions Speedy Sauce is all about rhythm and other areas of music covered include loud and soft, breathing and confidence.   Each book comes with a CD that includes an introduction to the book, the story, an original song, two music activities and a karaoke track.  Get your pretend microphone at the ready  and your dancing shoes on! 

Coppernob Wed 19-Jun-13 16:11:22

Thank you for the book. It's great. My 3 year old granddaughter really enjoyed having it read to her yesterday. We have still to listen to the CD (I'm saving it for a rainyday activity) but I'm sure she will love that too.

AnnaKCM Wed 19-Jun-13 16:36:24

Thank you for the book, my 4 year old really enjoyed it. The story is lovely and nicely illustrated. I would say that everything is just too fast! (Ironic as talking about rhythm!) You whizz through the story so that they don't really have time to take in and enjoy the pictures. Also each exercise could expanded more as going through each thing a couple of times isn't really enough. My DS got the hang of it, then move on, without actually allowing him to enjoy it. The exercises themselves are great and something I can do with my son at other times, but would have liked more time on each. With the scales my son was concentrating on the numbers so not singing the right notes (which he can do normally), so maybe laaa or something might be better, and expanding it to play high and low notes would be good.
So generally a great book and concepts, just everything is too fast!!

littlewifey Wed 19-Jun-13 20:08:52

So funny watching my 3 year old and 17 month old 'marching to the beat'. A lovely book.

SelinaDoula Wed 19-Jun-13 21:23:02

Thanks for the free copy of Lion's Speedy Sauce book. DS (nearly) 2 enjoyed looking at the pictures and listening to the CD. He liked the roaring Lion and the song. He loves to drum on anything and has a good go on his Dad's table drums so this as a great book for him although I think the activities would be better when he is nearer 3. I enjoyed the music but would have liked some more of the instruments (bongos) on the song and maybe some cultural influences (ie an African theme with the lion etc rather than a reggae type tune or maybe using Caribbean animals and setting with the spicy sauce!)
I love the idea of the series and encouraging a love of music and confidence in little ones, and look forward to reading the other books too.

NoWomanNoCry Wed 19-Jun-13 21:30:11

Questions for Carrie and Grant.
Firstly my children love 'Popshop', are there any plans to make any more shows in the future?
Secondly what is the best age for a child to start learning a musical instrument at primary school?
Thank you

mrsb1975 Wed 19-Jun-13 21:32:10

Slow down! The pace of the story is way too fast! The story was fun but didn't really make any sense.

TotallyEggFlipped Thu 20-Jun-13 03:05:44

Hmmm. Have to agree with you there, mrsb, but DD really didn't seem to care about that.

darthwitless Thu 20-Jun-13 12:02:01

I was delighted when my Speedy Sauce book arrived - thank you very much. I read it with my DS of 15 months straight away - it was too young for him really but my DS of 5 yrs was quite engaged. We will try it again with the little one next year.

I was really hoping to use it in my music classes for Under 3s but actually the story moved too quickly and the CD runs too fast too. If it were slower, I think I could engage the children more with it and talk about it as it moves along. I will definitely do the scales with them and I loved the instructions for homemade Bongos. Thank you again.

GoldenGreen Thu 20-Jun-13 14:12:30

Thank you for the book - dd (3) is really enjoying it. The story does go by a little fast but she doesn't seem to mind. She is really keen to join in the clapping and scales exercises and likes playing the song. Great idea.

cookiestar Thu 20-Jun-13 15:28:11

Hello and thank you for the book.
I read this with my 4 year old son who loves music. He really enjoyed the book and CD and we had to read/listen several times as he was really enjoying himself....particularly the roaring!
The story alone is not particularly engaging for a child his age but combined with the CD is an absolute winner.

mimolette Thu 20-Jun-13 18:56:54

Thank you very much for the book. It's a lovely initiative to get adults and children learning music together.
DD (2) loved the pictures of the animals, and enjoyed dancing and trying to sing along to the CD. Song is quite catchy, and works well for small children. But the pace at which the book is read on the CD is too fast for a toddler - she was struggling to follow it and we barely had enough time to turn the pages.

superoz Thu 20-Jun-13 22:49:11

Thanks for the book.
I have to say I agree with the pace of the story, my 5 year old enjoyed it but only I could turn the pages quick enough to keep up and it is less than two minutes long on the CD! She loved the songs and music activities though, more so than the actual story.

ArbitraryUsername Fri 21-Jun-13 12:51:45

Agree about the pacing of the story. DS much preferred when I read it to him. He liked the roar noise though.

I think there needed to be more information for the unmusical among us to get very much from the scales and rhythm bits. DS listened to those bits but neither of us really knew what to make of them. I did hate the song, but I don't imagine it was intended to appeal to me.

He took it to nursery where it went down well. Apparently the kids were all dancing and marching away. Whereas at home DS wouldn't dance to it at all.

Eviling Fri 21-Jun-13 18:59:13

Thanks for our copy of Lion's Speedy Sauce book, it will be used so many times, my daughter loved the illustrations (she are a animal lover and she so happy with the lion) and its a great introduction to music to little ones!! Thanks again

lalarachel Sat 22-Jun-13 23:32:14

My almost 4 year old loves the book, in fact today I was the lion and she was the tiger playing the trumpet! She loves the story, and really loves the song, she dances like a maniac to it (sadly not in time yet!!!). I'm not a fan of CD readings of picture books, but this was quite a nice reading, if a little fast, but mostly I am reading it myself. The clapping and scales are rather rushed, I'd say it's more for the parent to learn from so we can practise the clapping and scales together without the CD, but they haven't yet really captured her interest, will keep trying though. The song has been running through my head all day for the last 3 days, ridiculously catchy. One last thought - is it the done thing to put chilli sauce on curry?

petewj Mon 24-Jun-13 14:18:33

Thanks for the copy! My 4 year old daughter loves it!!!

LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 24-Jun-13 15:03:42

We now have the answers back from Carrie and David Grant, and I will be posting them up shortly.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:09:21


Hi David and Carrie

Firstly, DD used to love your Popshop on CBeebies! Fond memories!

Although we are not a musical family per se, DW and I have always exposed the children to a lot of singing, musicals and different music types. We have a 7 year old DD and a 12 year old DS. DD loves singing and is coming on in leaps and bounds (and has a very good ear for picking up lyrics and tunes). DS has a lovely voice (and he too can remember lyrics very easily) but will rarely use it in public. We thought that once he attended his boys-only secondary school he might be keen to join the choir etc.... (without the stigma of choir being seen as a girls' option) but alas no. Is there any way to energise DS to discover his 'voice'? I personally think that singing can raise serotonin levels and really lift one's spirit. Something, I would have thought, which is vital for teenagers.

Many thanks.

You are absolutely right about raising serotonin levels and that's got to be good for all of us! Regarding your son, there is a period in early teens where all but a few children seem to find the idea of participating in singing excruciatingly embarrassing. Our view on this is that it's probably because this is when many kids begin to really develop their musical tastes which often run very closely with their sense of identity. If their musical tastes are not being covered in school it becomes hard to relate to. A child who loves their voice will probably be up for singing anything but a child who is trying to discover their voice may find the privacy of their bedroom the only safe space.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:12:49


Hi David and Carrie.

My dd is 9 plays several instruments and loves singing. She has done a few singing exams, sings in choirs and has won local competitions.
Is it true that at her age she shouldn't be receiving vocal coaching/ lessons. There is so much conflicting info out there, and there are several threads on here about it too. Also I know others would like to know as well. What makes a good singing teacher, what should we be looking for, and where do we find a good teacher? It does seem much harder than finding an instrumental teacher, as so many profess to be able to teach/sing themselves.

Many thanks.

Re what age should a child receive vocal coaching - it depends on the type of singing they want to do. The voice is a muscle so it can be developed at any age. However, what direction the voice goes in can be very influenced by how the voice is developed. It can be compared to the different training you would give a long distance runner to a sprinter, both are runners, both develop muscles but both are focused in a different way.

There is a lot that can be taught if a child is going in a classical/choral direction, similarly with musical theatre. Where it becomes slightly more complex is in contemporary music as the very thing we want to hear is individuality, developing your own unique sound. Learning the skill of singing is not rocket science and with the right coaching and receptivity a person can learn fairly quickly. Developing your own unique sound comes with understanding who you are and your own unique identity. Personally we hate to dictate what a person's identity should be so for contemporary singers we prefer to take on students who are 11 years old or over, at the point they start to really search for who they are and where they fit.

What to look for in a vocal coach: They should be a person who has solid technique that they can convey in a couple of sentences, for instance we would say we teach low breathing, forward placement and how to mix well. That may mean nothing to you but you'd be surprised how many coaches would say I teach scales and go through songs - this says nothing about the technique and doesn't empower the student. The student should be able to explain what they are learning so that they become independent and confident in the application. The coach should also go through songs and performance and train the student in how to transform the technique beyond exercises and onto songs. If they also do visual performance coaching that's a huge benefit. If your child desires to train in contemporary music they should be encouraged to develop their own, unique sound and especially NOT sound like their coach! A good vocal coach should have a "whole-person" approach.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:14:51


Hello David and Carrie,

My DD is 11 and has been singing since the age of 6. She had, what I believe to be, very good vocal training for 5 years with a teacher who was very keen that she did not push her voice by "belting out" big musical numbers. She concentrated on a more classical theme with her singing, sang in a choral society choir and has taken exams up to grade 4.

She is now in a full time theatre school and I am starting to become concerned about the vocal training there. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they know what they are doing, but it goes very much against the way she has been trained so far. I worry that it will damage her voice. She has a very clean, clear tone and had just started singing the soprano parts in choir, before she came to this school. My concern is that they are encouraging her to push her voice in the lower register and not teaching them how to support their voices correctly.

She does not really have a musical theatre voice, although she can put one on. I would prefer to keep her on a more classical route. Do you think in the long term that the classical training is the way to go ? (they always seem to shudder a bit when they say "musical theatre" on The Voice.)


We have absolutely no preference for a particular style of singing but the technique we teach is the same for classical/musical theatre and contemporary singing - it is how it is applied that differs. You mention the lower register (chest voice) and the higher register (head voice). Sometimes classical singers are forced to focus exclusively on their head voice and do not develop their chest voice at all. Equally some musical theatre singers are forced to focus exclusively on their chest voice and do not develop their head voice at all. Good technique requires a robust equality of both chest and head voice. Singers who take their chest voice too high will eventually experience vocal problems. It has also been noted recently that there are classical singers on their 40's who now experience vocal problems because their technique has only ever covered the head voice. Learning how to "mix" (a combination of both head and chest voice) properly is revolutionary for a singer. We are always shocked by how few people are taught this. In Italy and the USA it is more commonly taught.

It is this shouty voice stuff that has led to the word "musical theatre" voice being associated with having no feel, just volume and an ability to "hit the back row." To be honest this is a bit of an insult to musical theatre as there are some fabulous MT stars out there but many MT do have the attitude that "hitting the back row" is all important. In most school settings the child who has this big belty type of voice is singled out as amazing. Technically they are using all the air to make volume rather than using the air to produce tone and quality of sound. A good contemporary singer will do the latter.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:16:35


DH and I are both professional musicians and have been appalled by the lack of music in our local primary school. I have volunteered, taught, given Sing Up magazines out, arranged concerts involving the whole school, but STILL the head thinks music is a waste of time. All these things I do are well attended by the parents. Do you have any tips for engaging an un-interested head teacher? We took our two children out of the school in the end, but I still teach and volunteer there as I feel challenged to try and make a difference!!

OMGosh, don't get us on this subject!!!! It's not helped by Mr Gove marginalising creativity. Singing and music are soul food and during a time where we are bombarded by so many unhealthy ways to feel good it should be high on the agenda. I would volunteer to teach the teaching staff at their next inset day, get them enjoying singing for 15 minutes at the start of the day and they will soon realise how good it feels an how important a deal it is!

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:18:07


I have to know - how on earth do you dance in those heels you wear on 'popshop'. Seriously I am in awe especially with the jumping grin

My favourite question and one I am often asked! My first area of training was as a dancer, including ballet with en-point work. When I became a professional dancer it was the 80's and wearing trainers to dance was unthinkable, we were the old school, high heeled girls so I guess some of the teaching stuck! Strong ankles!

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:19:30


I want to know how the hair stays so red! Mine fades in about a weekgrin

Sorry... Music question... What music would you say has the best impact on children and should kids be taught to read music in schools like they are reading words? I can't read music at all and know very few who can

L'Oreal Symbio 6.6 Intense Cherry - very good!

I think children should be taught the theory of music as they develop an interest in music generally. Love of the art should always come before the theory. A good idea is to teach songs with the lyrics written under the stave rather than just being given lyric sheets, that way the children will begin to see how the notes follow the melody up, down and across.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:21:44


Is there an optimum age at which you know whether a child is going to be able to sing in tune or not? My 3 year old granddaughter loves singing but improvises a fair bit with the tunes. Is there any way of encouraging singing in tune? My brother was teased mercilessly at school for being tone deaf and I would hate the same thing to happen to my granddaughter.

In most cases not being able to sing in tune is not a vocal cord problem but is associated with not listening fully. If people (of any age) can learn to listen fully they would probably find they increased their ability to stick with the tune. We've lost count of the number of people with tuning issues who when asked, "Do people tell you, you don't listen," laugh and are amazed, as though we have some profound insight!

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:22:37


Dd1 is 12yo and has been having singing lessons for 3 years and has passed her grade 5. She has a lovely tuneful voice, and has done quite a bit of solo work in both musicals and choir. But she hasn't developped that depth to her voice that you hear soloists with, it's still quite thin as a sound. Is that something that will come with time, or can you suggest any way of working at that.

It can definitely be worked on. Breathing informs tone so this is the area to look at. At her age her voice will also drop (like boys) but only by about 2 notes so this could give her a bit of edge. She may also find that she has a rich soprano voice that develops with age. With the right coaching singers can definitely be taught to sing with a richer, thicker sound.

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