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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! 

DuchessOfPodd Sat 20-Jul-13 18:20:15

Hi and thanks very much for the book. I read it with my year1 DD. I think the story was a bit too simple for her (she gave it a "15/20" mark) but the song she liked and sang along happily with (it got 17/20) but the clapping game (19/20) and the super scales (20/20) were her definite favourites. I will buy more of this series and use it with my baby when he is a bit older.

amapola Sat 20-Jul-13 17:11:49

Thank you for the book. Illustrations are excellent - and the story at the start is good - but a little short, and could have been a little more interesting (my DS's don't have experience of extra hot chili sauce !)
The song matches the music well, and does encourage the children to march. The verses are reasonably fast paced, so younger children may struggle to read and sing at the same time - which is the only issue I had.
I felt the "clever clapping on the beat" was a good introduction to Rhythm, but could have been developed further
"Super Scales on the Stairs" was a great visual representation of musical scales -and the children loved this.
It was all brought together nicely with a chance at the end to sing along Karaoke style - with the words helpfully marked in bold for the children to sing.

Overall a good experience, 4/5

verap Thu 04-Jul-13 10:59:24

My daughter loves the book - the sound quality of the CD is poor though - I hope it's just mine.

BigGapMum Mon 01-Jul-13 20:20:20

I was really pleased to receive this book but my nearly 5yo DS seemed to take a bit of dislike to it. Admittedly he's never really enjoyed music as much as other children and has always refused to dance.
However my 3yo DGD absolutely loves the book, so I would definitely recommend the book for the right child.

pupsysmum Fri 28-Jun-13 20:55:00

Thank you for the copy of Lions Speedy Sauce. My 6 yr old and 3 yr old have both enjoyed reading and listening to it, for different reasons: my 6 yr old son because he likes to dance to the music and my 3 yr old daughter because she likes the music and particularly the sections after the story that are interactive. She enjoyed the illustrations and the pace of the story is fast, but I agree that the story line could have been a bit more developed.
thanks again

mummylovescakes Thu 27-Jun-13 11:47:12

Thank you very much for the book. We loved the lion roaring a lot. This is the first audio book we have used and it was definitely a thumbs up. We thought the illustrations were excellent and the music was very entertaining. A fab way of getting children to learn about music and rhythm. I would most definitely recommend this book to my friends.

fuzzfoster Wed 26-Jun-13 23:18:40

Thanks very much for the book and CD.

I found it an excellent introduction to music/rhythm. My DS (4) made us read and listen through it several times in a row in the first sitting and the song is so catchy we both regularly find ourselves singing along to it out of nowhere!

We really enjoyed the exercises after the story and I think they are very well judged.
My only slight criticism would be that the story is quite short and feels even shorter because of the pace at which it is read on the CD. Most kids like to linger over the pages and pictures and point out various things but the cue to turn the pages (the lions roar) is very quick.

I think the books are an excellent idea though as I am very keen on my children to be brought up with a love and appreciation of music, and I think this approach is just the ticket. I look forward to seeing what else comes from Carrie and David.

Thanks again.

peasandchips Tue 25-Jun-13 19:08:25

Our copy arrived just too late to join in the above, but DD certainly a fan of the marching!

gazzalw Tue 25-Jun-13 17:09:00

Thanks David and Carrie....I totally agree with you FWIW!

NoWomanNoCry Tue 25-Jun-13 13:04:26

Thank you Carrie and Grant for answering my questions smile.

Jux Mon 24-Jun-13 21:10:11

Thank you for answering my question. We are clearly badly impoverished musically here sad

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:32:40


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

No more Popshop boo hoo! It costs too much to make. Our books (Jump Up and Join In series of 6) cover the same area musically though. Learning a musical instrument can begin at any time. We leave musical instruments lying around the house in the hope that our children will be tempted to pick them up and play, which thankfully they seem to want to do! Formal training for instruments, we aren't the experts in this area but about aged 6, year two, when the learning at school becomes a little more formal would seem right.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:30:04


Oh sorry! My question: aside from moving, do you have any ideas of what I can do to broaden her musical experience?

We believe all children should be given a broad variety of music to listen to and sing. You would never consider insisting a child only read books by one author so why should it be any different with music. There are now many choirs out there. National Youth Choirs would definitely be worth looking at, click on this link youth music.

Also may be worth looking at the fusion music that is available. One of our very favourite pieces to teach is Handel's Messiah as produced by Quincy Jones on the album "A Soulful Celebration”. There are so many good songs to choose from on this album. This version of Handel's Messiah hits all the contemporary marks whilst being a beautiful classical piece and it is fantastically complex.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:26:44


DD is 8 and a half. She did quite a bit of choral singing at school up until this year (Y4), when she opted out of Singing Club because it clashed with her Music Theory class, which was not an option when she took up weekly piano lessons.

Her previous singing teacher always used to say to me "You should do something with that voice" and it is true that she has a pretty singing voice. She will have weekly choral singing again, as part of the school curriculum, in Y5 and Y6. Should I leave it at that for now, or would one-to-one singing lessons be of any value? When she practices piano I sing along and she loves the idea of playing and singing together one day (à la Regina Spector).

You cannot hold a good singer down and if she is as good as you say she is then singing will surface at some point. She can take one to one vocal training at a later date unless, of course, her choir leader wants to push her towards solo chorister opportunities.

CarrieandDavidGrant Mon 24-Jun-13 15:25:48


My son sings in a church choir. He is a very keen choister and doing well with the Royal School of Church music training scheme. Should he carry on singing when his voice starts to change?

There are conflicting opinions about this. Personally we believe that boys should be able to continue to sing throughout the voice-breaking period. The muscles that are the vocal cords begin to thicken but there is no evidence to say that training cannot take place whilst this is happening. The hardest thing for boys is overcoming the sense of identity loss especially vocal identity loss so we would probably focus more on this area in our coaching during this period.

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


My DD is a dreadful singer - really tone-deaf and she can't hear that she sounds so out of tune. She thinks she's a brilliant signer and I don't like to burst her bubble sad Would singing lessons be able to teach someone to sing in tune or is this ability something you are born with or not? Thanks!

See our answer to Coppernob. If this doesn't work, try rap!

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.

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 15:19:30


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 15:18:07


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 15:16:35


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 15:14:51


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 15:12:49


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 15:09:21


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.

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.

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