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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SingSongMummy Tue 09-Apr-13 23:48:35

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.

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

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.

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

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


Changing Voices by Deirdre Trundle

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!

UniqueAndAmazing Fri 05-Apr-13 17:39:20

I just sang yours!! grin

i only got to 3 before i got it wrong grin

UniqueAndAmazing Fri 05-Apr-13 17:38:01

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

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

UniqueAndAmazing Fri 05-Apr-13 17:25:54

it's good fun grin
especially when you have juniorsgrin

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

Ooh loving the farmyard noises! grin

UniqueAndAmazing Fri 05-Apr-13 16:57:46


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 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!

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!)

UniqueAndAmazing Fri 05-Apr-13 16:35:51

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.

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!

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!)

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?

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

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

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.)


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