My seven year old loves to sing. You wouldn't know it from his interest in his music class at school, but play some of his favorite pop music or theme songs and he's not only singing...he's got the moves too. I recently was made aware he is even performing during "Open Mic" at lunchtime in school. So much so, that he had to go a day or two without volunteering to give other kids a chance! So what's a parent to do with his/her child's newly found passion for singing?
Of course, I am completely biased and think my son has a gift...ahem. That being said, whether he does or not, I think it's important to encourage him. Thinking back to when I was young, I was told my singing was too "nasally". By the time I was in college and required to sing at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I was petrified, frozen in fear, because I was certain I was a terrible singer. It took a long time for me to realize I wasn't terrible. But is encouragement enough? I started reading up on recommendations for the appropriate age for singing lessons. The results were unanimous. Wait.
Turns out formally training a young voice, before the age of thirteen or so, can not only strain the voice when it's forced to belt out sound, but can damage it. According to a report on BBC Radio and The Parents Music Room, "it is generally not a good idea to have too much formal training at an early age," because it's easy to form bad singing habits, and then tough to undo them once formal training begins in the teen years.
From what I have read, the important skills to learn for singing are posture and breathing, and both of these can be taught at a younger age, say, 7 and up. Once these skills are second nature, when it's time for formal voice lessons, half the battle is already won. The other important component is practice, practice practice.
It is freeing for children to express themselves through music and song at any age, and the science world agrees. There are multiple studies confirming the benefits music has on brain development: creatively, emotionally and analytically.
As for my 7 year old boy band wannabe, I will pick up a video that teaches him (and me too!)the hip-hop moves to go along with his favorite songs, and I will listen again and again and AGAIN to whatever pop chorus happens to be in his head.
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