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At what age can my child begin voice lessons?

A question appeared in my inbox that I thought should really be shared with everyone.  It is a question I am asked at least once a week.  "At what age can my child begin voice lessons?"  This really is a hard question to answer and each teacher will give you a different answer.  Many teachers prefer not to work with a child until his or her voice has developed to a certain level of maturity.  Others may not want to work with children under 10 or work with children at all.  This may be a personal preference or the teachers may not feel that their skill set is best matched with a child.  Either way, there is nothing wrong with this.  I choose to teach singers of all ages, regardless of vocal maturity.  The question for me is whether or not they can handle a 30 minute lesson.  Many children under the age of 5 are not capable of handling a 30 minute voice lesson, even if they are capable of handling a 30 minute piano or violin lesson.  It's simply because I don't have a toy (instrument) to hand them that they can play with.  While I do use many tools, exercise balls, plastic bands, etc. during my lessons, this generally isn't enough to hold a 3 year olds attention for more than 15 minutes.  So if you're wondering how old your child should be before they start studying with me, ask yourself how long their attention span may be.  If they can handle 30 minutes, let's get started!

Now to back up.  Why do I teach children who have not reached vocal maturity?  There are several reasons.  One, there is not a set age that a person reaches vocal maturity (and voices change all the time as they age).  Two, no one is too young to learn about and enjoy music.  While my 5 year old student may not be ready to handle the challenging vocal demands of Puccini, he certainly can learn to read music.  Let us not forget that the voice is an instrument and during instrumental lessons, the student is not playing his or her instrument throughout the entire duration of the lesson.  The student is also learning how to read music, music theory, how the instrument works, some musical history, etc.  These are also essential lessons to studying the voice.  I always include musicianship skills (sight reading, ear training, music theory, etc) in my voice lessons.  We also do a lot of dancing, running around, and imagination exercises to add to each lesson.  I truly believe that if the student can sing the ABC's and are able to do some reading, than they are able to begin music lessons.  And remember, you are also never too OLD to take voice lessons!!!!

I hope this helps to answer your question.  Please keep those questions coming!

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Reader Comments (4)

I agree..you are never to old to do something you love.

October 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpc350

I disagree. Unless you have x-ray vision and can ensure that a young singer is not straining his/her voice in order to please you with a mature tone I think it is irresponsible to give individual voice lessons to children. Enrolling your young singer in a chorus would give them a love of music and be much safer for the vocal system.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Ellen

I appreciate your response Elizabeth. I think though that you might be assuming that all voice teachers are intending for their young singers to sing with a mature tone, which isn't the case. No one would expect a 5 year old violinist to achieve the advanced tone of an adult musician. That 5 year old will learn about his/her instrument, learn the language of music, and play songs appropriate for their age. Same goes for voice students. I don't expect my young singers to come out singing like Jennifer Hudson. You are correct, it would be inappropriate. What I do expect is that they are learning about their instrument, learning to read and enjoy music, and sing songs appropriately for their age and vocal maturity. Enrolling a young singer in a chorus, as you suggest, is a great idea. But more vocal injury and vocal abuse comes from young singers who are not learning about their instrument from an instructor but are instead mimicking the voices they hear on the radio. A choir director is focused on teaching notes, rhythms, and creating an overall sound rather than focusing on an individual voice. A private voice instructor is focused on each student's unique voice and teaching them appropriate ways to use their individual voices.
To address your "x-ray vision" comment, voice instructors have the ability to hear when a singer is not using their voice correctly. For instance, if the larynx is too high, we can hear a strained tone coming from excess laryngeal tension caused by too much pharyngeal pressure. If the tone is airy we are able to hear whether the breathy-ness is coming from within the tone (meaning there isn't enough air to support a good, solid tone) or surrounding the tone (meaning the singer is overblowing,causing a solid tone but excess air is surrounding the sound). We don't need to see vocal folds, because we are trained to hear any mis-use of the instrument.
Thanks again for your comment.

November 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterCindy Shadrick

This article helped a lot! I teach voice and agree that you can start at any age, as you said, it's not about getting the student to sound like Jennifer Hudson, but more about empowering the student to sing, write their own songs, and acquire a skill for stage presence and these are all very fun to learn. In the end of the day my younger students gain confidence and building blocks for technique.

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterALi

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