The second pillar to musical success is the singing voice.
The Singing Voice
We want kids to be able to use their singing voice at an early age so that they can begin using it, recognizing the difference between belting and singing in pop music, sing happy birthday to their friends, sing lullabies to their siblings or their own kids one day. This can happen if the singing voice is developed early on and then continuously encouraged.
And it can happen at home.
The four main voices we use are:
The absolute most common mistake young musicians make is using their speaking voice to sing instead of their singing voice. When this happens, the sound comes out as more of a chant, or a belt.
There are a few problems with this approach.
A child’s vocal cords are very very delicate. (They actually won’t be fully developed until the child reaches the mid 20’s.) The amount of force that is used to drive that “belt” sound out can be very damaging to the fragile cords. When a child sings with their speaking voice, the cords are pressed together too tightly while pressure from air blasts its way through. This technique also causes the voice box (or larynx) to actually be pushed up in the throat past its normal position. All these things – tight cords, forced air, high larynx, are all extremely dangerous practices for a young voice.
Because of the rigid state of the voice box, there is a very limited range. The child can only chant or belt comfortably using normal speaking tones. When the child tries to sing outside that range, that’s where the vocal health problems come in.
Things like phrasing or dynamics are lost when a child using his or her speaking voice to sing. Normally it just sounds like shouting. There isn’t a way to make the sound gentle, or even to move from loud to gentle for the purpose of musicianship. The sound is just loud. That makes for a pretty one-dimensional musical experience.
When adults say that they’re “tone deaf”, what they normally mean is that they haven’t accessed their singing voice so they literally can’t match the pitches they’re hearing. They hear that they’re not coming up to the pitches they should be, but try as they might they can’t push that speaking voice up to the singing register. They give up and say they’re “tone deaf” but they’ve actually just not found their singing voice yet.
We’ve discussed the concept of the speaking vs speaking voice. Now stay tuned to learn some very practical ways you can help your child access his or her singing voice at home.
In the meantime, be sure to check out our life so far in Guangzhou, China here.