I will never understand why teachers demand young children to sing loud. I have seen it many times, particularly in dance schools and this usually ends up with children shouting at the top of their voices and not actually singing. Not only could this potentially damage vocal chords it just sounds awful and I know children can sing beautifully so why don’t we teach children to sing beautifully?
Young children can have beautiful tuneful singing voices as long as they are taught the correct way. This means not only teaching them to sing but choosing appropriate songs for them to sing (not, Let It Go!)
If children are shouting firstly they will never hear the correct pitch to sing a song and therefore will never learn to hear the correct one in their head. Secondly they will never hear anyone else in the group either (if they are singing with other children). Encouraging children to sing correctly starts with singing songs which are simple and which suit children’s vocal range. Very young children have a limited vocal range which then expands as they grown older. So starting with two or three notes (descending is better and easier) is the better way to start.
Listening skills are incredibly important to musicians and singers – being able to hear different pitches at the same time is something we can teach ourselves – our ears and brain are incredible (see my post Our Incredible Ears)
So with this in mind it makes me cringe when I hear children shouting or singing out of tune when I know perfectly well…
EVERYONE can learn to sing in tune!
I was a playgroup one week and heard the same nursery rhymes being sung: Wind the Bobbin, Twinkle Twinkle, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Incy Wincy. Whilst Wind the Bobbin and Twinkle, Twinkle were fairly tuneful, Incy Wincy was not. The reason? Simple! Incy Wincy is hard to sing and does anyone actually know the correct tune? It is mostly forgotten that nursery rhymes were originally sung by adults and not by children. Whilst the language content of these songs maybe good they are not so good musically for young children to sing. They are too complicated with pitches jumping around all over the place, large intervals (the distance from one pitch to another) and ascending pitches – which are much more difficult than descending pitches. Young children have a very limited vocal range.
There are other songs, maybe less well known today, that are much better to sing with very young children. TRUE children like these songs I mentioned above but actually children like many different songs and if they are introduced to them and then they are sung often they will love those songs too. One of my favourites is:
Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe,
Get it done by half past two,
Half past two is much too late,
Get it done by half past eight.
I have recently introduced this song to a couple of nurseries who have told me that the children instantly remember this song and love to sing it. Comprising of only two pitches it is so easy for children to sing (and of course adults!). Of course there are plenty of actions to go with this too!
Two other well known songs to sing would be Hot Cross Buns and Ring a Roses. Hot Cross Buns has three pitches descending with small intervals and Ring a Roses has the trade mark playground call “I’m the king of the castle” which I am sure everyone is familiar with. Children love this set of pitches (known as a tone set) it is just natural for them to sing.
I am not saying that you should never sing these other songs because listening to songs is immensely important. It increases the range of songs children will know creating an excellent song bank for future musical teaching.