I feel very strongly that is it so important to help young children find their “singing voice”. We have just a couple of years to manage this, before the children become aware that they “can’t sing” and become embarrassed to try. They feel so exposed once they start having to join in school productions, sing in class assemblies and even in school assemblies.
Teaching the Nativity Play songs to a class of infants – year 1 and 2 – there was the usual enthusiastic approximation to the tune that happens when you just play the demo CD to the children and let them sing along. As I was unpicking some of the errors and working on pitching the notes more accurately, I spotted that one of the girls – let’s call her Mary – was yet to find her singing voice – what used to be called a “growler” in the Bad Old Days. A bit of “sirening” and “swooping” here and there as we went along, while I stood nearby to listen and encourage seemed to go a long way to helping her catch on.
But wait? What was going on at the other side of our singing circle? There was a little chap – let’s call him Richard – who was hugely enjoying the songs and the whole idea of singing, but singing in a high pitched drone! I haven’t come across that before! I ambled over to stand next to him (“so I could watch the children over there”) while I wondered what to do.
I embarked upon a singing break, where we just made funny sounds for a bit. A bit of “listen and copy” – I made really low sounds, “out of my shoes”, middling ones, “from my middle”, higher, pointing to the tip of my nose… lower, “sing from your tummy button”. A few minutes of relating pitch to parts of the body (they liked noses and tummy buttons best) and we were back in unison again.
Of course, when we started the next song, the Mary and Richard had a tendency to revert to their individual “learned” voices, but, I was so pleased to see, managed to find up their singing voice as I called out “tummy button” in between phrases, and stood close beside them, to give them a bit of a lead.
Their “tummy button” voices are not stable yet, but I have hopes that within a few more lessons they will be able to blend in with everyone else.