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There are some questions that I've been asked quite often in nearly 30 years of teaching. One involves the age when a child can start taking voice lessons. 

Parents often call to set up lessons for their children who are already showing a love of singing by ages 3 or 4. But they are worried. 

Many of them have heard stories of children needing to be a certain age to begin training because training at too early an age has the potential to cause permanent damage to the child's voice. Others have heard that girls should wait until they are menstruating. Still others have heard that boys need to go through puberty and their "voice change." 

I've even heard voice teachers say that a child's anatomy needs to be more fully developed to take on formal lessons. And that the vocal training can hurt the child's voice/body.  

So what is a good age for a child to begin singing lessons? 

From my experience, the answer to the age question is clear. Children are ready for professional training as soon as they begin singing along with the radio while sitting in the back seat of mom's mini van, or singing along with cds or their favorite dvds. They are ready as soon as they've landed a role in their school or community theater musical -- a role that requires they possess the capacity for good projection and control, while keeping their voices safe and free of abuse. 

Let's not forget the young children who land roles on Broadway or on TV commercials or who do voice-over work. I have and have had students between the ages of 4 and 9 preparing for these parts. Believe me, the casting directors and producers do not want these children to harm their voices. They do expect them to be able to handle whichever songs are handed to them. Otherwise, another child will be singing in their place. It's that simple.
 
Learning solid vocal technique and working with a teacher on how to properly approach each song are both essential to the salvation of the voice and the progression of the child's budding career.
     
Has anyone ever heard a seven-year-old girl trying to sing along with Christina Aguilera, Christina Perri, Mariah Carey, or yes, even Taylor Swift? These young singers manipulate their instruments any way they can in order to reproduce the tones they are hearing. They're trying to imitate trained adult voices. Instead, they strain their vocal muscles by belting and yelling. I've seen children under age 10 with nodules... the result of these abuses. And the singer's nodes aren't from training that came too early. They resulted from no training. 

These young singers need to be shown the correct way to approach singing. They need to be taught proper breathing, as well as age-appropriate exercises that guide the vocal apparatus into proper placement. 

They need to understand that the singers they are listening to -- and trying to emulate -- are older, their bodies have matured, and they have been professionally trained. The kids should be taught to love their own voices and to embrace their own unique and beautiful gifts. 

Great vocal teachers are not just music teachers. They are also mentors and guides who've experienced the same vocal desires and the same vocal challenges as the students in their care. They show the way for their students -- no matter the age -- to love and embrace not just singing, but their own voices. 

The secret to sounding great is to love the sound of your own voice! And THAT can start at any age.

Let me know what you think. Share your experiences. 

 
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So I've been teaching more than a quarter century and have heard more students ask me this question: "Do throat teas and lozenges work?" Of course they are referring to medicinal teas like Throat Coat and Organic Lemon Echinacia Tea

Personally,  I don't use them. Although I have plenty of friends who are singers who swear by these products. Years ago I did use them, but I quickly came to the conclusion that they didn't work any better than say, Celestial Seasonings Chamomile tea. 

It is truly more about hydration. Anything that hydrates is gonna make the throat feel better for a while. The slippery elm in these teas is the active ingredient. Its a demulcent that forms a soothing film over the mucus membrane helping to reduce minor pain. So after drinking a tea w/slippery elm, yes, I'd say we'd feel a soothing effect on our throats....for a few minutes. It doesn't take long to wash away, unfortunately.

If a singer's chords are inflamed, the slippery elm helps if you "inhale" the tea as you drink it. Or better yet, boil the tea in a saucepan, put your head over it and cover with a towel to inhale the vapors... they are the only thing that will touch the chords. Our vocal chords have two functions. One is to help produce tone for speaking....and in our case singing. The other is to keep all food, liquids and God-knows-what-else-someone-out-there-is-willing-to-ingest, out of the lungs. When anything accidentally touches the chords, they start vibrating vehemently to expel whatever is lodged on them. Its the "something-went-down-the-wrong-way" cough. So therefore any herbal tea is not going to coat the chords, but will certainly feel good on the vocal track, i.e., the pharynx and larynx. But the tea's properties are delivered to the chords through the vapor. Alas, this feel-good effect doesn't last long. And we can't be "steaming" while on stage.

Best remedy for a sore throat is -- of course -- vocal rest... but that's pretty much impossible if you're a professional singer. Can't cancel gigs if the club owner is counting on you, tickets have been sold, and your band mates have already spent their gig money. OK maybe that's just a lot of the musicians I know. Any-hoo, as the saying goes, the show must go on. This is why we need to know vocal technique and understand our instrument and how to use it. There are certain techniques and "tools" -- as I call them -- that will help us minimize and even prevent the damage. But you'll have to schedule a lesson for those. :)  

Cover band artists have it the worst. Those poor singers have to sing 30 to 40 songs per gig and many times need to repeat that performance the next night. Plus, the conditions they sing in can be very difficult... bad monitors, bad acoustics, guitarists who keeps turning up their guitar volume. Oh, sorry to any guitarists reading, but you guys do have a reputation. But I digress. The good news is it can be done! Singers just need the right training. I know because I've done it. I've sang 30/40 songs per gig night after night. Never canceled a gig -- ok, once when in bed with 103 temp but really, I was so sick that my hair hurt!! -- and I never developed nodules because of my technique and knowledge of my own instrument. Our vocal instruments and bodies vary from person to person so we need to know how our individual setup works. But that seems like another fun subject... for another post. Just remember -- what works for one singer may actually not work for another.

Ok, let's get back on track. Medicinal teas and lozenges. Just because something is made of herbs doesn't mean it's good for you. Some teas contain undesirable substances like nicotine or alkaloids that can be toxic in large doses. Horsetail and lobelia contain nicotine and comfrey tea contains an alkaloid that can cause liver damage. Plus these chemicals can stay in the body for a long time. Make sure you check the labels and know what your consuming. If you see an herb that you're unfamiliar with, Google it. But slippery elm I don't think has any adverse side effects and its the main ingredient in most feel good teas. Licorice is usually used also. Has a bit of a "menthol" effect. Tastes good too. 
     
So, my final words about medicinal teas... they work, but not as well or as long as the manufacturers, would have you believe. Surprise, surprise. They will make your throat feel better while you are drinking them and for a few minutes after. They will not touch or impact the chords, except for their vapors. Same thing with lozenges (like Vocal Zone). They feel good on your throat while they are in your mouth, and they help minimize potentially harmful coughs.

So, what's your secret remedy for soar throats, singers? Any thoughts on Throat Coat or any information on other brands of herbal teas? 

 
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Hello, everybody, and welcome to my new website! I'm Lori Blois, vocal instructor and singer. I'm so excited about my new site and all the information that I can post here. I am thrilled to have this chance to share my love of singing and music with you. 

My site will be chock full of up-to-date information such as how your voice works, how to sing better, how to last longer at gigs, and how to better care for your voice. I'll regularly post informative and fun videos, the latest news in music, some well kept secrets on how the pros hit those amazing notes, and so much more. 

So bookmark this website and lets get to know each other. I can't wait to start sharing my information with you because the voice and teaching voice are my passions!! I am looking forward to hearing your stories about being on stage -- your best (and worst) singing experiences. And be sure to send me your photos, comments, and questions.

Happy Holidays to all singers and their loved ones. Stay safe and keep your voices healthy through all your holiday gigs and parties.