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.
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.