"My mom told me I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket."
"My dad told me to stop singing because it was annoying."
KNIFE IN HEART!
"My parents didn't support my wanting to sing because they said it wasn't productive."
JUST SHOOT ME NOW!
Other than making my job extremely challenging, these dream-busting statements are the reason so many incredibly talented young and older singers struggle, and I mean STRUGGLE, with confidence.
I am all about grace so in my effort to extend some now and to give the benefit of the doubt... many people just simply don't understand that singing can be learned and that if talent is fostered, it can GROW! Perhaps they hear their children singing off key as they skip through the house and just simply want some peace and quiet so without thinking about the scarring effects tell them to "stop that howling!". As a mom, I can relate... however, as a voice teacher you will never hear me say that!
So yes, it is true some children are more naturally talented than others, BUT if a child has the DESIRE to sing, THEY CAN LEARN and SHOULD!
This is a wonderful article regarding research from Northwestern University on this very matter!
There are many aspects to singing including but not limited to proper breathing and support, accurate pitch, quality of tone, optimizing your resonance, freedom from tension, emotional connection to the lyric, etc...
The number one, most fundamental element that all good singers have in common from this list is accurate pitch. If a young child is singing, but it is clear they are having a rough time matching pitch... do not squelch that fire in their belly by telling them maybe singing isn't for them. There are way too many pitch matching apps, games on Wii, and other software out there to help them develop those connections in their brain! Please, pretty please encourage them and perhaps offer them these assists for them to try it out. My younger daughter was not born with an innate ability to match pitch, but I have been so amazed at how far she has come by just working with her using these various helpers.
One such software program I am completely crazy about is Sing & See! It simply picks up the audio of you singing through your computer and SHOWS you where your pitch is... are you on, over or under the line? It's fabulously interactive and very powerful. I highly recommend it!
Here is a screenshot for your reference:
The other pieces of the singing puzzle are simply physical, muscular coordinations that can be learned, coordinated and practiced - much like an athlete! And much like with athletes, the younger you are exposed to a sport and begin training toward it, the easier it is for you to be good at it. Not to say you can't teach old "dogs", hmmm hmmm "people", new tricks. Age just adds a bit more of a challenge because years of physical coordinations and habits make an imprint. But... it can be done and IS done all of the time. (insert inspirational video about a lovely lady body builder who began training at 56 here)
What I have discovered in my many years teaching, is that these things are learnable. However, there are also much less tangible aspects to singing well - CONFIDENCE and BELIEF. I find it fascinating that the most common goal of my students over the years is to become more confident. Nine times out of ten, if a student struggles with confidence, it is simply because somebody somewhere down the line told them they weren't any good. And, quite honestly, nine times out of ten, these people ARE good. Once we are able to tap into those marvelous and, most often, allusive aspects (belief and confidence)... MAGIC happens.
So parents, please keep this in mind before telling your children they sound like dying cats when they are singing their hearts out along with "Let It Go" from Frozen!