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Tips for Elementary Aged Daughter

I graduated with a degree in Music Education 10 years, but eventually decided on a different career.  Here is my conundrum.  My 7 year old daughter's music class holds an annual informal talent display where the students are allowed to sing a song of their choosing on a voluntary basis.  Like most kids her age she is obsessed with Frozen and wants to sing a song from the movie.  I want to use it as an opportunity to start giving her some music instruction.  I don't want to focus on the overall accuracy because the songs are obviously not meant to be sung by children her age.  Any advice on what items from a pedagogical or general music I could focus on? (knowing that pitch wise she won't be able to "hit" all the notes).  Thanks!
Replies (11): Threaded | Chronological
on May 29, 2015 5:09am
Performance from the heart is an important quality.  What techniques can she use to get her passion of the song across?  How can she breathe to give this passion projection?  What can she do with the open vowels to make them “sound” great on sustained notes?  What about consonants?  Breath points that emphasize the meaning of the text?
 
And since performing something everyone already knows is almost always no better than a “good re-make,”  you might encourage her to learn a second song that no one has heard of but should.  "Frozen" will take a backseat someday; you might as well start now.  Looking for those unkowns are a great education in discovering what makes a song wonderful!
 
Hope that helps!
Michael A. Gray
on May 29, 2015 8:36am
Why don't you let a 7-year-old be a 7-year-old, and forget about turning her into the American Idol star of your imagination? This isn't about you, or showing off your experience as a music teacher. Let her sing what she wants and do it her way. It's not a competition. It's supposed to be fun. We're talking about first grade here, not a senior in high school.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 29, 2015 2:16pm
Amen!  And please don't criticize her if she doesn't perform whatever song she chooses to perform perfectly or up to your high standards, either--even while she's practicing--as that's one very quick way to crush a child's interest in anything.
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 1, 2015 12:58pm
I think Corey recognizes the pitfalls here, saying "I don't want to focus on the overall accuracy because the songs are obviously not meant to be sung by children her age" and "...knowing that pitch wise she won't be able..."   He is asking for suggestions as to which basic singing concepts he might appropriately help her with, in the process of trying to sing this song she is "obsessed with."
on May 29, 2015 9:59am
At this age she should be encouraged to sing in her head voice and not try to match the style of Idina Menzel, who often sings with a belt technique. I echo Mr. Gray's comment about singing from the heart. She can think about what the song means to her and try to communicate that through her facial expression as she sings. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 29, 2015 7:30pm
I had a houseful of musically talented kids...my youngest now has several degrees in keyboard instruments ( is a ChoralNet User and wrote a piece for the ChoralBlog a few weeks ago), directs his own choir, etc.etc.etc. I won't talk about the other kids right now........BUT I will say this......I NEVER taught them.  They had their own teachers for piano, 'cello and percussion (long story) and I did insist they sing in their schools choirs until sophomore year of high school at which point they were members of the highest symphonic band and orchestra their school had to offer and didn't have time for all their AP classes AND chorus.  I did direct their elementary school's chorus for a few years and I treated them the same way I treated the rest of the chorus....my pianist-kid ending up having his first accompanying gig for me and his school chorus at the age of 10.
 
It is very tricky to teach your own child.  You can coach them (I certainly did when THEY ASKED ME) but in order for them to get better, you must correct them and kids can misinterpret correction for criticism.  You must choose your words wisely or live with the fallout.
 
That being said......notes or not....teach breathing.  And teach NOT breathing in the middle of a word. You will be surprised how much better she will sound just concentrating on those two things. And see if you can get her to sing something other than "Let it Go" because everyone ELSE is going to be singing it.
 
Marie
Applauded by an audience of 5
on May 31, 2015 12:59pm
I agree with everything Marie said about breathing. As someone who teaches seven year old girls regularly, and who has an opportunity to hear "Let it Go" sung on a regular basis, I would say that suggesting a different song is fine, but don't push it. Also, before you try giving any instruction, ask your daughter if she would like some advice as a musician. 
 
If she does want advice, give her one thing to work on and say something like "what your doing sounds great. I like _______. It might sound even better if you________." See what she does with that and celebrate even small improvements.
 
On the other hand, She may not want any advice. In which case... let it go. :-)
Applauded by an audience of 4
on June 1, 2015 11:06am
I affirm what has already been posted.  (As a professional singer-teacher, with a variety of choral/solo/sytle experience; when my daughter began to sing/show interest, it seemed the logical thing to teach her myself.)  However, children have an inherent desire to please their parents [even if they don't show it !  :) ] and anything we say can cut much deeper than we even begin to realize.  Also, with our own children, most of us do not keep our tone of voice as nice, or remember to say, "Try this, please!" or "What would you think of...?" .... we tend to just say, "Do this."  I was as supportive and affirming as possible for my daughter, and she is not an over-sensitive child.  But we both soon realized (a few teary-sessions later) that if she was to continue, she needed her own instructor.
There are good songs for age 7 :  "Whistle a Happy Tune"  from King and I, several songs from Sound of Music , "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Mis, or "Maybe" from Annie are fine - generally more successful moved up one or 2 keys.   If she is a strong actress and a quick learner, you might try "In My Own Little Corner" from Cinderella, or "No One is Alone" from Into the Woods.  "Be Kind to Your Parents" is alwasy a hit, and so is "Little People" from Les Mis.  There are Broadway books for children with good choices, re-arranged into good keys for children. (Generally a range of Middle C - D or E one octave above.)  Check Hal Leonard publishing, search Kid's Broadway, Teen Music Theatre, etc.
If she choses a good song, presents it well, her "act" will be as popular as anyone's.... even those frozen on Frozen. ;-)
If she is independent,  you might have more success opening up one of these songs, (yourself at the piano, or Youtube) playing through it when she is nearby ... as if you are enjoying the song's clever writing.  Jackie Evancho, now or in her earlier years, is a good role model.  So is Charlotte Church.  (No, they are not perfect, and lofty souls may criticize, but they are a whale of a better role-model than those who push their voices unhealthily.)
Best Wishes, and I'd love to see/hear how it comes out.
-Lucy
on June 1, 2015 1:10pm
Also, the Macmillan/McGraw-Hill music textbook series Spotlight on Music has a "Broadway for Kids" adaptation in each grade-level book.  4th grade is Annie, Jr.; 3rd grade is Schoolhouse Rock Live!; and 2nd grade is Seussical Jr., each with five songs. 
on June 2, 2015 5:07am
Allow her to sound like a child when she sings. Imitating an adult sound can cause damage to the voice. A light sound is normal.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on August 5, 2015 11:25pm
Hi Corey,   Obviously it is many months after your question. I would like to give some thoughts. I like to have students hold sustained (4-beats) on the solfege scale and breathe between each while ascending by half-steps, low Do to high do, usually beginning on D above middle C if they seem to have a high voice. Warning! Don't let the larynx pull up when they get past "sol" and "la - high do". Model a light, head tone if this happens.   Of course I demonstrate everything first to get them off on the right track.   :)  Simple movements for warming up would be 'moveable Do', singing short stepwise patterns ascending in small groupings, such as -- "do-re-mi -- mi-re-do", or "do-mi-do".  It is easy to assume they can grasp the pitch but unless the breath is first and foremost, the resonance will be incorrect.  Always maintaining a pure beautiful tone, no straining.  A child voice.
  These are for accuracy of pitch and for the student to feel the vibrations and understand the breath.  Try 'separated' sounds as well as legato with a focus on the breath. I like to say that there is a quiet(silent) place between each note. Folk music is a great way to find singable music that appeals to kids your daughter's age.  Keys of E, F, G range would be good...not to low or high, but middle register and head tone for all.  Girls tend to enjoy lyrical singing so any smoothly stepwise written melody, probably in a major key. Some that come to mind are; English:  "Early One Morning" and "The Ash Grove". Faster tempo: "Hey Dum, Diddley Dum" or "Stodola Pumpa".  Of course, kids enjoy the Disney songs too!  Look for tunes that don't go too far out of the range of 5-7 notes(low so or high do stretches) mostly by step and small skips.  An occasional leap is ok.  " Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and other Mary Poppins songs that are lyrical, or some others that have limited range and are easier to sing without wide leaps. Another favorite is "Candle on the Water" from Pete's Dragon. Then there is Sound of Music's, "Do-Re-Mi".  I  focus on solfege training and eventually regular sightreading for 4th graders and up with the use of Curwen hand signs. There are many activities and games you can do to train the ear and the voice to sing intervals in tune. It all helps when they go into their literature and songs from rote that they love.  The activities must vary and make sense.  I disagree with some of the suggestions that her voice be going all over the map with songs that have too much movement, especially with large continuously wide interval leaps in the pop music.  Best to keep it managable and comfortable for her,  and if she perks into a particular song she really wants to do with accuracy of phrasing and pitch, (without evidence of straining or incorrect movement or adjusting in the laryngial region)  then go with it, but I wouldn't drill it technically!!  Also, do not have her sing over and over for 'rehearsal'.  20 minutes a day, enough.  Lastly,  I would say, you have to have fun!  :)
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