I'm often asked the same (or similar) questions again and again by those considering voice lessons, current voice students, and their parents. Do I really need to study voice with a teacher; can't I do it on my own? At what age should my child start lessons? How many lessons do I need? Can you help me sound like a specific singer? Why can't I sing this song? And many, many more. I'll try to answer some of these in a series of blog posts. The first post is for those considering lessons for their children.
At what age should my child start voice lessons?
This is a question I'm often asked by parents of young children who tell me, "She just loves to sing at home! Do you think she should have lessons?" This question is highly debated among voice teachers. Generally, I recommend that students wait until they are at least 10 to start voice lessons. The main concern is that a young child should never be asked to mimic the sounds of a fully mature voice, and a naturally mature and full sound is generally one of the main goals for older voice students. The voice is a complex instrument and requires coordination and a certain level of maturity in order to understand and develop the finer points of singing.
I encourage younger children interested in singing to find a great choir and to study another instrument like piano or violin. This way they will begin to work on the basics of singing (good breath, good posture, basic resonance and diction) and they will learn to read music. It isn't that they won't learn these important skills in voice lessons, it's just that they can learn these skills just as well in a good choir and they will learn other excellent musical skills, which will serve them well in future voice lessons.
There are exceptions to this rule. If a child is regularly singing solos in public, a younger student will often benefit from lessons. Also, if a student is experiencing technical difficulty while singing, lessons may be in order. Additionally, some children mature faster than others and may be ready for lessons earlier. I will always agree to a trial lesson with a young student, so that I can give the best recommendation. Above all, it's important to have realistic expectations for pre-adolescent voices.