Gerald Wirth, Leiter der Wiener Sängerknaben mit Smartphone und App Sawti

Singing with children: Tips for school and kindergarten

Singing makes you happy and every child can learn to sing. Gerald Wirth explains what is important here and how to avoid frustration in music lessons.

Singing, whether alone or in a group, has a positive effect on children and young people. “Active music-making promotes self-confidence, strengthens cognitive skills and fosters personality development,” says music educator and composer Gerald Wirth. He is the artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. “Unfortunately, there is little to no singing in many schools anymore because many teachers are not comfortable with it,” he says. That is a pity. With a few tips, it will be easier to give children and teens a positive approach to music.

Five tips for singing with children

Of course, playing or singing at sight is not easy, Wirth says, and takes a lot of practice. It requires the rapid and simultaneous processing of information in great abundance and density (notes, key, meter, tempo, volume, agogics, etc.). Abstract and complex thinking are stressed, even in anticipating and re-listening to the music to the beat just heard. In no other activity does a child have to make so many decisions at the same time.

Wirth works mostly with children who are already voice-trained. “But for all beginners, the motto is: it has to be fun, the pitch has to be right, and the task can’t be too hard for the kids.” The earlier you start, the better. Children learn everything through play if you encourage them positively – including singing. By the end of puberty, associative and cognitive learning processes become better imprinted. When they are young, children learn to sing in a playful way, parallel to speaking, with child-friendly pitch and vocalization, when it is part of their everyday life. When singing in elementary school, the following is important:

  • Note pitch and tempo

Children’s voices are limited in the lower range, but often struggle in the higher range. For elementary school children (5-6 years), songs in the range d’to f’are suitable. With increasing age, the tonal range can be extended into the depths. And not too fast – adjust the pace.

  • Warm up and posture

It makes sense to start with single sounds and tasks – such as singing words like “Gee”. This promotes blood flow to the vocal cords. Have the kids sit up straight or stand up straight.

  • Do not sing too loud

Children’s voices then become hoarse more quickly.

  • Activate diaphragmatic breathing

The children should breathe from the center of the body. This can be trained through playful exercises, such as emotional expression (astonishment) or imitating animal sounds.

  • Use mouth and jaw

The children should sing bravely, opening their mouths. Pronunciation and articulation are important. Articulate and speak when singing: Vowel formation takes place in the throat, mouth and nose.

No fear of doing something wrong when singing

When children sing beautifully, are healthy, eager and have fun, not much can go wrong. “Teachers also shouldn’t be afraid of doing something wrong,” Wirth says. To facilitate work with people who want to learn to sing, he has developed the app Sawti. It’s called “My Voice” in Arabic.

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