Guitar/voice/music with no formal lessons? - Mothering Forums
 
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#1 of 10 Old 05-14-2014, 08:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My girls each have their own guitar.  Guitar is not the easiest instrument for young kids, but once they get the hang of the feel of it, it is nearly as easy as piano to make some noise on :p.  They want to just strum andstrum away and make songs.  

 

My ears get tired of hearing the progress through the cacophony.  They don't want lessons from me.  I could get them started, though too much help might give them some bad self-taught habits (though "self-taught" did include some beginning books on classical guitar.)  But they don't want my help.  At.  All.

 

Yesterday dd9 pulled out the tuner to tune her guitar.  It was just about bedtime and it was tuned to itself, so she just played.  She used her voice on the tuner.  SO glad she's getting conscientious about that.  Her voice is weak, but not long ago singing=yelling, so being more subtle and playing with her voice is a huge step for her.  She just needs practice feeling where those notes are.  She often finds herself in a higher register because she jumped too high and didn't step down far enough.  I sing often, especially our bedtime songs and some musicals.  

 

OK, we do need to get the guitars out more.  But, and I'm looking to see if I have an obvious question, can the average kid unschool music? Kids outside of highly musical families?  Moderately or somewhat musical families?  I had piano lessons, and I picked up guitar "on my own" from all the books lying around my mom's house (she studied guitar).  Funny, we never played together except one piano/guitar duet for one recital.

 

What else can I do to encourage music study?  Maybe they are just not interested that much?

 

ETA:  wow, it posted when I hit "delete", so here is the thread, warts and all.  I'll edit for errors in a minute.  


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#2 of 10 Old 05-14-2014, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Anyway (still feeling I've been caught with my pants down) last night's moment was due to watching School of Rock.  Guitars were pulled out.  Tuner.  "Songs".  So, that's a good thing.

 

ETA: "formal lessons" including even formal-style lessons from parents.  I don't necessarily mean that kids would never seek formal lessons, but that maybe they at least get a good start without them.

 

What a mess this thread is.  Dumb computer.


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#3 of 10 Old 05-14-2014, 10:40 AM
 
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My friend, who teaches Grades 4, 5 and 6 at the local school, has hired a guitar mentor for her class. She's had two different mentors and they've both been successful. They're 19 or 20-year-old guys who have some guitar training but are mostly into singing/songwriting. They come for an afternoon every couple of weeks and go whatever direction the kids want, in small groups or one-on-one. Learning the melody to the Game of Thrones theme is big right now. The keener kids have learned six or eight chords and can strum along with simple pop or folk songs if they're carefully chosen. Logan (the current mentor) plays and sings with them most of the time so that it's more like jamming than "having a lesson."

I wonder if a mentoring relationship and "learning by jamming" might strike the balance you're looking for.

A couple of other observations. Piano and guitar are the two instruments that people do seem to have some success with by self-teaching, unschooled means. And many musicians find it extremely difficult to teach their own kids even under the best of circumstances (i.e. when they have teaching experience and their kids are eager for lessons) because the kids find it difficult to feel like they "own" their music. Artistic disciplines are personal things, and the feeling that "it's my thing that I chose" is harder to achieve when your parent chose it a generation earlier and is the one transmitting it to you. Which is a plug for self-directed or other-facilitated but maybe not parent-led.

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#4 of 10 Old 05-14-2014, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I strongly suspect that additional parental involvement in the guitar will backfire.  It might just be enough to have that "sticky note" in their experience to come back to later on their own.  

 

My oldest does accept some instruction, or more precisely "pointers" I guess, with her voice.  I have next to no training-- just the experience from doing a tiny bit of musical theater back in the day and some musical training and practice on piano and guitar.  And I would say that for an untrained voice, mine is fairly good and with better-than-average natural pitch.  However it's enough to help her find her voice and play with it so it does what she wants it to do.  Little sparks of interest.  I might be able to find some opportunities for her down the road.  

 

She has a long way to go before she hits her stride.  Like her fine motor delay in hands and face, she struggles in singing but more than anything that doesn't deter her.  In some ways the over-confidence can be hard for me to accept.  Her voice is getting stronger but it is really off key.  No big deal, usually, just a matter of experience and practice.  But she thinks it's fine and I cringe inwardly, not at the off-key because I am hearing the exploration in her practice trying to find it, but other times it seems like her confidence is ignoring that there's more work to be done.  I'm all for enjoying where we are at, but I suppose this is harder for me.  Good practice at hearing the progress through the noise!

 

And how to convince them that strumming the guitar with open strings is not musical.... OK, I promise not to attempt to convince them, but maybe you, moominmamma, have just a bit of experience hearing kids struggle with proper tone in a violin when the kids are blissfully unaware or refuse to hear that anything is off?  Don't they hear that EADGBE is not a chord????

 

A music jam might be fun.  I'm not sure if dd9 would enjoy that or not.  I can imagine her protesting because it's all together rather than her taking "center stage".  We'll see.  WE need to seek out further opportunities, but I have a hard time finding free events and groups.  I have no more money to spend on anything.  I will keep my ears open and wait patiently.


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#5 of 10 Old 05-17-2014, 07:48 AM
 
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I hear you on the bad habits. I was classically trained, and it was drilled into me that there is one correct way to do things. I'm not so sure anymore. I see, for instance, that my son who has always steadfastly declined instruction on how to type properly, has nonetheless become a very fast typist using his own fingerings. My daughter's handwriting is all wrong, according to the official line. (She was in school briefly, and the teacher was having fits about it.) And yet to her it feels good and normal, and she gets the job done. Experimenting alongside her, I've realized that some rules are not very important after all, and some are arbitrary, which has made me begin to question other official lines. 

 

Music is maybe more precise and demanding of specific technique. On the other hand, now that I think about it, I've had plenty enough music teachers contradict each other. 

 

My son is learning to play the cello. Don't you have to learn to hold the bow properly? Or something? Well, he does not want to take lessons, and he makes beautiful sounds. Would I rather he not play, if he's not going to take lessons, for fear of developing bad habits? Well, no. It's something I struggle with, but ultimately it's not my choice anyway. 

 

EADGBE is a chord, just not a very consonant one. ;) One of my kids does that. I figure, well, she's at least learning rhythm and getting a feel for how to strike the strings. 

 

I also have a child who sings off-key, joyfully and LOUDLY. Actually, another seems to be tone deaf but he does not sing loudly. But the one who is off-key is not tone deaf. Or maybe she is on the spectrum somewhere, because it is a chore for her to match tones, whereas for me and my other two children it is effortless. I have gently been pointing out to her that it is nicer to hear the notes sung the way the song is supposed to go, and offering help finding the right notes, and oh she gets mad at me. The last time I did this she got very upset and wouldn't sing anymore. I went too far and regret it. :( Now trying to coax her back into her comfort zone. Because honestly, like with the cello, I'd rather she sing off-key than not at all. 

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#6 of 10 Old 05-17-2014, 08:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Because honestly, like with the cello, I'd rather she sing off-key than not at all. 

So true. 

 

I think my oldest, she just doesn't have the ease of modulating her voice that I did.  She's not tone deaf.  From what I understand about tone deafness, those rare individuals that have it can't even pick out the inflections in speech.  No, I think the process is simply not as natural to her and she needs practice. 

 

Thanks for the reminder that EADGBE is a chord.  I think music must be one of the last and strongest vestiges of my schooling mentality.  


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#7 of 10 Old 05-17-2014, 11:57 AM
 
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Pitch-matching (either to an external reference pitch for example when you're singing along with a tune on the radio, or, eventually, to the pitches of an internally-remembered melody) is a skill that is learned naturally by a lot of kids. Probably due to a combination of temperament, environment and genetics. For some kids the learning doesn't come naturally by a certain age, and they can very easily get they idea that they're "bad at singing" and get too self-conscious to keep trying. I think most of them will learn to pitch-match as they get older, so long as they continue to sing. If they are getting self-conscious about it and want to learn, it can be taught. But the teaching can't worsen their self-consciousness and negativity ... which is the real risk of the impetus for the guidance comes from someone else. When I teach Suzuki violin to beginners, I include pitch-matching the open A string with the voice as a basic skill I work on with the kids. Some can do it easily to start. Others need a couple of months of weekly practice at lessons, but it gels pretty quickly if it's just a fun game we do every week. 

 

My kids' choir director runs two advanced auditioned choirs, and an intermediate choir for kids who can pitch their voices. She used to run a choir for younger kids too (ages 5-9; it is now directed by someone else) where a few kids were not able to reliably pitch their voices. My middle kids were part of it for a year. It was fascinating watching those kids' pitch-matching skills improve just with experience, maturity and the subtle guidance she provided. She never talked about being on-key, or on the right or wrong pitch, or making their voices higher or lower to hit the right note. She talked about the choir not being a whole bunch of voices singing at the same time, but being a instrument with one voice, and how the idea was to join your voice in the sound. She talked about "hiding your sound" in the shadow of the choir's sound, and of helping your voice take the shape of the choir. She'd explain the feeling of "fitting" your voice into the larger sound, how sometimes it's weird -- you know you're singing, but you can almost not hear your own voice as something separate because it melds so perfectly with the rest of the sound. She did tons of games with scales during warm-up time, giving visual guidance with her hands for the up- and down-ness of the pitches. Never ever would she correct a singer's pitch directly. And gosh, they improved so much! I don't think there was ever a kid who aged out of that younger choir without having the pitch-matching skill required for the intermediate choir.

 

I have a friend who was a professional classical singer for years who has done a lot of singing instruction with adults who believed they were tone deaf but who wanted to learn to sing. He can almost always get them singing on pitch in the space of a weekend of instruction -- he's done workshops on this. There are some exercises he does where he has them 'siren' their voices up and down, and then he starts singing a fixed pitch in the middle of their siren range, and asks them to slow their siren down as they hear it getting close to his reference pitch, and stop when they think they're as close as they can get. He does this over and over with them, aiming for slightly different reference pitches, and they improve a lot. (This is more or less how I do things with my beginning violin students, though for them the reference is always a violin A-string sound, and I use my hand to show them whether their voice is higher or lower than the violin's sound.) A few wanna-be singers will get fooled by the fit of a note that isn't close, but bears a close relationship to the reference note: for instance, they might settle on a note that is a perfect fifth away from the one he's singing. In which case he tells them what's going on: the notes have a simple mathematical relationship in their vibration frequencies, and are perfect harmony for each other. This sort of mistake is a "smart mistake," because they're hearing concordant harmonies very well. If they really struggle with the sirening exercise, he has a vacuum cleaner hose with funnels on both ends. He has them sing into one end while holding the other end to their ear. He sings in their one ear, and they hear their own voice in the other ear. Hearing their own voice primarily as conducted through the air (via the hose), and fairly loudly and privately, as opposed to through the body and "in public", helps most people discern and compare pitches better. I think there's really something to this, because although I'm one of those odd people with perfect (absolute) pitch, I find that when I'm whistling, something I only learned to do as an adult and don't do very well, I have trouble pitch-matching. I think it's because I have trouble hearing myself and discerning my whistling from the rest of the music. Perhaps in the right low-key situation a child might enjoy the playfulness of simply singing along to songs through a vacuum hose and thus gain a better pitch awareness as a result? It'd be like low-tech karaoke....

 

You can probably tell this is a topic that I find endlessly fascinating. I'm just throwing these observations and ideas out there in case anyone else finds them helpful. A kids' choir or a vacuum cleaner hose, you never know... those ideas might come in handy for someone some day. But really, what I wanted to get across was that it's self-consciousness rather than total inability that prevents some people from learning to sing on-key. The right opportunities for learning can always be presented when the time is right, provided the would-be-singer hasn't accumulated too much negative baggage along the way.

 

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#8 of 10 Old 05-18-2014, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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 She never talked about being on-key, or on the right or wrong pitch, or making their voices higher or lower to hit the right note. She talked about the choir not being a whole bunch of voices singing at the same time, but being a instrument with one voice, and how the idea was to join your voice in the sound.

 

She talked about "hiding your sound" in the shadow of the choir's sound, and of helping your voice take the shape of the choir. She'd explain the feeling of "fitting" your voice into the larger sound, how sometimes it's weird -- you know you're singing, but you can almost not hear your own voice as something separate because it melds so perfectly with the rest of the sound.  I had the opportunity to experience this in college when I sang in the chorus for "Stop the World I Want to Get Off".  So much fun both with singing and hearing the amazing singing of not only the lead actors, but the voice students who landed a part in the chorus as well.  I LOVE musical theater.  I never got tired of rehearsing or performing.  I do remember those moments when my voice was entirely lost in the song.  So much like an "Om" circle with a hundred people in it.  Cosmic!

 

I have a friend who was a professional classical singer for years who has done a lot of singing instruction with adults who believed they were tone deaf but who wanted to learn to sing. He can almost always get them singing on pitch in the space of a weekend of instruction -- he's done workshops on this. There are some exercises he does where he has them 'siren' their voices up and down, and then he starts singing a fixed pitch in the middle of their siren range, and asks them to slow their siren down as they hear it getting close to his reference pitch, and stop when they think they're as close as they can get. He does this over and over with them, aiming for slightly different reference pitches, and they improve a lot. (This is more or less how I do things with my beginning violin students, though for them the reference is always a violin A-string sound, and I use my hand to show them whether their voice is higher or lower than the violin's sound.) A few wanna-be singers will get fooled by the fit of a note that isn't close, but bears a close relationship to the reference note: for instance, they might settle on a note that is a perfect fifth away from the one he's singing. In which case he tells them what's going on: the notes have a simple mathematical relationship in their vibration frequencies, and are perfect harmony for each other. This sort of mistake is a "smart mistake," because they're hearing concordant harmonies very well. If they really struggle with the sirening exercise, he has a vacuum cleaner hose with funnels on both ends. He has them sing into one end while holding the other end to their ear. He sings in their one ear, and they hear their own voice in the other ear. Hearing their own voice primarily as conducted through the air (via the hose), and fairly loudly and privately, as opposed to through the body and "in public", helps most people discern and compare pitches better. I think there's really something to this, because although I'm one of those odd people with perfect (absolute) pitch, I find that when I'm whistling, something I only learned to do as an adult and don't do very well, I have trouble pitch-matching. I think it's because I have trouble hearing myself and discerning my whistling from the rest of the music. Perhaps in the right low-key situation a child might enjoy the playfulness of simply singing along to songs through a vacuum hose and thus gain a better pitch awareness as a result? It'd be like low-tech karaoke....

 

Some great ideas!  One nice thing about a choir is that the individual can get "lost" in it and explore their voice without having all the attention on them all the time.

 

You can probably tell this is a topic that I find endlessly fascinating. I'm just throwing these observations and ideas out there in case anyone else finds them helpful. A kids' choir or a vacuum cleaner hose, you never know... those ideas might come in handy for someone some day. But really, what I wanted to get across was that it's self-consciousness rather than total inability that prevents some people from learning to sing on-key. The right opportunities for learning can always be presented when the time is right, provided the would-be-singer hasn't accumulated too much negative baggage along the way.

 

I do worry that having not developed great pitch by 9.5 she's going to set herself up for some negative comments from people, especially kids.  I desperately hope she doesn't get this.  I am also hyper-aware of what needs to improve, probably too aware and I'm not sure what others are thinking.  Like I said before, I find I am hyper-critical too often, even just internally.  Externally I can be channeling Karen Carpenter singing "don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing...." but inwardly I have a real battle letting it go.

 

I know she would love to have Christmas music, and maybe I should load it onto our unused iPod.  I'd also like to get some good Christmas music for the guitar as well, maybe I can simplify some chords for her to play while I play the big ones.  That would be a musical stretch for me!  Oooh, and I'd love to have a guide for changing keys for ease of singing along.  A capo is a simple fix for some minor adjustments, but if it's a big adjustment, the guitar is too high for my liking most of the time.  Transposing music was well beyond my experience as a student.

 

 

Miranda


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#9 of 10 Old 06-28-2014, 02:24 AM
 
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SweetSilver,

my dd is almost 12. while she has been given a guitar since she was 4 she really didnt start playing till she was 10. no interest. she took lessons and finally her dad stopped them because of her lack of interest. well a few months ago she picked up the ukulele. she loves both instruments and spends quite a bit of her free time practising. she cant understand why guitar is so popular when its so much easier to lug a ukulele to anywhere like camping, even though its a little different. now that she has definite music she likes and shows she likes she has some music to actually practise. i am not sure if she would have liked classical teaching.

however on the other end, she was lucky to be allowed to a christmas choir voice training program. she was the only kid there a couple of years ago. we attended i think 4 practises. this was a prof. highly educated muscician who actually talked a lot about how to sing and where to sing from and the exercises. those exercises helped dd IMMENSELY. making wierd sounds, opening lips, breathing exercises. its given her so much confidence that when she gets her tiny group to sing (7 years to 17 year olds) she leads them. she knows how to start, how to get the group to relax their voices, how to get them to practise. just those 4 evenings made a huge impact on dd. mind you though dd is serious about voice. she asked the teacher if she could be dd's voice teacher - and she said she'd love to but not until dd was in high school. wise woman knew how hard it is emotionally to accept a strict training. the teacher also knew she was a hard teacher. that is her personality. instead she encouraged dd to sing in a choir. she doesnt need lessons. just to have the courage and confidence to sing. and be willing to go through many aspects through a choir - including the main thing - the discipline to stick through. while dd doesnt like singing in the choir (the choir is not as classical as dd would like, she'd like more formal voice training and explanation) she persists because of her future voice teacher.

my point. for an interested child, a little bit of voice training goes a HUUUUGE way. like the swim teacher who taught dd to swim. in 3 half hour classes at an exhorbidant price but well worth it. dd does not have a strong voice. she is no susan boyle. but she has a clear soft voice. its amazing what she can do with it and project it so much just from those 4 lessons.

last summer she drove us all crazy with the cup song. she used the cup idea to sing other songs to it.

oh and i've heard from many 'arts' teacher that there is a lack of vitamin A(rt) in this world. everyone can sing. but they've been taught that they cannot. everyone can make music. everyone.

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#10 of 10 Old 06-28-2014, 10:49 AM
 
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she asked the teacher if she could be dd's voice teacher - and she said she'd love to but not until dd was in high school. wise woman knew how hard it is emotionally to accept a strict training. the teacher also knew she was a hard teacher. that is her personality. instead she encouraged dd to sing in a choir.
Most voice teachers worth their salt will not get into traditional vocal development lessons with a kid until they're well through adolescence not just for emotional reasons but also, perhaps primarily, because that training can ruin a voice when the vocal cords and larynx are immature. Working for a full sound and the belt-it-out projection that adults can achieve in solo singing will cause over-stretching of a child's or young teen's laryngeal muscles. While kids be trained to can belt songs out like Broadway or opera divas, that will come at the cost of future vocal skills. Good for this teacher for insisting on waiting. Your dd's clear soft voice is exactly what she should have at age 11.

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