Friday, November 16, 2012

Little Voices Raised in Praise


Don't you just love the sound of little voices raised in praise to the King? I sure do. One of the things we are striving to do in our homeschool is to make sure that all of our children are raised with an appreciation for the classic hymns of our parents and forefathers because they are so rich in doctrine and reflect our church history as Christians. One way we do this is to learn different hymns each month along with our Bible verses, one verse at a time. Since the Four Amigos are young, we sometimes stop after two verses, but with our favorites, we learn them all. That way when we are listening to music in the car, on the radio, or singing at church, the kids can join in, even if they can't read (or read fast enough to keep up) yet.

Sadly, many churches aren't teaching those precious hymns anymore in favor of more modern praise songs which tend to have fewer words, a more narrow focus, and to be more repetitive. Please don't get me wrong. I have my very favorite praise songs and worship tunes, too...we listen to KLOVE and a local station that plays contemporary Christian tunes, too. But there's something about the way those old hymns were instruct, build up, and yes, even sometimes chasten, that makes them so valuable, we just can't afford to lose them. Alas, if you walk into many churches on a Sunday, they will not sing even a contemporary remake of an old hymn, and I think that is sad.

It used to be that when you went to church (or so I've read or been told) that you would be taught how to really sing those songs well in a would learn how to harmonize and join in so that your voice enriches the sound of the song and adds to the worship of the Lord. People would sing together at parties, and sometimes perform for groups as part of the fun. Singing was something many people did...not just something people watch on television.

Now there is not really anywhere to learn to sing correctly, unless you join a choir or can afford to take voice lessons, and I think you have to feel that you have some natural ability or calling to sing to do that. Alas, while my father has a magnificent voice, and my mother is amazing on the piano, I think musical talent skipped me (hopefully in favor of my kids). I can read music passably well, and can pick out tunes for the kids to sing along with (as long as it is a beginner book, or by using just the top line of notes in a hymnal...add the left hand? Never!). I was in the choir in junior high school, but I don't remember much beyond "stand up straight" and "sing from the gut." For many years now, I've wished that I could find an older, non-judgmental woman who knows something about music and who would think my kids are cute and want to teach us how to harmonize. It's a dream of mine to be able to have the Amigos sing together for everyone at church...not for my glory, but for God's.

I also think the discipline behind singing together and learning to work together would be good for developing a family teamwork attitude. It's also a great way to be able to pass the time anywhere, with no advance preparation! Imagine road trips spent in harmony instead of irritation. What fun it would be to visit a sick grandmother and cheer her up with a sweet rendition of Jesus Loves Me, or The Old Rugged Cross. Picture holidays with everyone singing together around the piano (my mom playing, not me) as their voices blend perfectly to sing Christmas carols instead of their voices hollering at the TV shouting at the referees over a bad call in a football game. *happy sigh*

Sounds great, but where to I find that sweet lady with tons of free time and generous heart? If you know where to find her, give me a call and let me know her phone number, okay? Until then, I am happy to say, I recently discovered a possible least, a beginning for our family in learning how to sing together, and I am SO excited!
"It's not's just good training."

Teaching Kids to Sing by The Vocal Coach is a three DVD/CD set that does just what its title says it will teaches your kids to sing. Created by vocal coaches Chris and Carol Beatty, this two DVD set will teach your kids the basics of how to use their voice such as posture, breathing, tone, diction, and control. Basically, they are teaching you how to use your voice as the instrument God designed it to be. Amen to that!

Teaching Kids to Sing is a two DVD set of children's classes taped so your children to participate along with it. There is also one CD which contains all the tracks and vocal exercises from both DVDs (vocal and music only) so that you can practice anywhere you have a cd player (like the car on the way to AWANA, which is what my kids enjoyed). The classes are geared towards ages 5-13, though both Tex and I learned something ( a LOT) from the set.

"Vocal Coach product doesn't teach a particular style, rather we teach you to master the principles of vocal muscle memory, which cause critical body parts to produce excellent sound, amplification, and control with increased stamina to predictably deliver the results you want!
Before you know it, you'll be able to apply what you've learned to any style you want to sing. Just like a well-conditioned athlete often has the ability to play many different sports, a well-trained singer has the potential to sing many different styles."

How did my kids like Teaching Kids to Sing? 

That's easy...they LOVED it!! My sweet Ladybug walked around the house singing "I am an upright child of the King; I stand tall because it helps me sing. I am an upright child of the King; I can sing, I can sing, I can sing." It was so precious. Cowboy liked the breathing exercises best (you know, the kind where you go, "hee hee hee"). It doesn't take much to imagine why...LOL. Little Firefly started thinking she can really sing and be heard. Previously, her voice was so tiny that she got lost under the enthusiasm of the other two voices. With the help of the Vocal Coaches, she started projecting and it was very evident that she was enjoying herself as much as the rest of the crew.

I never heard anything other than complete enthusiasm and anticipation from the kids when I told them it was time to do their vocal exercises or watch (and participate in) one of the DVD classes. I did get more requests for having sing-along time, however, and Ladybug was even more interested in practicing her piano, as well as her songs. Now that's an unexpected bonus!! 

Actually, during the time of this review period, nine-year old Ladybug completely took over our Bible memory sessions in the morning, gaining confidence as a singer and as a teacher to the other three Amigos. She started leading them in practicing their weekly verses and song, even standing in front of them to use hand signals to direct them as they sang, copying the teachers from the dvd. It was positively adorable and inspiring to see...and the best benefit was that with her in charge, she was more enthusiastic about doing her morning work, and the kids never avoided joining in, seeing it as more of a game than school. Nice!

There's more to singing than just making noise. My daughter told me that. She also says that to be a good singer you must have good posture, you have to breathe from your abdomen, you need to use your sides and your back to help your voice make the best sounds, you need to protect your voice by not overusing it or yelling, and she tells me that your voice vibrates...isn't that cool? 

Obviously, she's learning something, and just the process of learning helps you to pay attention and be more aware of what it is you are doing. It also increases your comfort level when you decide to participate in that certain activity, and I can see their confidence in singing growing right before my eyes. I can't predict whether they will inherit my mediocre voice, or their dad's good one (people are always asking him to join the choir), but whichever one it is, I would like it to be a voice they can use effectively and confidently, to the glory of God.

I feel I have learned something from the classes, too, and that perhaps maybe my voice is not a lost cause. I can read music and follow a tune. I can stay on key and tell when someone (or myself) is off. I can learn to breathe better and control my tone and diction. I may never have a gift for singing or playing the way my parents do, but if I can learn enough to enjoy my voice, and to help my children learn to enjoy and share their little voices raised in praise, then that will be yet another success story for The Vocal Coach. You can read more testimonials and success stories from professional singers and normal folks just like me on The Vocal Coach website.

So if you are trying to decide what to do for music with your kids when it comes time to add one of the arts to your curriculum, consider this: why don't you try a year studying the hymns and hymn-makers, and use The Vocal Coach materials to help your children learn to use their voices better so they can have a life-long ability to praise the King of Kings with confidence and clarity of voice. It's a completely portable instrument, easy to learn and use, and it is something you will have with you forever. Sure, learning the violin is nifty, but if you are ever stuck in traffic and need something to do to entertain a busload of youth from your church, how practical is pulling out your violin and playing a few songs? Not to mention the fact that nobody else can join in (unless they happen to have packed a violin, or a flute, or a piano in their bag). Give voice lessons a try in the comfort of your own home, and perhaps, after a while, you will find yourself wanting to join the choir to develop that latent talent further, or just to have more of an opportunity to praise the Lord for all He has done for us.



Disclaimer: We received a copy of Teaching Kids to Sing from The Vocal Coach for the purposes of completing this review. All opinions reflect our own experiences with the product. No other compensation was received.

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