Harness your inner voice and boost singing confidence
Published on Tuesday, 14 September 2021
Last updated on Monday, 13 September 2021
Does singing make you nervous? Well you’re not alone. Many early years educators lack confidence in their singing abilities and, in a workplace where music is a daily activity, this can inhibit some teachers and effect the music program.
Thankfully, training can improve confidence and competency, according to a recent New Zealand study.
Researchers designed a program to boost singing confidence in early years educators and in as few as four workshops participants reported greater confidence in their abilities. Some even reflecting on a gained sense of empowerment.
The success was primarily attributed to the shared group experience and the planning and preparedness of music sessions.
Participants from two urban regions in New Zealand were invited to be involved and all self-identified as ‘uncertain singers.’
Forty teachers participated and were divided into two groups to compare two types of intervention. One group undertook a ‘group singing method’ (GS) while the other group used a psychological approach known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
The ACT approach dealt issues of confidence, fear and avoidance and addressed letting go of negative feelings about their singing voice.
The majority of educators in both groups reporting higher levels of singing confidence at the end of the workshops, presenting a strong case for teachers to undergo training in singing and music programs.
Teachers singing with confidence and joy have positive implications for supporting child development at a time when young children are naturally engaged with music.
Previous studies have replicated similar results, showing early childhood teachers gained confidence through activities such as group singing activities, basic music notation skills as well as individual vocal lessons.
Building confidence and competency in singing, and a positive pedagogical understanding of the benefits of singing, inspires educators to promote singing in the classroom and to use this fun activity successfully in the classroom.
We are all born with the key ingredients of a singing voice. In fact, if you can hear the difference between a high note and a low note, then you and about 98.5 per cent of the population can be taught how to sing.
The other 1.5 per cent who can’t learn to sing probably have the condition called “congenital amusia,” which means they have difficulty discriminating between different pitches, tone, and sometimes rhythm.
But while most people can sing, improving your voice does take work and practice.
While adults may struggle with their singing confidence, young children are naturally musical. They love to sing as they play, make up songs and jig about to a bouncy rhythm. Studies in neuroscience show that music can enhance brain function in children.
Musical activities such as singing stimulate the brain, and this brain workout leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections.
Singing in early years education helps foster developmental skills, wellbeing and supports social development. Benefits of singing for young children include:
- Supports language development through sound patterns and repetition as well as developing vocabulary
- Singing as a group fosters a feeling of learning together, belonging and connection
- Increases sensory development through exposure to different types of songs
- Songs can encourage children to move, developing fine motor skills and gross motor skills – movements help their muscle development, strength and balance.
- Allows educators to pass on culture, behaviour and musical skills
- Singing can give children a way to express themselves, to unleash their creativity, to be inspired and uplifted, to relax, and to relieve stress and tension.
- It’s fun!
Adults also benefit from singing. It can relieve stress, boost lung function, improve mental health and mood, plus there’s evidence that singing can even boost your immune system.
Educators don’t need to be great singers but it is important they can sing without being self-conscious and to not convey discomfort to the children.
Model acceptance of your own singing voice and create a vibrant, fun and creative singing space. Here are some basic tips to boost your vocal talent:
Kids will love voice warm up activities and they’ll definitely help you out. Try humming or the easy ‘lip buzz.’ Simply loosen your lips and make a motorboat sound by blowing air through your mouth. There’s also the ‘jaw loosening’ exercise, which helps singers drop their jaw lower when singing. To start, try yawning and exhale while making a noise as though you are sighing.
Look for opportunities to increase the number of times you sing through the day – transitions songs, sing a welcome song in the morning and a goodbye song at the end of the day. Practice your songs before you introduce them to children, you can do this by singing it in the car or in the shower or start by humming it to yourself.
Incorrect posture will impede your breathing and breath is a big part of singing. Shake off any tension, be comfortable and hold your head level with your chin parallel to the floor. Now stand tall and relax your shoulders down, no slouching, pull your tummy in and sing.
When singing you need to be able to inhale quickly, take a full breath and exhale over the course of a song phrase. This requires control and strength, which you can develop through specific breath exercises.
Simple practices include breathing in through the nose for a count of three, holding the breath to a count of three and exhaling slowly to a count of three. Check the link for more detailed directions.
References and further resources:
Singing with young children: Empowering early childhood teachers to sing Orff-style
The Conversation: Can anyone learn to sing? For most of us the answer is yes
Teaching young children how to manage and regulate big emotions is a challenging job, and one that early childhood educators face on a daily basis.
The developmental benefits of making music at home and simple cost effective ideas for boosting musical experiences.