KEYWORDS: notes, way, right, range, voice, pitch

Teaching Children to Sing

David Berg

By Father DavidDFO110711 February, 1981

1. IF YOU'RE GOING TO TEACH MUSIC TO YOUR CHILDREN‚ IT WOULD BE VERY WISE TO GET THEM SOME KIND OF A LITTLE ORGAN OR A TOY PIANO THAT GIVES VARIOUS NOTES. Be sure you've always got one, and pitch it. If you don't have one, you can get a little pitchpipe. A pitchpipe is like a whistle that you pitch the tune with—you have several little tiny pipes like Peter Pan's pipes & and you can blow on one or the other and it gives you a particular key. That's where you start your DO-RE-MI, in that key, see? And if you have a guitar and if you can play the scale on the guitar and thereby know what key that that scale is in, you could test their range that way.

2. GO OVER YOUR CHORUSES YOU NORMALLY SING, try them on your little piano or organ or pitchpipe or whatever, anything you've got that will play a tune and you can hear the actual notes. See what their highest notes are and their lowest notes and see if they are within the children's range. You must use your organ or a pitchpipe. Unless you've got perfect pitch and you know exactly how to hit the right note, you're not necessarily going to start on the right note.

3. ONCE OCTAVE IS ABOUT AVERAGE FOR A CHILD (an octave means 8 full notes on the scale), it's a little difficult to get any higher or lower—but you need to practice it. Find out what their range is. That means to find out how low they can sing or how high they can sing.

4. DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO. Those are actually Italian words. Those are the Italian words for the notes, and all singers all over the world sing those little words to stand for the notes.


(Sara and kids: Yes!)—

"DO, a deer, a female deer;

RE, a drop of golden sun.

MI, a name of call myself.

FA, a long long way to run.

SOL, a needle pulling thread.

LA, a note on follow SOL.

TI, a drink with jam and bread.

That will bring us back to DO-O-O!"


formal training or any kind of teaching. I sang naturally in a very musical family too; I just picked it up from the rest of them, but with some formal training, much better. It's just like any kind of an instrument—you might be able to kind of pick it up by ear and sort of fumble around with it and accidentally sort of learn how to use it, but if you have real training and teaching in it and study it, why of course you can do much better.

7. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW I COULD HIT SOME OF THOSE NOTES until they taught me how to sing and how to really push it and really hit it hard, and then you can hit notes that you never thought you could hit before, you can fly higher than you ever thought you could fly before—if you try hard enough and you really use your strength right and push it.

(To the children: )

8. YOU HAVE TO YELL REAL LOUD ON THE LAST NOTES THAT ARE UP SO HIGH, you have to really yell loud in order to hit it. Ask Jesus to help you hit that last DO way up high. You've gotta reach for it, you've gotta yell loud to hit that last DO. You've got to get to the top before you start running downhill. Wait 'til you get to the top and just stay standing on top of the mountain for a little while and just hold it. You have a tendency to be a bit lazy on the high notes because it takes strength and you've got to work hard and you've got to yell loud in order to hit it—and hit it real clear! Put a lot of umph behind it and push from clear down here, right down here at the bottom of your chest. It takes strength to hit the high notes.

9. ONE THING YOU REALLY NEED TO PRACTISE IS VOLUME. You need to practise your volume and your power of singing so you can develop a little louder voice if you're going to lead the children. Children can have plenty loud voices when they want to—when they want to yell and shout and scream. They can sing plenty loud enough and they've just got to put that energy to work for the Lord singing.

10. AT ABOUT THE LEVEL OF YOUR BOTTOM RIB, THERE'S A BIG MUSCLE CALLED YOUR DIAPHRAGM, and it goes all the way back clear across through your body. One of the most important things it does is hold up you voice, because when you sing‚ the power to sing and speak actually comes from right down here.

11. PUT YOUR HAND RIGHT HERE ON YOUR TUMMY AND GO `HA, HA‚ HA, HA!' See it? You can even see your hand move. That's where the power comes from, and this is the echo chamber up here, and if the notes are low enough, they'll resonate clear down here. Power comes from here‚ but the full tone resonance comes from your chest & nasal cavity, low & high.

12. THE BEST TIME TO HAVE YOUR VOICE CLASS IS IN THE MORNING‚ but be sure you have it at least 2-3 hours after breakfast 'cause you've got to get the breakfast out of the way. Otherwise you don't have enough room to get the sound in and let it echo around, and every time your diaphragm tries to push your voice column up, all of a sudden it goes thump against your breakfast, thump against your stomach‚ and it kind of puts a little extra heavy load on your diaphragm when you're trying to sing. So you can sing much better on an empty stomach.

13. SO TRY NOT TO HAVE YOUR VOICE LESSON OR SINGING LESSON OR DANCING LESSON, ANY OF THOSE THINGS‚ TOO CLOSE TO MEAL TIME. Right before meal time is fine, in fact that's the best time, when the past meal is well digested and out of the way and not heavy on the diaphragm or the stomach and you can go and really sock it to 'em!

14. FEEL IT DOWN THERE? FEEL IT MOVING DOWN THERE? Not way up here, down there just below your ribs-that is the innermost part out of which shall flow forth rivers of living water, the sound of many waters and many voices from right out of here. That's why Jesus said, "Out of your innermost parts"—this is your innermost parts, right here. Not down in the tip of your toe‚ not out here in your ear or out here in your nose, but your innermost parts!—"Shall flow forth rivers of living water." Meaning your words for the Lord and the things He gives you to say and sing—they flow out of way down here.

15. IF YOU PRACTISE, DAVID, IN A FEW YEARS WHEN YOUR CHEST GETS BIGGER AND YOUR DIAPHRAGM LOWER and there's more room for the sound to echo around, then you can get those lower notes, because they need more space to vibrate. And when you get to be big you can not only sing one scale of 8 notes, one octave, but you can sing two octaves, as I can.

16. IT'S LIKE YOUR VOCAL CHORDS ARE STRUNG ACROSS THE WIND. The `wind' is coming from your chest, going up through your vocal chords and coming out your nose and your mouth. The vocal chords vibrate according to the way you stretch them. You kind of let 'em hang loose and limp for low notes—but when you sing up high, they're getting tighter.

17. THE SOUND COLUMN VIBRATES ALL THE WAY DOWN THERE, CLEAR UP TO HERE. You push it from down there and the sound echoes and reverberates and finally the sound column comes out way up here—actually through your nose, and you can feel it vibrating up in your head.

18. IN WHAT WE CALL A FALSETTO YOU WERE ONLY ACTUALLY VIBRATING DIFFERENT TISSUES from the ones that were supposed to vibrate. Your vocal chords were supposed to vibrate and resonate up here, but a falsetto is very soft and it just sort of gets up there a little bit. But you have to really push from down here and let it push up thru' here until you can feel it way up here. I'll start at the bottom. I can't find my way unless I start at the bottom of everything, and then I get to the top. DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO-O-O!

19. SOME PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW HOW TO SING, SING WAY UP IN THEIR NOSE in the nasal cavity and the voice is just coming up from there on out and all you'll hear is a little voice from way up there—and that's about as long as their voice is. Sometimes they're squeaky, like a little mouse, and that's what they call nasal, because it's in their nose & that's about all!

20. THERE ARE SOME CHILDREN IT'S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO TEACH MUSIC TO OR TEACH TO SING—they are absolutely tone deaf and have no idea of pitch. But there are some children who were thought to be tone deaf and thought to be just utterly ungifted for singing.—But if you can give them a note on the organ or by a voice and they can hit the same note, then they're not tone deaf. And that means they can carry a tune with a little practise and teaching and training. And it means they can then stay on pitch and not get off key, if led well.

21. DAVIDA HAS A BETTER EAR FOR MUSIC AND HER EAR IS A LITTLE KEENER. Probably she inherited that from Sara. Heritage has a lot to do with it. Also a gift from the Lord has a lot to do with it. It's probably not David's particular gift, it's not his outstanding gift. His gift is memorising the Word and preaching the gospel. Singing may not be his main gift, but he can sing if he tries hard enough and works at it. He can carry a tune fine if he's not distracted or led astray.

22. NOW SOME NOTES‚ HIGHER THAN HIS RANGE OR BELOW, HE WAS NOT ABLE TO HIT, or not very well or hardly at all‚ but that's just a matter of range. But the notes that are easily within his range he hits‚ if you give him the note—so does Davida.

23. HE WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO SING and learn pitch, keys, etc., even if he's just going to be the instrumentalist, because if he's going to help them sing, he's got to be able to stay on pitch himself and he's going to have to know when he's on key or off key.

24. CORRECT HIM, HONEY, WHEN HE MAKES MISTAKES. If you let him get away with it like you did on the last bar there, then he'll think it's all right to do that. You've got to correct him, stop him; say now let's try that again. You've got to set the example for them to really do it. If they think they can scotch off and you accept it and you let'm just ride on down without hitting it, then they think it's alright to do it that way‚ when it's not!—Nothing short of right is right!

25. THEY DIDN'T FIND THE RIGHT PITCH‚ BECAUSE NOBODY WAS LEADING, you weren't leading. And the kids, on that‚ they followed suit because there was no strong lead. "If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, how will they know to go forth to battle?" Because there was no strong leading voice and no strong good harmony, they couldn't find the pitch.

26. WHAT'S PITCHING? It's throwing it in the right direction—so somebody else can catch it. In other words, hitting the target. With the right aim you can hit the target, for you pitch it in the direction of that note and you hit it.

27. ESPECIALLY WITH YOUNG CHILDREN, BECAUSE THEIR RANGE IS SO LIMITED, you have to find songs that fit it‚ rather than have them straining their voices and trying to hit notes they can't hit and then getting them off tune, off key. And even if the song has a small range of not more than six notes in an octave, be sure it is pitched in the key which stays within their range.

28. IF YOU PUSH THEM BEYOND THEIR RANGE THEY WON'T HIT IT. They'll sound off-key and disharmonious, they won't sound good at all if you try to push them below or above their range. It'll sound terrible, and they know it, but they don't know what's making it sound like that. Just because it's easy for you to hit, it doesn't necessarily mean it's easy for them.

29. TRY NOT TO PITCH THEIR SONGS OUT OF THEIR RANGE, beyond what they're able to bear. The Lord tries not to give you more than you are able to bear, so if it happens, He always makes a way of escape, and the kids will find some way to escape, don't worry! They'll just pitch it someplace else or slide down out of tune, out of time and off-key because they just refuse to go up there because they can't. And if you're particularly blessed by a miracle, they'll just drop down an octave naturally and find the same note on an octave lower which is an instinctive little gift really, if they have that much of a sense of music. If they have a sort of gift of pitch they'll do it. Well, that's fine, but it sounds a little funny to just suddenly have somebody drop down an octave in order to try to hit notes they can't hit—like me!

30. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GET THE SONG WITHIN THEIR VERY SHORT RANGE, at least as far as their range is developed. If you can't then you're not going to get a good song or good performance out of them.

31. FOR GOD'S SAKE‚ DON'T TRY TO PUSH THE POOR KIDS TO SING SOMETHING THAT'S WAY OUT OF THEIR RANGE. You've never heard anything more awful than a little group of kids trying to sing some chorus that's too high—and it happens often!

32. TRY TO FIND A REPERTOIRE OF SONS THAT ARE EASILY WITHIN THEIR RANGE! It's better if you pick a tiny group of songs that are pitched in their key within their range that they can sing well than a hundred songs all of which they sing poorly. It's much better to sing a few songs well. The variety and the number of songs is not what counts, it's the quality, not the quantity.

33. (MARIA: CAN YOU BE ON THE RIGHT NOTE AND IN THE RIGHT PITCH AND STILL HAVE A BAD VOICE, still not sound nice?) Yes! You could be a professional musician, a world-famous singer in the right note, right key, harmony, everything and have a horrible voice that sounds like gravel on a wash-board, like, what's the name of that old gravel-voiced jazz trumpeter?—Louis Armstrong!—"Satchmo"!

34. A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKED IT, HIS STYLE, THAT'S ALL. What's a bad voice? The only thing I can think of as a bad voice is one you don't like to listen to. But that's all a matter of taste. So your ideas of good and bad are somewhat relative sometimes unless you have the Ruler and the Rule, and that's the Lord, & His Word!

35. A VOCAL TEACHER USUALLY STARTS YOU ON `AH' SOUNDS, usually beginning with L, M & N because this helps to get it up in the nose where you resonate—especially M & N. `Ah' seems to conform to the natural shape of your mouth and the roof of your mouth. You can hit an `ah' sound better at those very high tone levels than you can any other vowel. The A and E sounds are hard to hit on the high levels, but it gets a little easier, O is not bad‚ OO is a little difficult too—at almost any level the `ah' sounds are better.

36. NOW IF YOU FIND OUT THAT THE VOWEL SOUNDS OF THE SONG YOU'RE SINGING are too many ee, ti and that sort of thing on the high notes you'll find they have difficulty. That's why they have on the scale, DO, RE‚ MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI-I–I‚ DO. see‚ it's a little hard for them to hit that—TI‚ DO! DO‚ my voice just about cracked then, did you notice? I didn't hit it good and hard and clear because it's a little bit difficult to do on high notes.

37. IT'S HARD WORK SINGING, YOU'VE REALLY GOTTA PUSH IT!—which is why you shouldn't keep them singing too long at a stretch or they'll tire easily. If they really sing, and sing out, about an hour is about all most people can stand of even a vocal lesson. I wouldn't push them too hard, honey, it might not be good for them, better even a half-hour to start.

38. TO JUST HEAR A MELODY AND IT RINGS IN YOUR HEAD AND YOU CAN HUM IT AGAIN, or whistle the tune again or sing it, you can repeat it—it's called a real memory for music, or an ear for music. It's partly a natural gift that God gives, an ear for music, and it's partly training.

39. IT'S BETTER TO MEMORISE SONGS! You learn the music, the tune, the song, the words, and then you sing it with feeling, with your heart! And if you learn to sing well at home and practice well all of the technicalities and all of the little things you're supposed to know about technical singing, voice placement and power and resonance and all of these things; then when you get up to sing for the Lord and before the people, then forget it. Forget all of it and just sing to the people from your heart. If you have practised sufficiently at home the technicalities, they will come naturally as you sing in public from your heart.

40. IF YOU'VE GOT GOOD HABITS‚ IF YOU LEARN GOOD HABITS IN SINGING, then when you get up to just sing for people and for the Lord, you'll sing those good habits naturally while you're not even thinking about them. They'll come automatically and you will just sing for the people and for the Lord from your heart with real expression.

41. AND PLEASE REMEMBER: There's nothing like inspiration!—I'd rather any day hear someone sing with feeling from their heart in the power of the Holy Spirit than a professional perfectionist who gets all the technicalities perfect, but with no real love and sounds like an empty hollow noisy "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal!" (1Cor.13:1)—The very first point! GBAKYAMYAB!