Voice lessons: what high school students need

Voice lessons are not one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most.  Private lessons for singing usually begin in high school, though some can begin in middle school.  What is most important for high school students who are studying voice?  


Flexible Vocal Technique


High school singers are experimenting, as well they should!  It’s not unusual for one of my students to sing in their school chorus, a church choir, and want to audition for a music theatre production.  I’ve had students who put together rock bands and sing with the school jazz band.  In order to try out different styles of singing, one must cultivate a healthy and versatile vocal technique.  As a teacher, I help students learn what their voices can and cannot do in order to avoid vocal injury.  There used to be a popular misconception that if you were classically trained, you could sing anything.  Fortunately, this idea is fading away because it is most definitely not true.  


Vocal Health


First order of business is learning how to warm up your voice before using it and how to cool down afterward.  I also emphasize the idea of a “vocal clock,” an idea I learned from Duke Voice Care Center Speech Language Pathologist Leda Scearce.  The idea is that we all have a certain amount of time we can use our voices each day safely.  Some vocal behaviors, like singing in a comfortable range, take only a little time off the clock.  Singing loudly takes more time off the clock, as does talking over noise.  Some vocal behaviors like yelling or screaming at a game should always be avoided since the chance of trauma from even doing it once is so great.  Each student must learn to be responsible for his or her vocal well-being.




I strongly advocate trying out different styles of music at this age - who knows what may fit like a glove?  To that end, I also encourage singers to listen to a wide variety of singers.  We have our favorites, and we tend to want to sound like our favorites.  Imitation is a stage that all artists go through.  But it is important to not get stuck in wanting to sound like your idol.  Each singer must find his or her unique voice and learn all the colors that it is capable of producing.  


Who are your favorite singers?  What moves you about their voices or the way they sing?