What really happens in a voice lesson?

Is it what you thought it would be?

I meet so many people who want to sing, or who want to sing better than they currently do.  I always ask the beginners after a few lessons, “Are voice lessons what you thought they would be?  Has there been anything that surprised you?”  The answers are often interesting.  Here are some common responses (paraphrased):

I didn’t really know what to expect

This is more enjoyable than I thought it would be

I thought you would tell me there was one right way, but you’re showing me choices

I’ve never paid attention to my breath, or my tongue, or my posture.  It’s kind of weird. 

Every voice teacher is a little different. 

Other teachers may have different approaches, and that’s really a good thing since there is so much variety in what students need and want.  So much of teaching is filtered through our own experience, and everyone's is unique.  

A lesson with me:

  1. We check in with how you are making progress on your goals.  What is feeling easy?  What is feeling difficult?  Is there something in particular the student would like help with?
  2. We warm up.  The purpose of a warm up is to get the body and brain ready for more difficult tasks.  A warm up reminds the student of the coordination we want.  
  3. I guide the student through some exercises.  Many people confuse warm up and exercises.  They are two different things.  A warm up reinforces an easy, good coordination.  It gets you lined up.  Exercises are designed to help you work on a specific coordination that you haven’t mastered yet.  An exercise has the potential to get you out of that good coordination.  So we go back and forth.  We do something that shows the student the coordination that we’re looking for.  Then we do something that is similar, but a little more difficult.  Repeat.  
  4. We apply the skills the student is learning to repertoire.  This varies greatly from student to student.  One student will work on a musical theatre piece for an upcoming audition, another student will bring in a song they are learning in their school chorus to get help with a difficult section, another may bring in a pop song to sing for fun just for themselves.  I show the student several ways to practice sections of the song that are difficult.  We will play with how to connect emotionally to the text and how to bring that alive as a performer.  
  5. Throughout the lesson, I’m teaching the student how to practice.  At the end of the lesson, I’ll often point out a few things to focus on during the week.  We may also agree to work on a specific thing in the next lesson.  

Throughout this process, I’m asking questions such as:

  • What do you notice?
  • Can you do that again and let it be easier?
  • How have you been practicing this at home? 
  • What felt easy about what you just did?
  • What felt difficult?

The best word to describe what happens in a voice lesson with me is collaboration.  The information goes both ways!