Advice for the Aspiring Vocal Student

shutterstock_235472368You might be thinking about taking up voice lessons. Maybe you want to learn how to sight-read hymns for your church choir, or maybe you want to take your singer/songwriter skills to the next level. Maybe you want to shine at karaoke night, or you might want to take vocal lessons to help allay your fear of public speaking. No matter what the primary reason might be for taking up voice lessons, most beginning vocal students have similar goals: to become more comfortable with their own voice and gain more confidence when they sing.

A vocal teacher can help provide students with a balanced understanding of what they are trying to accomplish and the tools to help them achieve their goals. Vocalists are unlike any other musicians – a pianist is connected to the ivory keys through their fingers, the violinist draws the bow over cradled strings, but a vocalist IS their own instrument. If there is a technique that needs to be corrected at the piano, you simply change your approach to the piano; if there is a technique that needs to be corrected as a vocalist, you have to learn new ways of managing your self. There is no “in-between” – everything happens internally. There is a certain disconnect with instrumentalists and their instruments, and one of their main jobs is to bridge that gap between the two, but a vocalist’s job is, in part, to be able to disconnect their voice from their self. You are not struggling against yourself; you are honing your instrument, and that is an important distinction to make.

One of the implications of this realization is that, when you are struggling to breathe properly through a phrase, or produce a beautiful high note, etc., remember to HAVE PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF. The voice is unlike any other instrument, particularly in that it is always in flux. A piano, a violin, and a flute are all subject to fluctuations in temperature, yes, but they are not living organisms. A piano doesn’t have sinus issues from time to time, and a violin can’t catch a cold. Sometimes the vocal apparatus just takes a day off. And that’s OK.

One final thing to remember is this: you are you and no one else. A voice teacher’s job is not to make you sound like them, but to help you realize the potential of your own unique voice. Don’t be discouraged because you don’t sound like your favorite artist; be encouraged, because your voice is your own, and it has its own qualities to share.

For information about voice lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

What can I expect at my first voice lesson?

Every voice lesson is different based on the unique style of the voice teacher and is tailored to the individual needs of the student. In general, voice lessons usually consist of two main parts: vocal exercises and time devoted to working on songs.

Most voice lessons will begin with warm-up exercises. The teacher will lead the student through exercises that move higher or lower in the voice student’s range. Students focus on different breathing techniques and pronunciation of different syllables and sounds. The exercise session is not only important for warming up the student’s voice, but also learning new skills that will carry over into the songs that the student is singing.

The second part of the lesson is usually spent working on songs. Many students will have specific songs and genres that they will want to learn. The voice teacher can also suggest appropriate songs that will fit with the student’s skill level and vocal range. During this part of the lesson students will work on learning the lyrics and melody, as well as techniques that will improve how the student sings the song.

For information about voice lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call  (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

The Keys to Practicing: Part II

PianoThe quality and consistency of practicing is more important than the length of time practicing. For beginners, just a few minutes a day is all that is needed. The key is having a practice routine that you and your child stick to over the long term.  Below are a few tips for effective quality practicing:

  1. Repetition is important in learning any skill, but it can be boring.  An easy fix is to have fun and creative games for practicing your songs and exercises at home.
  2. Start small – Music is better learned in smaller sections rather than playing the whole song over and over.  Identify the most challenging parts and play through them until you are comfortable with them.
  3. Most children don’t like playing the difficult parts and often end up skipping over them.  You can help by asking them to stop and find the tricky part.  You can even guide them to find a way to fix it.
  4. Sometimes learning a song will be difficult and it takes time.  Praise and encourage your child daily for their efforts.  Allow them to take a break or play another song if it is too frustrating.
  5. Include time for your child to play songs that they know well and enjoy.  Improvisation and composition of new songs can also be included.  Listening to music that your child enjoys, looking things up on the computer, or watching a music DVD of any genre all count towards your child’s at-home learning.

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.