Here’s some tips and tricks to get the most out of your private voice lessons, and some information on what a voice lesson usually looks like.
What happens in a voice lesson?
Often you’ll go in, have a short check-in time of some sort with your teacher (how’s it going? What would you like to work on today? How’s your voice feeling?), and then start with a vocal warm-up and some technique work. This will be a series of exercises meant to get your voice ready to work–bringing your voice high, low, loud, soft, forward back; playing with different colours in your voice and manipulating different parts of the “vocal mechanism,” which sounds crazy, but really it just means adjusting how you’re using your breath, tongue, jaw, neck, face, etc.
Then you’ll likely move on to working repertoire–singing through a song and focusing not just on learning the music itself, but how you’d like the song to be presented. What vocal qualities do you want to bring to it? How do you want the story to come across?
What do I need to bring to a voice lesson?
- A big ol’ bottle of water
- whatever music you’re working on (most people have a standard 3-ring binder with all their music)
- a pencil to make notes on your sheet music
- a recording device–you’ll want to record your whole lesson, so you can listen back later and make notes on what you hear (it’s painful, but a great way to learn about your voice and review what happened during the lesson). These days, most people just use their phone and the voice memos app; when I first started lessons we used cassette tapes!
Other things you should know:
-voice lessons are about you–what are you looking to get out of them? Communicate that to your teacher, and keep them updated on your goals. If a teacher doesn’t seem to be responding or getting you where you need to go, it may be time to look around for someone else to get lessons from. Although it can feel awkward the first time you switch teachers, they generally understand, and you have to do what’s best for you and your voice
-the more you practice between lessons, the more you’ll get out of them. Seems obvious, but it took me years to realise what regular practice added to my vocal progress, and a few years more to figure out how to practice effectively. If you’re not sure exactly how to start on your own practice, start by following along with your voice lesson recording
It may have been almost 20 years ago, but I have a distinct memory of my first voice lesson.
My dad took me to the right room of Alberta College, where we greeted the woman who was to be my first voice teacher. She asked me what I liked to sing, and if I had been singing anything in particular, and pulled out a Disney book. I had been making my own 11-year-old version of a jazz rendition of “Cruella De Vil,” so that’s what she opened the book to–and it was so high! On my own, I had just been choosing my starting note out of thin air, but this arrangement was way up there, and I was forced to just squeak it out. At the end of the song, the teacher said, “Well, you’re definitely a soprano” (I think just because I was committed and able to hit all the high notes). I was thrilled to hear that… I think it’s a personality thing that I always wanted to be a soprano, even when my voice fit better on alto lines in choir.
I stuck with that teacher for about 5 years. She reaffirmed my love for singing and helped instil in me the confidence to continue with my training and pursue performing opportunities. After those years, I moved on to another teacher who provided the professional boost my skills needed, but I still give a lot of credit to my first teacher for setting me on the right path.
I’ve been lucky to work with many amazing teachers, and very few bad ones. In opening my own voice studio, I hope to bring all of my past training to the table, and help people to find their voices and pursue whatever vocal goals they have. Singing is such a challenge, but also such a gift.