Here are my Top Ten ways to get more from your voice lessons.
1) Warm Up Before You Arrive The first 10 minutes of your lessons are spent vocalizing. This isn't to warm up your voice but to work on technique and make adjustments to your sound. If you don't warm up before you come in, we do end up just warming up and never get to make those very important technical advancements. Take 15-20 minutes and vocalize before you come into your lesson. (If you have a 9:30 am lesson, better start earlier!)
2) Be On Time Your lesson time starts on the hour (or half hour), not when you walk in the door. Take advantage of the time you pay for. Arrive at least 5 minutes early to insure your lesson begins on time. Your teacher cannot cut into the lesson time of the following student because you were late. Promptness also shows your teacher that you are excited to be there and you care about what you are working on together.
3) Come Prepared Bring your music with you, and a pencil. If your teacher has made copies of music for you, bring them. Your teacher really does want you to sing these pieces. If you are interested in learning new music, GREAT! Make sure to bring in sheet music for you and your teacher. Don't assume your teacher has sheet music to every song ever written. If you need to practice music for a show, don't forget to bring your script, score, and/or libretto. Also make sure to bring water. You would hate to waste your lesson time by having to go get a drink!
4) Leave Your Fears at the Door My students know that they are going to be making new sounds, moving pianos, doing aerobics, dancing, and any other crazy things I can think of in their lessons. My goal is to get you out of your comfort zone so you can really begin to open up your voice, body, and emotions. Your fear is the only thing holding you back. Check it at the door!
5) Record Your Lessons Whether it's on your iPhone, digital voice recorder, or (gasp) a blank cassette tape, it's great to record your lessons for several reasons. First, you begin to really hear what your voice sounds like. Two, you can hear the changes in your voice from week to week. And finally, you get to take your voice teacher home with you all week. Can't remember the exercises you worked on or how to pronounce some of the words in that art song? Just listen to your lesson!
6) Take Notes-Lots Because lessons move so fast, your teachers do not have time to repeat themselves over and over. Take notes, immediately. Write the lessons down in your own words so you understand the concepts.
7) Be Open to Suggestion Your voice teacher wants the very best for you, and part of making good choices for you as a singer is allowing your teachers to suggest a different sound or different music. It's a big goal of mine, as a teacher, to encourage my students to try new music. If the student is currently singing all pop music, I may suggest jazz or blues. Only working on musical theatre? How about an art song or aria? I don't expect the students to love everything I throw at them, but hopefully they begin to respect a new style of music and may even like to sing in that style! It's also important for students to be open to their teachers' suggestions of new songs within their chosen style. If you've been focusing on the music from Wicked, Mamma Mia, and Hairspray, try some older musicals. If you're singing today's Top 40, try some Motown or even 70s' pop. Only hip to Mozart? How about some Schubert or Brahms? Go ahead, give it a try!
8) Ask Questions Really, ask questions. Don't understand the cycle of breath? Ask. Don't get why I'm having you jump up and down with your hands on top of your head while you sing the Ave Maria? Ask! Your teacher does not expect your to know everything, nor do we think that explaining a concept to you will make you understand the technique the first time on the field. Go ahead and ask! Your teacher just wants you to excel. I promise, they will not be offended if you ask why that music is good for you.
9) Listen to Recordings of Your Songs While I don't want my students learning their music directly from a recording, I do encourage students to listen to several different recordings of the songs they are learning. Get new ideas for stylistic choices. Yes, Idina Menzel sounds great. Now what are the other singers who perform that role doing? Not everyone is Defying Gravity the exact same way! Listening to recordings also gives you new ideas for what you'd like your voice to sound like. No, I don't want you to mimic other voices, but listening to recordings can give you new ideas for vocal characteristics.
10) Practice I know, this really should be a no-brainer. But think about it...... How much time do you spend practicing? For younger students, I encourage you to practice 3-5 hours a week (min). For older, more advanced students, an hour per day. Do you really want to keep having the same lesson every week? Your teacher cannot help you progress if you don't take the proper steps in between your lessons. Practicing is key. Singing is something you enjoy. Don't think of practicing as something you have to do, but something you truly want to do. You already know you're going to spend more hours practicing than you are performing; enjoy your time singing! Don't have hours of time to block off for practice? How about 15 minutes? Sure! Go ahead and chop up your practice time. It's not important that you are spending hours and hours singing scales, but that you are using your time efficiently when you're able to make time to practice. Singing is FUN. Sing often!