Like any skill, it takes time, study, and practice to develop the singing voice. A voice may ring with natural ability, but to withstand the demands of a singing career a voice needs to be fit and dependable. Name your favorite vocalist and, most likely, they have trained and conditioned their voice with a teacher. Even if you’re not looking for a singing profession, voice lessons with the right teacher can help you to reach your goals much faster than you’d likely experience with solo work. But whether you’re a singer with high aspirations or not, voice lessons are a serious investment. Consider how you can make the most out of each session with these seven simple steps.
A simple yet important starting point: be prepared. In order to make the most of your voice lesson, organize and prepare the practical details of the lesson. Know where to go and how to get there. In the case of online lessons, download the video conferencing app you’ll be using and confirm your wifi connection will be strong.
Arrive for your lesson a little bit early. Budget a few minutes beforehand to center yourself, relax, and breathe before your lesson time. Have a water bottle with you, secure your sheet music in a binder with clear sheet protectors or in some organized manner, and have a means of taking notes.
Dress comfortably in unrestrictive clothing. That is unless you are rehearsing for a specific circumstance. If you’re prepping for a show or concert, you should wear the shoes you’ll be wearing in performance, or a similar pair, in your lesson.
Record Your Lesson
One of the easiest yet most effective ways to reap the benefits of your voice lesson is to record it! This way you can listen back in your personal practice time. You won’t have to rack your brain trying to remember what warm ups you sang or what that brilliant “light bulb” discovery was. You’ll have a complete record of your teacher’s feedback and the exercises and adjustments that had you soaring.
Over the course of your study, you’ll amass many lesson recordings and eventually build an archive of your vocal journey. Even if you don’t like listening to yourself, nothing reinforces vocal growth like hearing your voice improve in real time from a recording. Learn to listen to yourself objectively and kindly. Celebrate what worked well for you and listen for opportunities to improve.
Consider Your Goals
The best voice lessons have clear goals. Whether it’s a long term or short term goal, know what your intentions are and be prepared to share these openly with your teacher. It may initially feel like overstepping, but your input is invaluable. When you state clearly what you want to accomplish in the lesson you are taking responsibility for your voice and growth. The best voice teachers will respect you for it, jump on board with your vision, and help you with the next steps to achieving your vocal goals.
Leave with a plan
Before you leave your lesson, make sure you understand the strategies that were used. Write them down and determine with your teacher what exercises will be most important to practice before the next lesson. Discuss the tactics you’ll employ and specify your objectives. Know the actual musical notes you should be reaching in your practice, as well as the amount of time and how often to practice.
Practice Smarter Not Harder
Now use what you learned in your lesson to set yourself up for success! Focus your sights on accomplishing your goals using the strategies you’ve worked on with your voice teacher. That may mean changing your practice habits from a universal approach to working on a single coordination for the bulk of your practice. That’s ok - and in fact, it’s encouraged. Working on specific techniques saves you from spending all your vocal energy on long warm ups or unfocused exercises that burn up your vocal stamina. Practice with intention. Ensuring you have consistent, focussed practice sessions will allow for new developments in your next voice lesson.
The number one way to make the most of your voice lesson is to walk in with a positive attitude. A singer with a positive attitude listens with curiosity, asks questions, and understands that the vocal studio is a safe place to make all sounds: both the beautiful and the whacky! A singer who is willing to learn how to make many different sounds will develop more skills than a singer who knows how to make just a few sounds perfectly.
Your teacher will ask you to try all sorts of unfamiliar voices, exercises, and silly noises. Say ‘yes,’ to trying, to failing, and to laughing through it all with your teacher. The greatest growth occurs just outside of your comfort zone.
Find the Right Teacher for You
Last but not least, finding the right teacher for you will be an important aspect of making the most of your voice lessons. Find someone who you feel comfortable with, someone who encourages you, and someone who is willing to adapt to your individual needs. Discover what styles they work with and if they’ll be able to guide you in the style you sing. And, make sure you’re getting results in each lesson. Developing the singing voice is a process, and sometimes it involves taking two steps forward and one step back. But overall, if you’re diligently practicing and learning, you should be having victories during most of your voice lessons. If you’re not, assess the situation, talk to your teacher, and decide whether it’s ultimately the right situation for you.
Successful singers understand that building their voice into a powerful and dependable instrument means making the most of each voice lesson. It’s a skill all its own, requiring time, focus, organization, and a positive attitude. But with all these tactics in mind, your vocal journey will be one long glorious occasion, with countless victories and goals achieved throughout the process. And still, the best will always be yet to come for you! by Justin Stoney & David McCall
JUSTIN STONEY and DAVID MCCALL are prominent voice coaches based in New York City. Stoney is the Founder & President of New York Vocal Coaching. He is the author of the recent book, "Sing Like Never Before." See newyorkvocalcoaching.com.