I want to have a small discussion (with myself unless you would like to participate by commenting after you read). I have had a few students lately who have come to me with very good basic singing skills. The kind of student that is told, “you should take singing lessons”, the one who always blows people away at karaoke. You know who I am talking about. This student comes to me excited, passionate and wanting to improve their voice. This same person is also looking for confirmation so they can have the confidence in knowing they sound good. I love this student. I have so much to work with and teach with usually amazing results.
So, said student takes a few lessons and usually very quickly starts to improve. They are now exercising their voice and starting to use techniques for breath and vocal control. They suddenly have that confidence they were lacking and they are hitting those notes they swore they could never get to. Then they start singing gigs or going on auditions. Usually something small and they sing something that they have been working on in class and it goes amazingly well. They are told how great they are and are filled with that wonderful feeling of accomplishment. This is wonderful and it feels great and I couldn’t be prouder when this happens.
So, what is the problem?? They think that after a few lessons they are done. They say, okay, “I get this now and I’m ready”. Yes, they are ready. For the “real work”. Once they have the confidence to sing out and are breathing properly and freeing up the voice, then we can start really building the muscle. Learning how to do “runs”, belting in a way that doesn’t feel strained or tired. Learning how to maintain stamina. Learning about the music. Working on pitch. Reading music. Learning how to harmonize. Learning how to interpret a song. The list goes on and on. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be out performing or doing the things they want to do with their career. Audition and perform and do what you love to do. But said career will come to a screeching halt when they start hitting on things they hadn’t learned or they get tired out very quickly, etc….You have to maintain and keep learning and work hard. It never really is “work” if you are doing what you love anyway.
My job is not over after a few great lessons. It pains me to have a student who was making huge progress in a few lessons, just stop. All the work they did to learn a new relaxed way of singing, disappears very quickly. (Remember they spent most of their life singing a certain way and it can take months to really incorporate a different way of singing into the muscles of the body). Before you know it they are back to old habits. It is extremely frustrating to watch this happen. I too, have invested my time and energy and I adore all of my students. Believe me when I say, I am their biggest fan.
So, please, for all you singers thinking about improving your voice. It doesn’t happen overnight but you can start to see huge differences right away. That doesn’t mean stop, you are done. It means you are doing the right things and keep going. Keep improving and really understand what you are doing. Then you can maintain your voice and keep all your new skills and know that your voice will hold up no matter what is going on in your life. That doesn’t mean you should be taking a weekly lesson for the next 10 years. It just means stay consistent. Maybe that means a lesson every other week, or once a month if the budget is tight and practicing all the times in between. If you were trying to lose weight or get in a certain physical shape, you wouldn’t just lose 5 pounds and then stop going to the gym. You would continue until you reached your goal and then you would need a routine to maintain that goal. Singing is the same way. You are the instrument and your vocal chords are a muscle, so you need to treat it that way.
There will come a time when you will slow down taking lessons, maybe you just do a brush up when you are working on a particular song. You might join a choir or group class where you get your weekly workout and don’t need one on one training anymore. This will happen, it’s natural. Hopefully, you stop when you have gotten to a point where you can teach yourself and you have a good practice routine and know how to take care of and maintain your voice. It doesn’t take forever, but I’m sorry folks, three to five lessons, even though there may be massive improvement, is probably not going to make you an amazing singer. Ask any famous singer and 9 times out of 10 they have a vocal exercise routine and most likely a coach that they work with. You never stop maintaining and there is always something new to learn. That is part of the joy in singing.
Let me know what you think. I am curious what your experiences have been. Both student and teacher alike.