We’ve all seen the reality TV shows – adoring fans cheering as their favorite contestant swaggers across the stage belting out the latest top-of-the-pop chart tune; poised, polished, trendy and undeniably cool. This sort of programming has captured the attention of audiences worldwide, and spawned a generation of young singers clamoring for their chance to make it big at next season’s auditions.
Unfortunately, reality TV doesn’t exactly promote the most realistic picture of what singers need to do to perfect their craft. How did those contestants get SO GOOD? For a lot of aspiring young vocalists, the logical progression leads them to sign up for voice lessons. But once they arrive at a lesson, they may be surprised to find out that voice lessons won’t immediately transform them into the camera-ready performer they were expecting to be. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you sign up for lessons:
Realistic Expectation #1: Voice Lessons will improve the sound that you already have…but they aren’t going to guarantee you a fame-worthy singing voice. Everyone can learn to sing better, and a voice teacher can help you learn how to use your voice to the best of its ability. At The Catoctin School of Music, our goal is to help young singers access their full potential as singers with an emphasis on easy and natural sounding tone.
Realistic Expectation #2: Vocal changes take time and effort. Signing up for one or two voice lessons will not be enough time for a teacher to have a real impact on how you sing. Expect to give it a few months before you hear changes. The more you pay attention to the adjustments your teacher suggests, the faster you will get results. Keep in mind that any adjustments to vocal technique are most effective when you apply them every time you sing – with the radio, in the shower, in choir class, and anywhere in between.
Realistic Expectation #3: Expect to make changes in the way you sing. If your voice was absolutely perfect, you wouldn’t need voice lessons. A voice teacher’s purpose is to identify vocal faults and correct them. Sometimes hearing that you’re doing something wrong can be uncomfortable. Your teacher isn’t trying to hurt your feelings; they’re trying to teach you how to be a better singer. If a student is not mature enough, or is very sensitive, it can be difficult to make progress in lessons.
Realistic Expectation #4: Vocal health should be your teacher’s main concern. Anyone paying attention to pop music has heard about Adele Adkin’s vocal surgery. Overuse and misuse of the voice is alarmingly common in the contemporary music world. A good voice teacher will take vocal health seriously, and encourage you to sing with vocal technique that will allow you to sing for your whole life.
Realistic Expectation #5: Musical excellence should be one of your teacher’s goals. Fame and fortune is exciting, but a voice teacher worth their salt’s goal should be to help a student learn to be a knowledgeable musician. Learning to read music is part of the package, and the ability to read sheet music should part of every music student’s curriculum, regardless of their instrument. If a student doesn’t feel they have time or inclination to learn music theory, they limit their future musical success.
Realistic Expectation #6: A good voice teacher wants to foster a love of music. Students should be ready to expand their musical horizons. Listening to new genres of music and new styles of singing can help a student find their best vocal sound. Listening assignments and enthusiastic discussion about different songs and singers should be part of regular lessons. This sort of exchange of ideas is what keeps music fresh and exciting for everyone involved.
There are some perks that come with being a good singer – I don’t know a single singer who doesn’t enjoy the admiration (dare I say, envy?) of those who appreciate listening to them. The warm fuzzy feelings and the confidence boost are often what inspires a student to pursue voice more seriously than the odd chorus solo. These aren’t bad reasons for starting voice lessons, but may not be enough to sustain an interest in them. The students that are best served by voice lessons are those that are excited about singing for the sake of singing/improving the voice they have and acquiring a deeper knowledge of music. If that describes you or your student then take the plunge and find a voice teacher to help launch your musical journey!
Alyssa is a voice and piano teacher at The Catoctin School of Music who also has a passion for fabric and crafts. She’s been commandeered to sew all sorts of things (including piano bench covers) for CSM.