From my years of experience giving private lessons, conducting vocal ensembles, music directing, and teaching elementary, middle, high school and college courses, I have compiled a list of some of the questions that I am asked the most frequently. Have a question that's not posted here? Please go to the "Contact" page, and get in touch!
Q: How do you structure the voice lesson?
A: At your first voice lesson, we will take some extra time in order to get to know each other. To be the most effective teacher, it will be extremely useful for me to know your previous musical experience, goals, and what your expectations are. After the initial introduction, we will most likely spend at least 50% of the lesson working on your technique through vocal warm-ups. This is the best way for me to hear your voice and how it’s currently functioning. I’ll observe your singing and then conclude what you are physically doing to create that sound. I create exercises specifically for your needs based upon what I hear. Some exercises produce immediate results, while others are meant for improvement in the future. Some concepts we will focus on are diaphragmatic breathing, tension release, posture, legato singing, vowel modification, phrasing, and stage etiquette. The goal is to extend your range, build flexibility and gain control for an overall easier sound. Afterwards, we will be incorporating the technical tools you have worked on during warm-ups into actual music. After picking a song, we will dissect your piece both from a technical standpoint as well as musically. At the end of the lesson, we will recap what you can work on at home before our next lesson. It is always a good idea to bring along a recording device and something to take notes on so that you can remember everything that we cover during your lesson.
Q: At what age can you start taking lessons?
A: One can begin taking voice lessons as soon as he or she is interested. Since there is not a set formula for teaching voice, I will structure the lesson according to the individual student. For example, a younger student's main focus might be on becoming a stronger musician and less on serious vocal technique as their vocal chords and bodies are still maturing. This will give them the proper tools and confidence to excel when they are ready for serious training. Music lessons, whether vocal or instrumental, should start when there is genuine interest in learning and improving.
Q: I’m interested in musical theater. Do you help with acting?
A: Yes! Singing, no matter the style, is all about telling a story. To be a successful artist, you must be able to communicate clearly and honestly. Both classical music as well as musical theater require a high level of acting in song and dialogue.
Q: Why should I study with a classically trained singer and teacher?
A: Don’t have dreams of being an opera singer? That’s ok! Most students don’t, however in my experience, all good voice teachers are classically trained. Being classically trained just means you've extensively studied the extremes of how the voice works. Although you may not want to be an opera singer, it is highly beneficial to study with someone who has been professionally trained. When untrained students hear the words “opera” and “classical”, it often evokes
stereotypes. Opera singers have the most control over their instruments and therefore, have the most most knowledge of how it works. I have consistently trained seriously for over a decade and have professional experience on the stage. This translates very well into teaching. If the teacher knows how to use his or her voice, then they can better diagnose and solve the student's vocal issues. Having knowledge about vocal pedagogy is critical when training any voice.
A: I get this question a lot. "Good" is subjective and therefore impossible to answer. Results vary based on the student. I can not predict how fast a student will pick up a concept, or how well they can maintain and reproduce it in a performance. Since vocal technique is learned through sensations, the more you practice properly, the sooner you'll develop muscle memory. There is no end goal when studying music, just a constant development. When someone is considered “good” at singing, it’s because they possess certain traits such as, being in tune. Through practicing the exercises I assign you, listening back to our lesson (which you record), and listening to singers (both live and online), you can improve your sound. If you practice regularly, improvement should be heard in the first couple of lessons. Although, consistency will only develop overtime.
Q: When will I be ‘good’?
Q: What is the difference between singing lessons and voice lessons?
A: It’s just semantics. People who look to begin singing usually ask for “singing lessons” but people who teach singing most often call themselves “voice teachers” or advertise “voice lessons” because they teach you how to master the use of your instrument, which is your voice. You may also see ads for “vocal coaches”. Vocal coaches are more often conductors or pianists who have studied languages and interactive style. They concentrate on improving your song performance, whereas a “voice teacher” concentrates on your vocal health and technique. However, the title “vocal coach” is sometimes used by teachers of the speaking voice for public speaking and acting. They rarely teach singing. The least confusing name is “speech and dialect coach”. A dialect coach teaches singers how to use various accents. When learning how to sing, you should study with a voice teacher who will work with you on proper vocal technique. When preparing repertoire for a performance or competition, vocal coaches are meant to be used as a supplement.
Q: I want to sound better but not lose my style. How can singing lessons help?
A: This is something we can discuss when we first meet. Your voice is unique to you, and my goal is to have as much “you” in the sound. I can diagnose your basic problems in how you produce sound, but not pass judgment on the style. Ideally, you want a lesson plan that loosens you up, makes your voice more flexible, builds up your range, and perhaps adds new “colors” to your sound. In fact, lessons should give you more tools to try more unique things! Probably the best thing about lessons is learning how to have power in your voice without straining. Poor pitch and a thinning or small range is just a symptom of a more fundamental problem of
straining or support. I believe a teacher should help you become independent in your practicing so that you can understand what you are doing right, and how to do it consistently.
Q: Isn’t being a good singer something you are born with?
A: Although everyone's voice is unique, some do possess a natural, untrained beauty or musical ability. You can be born with a naturally beautiful voice, however, what makes the voice appealing is proper technique. This is certainly easier for some, but I strongly believe almost anyone can be taught to sing well. When you hear a "bad" voice it is either caused by legitimate vocal damage or more likely, a lack of technique. With the correct training and practicing, I believe almost everyone can have a pleasant and attractive voice. Even “good” singers can benefit from voice lessons. Your voice is always changing and having a teacher to guide you in the right direction will help your longevity and can help challenge you.
Q: I used to sing a lot, but haven’t in a long time. Should I still take lessons?
A: Yes! Sometimes due to life choices, an adult with all sorts of talent and musical training may stop singing for a while. That might be due to family, or fear, or perfectionism, or just not getting enough good luck at the right time. But because the foundation is there, one can pick it up again and improve their sound often faster than before. You’ll never know what your true potential is if you don’t try.
Q: Singing is more of a hobby and passion of mine. Is it worth it for me to train my voice?
A: It depends on whether or not you want to improve your voice. If you simply sing for fun and do not care about challenging yourself to be better, I would not suggest training. However, if singing is not your main source of income, you can still have a lot of fun in lessons, and sometimes it can be even more enjoyable because your job doesn't depend on it! Voice lessons can be whatever you want them to be. We can train for an upcoming performance, competition, audition, or just for you! If lessons make you sound good, and singing makes you feel good. you should keep it in your life.
Q: I lose my voice often. Can voice lessons help?
A: Yes. I can help train you to sing and speak correctly and give you tools to keep your voice healthy. Ultimately, it’s up to you to maintain the healthy habits outside of lessons. One hour long lesson a week will not undo the three hours of screaming you did at the concert or sports game. If you are having consistent issues, I may recommend seeing an ENT (Ear Nose Throat Specialist) who works specifically with vocalists. If the doctor does diagnoses vocal damage such as acid reflux, nodules, or swelling, they will make recommendations to help fix the issue.
Q: How can I tell if my child should take voice lessons?
A: Voice lessons are rewarding and fun for almost anyone. If your child has expressed interest in music, sings around the house, or is encouraged by a music teacher, then voice lessons are the next logical step to develop his or her talent. Encouraging the desire to sing is an exciting
process for both the student and the teacher. I suggest enrolling your child in a choral group (either at school, within a religious community, or outside group). This is where the young ear learns fundamental musicianship, harmony, counting, and staying in tune. Learning to read music is an integral part of becoming a strong musician. Community theater and school shows are also a great way to have your child become involved in performing. The more stage experience they have, the more confident they become. Having a healthy amount of confidence when singing is essential to success.
Q: How do you pick repertoire for your students?
A: When deciding on repertoire choices for a student there are many factors that influence my choice. I choose a song that will help reinforce the technique we are currently working on, something that will appropriately challenge the student musically, and something age appropriate. When considering a song, I look at things like the range (how high and low the notes are), intervals (leaps between notes), tessitura (where most of the song sits in a singers voice), length of phrases (how often the singer can breathe), language (English verses a foreign language), subject matter (relatable lyrics), and musical difficulty. While a student's personal musical taste is important, it isn't always what will lead to progress. What you enjoy listening to may not be the best choice for you to sing. The wrong repertoire can even damage a student's voice. I try to keep a happy medium of developmental and “fun” songs.
Q: What do you mean when you say “free your voice”?
A: My focus is to solve your vocal issues to allow your voice to shine through, rather than striving for a certain sound. This happens by using a healthy technique that becomes consistent through practice. Why try to sound like someone else when you can sound unique? When you hear people do impressions, they are changing their natural sound by manipulating their muscles (ex: pulling back your tongue, raising their larynx) in order to sound like someone else. Although this can be fun at karaoke, my goal is to have you sound like you!
Q: Why can’t I learn to sing using a CD or DVD course?
A: There is no "quick fix" in terms of music. One of the most recent scams that has arisen is the multitude of "singing courses" available on CD. The suggestion that it is possible to learn to sing from a CD course is preposterous. Without a teacher present to correct you when you are doing something incorrectly, you will most likely learn bad vocal habits and not even know it. Any respected, well-trained teacher would never recommend these courses in good conscience. The correction is the most important aspect of vocal tuition, especially in the early stages of a student’s training.