Finding the right vocal coach is an important factor for your success when it comes to singing lessons. You need someone who will encourage and motivate you, but also provide the right feedback and guidance. Read on as Glendale teacher Ariel P. shares what she’s learned from her own mentors…
When I was in graduate school my teacher had a new “tool” every week. At first I thought the tools were amazing and I could not believe the level of her creativity. How could she come up with a new “tool” and cute name every single week? I would go into my lesson and she would say something like, “We’re going to do the Dolphin today. Oh I’ve never showed you the Dolphin before? Well just take this rolled up towel, lay on the floor, and put it under your lower back. This will ease your lower back tension.”
The only problem was that I did not suffer from lower back tension. Other students had that problem, but not me. I had other issues that manifested themselves into lower back tension, which were never addressed because she was too busy finding new “tools” and insisting that every single student use them, regardless of if it worked for them or not. This teacher was not truly listening and diagnosing problems that could have been easily fixed. She was generalizing and assuming that everyone suffered from the same issues.
Since graduating, I have found a voice teacher that not only listens but empathizes. His ear is refined enough to quickly diagnose the root of the problem. He has a bag of “tools” that he uses as needed and when appropriate. If he finds that one approach is not working, then he will attempt something else to achieve the desired result. But the most important element is that the lesson is tailored to my individual needs. The lesson is also based on my own feedback and experience. Because of this, I am able to self-diagnose even outside the lesson and I am better equipped to help students of my own.
When teaching students, I have my own “tools” to pool from. To begin with, I like to teach what are called “vocal function exercises.” These are a series of sounds on the letters m, ng, v, z, th, and n that help teach the different muscles in the mouth, throat and diaphragm to behave in coordination. For example, if a student is having tension in the strap muscles (the muscles running parallel to the larynx, on either side of the neck, running down into the shoulders and chest), I would have them vocalize on z with a passive airflow. When this is done correctly, it releases all of the tension from these muscles and allows for the diaphragm to do the work instead of the neck muscles. Once this is established, I turn z into a vocal exercise to apply the new coordination. Then I apply that to the most difficult part of the song the student is singing at the time. This is how I break down the lessons for the betterment of the student.
Be aware of the tools that work for you! With the right voice teacher, he or she will be able to help you with this.
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Ariel P. teaches singing, Broadway singing, opera voice and speaking voice lessons to students of all ages in Glendale, CA. She received her Master’s degree in Voice from the University of Southern California, and joined the TakeLessons team in December 2012. Learn more about Ariel, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by familymwr