Want to get better at singing? Simply showing up to your voice lessons isn’t enough. Here, St. Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L. shares 3 common mistakes she’s seen students make, so that you can be sure to avoid them…
Even though I’m a voice teacher, I’m also a voice student. I know how difficult lessons can be. It takes some courage to share your heart, and then possibly mess up in front of someone that you barely know and see once a week. We all make mistakes all the time; that’s why we call it learning. As you’re taking lessons — no matter if you’re new to singing lessons or you’ve been taking them for a while — you’re constantly learning how to get better at singing. However, there are a few common mistakes I’ve seen students make that can deter your progress.
It’s a huge mistake to lie to your voice teacher about anything, but when you lie about how much you’re practicing singing, the requirements of an upcoming audition or show, how you feel about a certain song, how well you’re taking care of your voice, or whether or not your throat is in pain, it could mean a devastating mistake that changes the course of your singing career. The lying creates a false image of you, and your teacher can’t help a false person.
Not Letting Go
OK, so forget the famous Disney song for a second (even though I know it’s now stuck in your head). The best voice lessons happen only when you’re ready and willing to be open, raw, unpolished (at times), and free. And when we voice teachers use the word “free,” we don’t always just mean free of physical tension. We might also mean free in terms of artistic expression. As the brilliant voice teacher Julie Zarukin once told me, “Music is not the song. Music is the singing.” We have to let go of both our physical and mental tensions if we’re to make progress in our learning journeys.
A lot of times, what we’re afraid of in our voice lessons is letting go (see mistake number two above). But just as often, we’re afraid of not hitting that high note, cracking on that big leap, having too much vibrato, and believe it or not, I think that some students are afraid of singing too loudly, or too well. In some ways, I feel like getting a voice lesson is like getting a physician’s exam. You know that you need the diagnosis and treatment, but it’s not always easy to share so much with a person that you may not know very well yet. And yet, a voice teacher can only find your challenges and help you learn how to get better at singing if you’re not afraid to allow them to be found.
Making the Most of Your Singing Lessons
If you really want to get better at singing and improve your skills, you’ll need to make the most of your time — both in your lessons and during practice! Whether you want to sing cover songs, work on specific techniques, get help picking a song for an audition, or just have some fun exploring your voice, your teacher is there to help you reach your goals and keep you on track. He or she will also teach you the basics, such as:
- breathing exercises for singers,
- how your posture affects your singing, and
- how to care for your voice.
Now, if you find yourself making the mistakes listed above in your voice lessons, then it sounds like you may be having a tough time trusting your voice teacher. Try your best to be open and talk openly about your concerns. But just like a physician’s patient, a voice student has the right to get a second opinion if you feel frustrated or stuck. The best voice teachers will actually encourage you to get one.
Take a break and try a new voice teacher for a couple of months. Sometimes, a new set of ears and a fresh perspective can change the way you look at voice lessons and help you make progress as you work to figure out how to get better at singing. The most important element is finding a voice teacher that you can trust (hint: start your search for a voice teacher with TakeLessons, if you don’t have one yet!).
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!