Your voice teacher is there to guide you, inspire you, and encourage you. While the lessons should of course be enjoyable, you should also feel challenged and see improvement over the years. Here, Austin, TX voice teacher Gfire M. shares a few things to consider…
Say you’ve signed up for weekly voice lessons, found a great voice teacher to help you reach your goals, and set aside time to practice singing three to five days a week outside your lessons. Now what? What should your voice teacher be challenging you to do so that you can reach the next rung of vocal prowess? Choosing the right songs to sing is the first step. Read on to learn what that means, as well as some other ideas.
1. Choose songs that force you to work on your high notes.
If one of your long-term goals is to expand your upper range, for example, your teacher should be introducing songs to sing that have one or more trouble spots for you with high notes. Spend extra practice time on those notes to make sure you can use your upper range well.
2. Choose songs that force you to work on your passaggios.
If you’re having trouble with your passaggios (the passageway between your chest voice and your middle voice, and the passageway between your middle voice and your head voice), you should be working on songs that have one or more notes smack dab in the middle of your passaggios. Placing these more difficult notes will give you the confidence to sing any song in your repertoire.
3. Choose songs to sing that include holding a note for an extended period of time.
If you’ve been doing your breathing exercises, take it to the next step. Your teacher should be encouraging you to work on breathing in other ways, too. For example, practice a spot in a song that you’re working on to make sure you can hold the note for exactly the amount of time you want to, not just until you run out of breath.
4. Encourage you to perform in front of at least one person.
Sure, you perform for your voice teacher each week, but the next rung on the singing ladder is to perform for other folks. For example, your teacher may have suggestions for local venues with karaoke or open mics. Or, many teachers host recitals for students. Make sure you perform at the next one.
5. Encourage you to record yourself singing.
A lot of people are afraid of what their voice sounds like on a recording. The only way to get past that fear is to start recording your voice regularly. You’ll know if you’re singing in tune and if you’re putting real feelings into your words. Most importantly, you’ll begin to make friends with your voice and all of its strong and weak points. Every voice has its strengths, and every voice is unique. By recording yourself, you can even begin to create your very own vocal style!
It’s also helpful to make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do with your voice and to show that list to your singing instructor. He or she is there to help you — so knowing your specific goals or aspirations will make that job easier. For example, there may be additional exercises your instructor can teach you that are specific to something you want to work on. These can include new breathing exercises, head voice techniques, developing or straightening vibrato, building power, and loads of other “no-longer-a-beginner” tricks to try. By challenging yourself with these new ideas, you may find that your voice does some amazing things that you would have never thought possible!
Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!
Photo by Ava Randa