3 Elements of a Good Voice Lesson

Caucasian girls singing in music class
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Beginning private piano lessons deal a lot with music theory or teaching someone how to read and understand music. There are several series of books a teacher guides the student through. Voice lessons, however, are different. You may choose to teach certain students to read music, but much of your focus will be on vocal technique and how to achieve a beautiful sound. A good voice lesson with a beginning student includes all of these elements.

Vocal Technique

Even if a student has already warmed up, somewhere in the lesson a vocal exercise should be used in order to solidify whatever concept needs to be taught that day. If a student learns to take a low breath, then standing with arms up and breathing low may be the vocal exercise. If a high note sounds pinched, singing “We-ah” down a five-note arpeggio (C-G-E-C) may come up in the lesson. If you do choose to start off the lesson with vocal warm-ups, choose ones having to do with the concept being taught in the lesson that day. Exercises should not be used just to get the voice going but as a teaching tool.

Solfège or Theory

Teaching students a song by rote is like catching a fish for them. Yes, it is easier than teaching them to read and learn music on their own. But, in the end, they will not be able to do it for themselves. It is important, therefore, to teach a student to read and learn their own music. Luckily, there are several ways. Singers like to sing, so teach them solfège or their do-re-mi’s.

Start by introducing the hand signs and syllables. Then have them sing scales using solfège. Afterward, ask them to buy books to solfège or print free material from online for them, and we work through exercises. Teach from easy to complex. Also, teach basic rhythm by having students clap out each exercise. These concepts take time out of the lesson but are well worth it. In the meantime, encourage them to try and learn songs by listening to a recording first. Piano theory books can supplement their education, so a student can at least read the music and plunk it out on the piano.

Song Repertoire

A huge part of teaching voice is listening and evaluating songs students are working on. Sometimes, you may assign songs to students. Other times, they may pick their own music and bring it in. Whatever route is taken, the songs should be enjoyable for the student to sing and difficult enough to challenge them. If they are attempting to audition for a school of music, several languages should be studied. Some students may want to pick out their own music but continually pick easy songs. If that is the case, you may need to ask them to pick a song meeting certain criteria or present several songs to choose from that will increase their vocal ability.

When evaluating a song, help students apply proper vocal technique. Instead of running through a song over and over again, stop on difficult phrases and drill them like vocal exercises. Assign homework based on passages. For instance, you might ask the student to work on connecting the notes fluidly on the first phrase of the song. Correct any diction, rhythm, or melodic mistakes. When a student sings a song in a language new to them, time should be spent on the words before going over the music.