Friday, January 10, 2014

Developing the Solo Voice: Studio Rules

I often work with students who are new to private lessons, and many of them are nervous because they don’t know what to expect. When I begin with a new student, I take some time to talk about the rules of my studio—both what I expect from the student and what the student can expect from me. I will share these rules with you in hopes that they might encourage you to define the rules for your own teaching.

Rule 1: This studio is a safe environment.
In this studio, you have permission to experiment and try new things. You can make weird sounds and no one will laugh at you. I will never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t also do, and if you want me to demonstrate something first, I will.

Rule 2: I will be honest with you.
My job is to be a trained set of ears and eyes for you and to help you achieve your vocal goals. I will answer your questions honestly, and I will help you choose repertoire that is appropriate for you. I will not ask you to do anything that is dangerous for your voice or your body, and I will help you understand how to care for your voice as well as how to sing with it.

Rule 3: Speak up!
This is your lesson, and we want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of it. If I say something that doesn’t make sense or that contradicts what another teacher has told you, ask for clarification; there are many different ways to reach a goal. If we’re doing something that is uncomfortable for you, let me know. If we’re doing something that you think is great, tell me that, too.

Rule 4: Experiment and be brave!
What better place is there to try new things than in your lesson? It’s just the two of us, and no one else can hear. (And if someone else does hear you, so what?!) A big part of learning to sing is experimentation. You have to experiment until you figure out what feels right for you.

Rule 5: No judgment.
Turn off the voice in your head that says “that sounds bad” or “I can’t sing.” How you think you sound is very different from how you actually sound. You have to trust that I will help you make the best use of your instrument, and sometimes you have to make strange sounds first to figure it out.

Rule 6: Warm up before your lesson.
Our lesson time is precious, and we want to make the most of it. Come to your lesson already warmed up. We will do vocal exercises to build technique, but it will slow us down if we have to warm up your voice, too.

Rule 7: Record your lesson.
Record every lesson—the entire lesson—and listen to it during the week. You’ll be able to hear differences in your singing that you may not have recognized during the lesson. You might also be reminded of a piece of information or an idea that you forgot about after the lesson was done.

Rule 8: Practice regularly.
Your job is to practice outside of the lesson time. A good rule of thumb is to practice each day for the length of your lesson time. (If you have a 30-minute lesson, practice at least 30 minutes each day.) The lesson should be used to check in on what you’ve been working on outside of the studio, not to pick up where we left off last week.

Hopefully this list will give you some new ideas or reinforce what you’re already doing in your own teaching. And if you have any studio rules that you find effective, I hope you’ll respond to this post and share your ideas—I’d love to hear them!

Kate McEwen
Kate McEwen is the manager of the Sales and Service Department at Lorenz. She has a master’s degree in Voice Performance from The University of North Carolina—Greensboro, and a bachelor’s degree in Voice Performance from Wright State University. Kate currently teaches private voice lessons for the Theatre Department and the Musical Theatre/Acting Preparatory Program (MAPP) at Wright State University.

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