Often people ask me about one of my students,
“Will she be the next Idol or Star or talent show contestant?”
Actually singing is not really about winning competitions, nor is it about being rich and famous. Singing is about making music and you do not need to be rich or famous to make music and sing. When we sing we can do many things. We can express our feelings. We can share our music with family, friends and fans. We can create beautiful sounds, amazingly patterned sounds in harmony. We can worship, love and rage. We can protest and celebrate. We can witness and record. All the range of human activities are possible in making song. Teachers know that in music we have mathematics, science, social culture, literacy and numeracy. So singing is for everyone. And it is about everyone.
Watch Stevie Wonder in 1973.
Wonder, the consummate music professional, has taken Singing Tuition throughout his life.
In the time I have taught singing, I have seen many students perform music in a wide variety of contexts. Some sing at home and enjoy making music just for fun. Just studying music and learning about it and how it works. There is nothing wrong with just singing for the fun of singing. So a singer may just learn for the experience of learning. I have also taught professionals, like for example, D… who sang in musical theatre. He loved to perform selected roles in certain productions and would tour the world auditioning and performing in those roles wherever he could. Other people singing in worship groups at the local church, secondary school students in their school productions and school bands. Other singers have come for lessons because they like to sing with backing tracks, karaoke-style in bars, and in peoples' homes. There are so many ways to sing and so many places. In my time of school-teaching I often see students who just sing all day! In between class time, at lunchtimes, people just sing because it feels good and it is relaxing and healthy. Medical people say that there are so many health benefits to singing. They point to good breathing practice, good posture and stance, and increased cardiovascular coordination. Psychologists also talk about catharsis, and the positive benefits of self-expression.
So where does a teacher fit in with this and why do people go to singing lessons?
In music you can only do so much on your own. Music can sometimes be just a personal thing where a person just sings quietly, humming during homework or driving. At a certain point though we decide we want to share our music with others. And that is where a good teacher can help. As we learn to sing we discover the strengths and limitations of the voice, we start to notice things about range about high notes and low notes, about fatigue and tone, and the stress of performing, and how you cannot do everything on your own. With a good teacher you can share your musical journey with someone who has traveled the road before. There are techniques, tips and tricks; things that a teacher can show you about the art and practice of singing. At a foundation level they may be about the physical nature of singing – how to breathe, how to stand, and how to position the larynx. There are also musical techniques, controlling, rhythm, melody and harmony. Singing intervals, improvising and creating, songwriting and the development of musical perception and taste. There is also the knowledge of style, history and tradition. There are other practical skills, just how to use a microphone, stagecraft, and how to perform at concerts. All these things are experiences we can share with a teacher.
People sometimes see a teacher as being in the centre of the learning process. Is that a good approach to learning?
In the time I have been teaching, I have learnt that the best approach is when the student is in the centre of the process with a teacher acting as a support person and guide. Each person is special and has his or her own special relationship with singing and no two people have exactly the same needs at the same time. Individuals sometimes have learning blocks, where for one reason or another the learning process stops. Often that can happen for some simple reason; a singer who has not, for example, developed good breath control may find she runs out of air in long phrases, and does not know how to fix it. Another singer, for example, may want to improve her singing in jazz style, but neglecting to spend time just exploring and creating music spontaneously. In both cases, it is the role of the teacher to help the singer to breathe more effectively, or learn techniques for improvisation. A sensitive teacher would prompt the student to make the necessary changes to achieve her goal. So it is not like the teacher is an all-seeing dictator, creating clones of himself [or herself] but somebody who can put the singer in touch with the power of music and let the music happen.
So what happens next?
Call and enrol, book a regular time that works for you and make time to prepare, practise and perform.
New Zealand 0273089796
LTCL BMus BA MMus (Honours) Diploma Teaching
What is your experience of learning to sing and who was there to help you? Leave a comment.