April 22, 2015 by Tony Lee
Beginning voice lessons for a new student can be a very exciting time, but it can also be a little nerve wracking. Will I like my new teacher? Will my teacher like me? What kind of crazy things am I going to have to do? Oh no, I’m going to have to sing by myself with someone staring at me! It can be an interesting time for the parent as well. Many parents ask me what they can do to make sure that their child is growing as a singer between lessons. One reason is to make sure that they are getting good results from their investment in lessons. Another reason is that they want to see their kids succeeding with their new skill and developing talent.
I would even venture to say that kids that have parents that want to be involved and supportive of their new musical education see more success as musicians. It is true that the teacher’s job is to mold the skill and give them the tools to succeed, but our work is, at most, 2 hours with each student a week. What happens the other 166 hours between lessons is out of our hands. Yes, even voice lessons require practice outside of the studio. Well, let me rephrase that. Yes, voice lessons especially require practice outside of the studio. Today I’m gonna discuss 4 tips for parents of new voice students.
Encourage the loud noises
In voice lessons, we teach our students to be uninhibited, to not worry about being embarrassed, to propel their sound from their gut. Nothing hinders this development quite like, “Hey, little Susie! Can you keep it down? Mommy and Daddy are trying to watch TV!” Taking any musical lessons is a process. It is not an overnight fix. When my students get frustrated in a lesson, I tell them, “It takes work and it takes practice. If you could flip a switch and fix it, then I would be out of a job.” Especially in beginning stages of voice lessons, there will be some squeaking and cracking while practicing. It’s more important to encourage the process and support! In some ways, singing is the most personal of all the instruments. It’s the voice that you’re born with, and in order to develop good vocal technique your child has to feel like they can be as strong as possible in their voice during those vulnerable practice times.
Plan structured time
I have so many kids that come into lessons and say, “I’m sorry Miss Mari, but I didn’t have time to practice this week.” I was, and still am, a voice student. I understand completely. We have so much going on these days between sports, play practice, and doctor appointments; however, the progress of lessons will move faster if the voice is maintained from week to week. It is so helpful to sit down at the beginning of the week and schedule your practice time in exactly the way that you schedule those doctor appointments. And here’s another helpful tip: just as with any habit or lifestyle change, start small. Whether you’re just starting voice lessons or you’ve been taking for years and feel you’re getting into a rut, go back to scheduling one half hour session for that week. The next week, schedule two half hour sessions, and bump it up from there. Any more than an hour a day is just crazy. It’s so important to plan time to reiterate what was discussed in the previous lesson, only helping in making it second nature.
Be productive together!
It helps a student during practice time to see that you are being productive as well. There is nothing worse than knowing that you are practicing while the rest of your family is watching The Voice and eating s’mores! I’ve been there. Use their practice time to do be busy as well. That way, they aren’t missing out on the fun, and they know their practice time is important.
Remember that you don’t have to teach voice lessons at home.
Some of my parents show concern that they won’t be able to help with practice sessions because they don’t understand vocal technique. Don’t worry! That’s what the voice teacher is for. It’s important to listen out during their practice sessions, but the best help that you can be to a voice teacher is just encouraging them to do it themselves. And what a great metaphor for life, right? We all want our kids to grow to be self-sufficient! That’s the reasoning behind a weekly lesson. You know you’ll get a tune-up within the week. Your child’s voice teacher will tell them in the lesson what they need to work on in between meetings, but it will also benefit both of you to know what those learning points are. That way you know what to be listening out for and can give helpful hints if they lose track of what that practice session should look like. At the same time, you’ll become better acquainted with your child’s instrument and how it works just through exposure. You and your child will be learning a new instrument together!
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