My singing lessons

So …. what do my lessons consist of? Who comes to my lessons? What repertoire do we work on? Why do so many people love to have singing lessons?

My students have either an hour, three quarters of an hour or half an hour lessons. For my younger students, half an hour is certainly sufficient. As the students develop, then three quaters of an hour to an hour is recommended to be able to have a comprehensive lesson.

I always start with vocal warm ups. I make sure that the voice is stretched sufficiently in both the upper and lower register at every lesson. It is only when the student begins their lesson, however, that I can decide whether the voice needs work on the lower register: to ‘open’ the voice; work on the higher register: to find the head voice; or to concentrate on blending the two voices together in the ‘meat’ of the voice.

With more experienced students, we work to ‘reduce the margin between a good day and a bad day’. As a student myself – and then performing in Festivals and Opera Houses – a good day made me feel that I could sing the title role of Tosca forever!! On a bad day though, I had to rely on the fantastic technique that my singing teacher, Joy Mammen, had given me.

With my younger, or less-experienced students, we work on increasing vocal stretch, ‘proper’ breathing technique and support to ensure healthy singing.

Later on in the lesson, we work on the pupil’s song choices. I have pupils who are singing from the repertoire of classical, jazz, pop and musical theatre. With all of these genres, there are plenty of songs to choose from which suit the teaching of healthy singing techniques. Artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and Leonard Cohen to composers such as Faur√©, Mozart, Schubert and Vaughan Williams, help to shape both the student’s vocal technique and musical knowledge through the studying of their songs.

When starting a new piece, we look at the melody line without the words. Humming the musical line and singing to a vowel sound until confident of the melody first, before turning our attention to the lyrics. The student must be familiar with the sound of the spoken lyrics before starting to sing them. This can take only a few minutes in the students’ native language, but in a foreign language it is important to take as long as is needed to ensure that the student is confident with the feel of the new words and the meaning attached to them.

Only once the melody and the lyrics have been learnt, can we start to study the dynamics, articulation and characterisation of the piece.

I feel that this comprehensive way of working on a new piece helps the student to sing with confidence and, where needed, originality, clarity, simplicity, depth, sincerity, humour, sadness, etc….

I have students of varying ability which I absolutely love. Every student brings to the class strengths which are unique to them. Likewise, every student has areas to work on. By recognising their strengths and tackling their weaknesses constructively and positively, I can see each student growing in confidence. I do believe that accepting our own voice and working to ‘bring it out’ to its fullest potential helps in other areas of life. As, for example, when voicing ideas, worries, passions, grief, delight. Let alone the joy of being able to sing freely, whether in a concert environment or at home in front of the mirror with a hairbrush mic!

Everyone needs confidence and as singing helps our confidence, then it is a priviledge to help grow this vital, life-enhancing attribute to everyone that I teach.