Occasionally a student walks in my studio and asks “are all these lessons really helping me improve? I really don’t think I sound any better than I did when I started taking them six months ago.” This presents a problem for me, the teacher, since students must have some belief in their progress in order to spark future advancement. Just because I, the teacher, am aware of healthy progress, and know that their hard work is continuously improving their singing doesn’t guarantee that they believe this.
If you are working with a singing teacher, or if you are putting serious time and energy into improving your voice without a teacher, consider this:
Improving your range, quality, breath control, vibrato, etc. is an ongoing process which can be compared to physical growth. It’s barely noticeable while it is happening. A boy is 12 years old, small, with a high-pitched voice, lacking many adult physical attributes. Three years later his body has changed in amazing ways, and yet he has pretty much been unaware of the process. He was 12, and now he’s 15. He accepts this without question.
Yet, his “teachers” (parents, teachers, peers and nature) have been influencing the changes in many ways.
Voice improvement with a teacher works in a similar way. The student arrives at the studio needing to improve many aspects of their voice. As they work with the teacher and with daily exercises and songs, improvement occurs…but often not in readily noticeable ways.
So, how does that student receive that important awareness that good changes are happening and they are improving?
1. From recording themselves doing the same song, and comparing it to a recording done, say, a month before. Using that one song as a basis for comparison. Play the two recordings for friends and family for their response. Better yet, play them for a friend who’s musicianship you admire. Get some feedback other than the teacher’s.
2. From singing karaoke with friends and family in the audience. Of course they are going to say you did a great job, but listen “between the lines” and hear how they really feel. You need feedback from people other than just your teacher.
3. Get together with a friend and begin singing at coffee houses and open mic nights.
4. Sing the National Anthem at a local event.
5. If you are already a professional you will be constantly aware of changes. Just listen to your audiences.
Always be aware that improvement is a process which is often unnoticed by you. if you get less than good reviews when you first perform, sing for the same group a month later. Gage your improvement on the response of others, coupled with your own feelings and those of your teacher. Challenge yourself to gain their appreciation as time goes on.
By Al Koehn