How do singing lessons work?Wednesday, Sep 7 2022
Would you love to sing your favourite songs with confidence and gusto? There really is no reason why you can’t. In today’s blog we’ll walk you through a typical singing lesson with Lea Baker, an expert voice coach and singing teacher from the Raise Your Voice singing school.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens in a professional singing lesson, this blog will answer all your questions. Lea’s lesson structure is typical of voice lessons and something you can expect from any vocal coach and singing teacher who is aligned with the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (ANATS) and other professional associations.
People take singing lessons for all kinds of reasons, and you certainly don’t need to be a professional singer or aspiring AGT superstar to benefit from a few classes. Read our blog to find out how much fun singing lessons can be — and check our detailed list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at the bottom of the blog, they cover just about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about singing lessons.
SINGING LESSONS UNPACKED
Anyone at all can take a learn to sing and lessons with a professional instructor usually last between 30-60 minutes. There are 5-6 stages in a typical lesson which we unpack in the section below.
1. Check-in and Goal Setting
Professional singing lessons always start with an introduction so the teacher can get to know you and find out what you hope to achieve from lessons. You can tell your teacher the music you like, what (and where) you currently sing, and any specific goals you have. Whether you want to join a classical choir or become the lead singer in a funk-groove band, be clear about your goals in the very first lesson.
Regular students will begin their lessons with a 'check-in' in find out how things are going, what you’ve been practicing through the week, and if you are having any problems. A quality teacher will then set some goals for the lesson before you start your warm-ups.
Before you start singing, you’ll need some warm-up exercises to relax and prepare your voice for the lesson. Warming up your voice is just as important for singers as for athletes about to start enter a big race.
You may have seen some cool warm up exercises on your favourite TV show or YouTube — fun activities like sirens, humming, and buzzing your lips. Lea Baker says the warm-up should also include tension release exercises for the body as unhelpful muscle tension often creeps into the shoulders, neck, jaw, and tongue.
When your voice is warm, you’ll notice you have a wider dynamic range and much better control over the notes you sing — plus you’ll minimise the risk of strain and injury to your vocal cords.
3. Observation [first-time students]
After your warm-up, if it’s your very first lesson, the teacher will ask you to sing something you already know. While you are singing, they’ll observe your posture and breathing and get an understanding of how high and low you can sing.
This initial observation will help the teacher structure the lesson (plus future sessions) to best develop your voice and your repertoire. Your teacher will assign specific vocal exercises and may also recommend new songs that better suit your range.
4. Vocal exercises
Vocal exercises are an important part of the lesson, they increase your dynamic range and address problem areas in the voice. Examples of vocal exercises include:
- Major, minor, and pentatonic scales
- Steps and slides
- Ascending and descending runs
- Intervals and Arpeggios
- Long notes
Your teacher will assign the exercises you need so you can sing with freedom and confidence. These vocal exercises really work, and you’ll be amazed at how much longer you can sustain a note or sing something that was previously out of your range.
But for younger children, the teacher won’t use many of these vocal exercises. Lea Baker says that at this stage “it's more about exploring and having fun with musical games — that develop singing skills along the way.”
5. Song practice
Every lesson will include song practice with coaching. If you’re learning a new song your teacher will guide you through the timing, rhythms, and diction so your version of the song sounds authentic and emotive.
When you’re practicing established repertoire your teacher can alert you to:
- Notes that are off pitch
- Areas where your breath is noisy or you’re running out of air
- Lyrics that need better enunciation and delivery
At the end of the lesson, a quality singing teacher will do a recap with you to uncover the most valuable parts of the lesson and what you can incorporate into your home practice. It's important to follow the practice schedule developed by your teacher, including the vocal warm-ups before each session.
Over time you will develop a strong relationship with your singing teacher - where you’re both working together to improve your voice, learn new songs, and even establish a professional singing career.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about singing lessons
CONFIDENCE AND CONTEMPLATION
Who can take singing lessons?
Anyone can learn to sing: children, adults, senior citizens — anyone. You don’t need to be a professional singer or aspiring superstar; people take singing lessons for lots of different reasons. You could be a:
- Songwriter: wanting the skills and confidence to perform your own work
- Choir member: wanting to improve your harmonies and learn group singing skills
- Stage actor: wanting to perform showtunes and project your vocals while on stage
- Parent: wanting to support a child who adores singing
- Experienced singer: wanting regular coaching to maintain your vocal range, flexibility, and confidence
- Amateur singer: wanting to audition for The Voice or AGT
- Shower singer: wanting to learn a special song to surprise the guests at a wedding, party, or special occasion
Whatever your reason for taking classes, working with a qualified singing teacher will quickly improve your voice and help you realise your dreams.
I can’t sing, can anything be done?
There is a popular saying among singing teachers and voice coaches — if you can talk, you can sing. So do not lose heart. A professional singing teacher will help you develop your voice by teaching you how to control your breath and sing in tune.
PRO-TIP: Well singing is just talking with longer sounds and fewer breaths. So, in theory everyone who can talk can also sing. But there's more to it than that, obviously! In speaking we don't have to be concerned with pitch and rhythm like we do in singing and there lies much of the challenge for those who find singing challenging. The ability to match pitch is vital for singing well. The good news is with lots of patience and practice, all these skills can be developed. Lea Baker, Vocal Coach and Singing Teacher, Raise Your Voice.
I like singing but I have terrible anxiety and stage fright. Can singing lessons help?
Absolutely. Stage fright is very common for even the world’s most famous singers and your teacher will help you prepare yourself mentally and physically for live performance.
CHOOSING A SINGING TEACHER
What qualifications should a singing teacher have?
Your singing teacher should be an accomplished singer and hold a nationally recognised music qualification such as the:
- Diploma of Music (Music Tuition)
- Advanced Diploma of Music
- Bachelor of Music (Music Education)
- Bachelor of Music (Performance/Voice)
- Master of Fine Arts (Voice)
Many singing teachers who have formal qualifications in music performance and voice studies also have teaching qualifications. Examples include:
- Certificate III in School Based Education Support
- Certificate IV in School Based Education Support
- Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
- Bachelor of Education (Primary)
- Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
Are there other certifications a singing teacher should hold?
If you’re organising singing lessons for your child, make sure their teacher has an up-to-date Working With Children Check (WWCC). At the same time, reputable singing teachers won’t mind providing a National Police Check and evidence of infection control training.
Many singing teachers and vocal coaches are members of the Australian Society for Music Education and the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (ANATS). These organisations have strict protocols for membership including minimum qualifications, a code of conduct, and professional performance standards.
DECIDING ON LESSON FORMAT
How long are singing lessons?
Singings lessons are generally 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 60 minutes. Beginners and children usually start with 30-minute lessons, but more experienced students will require longer sessions of 45-60 minutes.
What type of songs will I be learning?
This really depends on your own preferences and the interests of the teacher. Most beginner’s will start with an easy-tempo ballad that suits your vocal range, but once you get going you could pursue classical voice, opera, showtunes, jazz and blues, folk, country, contemporary, rock, pop — or a mix of everything. It’s always your choice.
What else will I learn?
Voice and singing lessons also include skills and techniques for reading sheet music, understanding timing and rhythms, performance skills and microphone work, overcoming stage anxiety, breath work, pitching and harmonisation.
A high-quality teacher will be interested in your personal interests and goals. Whether you’re a complete beginner, singer/songwriter, professional vocalist, stage actor, or just someone who wants to serenade their beloved with a beautiful song, your vocal teacher will help you identify and meet your singing goals.
Do I need to do singing exams and live performance appraisals?
Again, that’s totally up to you. If you love theatre music or have a keen interest in a teaching career you could enrol in the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) singing curriculum. ABRSM students work through 8 levels of vocal training, and must pass exams (including unaccompanied song, sight-singing, and aural tests) before progressing to the next level. Just ask your singing teacher if they are an ABRSM accredited teacher.
How about online singing lessons? Do online singing lessons work?
Online lessons became popular during the COVID19 pandemic. Because of the lockdowns that separated students from teachers, the available technologies greatly improved and online singing lessons became far more effective.
Online singing lessons are perfect if you have a busy schedule or live a long way from the teacher — you don’t have to worry about parking or amusing yourself while the kids are in singing class. Even better you’ll never miss a lesson if someone in the family is sick, or the weather is rubbish.
PRO TIP: Let's face it, face-to-face voice lessons are best for sure, but if the technology and room (don’t forget lighting) is set up well, online lessons can be very effective. Lea Baker, Vocal Coach and Singing Teacher, Raise Your Voice.
How many singing lessons will I need each week?
Most people are fine with just one lesson per week. If you are progressing through the ABRSM voice curriculum you may need extra lessons before an exam or when learning new pieces for grading. Singers who are preparing for an audition or important performance will definitely benefit from extra voice tuition.
Many experienced singers take one face-to-face class each week with their singing teacher, plus extra online classes when they are tackling new pieces or need quick feedback.
GETTING SET UP
How do I setup for online singing lessons?
Online singing lessons require a stable internet connection and a device with a good webcam, microphone, and speakers. Desktop and laptop computers are best because the screen is larger, and you won’t have problems seeing your teacher.
Lea Baker from Raise your Voice advises that clear sound and good lighting are critical to the success of the lesson. The room needs to be setup so the student and teacher can clearly each other, especially the student’s posture.
You’ll also need a reliable video conferencing tool like Zoom. Lea says that “Zoom has audio settings that can be adjusted to make online singing lessons much better. Google Meet and Musicology are apps that also work well.”
SINGING LESSONS FOR CHILDREN
When should a child start singing lessons?
Most children are ready for singing lessons around 7-9 years old, but every child is different. If your child is much younger and has a particular aptitude for music (and totally loves singing) reach out to your local singing teacher for advice. Singing teachers are trained professionals who will be up-front about the readiness of your child.
How do I know if my young child is ready for vocal lessons?
If your pre-schooler or kindergarten-aged child is motivated to sing, consider each of these questions. Can your child:
- Follow instructions and guidance from a non-family member?
- Count to 10?
- Follow clapping rhythms?
- Focus on singing and instruction for 20-30 minutes?
Also check your child’s attention span and their overall interest in music. It is important to remember that even if your child is exceptionally gifted, they will still need a break and time to play after about 10 minutes of singing lessons.
As a parent, how can I support my child who is taking singing lessons?
The best thing parents can do is encourage your kids to sing for pure enjoyment. The more members of the household that sing freely without embarrassment, the better.
PRO-TIP: find ways to get the kids singing that are fun and playful. You don’t want singing to become a chore! You could try mini competitions with siblings, parents, and friends to see who can sing a note for the longest time. Or clapping out rhythms -- with the kids leading the way and adults repeating back what they hear. Lea Baker, Vocal Coach and Singing Teacher, Raise Your Voice.
Do I need to attend singing lessons with my child?
It’s great to be involved in your child’s singing but you don’t need to sit-in on lessons. Ideally, come by 5 minutes before the end of the session to get an update on your child’s progress and find out what they need to practice.
Any other tips for parents?
The best way to support your child’s singing journey is to ensure singing remains lots of fun. Encourage your child as much as possible and try not to correct their singing technique. It’s always best to leave corrections to the singing teacher.
Be consistent with lessons and help your child build practice times into their daily routine. And most of all, play lots of music around the house with plenty of family sing-a-longs. A musical house is incredibly joyful.