The “how” of running a lesson

If you know something about the voice and what to do with a student in lessons, your knowledge may fall flat if you don’t also study the “how” of running the lesson. Some things to consider:

How do you greet the student? How much small talk is the right amount? How do you react to such statements as: “I didn’t practice.” “I don’t feel well today.” “I’m having the worst day.” “I’m so excited to be leaving for Spain tomorrow that I can hardly stand it.” What do you do if the student seems upset or depressed?

How do you handle the piano? How might the student respond differently to an exercise if you played softer? Or without the pedal? Do you always play in the same octave as your student? Do you ever just strike a chord, and let them sing their notes without the ding ding ding of the piano on every pitch?

How do you explain each exercise? Do you tell them, do you demonstrate, do you do both? In which octave do you demonstrate? Do you sing fully or with a scaled-back sound? How do you make corrections? How do you re-explain an exercise that the student does not understand?

If a student makes a strange sound, how do you react? Do you grimace? Do you say, “let’s try that again.”? Do you say “How interesting!” Do you have the student try again? Do you ignore it and go on? Any of these could be OK depending on the situation and the rapport with the student.

Two different teachers could theoretically do the same “things” in a lesson as far as exercises and repertoire, but in different manners that would make a difference in the results.

Some examples of “hows” I have changed over the years:

  • I play the piano more quietly and with less pedal (usually none on exercises).
  • I demonstrate almost every exercise, in whatever octave is comfortable for me.
  • I wait a few seconds before stopping an exercise to make corrections. Sometimes the student self-corrects.
  • I use more basic, easy exercises to start with when the student is having a bad day.
  • I talk minimally about my personal life once the lesson has started, and not much more before and after.
  • I vary the exercises and/or their sequence when possible, regardless of their progress. This doesn’t just prevent boredom; it sometimes leads to nice surprises.
  • I think twice about whether to explain the purpose of the exercise before it starts. Sometimes it’s best to do this AFTER.

Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method has been very useful with the “how” as well as the “what” of teaching a lesson. The whole person – body-mind-spirit needs to be taken into consideration. The person we work with changes from lesson to lesson, and so do we teachers! Being as aware of the moment as possible is a fascinating and effective aspect of teaching.

If you enjoy this blog, consider grabbing a copy of Sane Singing: A Guide to Vocal Progress, available in print and ebook!

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