Vocal training is like training for a sport

When we go to a voice teacher in hopes of singing better, what are we signing up for? What should the outcome be? If you go to a teacher in order to improve your technique, it might be good to know how to define “technique”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says:

1: the manner in which technical details are treated (as by a writer) or basic physical movements are used (as by a dancer); also : ability to treat such details or use such movements <good piano technique>

Some singers come for a first lesson not knowing what they want. That’s OK. I tell them that working on your singing involves the training of muscles and developing new habits, and that it is very much like training for a sport.

Buying a tennis racket and balls and hitting some volleys with a friend will familiarize you with the feel of the racket and the parameters of the court. Learning how to score a game and keep the ball in the court most of the time will allow you to play matches for fun. But would you enter a tournament with that level of skill, without instruction or coaching of any kind? Think of any physical skill: weightlifting, billiards, running, basketball, gymnastics. Would you think of doing these things for a paying public without any coaching, especially if you hope to compete? Of course not.

If you hope to sing at a high level, and you go to a voice teacher for direction and improvement, do not be surprised if the teacher cannot “fix you” immediately. You may learn about several areas in which you can improve, and it can be daunting. But if you want to learn and grow, you will need to put in the time, patience, and intelligent work necessary, just like boxers, cyclists, dancers, and ball players do. Good instruction can help you get farther faster, but instant transformations are exceedingly rare. It can be a very rewarding process if you can commit to ongoing effort over time, regardless of your current level or the level to which you aspire.

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