A. No, singing and being able to hear notes (pitch) is a matter of training like any other muscles in the body. Some people can hear and find notes easier and faster than others. Everyone’s process is different. Everyone can learn to sing on key.
Q. Can everyone/anyone learn to sing?
A. Yes, everyone and anyone and they can learn to sing well and with confidence. To date, I’ve served clients 4 to 84 years young. The younger the student, I tend to do a short series and then release them with some fun recorded vocal workouts to play with. Often they come back for more lessons later when they’re in grade school and still others return in high school and as young adults simply picking up where we left off. More mature clients in retirement are frequently dealing with hormone and hearing issues. In fact, I had a client who depended greatly on his hearing aids. There were a couple lessons when the batteries died and he had to rely on watching me and feeling in his body where and how the sound vibrated when using his voice – similar to Ludwig Beethoven, after he lost his hearing, pressing his head to his piano to “hear” sound vibration.
Q. What’s the best age to learn how to sing?
A. There are many thoughts on this question. In my years of teaching, since 2000, I have personally found certain windows in a person’s developmental age when things take off and move quickly when it comes to learning a skill such as singing. The first is between 9-11 years of age. By this age an individual is reading at a significant level and most of the time socially engaged and excited about learning and trying new things. The next is 14-16 years. At this point, a person has gotten over certain feelings of awkwardness and are finding their way socially in terms of their natural interests and peers. Often this age group tends to be a little reserved but if they enjoy singing they still look forward to lessons, learning, growing and sometimes even performing. Of course it’s never to late to learn a new skill or start singing for fun as a new hobby, and I’ve helped many clients from young adults to grandparents gain confidence to sing at the next family birthday to performing or even starting their own band.
Q. Can someone be too young or too old to begin voice lessons?
A. Yes, I don’t believe that very small children 5 years of age and younger need to be in regular voice lessons. At this age, a child’s attention span is very short while still developing their reading skills, and music should really be about play and fun and lots of movement. I tend to work with this population for a short time, creating a fun vocal workout for them to play with and then releasing them until they’re a little older. On the opposite end, as we mature and our bodies age, hormones or lack of definitely affect our vocal cords. It takes a little more effort but is still certainly possible to sing our way into retirement and beyond.
Q. Does it take a degree in college, thousands of dollars and years of training to get good enough to sing on a stage in front of an audience?
A. No. Singing is like any other physical activity, sport or learning a new language. It’s about programing and practicing or exercising your mental brain and connecting it to your physical body. Again, it’s about training, your ears, your brain, your body. In fact, when new clients begin voice lessons with me, I let them know it’s a two part formula for success. One is to show up once a week for your 30 minute private lesson with me one on one, and two is to sing along with the custom vocal workout we create in your session each week a minimum of four times before I see you again. Just as important as doing the vocal workouts is also taking vocal rest in between. We can’t workout at the gym seven days a week with no break. Your muscles need recovery time. It’s the same with the voice and vocal cords. My experience with clients has been that significant growth happens at certain times in a new singer’s training. If the student is showing up for private studies, and if they are doing the custom vocal workouts created each week, the brain and body begin to integrate like clockwork right around 6 weeks, generally speaking. Of course everyone’s process is different – some people experience results sooner than six weeks while others may take a bit longer. Most however experience a shift within the first six. This happens again at 12 weeks which is the time I start to have clients visit the group classes where they experience singing on a stage with a microphone and live professional musicians for another 12 weeks. I’ve had clients actually perform in front of an audience within 6 months of vocal training.
Q. Do clients have to perform live?
A. No. Not everyone wants to perform. In fact people come to me for vocal coaching for many other reasons than for singing. Many come to learn more about how to use their voice for speaking or presenting with confidence. Others come for therapeutic reasons such as learning how to relax and breathe from the diaphragm or for a variety of vocal cord therapies. A number of clients have been referred with a hand written prescription from ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialists for vocal coaching and/or voice therapy for their conditions. Still others come to try out a new hobby for the shear joy of having fun!
Q. How does one go about choosing/finding a Vocal Coach that’s right for them?
A. Look for a voice teacher or vocal coach who is trained to teach a specific method or technique that gets results! There are a lot of amazing instructors who are great at teaching a technique or method, and giving you information, but who might actually lack getting on a stage and performing themselves. At the same time, there are others who are incredible performers who are teaching voice without a specific technique, method or background in education. Of course you want to make sure your personalities are a good fit and the coach’s teaching style works for you. Most important…make sure you’re having fun. If you’re not enjoying the process it will defeat why you started taking lessons and could become discouraging to a point that you stop altogether.
Q. What is the difference between vocal coaching for singing versus speaking?
A. The two require very similar skills. Basically anything you use your voice for – whether for singing, speaking or presenting you, your business, a podcast, or an oral report to a class – all require and begin with breath. This is the foundation for my training. We begin by first showing you how to breathe from a relaxed place in your diaphragm versus shallow breathing which only uses your lungs, never moving below your chest. From there I teach how to use your jaw, your lips and how to create certain shapes and vowels that are conducive to proper vocal healthcare so you don’t overuse or strain your voice. Of course singing can include numerous styles and genres ranging from blues and jazz to classic rock, country, musical theatre and opera. Whereas speaking can vary from doing your elevator pitch at a network meeting to teaching or training others in a certain field to doing commercial or studio work or giving a TedX talk. The possibilities are limitless.
Q. Aren’t some people just “born with” musical talent?
A. Some people have been exposed even in utero or have in their very DNA that of ancestors who were musically inclined. This can be passed down to another. However, the percentage is small compared to the number of people who have come to me with zero training and no real exposure. The common denominator to their success was their training. Anyone can learn with the help of a great coach using an effective method that gets results. In addition, with regular practice of custom vocal workouts created for their voice specifically, they can develop the confidence needed in a short amount of time to get on a stage with live professional musicians and share what they’ve learned.
Q. Do I need to bring music I want to work on or will you provide it?
A. If you are interested in regular study then I will provide repertoire specifically chosen to enhance the technical work you are developing in the studio. You’ll want to bring that to each lesson in a folder or 3-ring binder that we will build together for as long as you are a client. If there is something particular you would like to work on, such as for an audition, interview or presentation, you are welcome to bring to your private study sessions. A note about repertoire: Trying out repertoire is not like trying on clothes. Working on the wrong repertoire at the wrong time can not only impede growth, but can even undo it. So while you are free to bring music that you need for an audition/role/solo/ etc., you are discouraged from regularly bringing in music “just to try it out”. Instead, let’s work together to find music that you like that is also beneficial to your growth!