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First Singing Lesson - Day 1

January 13, 2023

I'm Abram and today I'm going to talk about what I do in a beginner's very first vocal lesson. A lot of new students don't know what to expect when starting singing lessons. In this video I'm going to describe a general model to get somebody initiated into the practice of singing.


1. Goals, Interests, and Experience

The first thing I always do is get a sense of what any particular student’s goals are with their voice. Sometimes students come for very specific projects. If a student comes completely open and without any specific goals, then we talk about interests and any previous experience with music, including past musical instruments. That way I know if they are coming with any prior knowledge or musical literacy. Don’t worry there is no experience necessary, but it’s just helpful for me to know how I should approach my explanations and what to focus on.

2. Breathing and Support

The next thing we do is take a moment to stretch and get comfortable in the space we are singing in. I roll my head and neck and twist from side to side. We immediately start to talk about breathing and I discuss how we support our sound with air resistance by pushing down and out from our lower abdominal and back muscles and not our throat or chest. We do this hissing exercise and I show how you can use a straw or other tools if desired.

3. Find Resonance

Next, I talk about resonance and what that means. It’s that metallic sounding ring that we hear when we sing with the right amount of open space in our vocal tract, which is just a fancy term for our mouth, sinuses, and pharynx above our voice box. The best way to listen for this is by cycling through different vowels. Each vowel has a sweet spot and a particular ring that comes from having the correct amount of relaxation, space, and support pressure. We talk about the tongue and jaw and how these areas can sometimes block the resonance!

4. Condition the Voice

Now we add power to our voice by supporting our sound with a strong connection to our belly and back. I call this vocal conditioning as we are adding strength and stability into the voice. 

Our consonants help us build up pressure with our breath as long as we use our lower belly and back muscles instead of our jaw, lips, or head and neck.

The hardest thing to do is support an open vowel space and so we practice finding this lower body connection and then flexing out into the vowel.

By explaining and working on these major aspects of the voice and proper healthy technique, I can ultimately get a sense of the particular kinds of tension and imbalances in the singer's voice. This way I can tell them what particular exercises to focus on in order to progress and eventually reach their goals. 

Usually in a first lesson we don’t have time to get to singing songs, but if we do then we would start working on pieces of simple workshoppable songs to test out our new vocal technique!

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