By Nellie Vinograd
Whether you’re learning online, at school, or attending private lessons, you’ll want to get the most out of your vocal lessons whatever way you can. Vocal lessons can be costly, especially for classical training, so of course you want to get your money’s worth! But even if your lessons are free or affordable, it’s still in your best interest to be as prepared as possible to make your lessons effective and fulfilling. Here are some tips that will make you a better student and will help you appear more professional and competent as a singer.
Bring a pencil
This is a simple trick that will help you stay focused in practice and will make you look good, too. Instructors love seeing their students holding a pencil and taking notes in their music while they go through their lessons. You can circle problem areas, add in breath marks and write in whatever helpful tips and notes you get from your instruction. Whether it’s choir practice or a specialized private lesson, a pencil is your best friend for learning music.
As soon as your lesson starts, you should feel prepared to jump right into whatever your instructor has planned for the day. A vocal lesson will usually include a structured and specific warm-up at the start, but it’s still good form to be a little warmed up even before that. By doing this you can save time in your lesson to spend on other skills. Spend a few minutes before your lesson humming, sighing, softly vocalizing and doing any other easy warm-ups you can think of. Your instructor will appreciate that your voice sounds ready as soon as you start your lesson.
Practice on your own
Your lesson should not be the only time in the week that you’ve gone over your sheet music and sung through your songs. You should be continually returning to your music in between lessons to reaffirm what you went over and to work on memorizing, as well. It can be frustrating to keep going over the same issues or repeating the same suggestion during a vocal lesson, so save yourself the headache and practice during your offtime.
Come prepared with questions
While you practice outside of your lesson, you’ll probably run into some issues or find yourself wondering about things you won’t have the answers to. Write down or keep track of any questions you have: these can be questions about general technique, performance, annunciation, lyric meaning, music theory, or anything else you might run into in the singing process. Have these questions at the ready when you show up for your vocal lessons. This will help you finetune the lesson to meet your exact needs. Vocal instructors are only so good at reading minds, so remember to communicate what your goals and needs are so they can do their best to help.
Research and listen
Along with singing through your music on your offtime, another good routine to prepare for your vocal lessons is to research your music and listen to recordings of the songs you’re singing. Having an in-depth understanding of your song - its context, history, and meaning - will streamline your lesson and give you more to talk about and work on with your instructor. Listening to performances of a song will also give you ideas for how you want to perform the song, and your instructor will be able to help you achieve that sound if they know what you’re aiming for.
Keep a water bottle with you
This might seem overly simple, but it’s important to stay hydrated when you’re singing and to be able to refresh your throat and mouth every so often. It’s also good to have a water bottle at the ready so you don’t need to keep refilling a cup or leaving to drink from the water fountain.