CAN EVERYONE LEARN TO SING?
I firmly believe that the answer to this question is YES. And whilst not everyone is made for a professional performance career, every person has all the tools required for singing from birth (certain disabilities aside) – they just need to learn how to use them properly in their desired style. The use of these tools can absolutely be improved and perfected. Some people will learn faster, others slower, but everyone WILL improve. In fact, only one (!) in 20 people with pitching problems is really clinically tone-deaf, and it is highly unlikely that you are one of them – so don’t let this thought ever stop you!
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HAVE SINGING LESSONS?
This of course highly depends on what you want to achieve. Generally speaking: If you learn something new, it is always a good idea to keep intervals between sessions short, so new techniques and routines can be established correctly. This is the reason I usually recommend a period of weekly lessons for complete beginners. Less than fortnightly is not advisable, unless you are already an experienced singer who is just looking to prepare for a special audition, gig/concert etc. In that case, it is perfectly okay to just get supervisory sessions now and then, or to just book an appointment if you feel you cannot deal with a vocal problem on your own.
For every beginning singer however, regular lessons are necessary to ensure progress, and basic commitment is necessary to achieve this.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE UNTIL I CAN HEAR RESULTS?
You will find that improvements are usually immediately audible as soon as you grasp a new concept. It takes longer though for these new techniques to sink in, settle and become second nature. How fast this happens depends on your commitment and how well you work both during your lessons and at home.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO BECOME GOOD ENOUGH TO BE A PROFESSIONAL SINGER?
Apart from obvious considerations such as innate musicality, creativity, the right personality and a certain amount of vocal talent, some people tend to say that it takes roughly 10.000 hours of deliberate practice to master an instrument to a high professional standard. Don’t let this discourage you though: Not everyone wants to be a professional musician, and even the ones who do usually move on to Conservatoire/University at some point, where they will be studying music/voice all day, every day. Therefore, it is safe to say that most professional classical singers have spent between 5 and 10 years on building their voice, and then they move on to continuing professional development and supervision.
These rules don’t necessarily apply to contemporary singing styles, although there are no short-cuts to a good, healthy and sustainable voice either. Generally speaking, I work by the rule “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken” though. Contemporary voice training has a strong emphasis on preserving vocal individuality, working on vocal stamina (constant gigs can be exhausting, and even damaging, if your technique is poor) and producing the sounds you want in a sustainable and healthy way. This sometimes only requires a few sessions – and sometimes, especially if you already have bad habits, longer: The saying goes that it is much harder to break a bad habit than to install a good one, and I completely agree. There are simply no hard and fast rules, and I won’t be able to tell you until I know your voice.
WILL I START TO SOUND CLASSICAL IF I TAKE SINGING LESSONS?
Absolutely not, unless you want to. It is my first and foremost goal to unlock your full vocal potential, no matter what style you are going for. So if you are a budding rock singer, we will work differently as opposed to with someone who wants to sing opera. I want you to overcome vocal limitations, but I don’t want to stamp a certain vocal style on you – this decision is down to you.
I GET FREQUENTLY HOARSE, AND IT FEELS STRENUOUS TO SING, AM I DOING SOMETHING WRONG?
Hoarseness after voice use is always a bad sign. I can show you how to correct these things and how to use your voice properly without damaging it. Please understand however that there are medical conditions that can also lead to prolonged hoarseness, and I am not a health professional. So if I find out that your voice is already damaged, your hoarseness is not exclusively linked to voice use, or lasts for too long, I will suggest you see your GP.
HOW DO I KNOW WHO IS THE RIGHT SINGING TEACHER FOR ME?
It is probably easier to answer who is NOT the right teacher for you: Someone who tries to force their sound idea on you (“Only classical technique is good technique”). Someone who doesn’t answer your questions if you don’t understand something. Someone who can’t fix a problem you have. Someone who judges the material you want to sing. Someone who makes you feel inhibited and uncomfortable. Having said all of this: Sometimes the chemistry between two people just isn’t right. This doesn’t make you a bad student or the teacher a bad teacher. If this happens, never feel reluctant to change teachers – it is actually a normal process.
© Petra Raspel 2011