Julian Pozniak Julian Pozniak
Posted December 22nd
Although it seems obvious, students should always keep in mind that voice lessons are just like any other music lesson. Many people seem to forget that when they study voice, they are studying an instrument just like any other and that the study of their instrument entails a development of technique and musicianship. However, unlike piano or violin, what makes studying voice particularly challenging is that the instrument is the human body itself and, unlike any other instrument, it will dramatically change over time. This can make approaching voice lessons with a young student particularly challenging, as certain technical approaches to singing will only become relevant once their instrument is ready. This means that young singers will have to set different goals and expectations with their teacher.
For those in elementary school, most vocal study will be complementary to building an understanding of general musicianship. As students, they will not be prepared to start wrestling with concepts like core engagement and support, singing from ‘the mask,’ or vocal resonators. Instead, their vocal study will be complementary to building an understanding of fundamental musical concepts like rhythm and pitch.
On a practical level, this generally takes the form of singing basic songs, ear training exercises, and physical exercises to develop rhythm such as clapping or moving. In this regard, vocal study is indispensable to training their ear, much more so than other instruments might be.
An additional benefit of vocal study for young learners is the broad maturity that lessons cultivate in young people. The study of any musical instrument requires focus, coordination, and respect, all of which develop faster in students who study a performing art. One example of this is breath management, which is crucial to effective vocal production. Students will often spend a great deal of time in their lessons learning to refine and focus their breath.
As students mature into their middle school years, they will begin to develop the maturity and understanding to start working with elementary vocal technique. This is especially important since middle school is the time when certain developments begin to affect the voice. Most prominently, some male students will notice their voices begin to change as they get older. Although it can be awkward or embarrassing for them, having a teacher who can explain these vocal changes can be helpful.
Another change that students may not notice is that their speech takes on a certain kind of affect, what some teachers refer to as the “mumble years.” For one reason or another, many students, both male and female, begin to speak with their voice placed in the back of their throat. Not only is this unpleasant for many adults to listen to, but it can actually be damaging to the voice. The most effective way of changing this practice is to study the voice and proper technique.
Once students get into high school, they are generally prepared to begin studying technique in earnest. This is more easily accomplished with students who have been exposed to a study of music already, although this shouldn’t dissuade any new students. By this time, students will be prepared to begin working on engaging their core, focusing on their vocal resonators, and refining their breath control. They will also often be ready to begin singing in languages other than English, learning pronunciation and clarity of diction.
One element of vocal study that is indispensable for students of any age, including adults, is performance preparation. This not only includes all of the technical elements discussed so far, but also the maturity and poise required for effective performances. All of the performing arts teach techniques for handling performance anxiety and emphasize presentation skills, all of which are not only applicable in a recital setting but are broadly useful for character development and maturity.
Regardless of when any student may start, vocal study is indispensable for students of any age. Although the nature of voice lessons will be tailored to the capabilities of the student, the techniques that students learn over the course of study are not only cumulative but also applicable beyond the studio or recital hall. Parents looking to find a creative outlet for students through voice lessons will find that the maturity and technical skills yield a more rounded and capable young adult.