In college I showed up for a voice lesson having practiced only 30 minutes that week. Needless to say, I was unprepared, and shaky on my notes and rhythms. My voice teacher gave me a long stare and said softly “it is not my job to teach you your music.”
Disclaimer: this post may come off as a bit rant-y, but hey, we are voice teachers and we have our pet peeves like everyone! These are the things we wish our students knew, and I’m sure the same is for YOUR voice teacher, if you have one!
A voice teacher’s job is not to teach you notes. Rather, the best way to utilize voice lesson time is to focus on vocal technique and musicality in each of your pieces which can only be accomplished if you are confident in your notes. For All State, even if you cannot teach yourself your own notes using a piano/solfege, use the practice track to learn songs on vowels first and eventually sing along with the official track on words.
In that vein, it is also not your voice teacher’s job to remind you of what you have coming up, provide you with materials such as music and writing utensils, or wait for you to arrive or find things. All of this is an immense waste of their time, your money, and quite frankly, is disrespectful. Your voice teacher likely holds multiple degrees in music and has a big studio and hectic schedule to juggle, but they are still there for you, waiting to lay on the knowledge. So if you want the best out of them, you should give your best in lessons.
All of my singers who have ever made All State have consistently taken hour-long lessons, and I highly recommend this for singers who are serious about making the choir. It is an investment financially, but it is the best way to allow maximum time to focus on details and musicality and for technical concepts to become second nature. Below is the way I typically break down time in an hour lesson. Notice that most lessons you can work on at least 2 pieces in depth, and sometimes 3 pieces!
Warm Up (15 minutes)- Vocalizes, Sight-reading as needed
Piece #1 (15-20 minutes)- Stopping/Starting working through hardest sections first
Piece #2 (15-20 minutes)- Stopping/Starting working through hardest sections first
Piece #3 (10 minutes)- chanting practice, singing hardest intervals, practice strategies
Another way to best way to utilize your private lesson time is by … you guessed it, practicing! I recommend at minimum two to three days of practice weekly (60 minutes) to ensure steady improvement. A voice teacher’s job is to help you to continue progressing toward reaching your full potential, and to continue strides you have made on your own. There is no way to reach your full potential if you do not spend any time practicing. With no practice or not enough practice, your voice teacher is likely saying the same things to you, and, in a way, teaching you the same lesson EVERY. WEEK.
See our blog “Practice Makes Progress” HERE for tips on smart and active practicing.
It is also helpful for you to record your lessons and listen back. I myself see a teacher who is a 3 hour drive away, each direction! You can bet I arrive prepared, on time, with all of my materials. And I record my lessons and listen back so that I can master and recall every detail.
To sum up, you will best use voice lesson time if you actively practice in between and arrive prepared so your teacher can bring you to the next level.