It may seem like an odd thing for the owner of a vocal school to be writing about, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the limitations of singing lessons. Before you grab your iPhone to send a message of resignation to your voice teacher, let me first say that I still think singing lessons are very important, crucial even if you want to make a long-term career out of singing. But I still believe there are things voice lessons can’t prepare you for. Before we go into these limitations, let’s talk about what singing lessons are useful for.
Why You Should Take Singing Lessons
What could be more fun and cathartic than spending an hour of your day having nothing to do but sing. It improves your mood and your mental health. It makes people happy and is one of the major reasons I chose to become a voice teacher.
They Improve Self-Esteem
I’ve seen many shy kids (myself included many years go) come out of their shells by getting to freely sing for a nonjudgmental teacher.
They Teach You Vocal Technique and Keep Your Voice Healthy and In Shape
Sure, you may be able to belt out a song or two as a kid and blow everyone away, but to have a long career, you need to learn control of your voice and avoid unhealthy habits. Voice lessons will help you do just that.
They Help You Interpret Songs
Good voice teachers will help you learn to make songs your own and hone your style.
They Help You Perform a Song
A voice teacher who’s also a great vocal coach will help you learn how to perform a song, pick up some microphone technique, and move around convincingly.
They’ll Improve Your Repertoire
If you’re open to it, voice teachers can improve your repertoire. If you’re a musical theatre lover, they can show you some songs that would be great for your voice that you may not have considered. If you love pop music, they can expose you to some of the artists you may not yet know you’re about to love.
I could go on and on about the benefits of voice lessons, but since that wasn’t my original intention in writing this post, I’ll move onto what I believe to be the limitations.
Limitations of Singing Lessons
Voice Lessons, even great voice lessons, can’t make up for real-life musical experiences. Nothing prepares you for conquering audition fears like going out on audition after audition. Nothing prepares you for performing in front of an audience like performing in front of an audience. Nothing prepares you for singing over a rock band like singing over a rock band. Nothing prepares you for singing in a giant auditorium like singing in a giant auditorium.
Sure, vocal lessons will get you to a certain point. You need them to learn to project your voice over a rock band without hurting your throat. But it’s a whole different experience having to actually get out there and feel what it’s like to sing that powerfully against all those instruments. Doing vocal exercises for 7 years to increase your vocal power and range and then singing with your teacher’s piano or karaoke track will not be a good imitation of this situation.
I believe that the preparation students get for the performance world when they’re children, even if it’s the best money can buy, is flawed. Sign up for the best lessons you can afford, but at a certain point, when your singing is in good shape, supplement the lessons with real-world singing if that’s the world you want to enter.
If you want to get good at recording an album, go record an album. If you’re in the Orange County area, we can help you out at our Orange Rhymes Recording Studio, and if your not, find a qualified recording studio near you.
If you want to get good at musical theatre, don’t just sing Broadway songs with your teacher for 16 years. While you’re improving your repertoire with your teacher, go audition for local musicals. You can find local casting calls in Backstage.
If you want to get good at singing with a rock band, join a rock band. Look on Reverbnation or Craigslist (just make sure to meet in a safe, public location), and find a guitarist and drummer who want a lead singer. You may not be selling out the Greek Theater right away, but you’ll certainly find some local venues who are happy to have you once you’ve rehearsed enough.
My point is not that singing lessons are a waste of time. I wouldn’t have made voice teaching my career if I believed that. I just think that they aren’t the whole story for anyone trying to make it as a singer.