As voice teachers or vocal coaches, we often feel pressure to show our students how much we know, nitpicking a song that already sounds phenomenal so that we can be relevant. Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a time and place for this. No reason a song that already sounds phenomenal can’t sound even more phenomenal, right? But sometimes it’s important for students to have the freedom to just sing through songs in voice lessons without being stopped every 3 seconds. If you’re a voice teacher, don’t be afraid to just let your student sing sometimes. There are plenty of pedagogically sound reasons for this approach. As a student, don’t feel like it’s a waste of your time to go to a voice lesson where you aren’t constantly corrected. Here’s the rationale.
It Fosters Creativity
Some vocal students, especially ones who can accompany themselves, may have plenty of time to be creative at home. But others need a more structured time for creativity. For some students, their voice lesson is where they take the time to explore new things: new opportunities for vocal improv on songs they can already sing easily and new ways to color their tones (breathy, belt, etc.) Since there are so many ways to stylize a song, it’s not always ideal to have a teacher dictate every last vocal decision, and sometimes just running a song multiple times can give you ideas. Not to mention that a vocal coach can be a great sounding board for questions and advice once the song is over.
It Fosters Independence
If you run through a song and miss some of the notes, it may be because you need someone to give you a bunch of advice and help you out. Or it might be because you know you weren’t getting enough air at that one part, already know that, and just need to try it a few times to make it work. I have students who can run a song, know exactly where and why they messed up and ask to go over that part a few more times so they can try different approaches. When they eventually get it, we discuss what it is they did to accomplish their goal, and it ends up sticking with them so they can apply the technique to other songs. Look, I’m not saying that a voice teacher can’t ignite those discussions as well as she helps the student make adjustments, but it’s not a terrible thing to sometimes let the student be the guide when it comes to figuring out corrections.
It Reminds Us Why We Love to Sing
It may feel like the least important reason on this list, but it should probably be hovering around the top. Getting to sing through songs at lessons without stopping and agonizing over every aspect of them reminds us why we love to sing. It’s liberating and cathartic; we can try new things; we can immerse ourselves in the experience. A voice lesson can be a safe, private place to do just that.
Trust me, as a voice teacher and coach, I love helping a student take a song apart. I’m a complete vocal nerd and love getting the chance to share all that knowledge I’ve spent years accumulating with my students. But occasionally, I’m reminded just how important it is to give students a little freedom to direct the course of their lesson–playing with their own improv, jumping from song to song to test how far their voice has come in the last few years, or just enjoying a moment of unhindered singing. After all, isn’t that the point of all this?