Instead of giving you a synopsis of this episode on Why Singing Lessons Don’t Work, I’m including a transcript. It’s that important. So here it goes!
I’m going to get a little controversial with you and probably step on some toes, and feelings in the process. But hey, maybe I’ll help some people at the same time. And that’s the important part. To me it’s worth a few hurt feelings and squashed toes.
Today, I’m going to tell you why most singing lessons don’t work.
I’m going to start off with a little mental demonstration.
Image if you will. You’ve just boarded a small plane in Miami or somewhere on your way to Barbados for a vacation. You’re about halfway there when the pilot and copilot come walking through the cabin and then jump with the last two parachutes.
Well, obviously somebody’s gotta land the plane. And that somebody is you. But all you have to rely on for training is a video game flight simulator you once played, or movies you’ve watched where a passenger ‘magically’ lands the plane saving everyone on board.
You think ‘Ok. I’ve seen snakes on a plane, how hard can it be right?’
So, without any understanding about taking off, landing, how the controls work, the navigation, gauges, wind speed, surface speed, approach speed, angle of approach, how to put on the brakes etc., basically all the necessary fundamentals on flying, you’re supposed to land this plane safely.
That’d be terrifying. Well, for some it’s just as terrifying to sing on stage in front of a live audience. And that is simply due to poor singing fundamentals or no fundamentals at all.
A LOT of vocal coaches skip the fundamentals. Most of your most popular online singing courses do as well. They go straight to the sexy shiny tips and tricks. Or they skim the top of the important stuff giving you just enough information to be dangerous so to speak, using the airplane example from before.
Or even more disastrous, you take these lessons, think you have it all under control, go out and sing, fail a little bit, if not miserably, and then give up singing for good. For the rest of your life. You decide that you just can’t sing. That you don’t have “it”. And it’s over before it even starts.
They use catch phrases like “Better Vocal Control”, “More Accurate Pitch”, “Improving Tone”, “Improved Power”, “Vocal Agility”.
Ok fine. Let’s take a look at a few of those.
Marketing Catch Phrases
Better Vocal Control – How about vocal control at all? How about knowing exactly what vocal control is? What IS actually doing the ‘controlling’?
More Accurate Pitch – Of course they’re assuming the student can even sing in tune to get more accurate from. Better yet, what IS singing in tune and why is it important to understand what pitch even is?
Improving Tone – How can you improve tone when you don’t even have a knowledge of tone to improve. What is tone? What are the mechanics behind it? How about we learn how to create tone before we try to improve it? Huh?
Vocal Agility – This one is a funny one to me. Ever have a spouse, partner, parent, friend, teacher, anybody chew you out for something? In the middle you usually hear a phrase like ‘and another thing…’ or something like that. Context aside, think about what their voice was doing throughout it all.
Goes something like this.
“I can’t even BELIEVE you would even think about doing something like that! Seriously? What in the world were you thinking? Obviously you weren’t or you wouldn’t have done it in the first place!”
Going up and down, and loud then soft, then jumping high then low. That’s some serious vocal agility there. But it certainly isn’t singing. So how about we teach the student how to sing notes first before bunching them all up and attacking vocal agility?
Tips and Tricks
Now as you know it’s true. I do give several tips and tricks so to speak in my free YouTube videos, FB Posts, and my podcast. But everything I do is to help you start down the road to REALLY learning how to sing and learning the basics. I don’t stop with just tips and tricks. My courses are not about tips and tricks.
Those are shortcuts. Shortcuts to helping you sing one thing in one specific way. You leave all happy with your progress and your new trick. But then what? Are you actually ready for the stage? Are you actually ready to walk into the vocal booth and nail it?
There are no shortcuts that work. You have to know the basics. So, before you take any lessons from a vocal coach, check THEIR understanding of the basics. Otherwise you are learning how to fly from someone who doesn’t have a pilots license.
I’m not saying this because I want you to take vocal lessons from me instead of them. I don’t even give new students vocal lessons. Period. And I will explain in a minute. I will explain why I think it would be ripping them off if I did.
Of course, I’m not saying that ALL vocal coaches, lessons, online courses etc are this way. Just most of them. So how do you pick out the good from the bad?
Well, if you’re looking at using a vocal coach, check their understanding of the subject with some questions. If they can’t answer them, or they hem and haw with their answers, walk away. If they DO answer, ask them if they teach THOSE things as well, and give you exercises for you to learn how to do them yourself.
Here are some questions you should ask.
- First off, do they practice what they preach? Do they perform on a regular basis? Are they in a band? Do they do musical theatre? Are they session singers recording in a studio on a regular basis?
- What does it mean to be a singer?
- What are some of the lies and false information that could kill a singing career before it starts?
- How do they handle stage fright?
- How do they handle breath control when singing? When DO you breathe when singing?
- How does the voice ACTUALLY work? What are the mechanics?
- How do they visualize what they are going to sing before they sing it?
- Do they understand what sound is, what a note is physically made of and how does it relate to the vocal cords and muscle memory?
- Do they have simple step by step exercises to train you how to sing in tune?
- What is the head voice and chest voice and how do they physically work? This is trick question. There’s no such thing as a ‘head voice’ or ‘chest voice’.
- What are the basic mechanics and tools of shaping the sound and manipulating vocal tone and switching or mixing voices?
- What are the actual physical mechanics that makes a pro sound like a pro?
The answers should be very simple and teachable.
They ARE teachable. I know they are. Students who take my courses learn them every day.
Even if they did teach that stuff, can you imagine how many hours it would take to learn all of that?
Why I don’t give lessons to NEW students
And this leads me to why I don’t give lessons to new students anymore. I do give lessons, but not to NEW students. Why?? Simply put, I’d be ripping them off. Just to learn the basics, depending on where you are starting could take anywhere from 10 – 20 – 40 hours of lessons, or more. At professional vocal coach rate of about $75 an hour (on the low end) that’s $750 – $1500 – $3000 JUST TO GET THE BASICS TO BEGIN TO BE A ROCK SOLID SINGER, before even touching advanced techniques. And that’s if you’re a fast student.
My students MUST take my course. Then we have a solid common ground to make tweaks and introduce fine tuning.
Even then I don’t go directly into lessons. I do Feedback and Tweak Videos where the student sends a video after each major Element of Singing demonstrating to me what they’ve learned and are able to apply it. I then send a video back to them – that they can view whenever they want, as many times as they need – giving them feedback and offering tweaks or suggestions or changes needed.
THEN once the student has reached a point where they have mastered all the videos and information – because they have had an UNLIMITED amount of time to review, repeat, and master the exercises – only then will I book an appointment, if it’s even needed at that point.
Because, nothing I teach in my course is just an exercise. I teach tools. I teach tools that can be used over and over again to train with, and learn how to sing…well… whatever you want to learn sing.
These are not tips and tricks that you can only apply for a single purpose. They’re designed to build skills.
Free Online Course
I have a free online course called Vocal Lessons For Beginners that gives you introductory information and exercises you can do right away at www.singingfromscratch.com. But more importantly it gives you an idea of my approach to singing and how to sing. It also gives you an idea of the 6 Elements of Singing and what is covered in my other courses.
So, if you’re actually serious about learning how to sing and are ready and willing to put in the time and practice it takes to become a professional singer, starting from the ground up, then I can help you.
Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism said it best. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”