Published on July 8th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession1
How long does it take to learn how to sing? (newsflash: it takes more than a few weeks!)
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to most things I do, I’m not good at waiting for results. When it comes to challenges, I’m the kind of person that says “here goes nothin” and then dives in. That’s my personality. I admit it.
To some, this attitude is exactly what you need to get ahead. But if you really think about it for a second, this approach can really be a curse just as fast as it can be a blessing. You see, jumping right into something without thinking about it can really set you up for failure if you aren’t careful – mainly because you aren’t really preparing yourself for what may lie ahead. As with all challenges, we all know that there are always going to be road blocks – those annoying deterrents that you just want to quickly remove and move on. Thing is, that is not reality and is precisely why I have to stop myself for a bit of reflection about what I’m about to potentially encounter so I can mentally prepare myself and plan accordingly to meet the challenges that I will face in my quest for the finish line.
Perhaps you get the picture of where I’m going with this.
A common denominator with vocal students is the notion that with a “few” voice lessons, they will be able to expand their singing ability immediately and within a few weeks…maybe even a month or two tops, their vocal prowess will be evident to all. I only wish it worked like this. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to explain this, I still get countless moms asking me why their son or daughter hasn’t seen any improvement within the past few weeks. As described earlier, they are jumping into something without being aware of the factors that help to create a great singer and most importantly, being unreasonable about the amount of time and work that it takes to reach this goal. You have to think of it as a journey. It’s ongoing.
So, besides the notion of practicing what is being taught more than just once every week (ok, I had to throw that in there…anyone that is an instructor can relate), it takes a considerable amount of time to learn a skill! Funny when I compare this to an actual instrument, like piano or guitar, for instance. Would you expect to pick up these instruments and excel in them within a few weeks to a month? Sounds incredibly naïve. So how is the voice any different?
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Understand that getting your voice up to speed involves a learning curve that takes some time to master. Just know, that it IS DOABLE! But you will have to put the time into it, to make it so.
In closing, I will outline a few factors that will be necessary in your quest to become a great singer. Although this list could include many, many things, I am including what I feel are some of the most important.
The definition of tenacity or being tenacious, is holding fast by keeping a firm hold. Additionally, it is being persistent, stubborn and obstinate. Basically, this means that you won’t change your course, no matter what gets in your way. If you don’t have this quality, you may as well hang it up. Not trying to be insensitive or cruel, I’m just being real. You have to possess a burning desire to be a great singer, and do what it takes to get there.
2. Realistic expectations and goals
As I mentioned earlier, jumping in head first without any notion of what you are up against, is not wise. Improving your singing involves much more than just merely practicing songs. Having realistic expectations about what is involved and additionally creating effective goals to help reach those expectations is a must. I’m not being a pessimist here. Far from it. I’m just trying to save you a lot of frustration. Ever been in a relationship with someone who set the bar too high? They had expectations that were so unreasonable that no matter what you did, it was never enough? Just as this thinking sabotages relationships, so to will it sabotage your quest to be a great singer. Don’t go there.
3. Is there something there to work with?
Let’s face it. Not everyone is cut out to be a singer. As an instructor, I can teach vocal principles all day long, but if the talent is not there, it’s not going to make a major impact. Be honest with yourself.
4. Get a competent (and compatible) vocal coach
If you are merely going to your vocal lesson to sing-along to songs, then you are wasting your money. This isn’t teaching you anything. You need a vocal teacher that has the knowledge to help you become aware of habits (like singing out of your nose, shallow breathing etc.) and create an overall program that will enable you to excel. You also need someone who is “compatible” – someone you feel comfortable with. No need for personality clashes.
5.Consistency of practice
You have to create a consistent, weekly practice schedule that will enable you to properly work out your voice. Once a week will not cut it. Honestly, you will be amazed on how much better you will get with this simple concept. I know it sounds obvious, but this is a major issue with voice students (just ask any instructor). If you aren’t practicing on a consistent basis, then all the voice lessons in the world won’t help. Learning is not enough. You gotta apply the knowledge!
6. Implement what you learn
Proper breathing, vocal exercises and other practical techniques need to be implemented into “real-life.” Don’t throw everything you learn out the window when you hit the stage and go back to your old ways out of nervousness or comfort. To be a great singer, you need to take what you learn and blend it into your performance.