and the first step may just be to put yourself in the hands of a competent and sympathetic teacher.Consider that how you sang at 9 has very little to do with how well you can sing as an adult. Perhaps you had trouble matching pitch. Beginning singers often need guidance until they get used to following the melody. (Your teacher probably didn’t have time to work with you one-on-one, so telling you to just mouth the words was the simplest way to get the Christmas program to sound good.)
Once you’ve worked with a voice teacher and you’re singing the tune, your friends will be happy to tell you that you’re improving.
“But I have a ‘bad ear’.” Often this problem fades away as the student learns to better control the voice, so I think it’s sometimes a matter of the voice responding to the mental command, not a problem with the ear.
A few people have specific voice or hearing problems that interfere with being able to sing. These are the only ones I would say “can’t sing”. But if that’s you, you can still enjoy yourself with your favorite CD. The results just may not be ready for prime-time.
How long does it take to learn to sing?
Oh, boy. Complicated question.
First of all, everyone starts at a different point, with different strengths and problems. And each person’s goals are different. If you already do a pretty good James Taylor but need some help with high notes, you may feel happy after a few weeks of lessons. Then you’re ready to sing at open-mike night and that’s all you wanted to do. You could go further if you continued to take lessons, but that’s up to you.
Now, if you’re 15 and want to be an opera singer, it almost doesn’t matter how good you are right now. It will take years and years (and years) to learn all you need to know.
In general I would say that you should count on six months to several years. You can always keep going and get even better.
How often will I have a voice lesson?
Most teachers will have you once a week. That may be an hour or a half hour.
How much do voice lessons cost?
It varies a lot. A half hour lesson with the local voice teacher (who may be very good) might be only ten dollars. An hour with a New York City teacher can be $150 or more.
How do I find a voice teacher?
Start by asking at the music stores. They may have a list or business cards. Ask your school or church choir director. Anyone in music or theater may know someone.
Some teachers ask you to audition for a slot in their studio. If you don’t get in, that’s okay. Maybe you can find a teacher who takes beginners.
How do I know if it’s a good voice teacher?
Word-of-mouth recommendations are helpful. Select a teacher whose name comes up frequently. Recommendations can also give you a feel for the teacher’s approach and preferred style of music.
Once you are with a teacher, stay for a while. Whether you’ve had lessons before or not, this teacher will be different. Maybe that difference is exactly what you need, but you won’t know if you quit after 3 lessons.
On the other hand, there are some teachers out there who are not very good. (There are no certifying organizations for voice teachers.) If your voice is not improving, talk with the teacher to see what he/she has to say about it. Some things just take time. If it’s getting worse, that may be your perception, or it could be a phase you will have to go through in order to eliminate some old habits.
But keep in mind that SINGING SHOULD NEVER HURT. If your teacher can not help you avoid pain, then get out of there.
How do I go about changing voice teachers?
DON’T stop showing up to lessons without an explanation. You might try, “I don’t think this is working out for me,” “These lessons are not what I was expecting,” “I feel frustrated and I’m sure you are, too,” or at least, “I need to take some time off.”
You could also be straight forward: “I want to try another teacher.” This may leave the teacher horrified, especially if he/she has a “Method” that is written on golden tablets passed down from the dawn of opera.
Note: You probably don’t want to mention which other teacher you’re thinking of going to. That only invites trouble.
How can I help myself succeed in my voice studies?
- Be regular and prompt for all your lessons.
- Practice the way the teacher asked you to practice.
- Know your music when you arrive at the lesson.
- Ask questions.
- Try to limit how often you say, “But my old teacher said.…” Another bad one is, “I can’t.”
- Keep a journal of your practice time and write down questions as they occur to you.
- Be sure your teacher knows what your goals are.
- Be willing to try new things.
- Give a new song a fair try, even if you don’t like it at first.
- Know something about the song you are singing, like who composed it and when. If you are doing repertoire in a language unfamiliar to you, do your homework – translations, phonetics, background story, etc..