“How long will it take until I get better?”
This is one of the most common questions I get from new students. It’s a pretty tough question to answer, because every singer learns differently. More importantly, I think that improvement – getting better – is not a finite goal, but a continuous practice.
No matter how advanced a singer is in their technique, consistent vocal training is needed to help the singer prevent bad habits, which are really easy to acquire. It’s also important to help a singer adjust to changes in their body, as well as cope with day to day fluctuations brought about by any number of external factors. Aging, stress, illness, fatigue and diet all have a role to play in how our voices work, and there are always good and bad days. Some singers get discouraged because of these fluctuations, but a skilled singer isn’t necessarily one whose voice works and feels the same way everyday. Life happens. I simply don’t think there’s a way we can control our bodies to that degree. I think a skilled singer is one who can work with their voice in just about any state – whether ideal or not – and achieve the desired musical results as much as is physically possible.
So how does a singer get to be that skilled? Below are some factors that I’ve found to play a role in improvement:
Instruction. A good singing teacher should be able to listen to a student’s voice and identify what needs to be improved, as well as how to improve it. Every voice lesson should have an identifiable and realistic goal for the student, and the teacher should be able to use vocal exercises and communication to help the student achieve this goal. At the end of every voice lesson, the student should be aware of what their lesson goal was, and whether or not they were able to achieve it. Without this understanding, it would be difficult for them to know what area of their singing needs improvement.
Pace. Every person has a different learning pace, and I’ve found that it’s important for the teacher and the student to be aware of this. Trying to learn too much too soon will only create frustration and disappointment. On the other hand, if a student isn’t challenged enough in their lessons, they feel stagnant and bored. There is always room for improvement in singing. It’s important to find the next level, and to approach it at the right pace.
Consistency. Just like everything else, practice makes perfect. In my experience, improvement in singing is 40% talent, 60% discipline. I’ve witnessed amazingly gifted voices get ruined and bogged down by bad singing habits because the singer didn’t have the discipline to practice. I’ve also witnessed beginner singers transform their voices completely.
I’m sure there are a lot of other factors that contribute to a singer’s improvement, but these are some of the most important. At the end of the day, every singer should understand that there is always room for improvement. That’s why I always say that improvement is not just an end goal; it’s a practice.