Progressing Students

Weekly Teaching Tip March 28, 2011

You would think that getting better at singing would be a gradual process where you get a little better, then a little better, then finally you hit a point where you are “good”. But I have found that progress in singing tends to come in big “jumps” or “moments of discovery”. Usually the student has a HUGE jump on their first lesson. They feel and experience things they have never felt before. They are very excited and motivated. They think this will happen every week. What they don’t realize is that the body and muscle memory need time to process these new feelings and get comfortable with them before they are ready for the next big jump. They need time, anywhere from a week to several weeks, or even a few months for this new feeling to “sink in”. Only when it has sunk in are they ready for the next big jump. Often they become discouraged after a few weeks feeling that they are not getting anywhere because they are not feeling  the big jump they felt at this first lesson. It is VERY IMPORTANT that the student push through these times when they are discouraged and feel they aren’t improving. They need to know another big jump will follow soon. The good news is that the next big jump tends to come right after they feel they are not getting anywhere and ought to give up. Once they push through these discouraging times their body and brain have become fully comfortable with the latest new feeling and they will then be ready for the next jump in progress.

A favorite quote of mine is, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that your ‘power to do’ has increased.”

If your students are aware of this process they will be less frustrated and realize that the body needs time to fully accept the latest ‘new feeling’ so that they will be ready for the next one. I frequently remind students, “First it gets smooth, then easy, then strong. Then the process starts over again with each new step.”

Keep Singing!

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  1. I shared this teaching tip with my students. They were so grateful to be reassured that their progress was on track and that learning new coordination takes time. I have one female student, a local actress, who had been taking for about two months and was experiencing exactly what you describe. She was thrilled with the big jumps forward of the first few lessons, but near the end of the second month, felt like she was stuck. This post was a great help to her to stay encouraged and motivated. She has since made other big jumps forward and is more patient and willing to work through the plateaus. Thanks Dean!

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