What Can I Help You With Today?

Weekly Teaching Tip – Apr. 13, 2015
by MaryAnnKehler

In a recent teacher training video, I mentioned that I usually begin the first lesson with a new student with the same question:
“If I could help you with one thing in your voice today, what would that be?”  The answers don’t tend to vary much.  Here’s a sample:
– I need to work on breathing
– There is a BIG break in my voice
– My voice is tired a lot of the time
– I used to sing high notes, but can’t do that any more
Mix teachers know that “breathing” is usually not the real issue.  We know that the right mix exercises will eliminate that “big break.”  The tired voice complaint is often from pulling chest too high or singing in a disconnected head voice and we know how to help with that.  The high notes frequently return after a few weeks or months of building healthy technique.
The big question for me has always been, “How can I communicate that to this student, today?”  On the theory that doing it is better than talking about it, my first choice is sometimes a diagnostic scale (5 tone “ah”) and sometimes to ask the student to perform a song that demonstrates the one thing they think most needs to change in their voice.
After that step, I explain to the student what I heard in their voice and why what I heard might differ from what they think the problem is.  Then, we go to work on the problem area. It’s amazing to see the light bulb go on in their head when the singer realizes, for example, that the problem isn’t breathing, as they may have been told by several previous teachers or directors; it is vocal cord adduction and there is a tangible fix that doesn’t involve metaphors or visualizing or exercises that aren’t productive.  Suddenly, the singer realizes that an old problem can be solved and they leave feeling excited and ready to get to work!
I would love to hear suggestions that you find helpful for making a new student’s first lesson so great that they want to keep coming back for more and more and more.  Please feel free to email me at mak@maryannkehler.com or comment on the FB group page after this is posted.
I hope that you are taking advantage of all the excellent education available on the member’s section of the IVTOM website. There are over 220 weekly teaching tips, teacher training videos, mix sample videos, actual lesson recordings, and a study guide in the form of questions for Dean Kaelin’s book, Teaching Good Singing.  https://ivtom.org/#.
For those who aren’t fans of Facebook, I will say that the private IVTOM discussion page on FB is a wonderful resource.  Whether you need advice from a medical professional about whether a singer needs to see an otolaryngologist, an audition song suggestion for an 8-year-old, business advice, or just some friendly camaraderie, you’ll find it there.
Here’s an open offer for any member who isn’t on FB and would like to take advantage of the discussion group: I would be happy to help you set up a FB page that won’t waste your time with posts from a lot people you don’t know or alerts to your smartphone.  (You’ll probably still get some advertising and random posts, but those are easy to ignore.)  Just email me at mak@maryannkehler.com and I’ll help you get started.
Have a great week!


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