Weekly Teaching Tip – Dec. 12, 2016
by Aimee Geddes
I love hearing good music! I find it so distracting when music is playing because I have to listen to it and I forget what I am supposed to be doing because I start listening to the intricate details in the voice I am hearing.
In the studio, it is our job as teachers to be good listeners. Sometimes, however, we let a student sing a line or two and then stop them and try to fix the problems we heard right off the bat.
I have a few reasons for letting students sing their whole song for you without stopping them, especially on the first lesson they bring it in and sometimes the next two or three.
1. It lets you see the entire picture. Do they make the same mistakes over and over? Is there a mistake earlier in the piece that is leading up to the big crash at the end? Do they have a performance tomorrow and you don’t have time to drill technique, so you need to pick your battles wisely? Does it in fact sound good and is enjoyable with very little to adjust?
Seeing the whole picture helps you be a much better listener and carefully select the proper exercises and area of the song to target.
2. It builds confidence in the student. Think of how exhausting it is on a singer’s self esteem to have the person they look up to most in the vocal world not even take the time to REALLY listen to all they have prepared throughout the week. They want so badly to be heard. Can you not give them 3 1⁄2 minutes to just LISTEN and compliment them when they are done? Of course you will have things to work on, but it makes them feel so good when they get to sing the whole song. They will respect you more and be more willing to do whatever you ask them to because they will trust that you have heard them before speaking.
3. It helps you help them create a complete performance piece. Too often the first verse is awesome and maybe the chorus is awesome too, but they can’t nail the ending because they have never really gotten to work it with you. Or vice versa, the end is great, but the beginning is a mess for the same reason. Even if it is imperfect, they can only fix one or two things at a time. They need to have songs that are not incredibly too hard for them in the first place so that it is more like climbing a hill than a mountain. Eventually they will be able to handle the mountain, but start with hills.
4. It helps you assess their level of ability. Even in students you have worked with for years, do you truly know their ability level? You will have a better understanding of them if you just let them finish their song for you. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn from them.
Now, keep in mind that of course you will stop to work sections of the song and improve technique by breaking down the song into different pieces each lesson. However, I would suggest that after warm ups, you let them sing the song all the way through one time. Of course there will be exceptions to this and only you know your students, but try it. Just try it and see what happens. Compliment them up and down when they do it, even if they crash and burn. You just gained a whole lot of insight about them either way and now you really know how much work lies ahead.