I'm often asked the same (or similar) questions again and again by those considering voice lessons, current voice students, and their parents. Do I really need to study voice with a teacher; can't I do it on my own? At what age should my child start lessons? How many lessons do I need? Can you help me sound like a specific singer? Why can't I sing this song? And many, many more. This is the second post in this series and it is for those who are considering voice lessons.
Do I really need to study voice with a teacher? Can't I do it on my own?
Of course you can study any instrument (including voice) on your own, but the benefits of studying with a good teacher are numerous. In the case of voice, it can be easy to fall into bad habits that can lead to major issues like vocal nodes. You need an expert's ear in order to help you get the most out of your voice, to make the best possible art, and to make sure your voice stays injury free. A voice teacher will also help you find new songs, try out new ideas and develop performance skills that will make you a better singer. Because there are so many things to keep track of while singing (including breath, posture, resonance, diction, interpretation and all the things that go into them), even professional singers check in with a trusted teacher to make sure they stay on track. If you just want to sing in the shower, you probably don't need a voice teacher. However, most people thinking about taking lessons will benefit from them. If you want to improve your singing for a choir, if you want to sing karaoke weekly, if you want to sing solos at church, if you want to sing in community theater you will benefit from lessons. If your goals include professional or semi-professional singing of any style, lessons are a necessity.
How many lessons do I need?
Singing isn't the sort of task that you can take a 6 month class on and then know everything there is to know about it. Even with a doctorate in voice performance I learn new things about my voice every day. For that reason, lessons are open ended.
Sometimes students have a specific goal. For example, they want to learn a role for a musical, or improve an aspect of their singing so that it is more comfortable to sing a high note in their choir. These goals can often be met in several months. Rather than thinking of building a voice for the long-term, this is a coaching session where the student can sometimes learn some long-term skills, but the focus is on a specific short-term goal. Short-term goals are important (even for long-term students), but when the next role comes along or the next technical issue comes up, these students often don't have the skills to meet the new challenges. As a teacher, of course I would encourage students to aim for a lifetime of lessons, but I find that coaching to meet short-term goals can also give students a taste of what they might be capable of in a more open-ended lesson environment.