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Teaching Private Voice Lessons-Where to begin?

I am a trained pianist who has recently began to sing more to develop my singing voice and choral knowledge. I studied aural skills in college, sing in a local choir and also sang in an opera recently. However, I have never taught anyone voice, simply sang with my children during piano lessons that I have given. I have been approached to teach voice at one of the studios that I work at.....I tentatively agreed. However, aside from warm-ups and testing for vocal range, I am not sure where to go from there......any advice? Please advise me for different age ranges since I never know what age the student might be.
on June 28, 2013 1:07pm
I would not deign to teach piano eventho I have played for 60 years. I have three degrees in voice, I have taught singers in schools of music and high schools since 1970 and my singers have earned around $2 million in financial aid packages from prominent music schools and they have careers in education and performance. I am a vocal teaching professional and I teach voice. You are a piano professional and perhaps you teach piano. You may be able to teach musicality and some very valuable musical things but this is not teaching voice. Please don't just as I would not teach piano. You would be comitting malpractice. 
Applauded by an audience of 9
on June 29, 2013 7:52am
Having had to "unteach" students who have received vocal instruction from non-singers, I echo Stephen Stomps in encouraging you to NOT teach outside of your specialization.  There are numerous misconceptions being promoted by well-meaning "voice teachers" who know how to "sound good" despite faulty technique...... please, please please reconsider.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 29, 2013 8:41am
Teaching good posture is only the first step in teaching vocal technic.  Then comes using appropriate vocalizes to begin to develop the voice.  One must have a thorough understanding of the breath process before trying to teach that process, and before trying to guide students to discover head resonance.  Then there is the aspect of proper pronunciation for the languages, and the articulation that each language calls for.  Without an indepth study of, and personal experience with the above aspects of singing, I would recommend that you not take this offer at this time.  I agree with Stephen Stomps, i.e. I have played the piano for 70 years, but I would certainly not attempt to teach anyone how to play that instrument!  With two degrees in Vocal Performance, DMA in choral conducting, and 58 years of helping students, ages 12 through 75, including 25 years at a University, learn to sing correctly,  I pretty much know whereof I speak!
on June 29, 2013 8:42am
I would disagree with Stephen in at least two areas:
 
1.) If you live in a rural setting and there aren't many people around with advanced music degrees, you may be the best source they have for learning general musicianship. Just be honest about what you are offering.
 
2.) In teaching relatively young, beginning students, I would rather find a person who is a good teacher, someone who can also inspire a lifelong entusiasm for music, than absolutely insist on finding someone who is an expert in their specific field.
 
So you may essentially be a private "general music teacher" who teaches exclusively through singing. You could help expose them to a variety of repertoire and you could teach them general musicianship and music reading concepts. Your best resources for beginning students will probably be elementary general music textbooks, both in terms of repertoire and scope and sequence. I also highly recommend "The Singing Book" by Cynthia Vaughan and Meribeth Dayme. It helps with vocal technique, has cds, and has a great variety of repertoire. You could also take a look at the series by Joan Frey Boytim, published by Hal Leonard: "The First Book of (Soprano or whatever voice type) Solos". This series is more appropriate for high school and maybe advanced middle school.
 
If the students you work with come from a religious background, singing in worship may be their best outlet to sing the things you work on, so you may try to get ahold of a copy of their denomination's hymnal or other worship music materials.
 
Having taught and studied both voice and several instruments myself, I've found voice study to be extremely different from everything else I've taught or studied. There's something unique about the fact that the person's instrument is inside them. Teaching voice requires a unique kind of empathy and teaching style. I wouldn't take on very many students until you're sure you're comfortable with it.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on June 29, 2013 9:42am
Paul, those are wonderfully moderated words.  Polina, there are many people who do some private piano and voice teaching, but usually only if they themselves have studied both somewhat extensively.  And vocal pedagogy for children/youth has some unique aspects also. You may feel like you make initial progress by teaching them the right notes/rhythms and by telling them to open their mouths more and sing out more (both of which need huge qualifications)....but then you will hit a wall of frustration because there is so very much more to vocal technique than that.
 
My best advice: take some private voice yourself for awhile, and perhaps connect with a well respected youth choir director for input/guidance.  You can learn anything you put your mind to and then you can learn how to pass that on to your students in a more confident way...you can grow your own resources and have more to share!  I guess I would also be questioning the standards of a studio that asks you to teach voice when they know you have no formal training in it...just my humble opinion.
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 30, 2013 5:49am
How many voices are there, in particular young voices who have had "instruction" from a "voice" teacher who were taught compression singing instead of first learning and smoothing out their passagio(s) from a COMPLETELY relaxed postion (basic vocal technique), some having had damage done to their voices? This certainly does not mean a pianist cannot serve as an interpretive coach. As an undergrad I had the fortunate experience to have Martin Katz as a "coach" who exposed me to the wonderful world of German Lied though not necessarily teaching me vocal techniqe (that was my voice teacher's job, but German Romantique interpretation. Also how many voice "teachers" are there who have had stellar performing careers who retire from performing and teach (some at the university level) although they have little or no pedagogical skill in teaching voice? What a "can of worms"!  
 
Edwin Foster
NJ Conservatory of Music
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 30, 2013 9:45am
I was a keyboard player who got fascinated by the voice, and now I am a voice teacher.  But I went and got extensive training to do it!  I think that there is a tremendous amount to know about the workings of the voice, and a lot of places where a good musician can mis-step.  I'll give you an example:
 
There are many ways that a child can unhealthily force his or her voice into making an adult sound.  Often this makes the poor kid sound great for a couple of years and then ruins the voice.  The experienced voice teacher can take the long view and train good habits, so that the voice develops in a healthy way, so that the student can sing well over the long term.  But to figure out how to do this, you need good training.
 
My way into the world of voice teaching was through the McClosky Institute of Voice, which I think is a great outfit.  But that's not the point--there are lots of good methods out there, and lots of ways to sing beautifully.  The point is to get training, so that you know what you are doing, and so that you have, not just a "bag of tricks" but a context in which to use them.  
 
If you are determined to start teaching before getting vocal training, I would say to teach MUSICIANSHIP SKILLS, and to remember never to force the voice to do something it doesn't want to do.  (Working to expand the RANGE of a child is often dangerous, especially if you are untrained.)  One other thought: if you are unsure just what it is that voice teachers do, you might begin by looking at Joan Boytim's "The Private Voice Studio Handbook."  
Applauded by an audience of 4
on July 1, 2013 5:14am
Thank you everyone for your words of advice. I have reconsidered and will stick with what I know how to teach. You are all right in that teaching voice is different from teaching any other instrument. I do appreciate all of the suggestions for material that you have given me and will try to use that to teach musicianship skills if I end up a choral music teacher someday since I am a certified K-12 teacher in my state.
on July 2, 2013 8:19am
(I started a reply last Friday, but had to leave this thread due to my schedule.)
I would basically agree with all that is written here - though some posts are a little harsh - vocal technique and pedagogy are quite different from that of other instruments. (My background includes 10 years of piano, some guitar, and some cello, but my major - through Master's Level - is voice, along with training and lab experience in vocal pedagogy.)  In addition to voice, I teach piano and guitar, but I make the students/parents aware of my limitations in those instruments, and if the student begins to show signs of advancing beyond me, I help them research an appropriate teacher.
You say you sang in an opera, but you don't mention having had any voice lessons yourself.  If you have natural talent for singing, you may or may not instinctively know how to express what you do and teach it.  I agree that the studio should not be hiring one who has not studied voice, to teach voice.  I certainly agree that vocal health, for young and old, is a major concern, and technique is a major factor there.
I respect the integrity of your decision, Polina, but perhaps there is more hope in this situation than there appears now.
Will your studio hold off the voice students while you get some private vocal instruction?  (Meanwhile, they could be advancing their musicianship with piano lessons! ) Vocal instruction, including vocal pedagogy,  might prove quite valuable for you – you would likely function as an even-better coach-accompanist, choral singer, and certainly a better choral teacher – at any level.  For many, voice study has proven to be a lifelong joy!
I have found the following combined lesson process both valuable educationally, and marketable:  Be sure to have a timbre-sensitive recording device.  I think Audacity is still a free download.  Some of the newer i-phones, pads, etc. are more timbre-sensitive than earlier devices.  "Old-fashioned" cassette tapes still work fine, if the student has a player.
During a 45-minute lesson, we spend 10  minutes warming up the voice/technique instruction, then 10-15 minutes applying the techniques to their vocal song material.  I use one simple folk or Broadway song - nothing with extreme style or range - and one song of their choice (but I have veto power, if it is vocally detrimental - or we might chance the key to their mid-range.)  All of this - including the warm-up "teach-nique" is recorded onto the device.
While the vocal sound-file file is saving/cd is burning, we spend 15 - 20 minutes with piano instruction.  As I dismiss them, I send the sound file (now saved as mp3) to their computer, or hand them the cd.  Sometimes it can be transferred with thumb/jump drives.   Either way, they have a replica of the lesson for home review, with the "before-and-after" sounds, per your advice.   Slightly-less material is covered, but that is far outweighed by  the confidence and total musicianship gained.  They are soon sight-singing, auditiong for local opportunites, self-accompanying,  and creating their own pieces.  (However, I would not try this without fairly extensive voice/vocal pedagogy training, and a similar background in piano.)
 
Best Wishes,
-Lucy
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