If you've taken private music lessons before, you're probably aware of the basic elements that are required for progress. Showing up (consistently, on time, and with the necessary materials), frequent practicing, and listening to your teacher are all essential ingredients for success.
But if you're the type to go above and beyond, there are plenty of ways to level-up your voice lesson experience - many of them very simple additions or alterations to an already-healthy practice routine. If you're looking for something that will enhance your lesson experience and take your progress to the next level, then read on!
1. Record your lessons.
Let's face it - a lot goes on in a single voice lesson, and sometimes it's difficult to remember everything. A recording can be a huge help. This will help you easily revisit any new concepts, exercises, or repertoire you covered in your lesson, as well as specific instructions pertaining to technique, phrasing, or interpretation.
Listen to your recording at least once during the week, preferably shortly after your lesson and before your first weekly practice session.
Bonus: online platforms like Zoom make recording really easy! Double bonus: video platforms allow you to see AND hear yourself, allowing you to get a super accurate picture of what went on.
2a. Practice within 24 hours of your lesson.
This is when new concepts will be freshest in your mind. If you wait two or three days to revisit something, it's likely that you'll forget exactly how a new technique felt, or about how your teacher said to approach phrase x in your song. Lock things in as soon as you possibly can.
2b. Practice the day before your next lesson.
A review of everything you've been working on over the course of the week will refresh your mind and voice, and get you in "lesson mode" - that is, ready to work on more new things the
second you enter the studio!
3. Come warmed up to your lesson.
Most teachers at the college level expect this, but I think it's a helpful thing for voice students of all ages to do. Warming up on your own means you and your teacher can hit the ground running as soon as the lesson starts. Instead of spending the first few warm-ups just getting your voice in gear, you can go to work right away on technique.
This might be a little tricky to do if you're new to voice lessons. It takes time to learn how to warm up your voice. If that's the case, ask your teacher what you should do. Or, see tip #1: recording the warm-up part of your lesson, and use the recording to get ready for the next one!
Note: refrain from doing a full practice session right before your lesson, so as not to tire out your voice. Cram-practicing hardly ever works, anyway. If you're following tip #2, though, and spacing the rest of your practicing out over the course of the week, you'll be so prepared that you won't NEED to practice the day of your lesson!
4. Mark your scores liberally.
Whether it's during lessons or practicing, have a pencil on hand to write any and all helpful reminders in your music, whether they be musical, technical, or dramatic. It doesn't matter if you don't know the "official" way to mark something - just write something that will make sense to YOU. (Of course, be neat about your marking and make sure that it doesn't obscure the published notes!)
5. Come to your lesson with a plan.
When you're new to voice lessons, most teachers will give a lot of guidance about what should be covered in each lesson. As you become more experienced, though, many teachers will take the lead from the student, structuring the lesson around their goals. Consider any upcoming performances or auditions you have, and prioritize accordingly. Of course, if your teacher has requested that you work on something specifically, do your best to prepare what he/she has asked.
If there were any questions that came up over the course of the week, write them down so you can remember to address them with your teacher. Or, if there is a specific thing you want to discuss, include that in your lesson plan, too.
This list is just a starting place, of course! There are many other ways to maximize your investment in voice lessons. What are your favorite strategies?