• Caitlin McHale

What a singing lesson is like...and why have them?


I’ve had a little break from blogging whilst things have been busy... but I wanted to write today about one of the main parts of my work: singing lessons. This is an idea lots of people can be unsure and nervous about, so I wanted to break down some of the reasons for having them, and exactly what goes on in my lessons to ease the minds of anyone considering it!

My singing training as a child and teenager was something that has massively given me confidence and shaped me into who I am today. Even if you aren't looking to go into performing professionally, there are so many brilliant reasons to have lessons and great things you can get out of them. So, here are some of them...

1. Performance training is a big reason for children and young people to have singing lessons as it is an activity they might try out initially at school, with a performance group or with a private teacher. I have a lot of students who come to me to prepare for auditions to get into performance schools or professional shows, or just to hone their skill and learn tricks of the trade. For some, singing is not their best strength and they may be more comfortable in the dancing or acting side of things, but to get into stage productions they need that triple threat, and so they can come to work on their singing voices to achieve the full package!

2. Budding singers may have dreams of singing professionally, being spotted by a scout or getting onto one of the TV Talent contests! As well as all the vocal skills you'll need to learn for genres like pop, rock and country, there are other massive factors such as performance and stage presence that need to be learnt and practised. You'll also want to build a strong repertoire of songs ready to use for gigs and auditions if this is your motive.

I think that many people believe that this is where the opportunity or reason for singing lessons begins and ends, and that if you don't want to be a singer or a performer, there's no point. This is definitely not the case (at least not with me!)

3. There are many therapeutic elements in a singing lesson, and lots of my clients comment on feeling calmer, happier and as if they've had a physical work out by the time we've finished a session. (During singing, you use many of your muscles and a fair bit of physical effort!) There have been countless studies showing singing releases lots of our happy hormones, and I'm so happy to have even seen some people that feel their lessons helped them through issues like anxiety and bereavement. It’s a great way to set yourself a personal challenge and develop a skill, whilst also giving yourself some 'me time,' and a break from life’s worries and tasks! 

4. Your vocal health is maybe not something in the forefront of your mind on a day to day basis, but if you use your voice a lot in day to day life as, for example, a teacher, customer service role, or a sales person may, it really is important to consider! The training and exercise your vocal muscles undergo in sessions can help you build vocal strength and sustainability in day to day life. You may find yourself struggling less with issues like hoarseness, sore throats and tightness, and difficulty in speaking as clearly or loudly as you'd like to. You’ll learn exactly how to use your voice in a healthy and safe way, so that you don’t do any damage when using it. This is a very valuable tool.

5. It's also important to never forget the skills you have! To be able to sing is such a lovely gift to have and to give in life! You never know when you might want to use that skill, share it with others, or simply keep singing as a hobby and a way of being creative. Gaining confidence through singing can also translate to feeling more prepared and capable when speaking in the workplace, at events, or in social situations.

....So, what happens in one of my singing lessons?

~ We normally have a chat before you come about what you want to achieve from your lessons. I like to know what your aim and motivation is, whether it's one of the reasons above or something different! This way, I can cater lessons to suit you in the best way.

~ We start with a short vocal warm up which I coach you through. These consist of simple scales and vocal exercises. I might also show you a little bit about correcting posture for singing if you feel like you need it to start!

~ I'm very aware that people are often nervous, and this is absolutely fine. Singing can be quite personal, and for some of my students, a completely new challenge. For this reason, I always ask you to choose a song you like and feel comfortable having a go at yourself to sing in the first session. This allows me to hear your voice and gives me a sense of what you enjoy.

~ Then, we dive in and work on the song! I've always got a big book of song suggestions and lyrics from all sorts of genres on hand, so we're never short of ideas if you want to move onto something else. We work on things like vocal technique, (creating the exact sound you want and making sure you're doing it in a healthy way) targeting certain areas you find tricky, working on breathing correctly and in the right places, timing, pitch, your performance, your emotional connection with the song, and so on!

~ I always aim for lessons to provide you with: a bit of fun, confidence, awareness, some knowledge and improvement each time, and an idea of the areas you're great with and where want to work on more.

....I absolutely love meeting new people and anyone who walks through my door is welcome, whatever background you come from or level you're at. I know the feeling of taking the plunge and putting your trust in someone to guide you through, and I massively appreciate all my lovely students for choosing me and letting me work with you. I hope for anyone who is considering lessons or simply feeling curious as to what goes on in them finds this little post helpful!

Caitlin X

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