Frequently Asked Questions & My Philosophy
What are the classes like?
Voice Lesson classes are for someone who "just wants to be able to sing better" whether it be at karaoke, or with their guitar at a family gathering, or to have stamina singing in a local theater group or in a band, or just wants to learn how "not to hurt." Maybe it's dealing with stage fright. I had one student who just wanted to not be embarrassed singing happy birthday at parties. And on the other end, I've had students who are making recordings and touring as professionals.
Performance classes like the Singing with Guitar, Singing with a Live Rock Band, and the Musical Theatre classes, end with a showcase at a local venue in either Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sonoma, or Santa Rosa in front of a supportive audience of former students and friends: A perfect outlet for the non-professional who loves the stage! I encourage duets, group songs, and solo songs (need backup singers?) Let's get the whole class involved! All boats rise with the tide.
Can anyone learn to sing?
Like any art form, for example: drawing, writing, and dancing, some people might show some inclination, but they all will go on to be "taught" by someone. So realistically, no one is "born with it." The same with singing. If that wasn't true then every 4 year old would sound like a pro, but kids pretty much all sound the same, ever notice that? So yes, it can be taught to anyone. I have experienced it. I had a student so "tone deaf" that he couldn't tell if one pitch was higher than another and could not match any pitches. Now, he has a very trained ear, he can figure out how to play a jazz song on guitar just by listening to it. And jazz chords are not so easy. So yes, anyone can learn to match pitches. AND let's not stop there...I can teach you how to have style and power, not just to be able to sing, but to be able to sing well and with ease. Imagine how spiritually fulfilling it would be to feel confident, connected to your soul, and have wonderful singing skills. I won't just tell you to do it, I'll teach you how it works, and how you can allow your voice to be freed.
Many people have had negative experiences in the past, especially when it comes to their voices or self expression. I personally know how that feels. We may have been told at some point to "be quiet" "use your inside voice" "shut your mouth." And those aren't even about singing but they do effect our singing voices. We hesitate to be "loud." We sing "politely" with our jaws tight and our mouths closed. We are afraid to be expressive with our bodies because someone might think we're "full of ourselves" or we're being too dramatic or we might look stupid. We suck in our gut or slouch to be socially acceptable which impedes our airflow. So we force sound out and wonder why it hurts to sing. We are afraid to share, afraid to be less than perfect. Maybe we only sing when no one is listening.
Singing is a natural human sound and is part of being human. Just like cats meow and dogs bark, humans are meant to sing. Even people who say they don't sing, they do sing. It may be alone in their car with the radio on, or in the shower. But we ALL sing. So let's get together and improve your sound so you feel comfortable letting it be heard!
What's the difference between a Voice Technician and a Vocal Coach and which do I need?
Voice lessons can focus on vocal technique, how to use your instrument: to increase range, build strength, blend registers, ear training, breathing, and any other technical skill you may need to improve. Vocal coaching is more about how to make a song performance ready. The focus is on stage presence, dynamics, interpretation, staging, and costuming or attire. In a lesson, you can decide which you would like to focus on as I am Technician and a Coach. It is suggested to do some of both even if the focus is primarily on one.
What do I need to prepare for my first lesson?
If it is a private lesson, come with a song you already know. I am not a pianist, so no need to bring sheet music unless that helps you. You can sing without music, or with a karaoke version, or if you play guitar or uke. I just don't want you singing with a recording artist. It has to be your voice only. I will begin with a brief discussion about any prior vocal training you may have had (if any,) your vocal goals, and any additional questions. If you haven't taken one of my classes, I may start with some vocal anatomy and terminology. I'll create some Vocal Isolation Exercises just for your voice to help break any bad habits that are keeping you from the ease of singing and at the same time infusing new healthy habits. Then we will apply these new techniques to a song. You are welcome to bring any material that you’ve been already working on, or that you would like to start working on. The lesson depends entirely on the goals and needs of the student.
If you like singing with others, I highly recommend you attend one of my classes in addition to private lessons. It helps to sing in front of others and to learn by watching. The support that happens in the class is a positive experience. I also give a discount to currently enrolled student for their private lessons. To prepare for the classes, it is basically the same as for a private lesson. Bring a song and lots of questions. I send out a questionnaire for you to fill out and will also send out a welcome email with more information.
Are you going to be critical? Will you get angry if I do something wrong?
Feedback needs to be constructive. I’ve seen too many lessons where the student has ended up in tears because the teacher has given direct negative critique going straight to all the things that are not working under the guise of being “productive.” On the other hand, I've seen teachers "overly praise" to the point where the student didn't improve. So what will you get from me? Good, constructive feedback. A combination of positive reinforcement and practical, specific, achievable instructions to change something. I will be kind, authentic and truthful.
I had one student in a class say to me recently, "And you never once raised your voice at us." Well, the only voices I want to "raise" are yours! All boats rise the the tide! I create a safe environment for singers to take risks, to make mistakes, and to explore their voices. I am encouraging and playful, but will be honest and authentic as well. I will honor your voice and listen to your concerns. I promise to help you correct any issues with a clear and simple way to help you. And I will celebrate your successes! I get great joy when my students succeed. A part of me succeeds with you!
How often should I take lessons? How many lessons do I need?
Everyone has different progress rates. It depends on how you practice between lessons, and your focus during lessons. Every lesson will teach you something new, but how fast you progress is really up to you. I would suggest at least 12 lessons to get a strong foundation to build on. And once a week is preferable, but some people start with twice a month. Like I said, it is up to you how devoted you are to learning and also depends on your budget. That's why I created the small classes. If you are a beginner, the classes, rather than private lessons, are an economical way to solidify the basics. And they are fun!
If you have stage fright issues, the classes are a must. We do silly, but powerful "games" in groups that need more than two people. Everyone in the classes are very supportive.
Like any skill, especially an athletic skill, you have to be consistent and it is a life long continuous journey. You don't go to the gym for six sessions and then say "well I'm in shape now so I'll quit." There is no perfect singer and we all need a voice technician to keep us in shape. Yes, we can self-assess to some degree, but we can't truly hear ourselves in the same way other's can hear us. That is why singing is a gift you give.
In fact, I myself have a singing coach who lives in England and she coaches me once every week via Skype lessons at 1 am (9 am her time.) I will always have more to learn, and more to share, and since we can't really hear our own voices, I will always benefit from the wisdom of someone else's ears.
My philosophy: There is no try, there is only do. My favorite scene from Star Wars says it all.
A story I want to share with you
I was so touched by the gracious praise given to me by one of my students, Eki Shola. A local venue was hosting the winners of a world wide music competition. Eki placed in the top 5 out of over 5000 entries and was asked to perform. I was thrilled to be able to attend and support her.
Right before her final song, she told the crowd that there was someone in the audience she wanted to give a special thanks to. I assumed it was her husband or her mother, but no, it was me. She told the whole audience how she once had a career as a medical doctor but after taking lessons with me, she is now doing music full time. She said, "This woman changed my life." I felt humbled and blessed.