Whether your goal for teaching voice lessons is to have a full-time voice studio or to teach lessons to supplement your performance career, you need to start somewhere. Perhaps there is no experience as exhilarating yet daunting as teaching your very first lesson to a brand new student.
Teaching your first voice lesson doesn’t have to be stressful though. After all, you’re equipped with lots of great knowledge about the voice. The trick to the first voice lesson is how to jump in without overwhelming yourself or your student. To help you out, I’d like to outline the process I go through with new students. Plus, there’ll be some bonus worksheets at the end!
For the purpose of this post, I’m skipping over how to get your first student and jumping into the lesson itself. Furthermore, how you run your first lesson will depend a bit upon the length of the lesson. Obviously, you’ll have more time to cover with an hour lesson than a ½ hour one. Either way, I’ll cover the various steps I take in new voice lessons in an add-on order. That way, if you run out of time for any of the steps, you did the most important ones first anyway.
Step 1: Getting to know you
If you were really worried about time, you could theoretically do this step before you start the lesson. However, I prefer to do this step in person. This step is also helpful if you teach at a music school, or some location where students are assigned to you. In these situations, this is probably the first time you are speaking to the student directly.
This step is the time to ask questions and get to know your new student. Some important questions here include if they’ve ever had any sort of musical training before, and asking what goals they have for their own vocal training. I’ve included a worksheet here for you to use with each new student to get focused from day one. Keep reading this post to learn more about how to use the second half of the sheet.
Step 2: Give them a lay of the land
Once you get a sense of what they’re all about, let them know what voice lessons are all about. This is a good time to go over a syllabus or studio policy if you have one (more on that at the end of this post). You can also tell them things like how voice lessons are generally run, what kinds of things they’ll learn, and what kinds of music they will work on. I like to encourage them to ask questions at this point, and at any point in the future of their voice lessons as well.
Step 3: Listen to the voice
This could go in two directions. First, you could ask them to sing a song they brought with advanced notice, or have them sing a standard, well-known song. Or second, you could do what I do and dive into vocal warm ups here.
I prefer to get into vocal warm-ups first because it assures me that a student will know what’s in store for voice lessons, will have something to work on over the first week, and is less abrasive than putting them on the spot with a song. However, as you will see, I do have them sing a song if time allows it.
In the first lesson, I like to cover the basics of good posture and breathing if the student is brand new to singing. Then, I’ll go into my most-used vocal exercises to get a sense of the student’s voice and abilities. This is where you can guide them through how vocal exercises go while also privately assessing them. Now, you’ll want to use the second half of the worksheet.
Step 4: Sing us a song
I usually don’t make it to this step in a ½ hour lesson. However, an hour lesson would definitely allow for time to sing a song. I’ll ask the student if there is something they feel comfortable singing first, and I let them choose whatever they want. I do this because letting them choose makes them feel more comfortable. Their selection also gives me a sense of how the student sees their voice, their goals, and their talent.
If they don’t have any sheet music with them (which they won’t), I will often ask if they feel comfortable singing their song a cappella or if they’d like to sing with a recording. Asking these kinds of questions about their comfort level not only helps the student feel in control, it also gives me a sense of what kind of student they will be (shy, outgoing, easygoing, analytical, etc).
If they can’t come up with a song they want to sing (which is about ½ of the time for me), ask them if they’d feel comfortable singing a simple, well-known song. Based on how they did in the exercises, my suggestions for a song may vary. For example, if they have pitch or range issues, I generally will suggest Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over Happy Birthday. I also will play this song along with them to support them and to see what kind of piano support is helpful or not helpful to this student.
After your first lesson, pat yourself on the back and take some notes. Again, the worksheet here is designed to help you assess your new student, decide on repertoire assignments and technical goals for them, and remember any thoughts you initially had as your lessons progress. Furthermore, if this post has given you courage to get your own voice studio started, you can subscribe at this link only to receive a guide on creating your very own studio policy.
What concerns do you have about teaching your first voice lesson? Experienced teachers, how do you teach your first voice lesson? Please share in the comments below!