Psychological Hints for Teaching Singing

By David L. Jones

(1) Welcome the singer with a positive statement. "It's nice to see you.... or don't you look nice today", etc.

(2) Refresh the singer on the work that was done in the previous session. This creates a sense of continuation of the process.

(3) Invest in the process, not the result. It takes an investment of time to secure the singing process and both teacher and singer must learn patience.

(4) NEVER USE THE WORD "NO". This only tightens the body because it has a negative connotation. Invite an uplifted psychological feeling by using words such as "joyful surprise" or "laughter".

(5) Invite the next step by using opening statements such as, "I think we need a little more of ....... or .........", or "Can you add......?" This invites the singer to respond to a request rather than a command. Remember, this is not dog training school. Singers are very sensitive people. That is why they choose to sing in the first place. Another positive psychological statement is "I think you would just love it if you added a little more lift......etc."

(6) Begin each lesson with a simple exercise with ONE concept in mind. Simplicity in the beginning of the session is important. Then you can branch into other concepts later.

(7) Try to have the singer think in coordination rather that bits and pieces. This may take some time, however, the result will be more lasting and complete. Example: have the singer speak the vowels with high palate, low larynx, cords closed, and feeling nasal resonance all at the same time. This is vital to good singing. If the coordination is never felt (feeling being the operative word), then the singer will have difficulty being consistent.

(8) Allow the singer as much input as possible without controlling the lesson. This makes the process a co-effort rather than a command/obey situation. It also starts the singer on the path of self-dialogue with their own instrument. A professional singer must learn to accomplish this. You are helping them pave the way to independent singing.

(9) End the session by reviewing what was accomplished and congratulate the singer on that accomplishment. Then give "constructive homework". I often end a session with a statement such as "This week, I would like you to work on...... and we will continue to build on that concept next session." ALWAYS END ON A POSITIVE NOTE PSYCHOLOGICALLY. If the singer does not get the concept you are working on, go to something they do well. This is critical to the singer's feeling positive about singing and wanting to work harder the next week. END WITH SUCCESS. As a teacher, you will feel more positive as well. Remember, patience is the teacher's responsibility as well as the singer's responsibility.

"There is no teacher and there is no student, only two minds that come together."
Luciano Pavarotti

"Can you remember an inspired moment in your life? Can you remember your feeling at that point and can you draw from that experience?"
James Levine

"Remember that to inspire rather than command creates a spiritual experience of self-growth".
Alan Lindquest