Friday 3 April 2020

How I Teach

Lessons are arranged with me personally and, depending on availability, regular students can expect to be timetabled many months in advance.  I would normally schedule each tranche of lessons for between four to six months ahead, meaning this would take place about 3 times a year. For those students who don't wish to be timetabled in this way, they have the option of joining my "ad hoc" list whereby they can contact me to see if I have any spare slots. However, as I am usually booked up many weeks in advance, I would always recommend the timetabling option. Duration of lessons is flexible, notwithstanding other teaching commitments, but would not normally be less than 60 minutes or more than 90 minutes. My lessons run Monday to Friday in two-hour sections: 9am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. I don't generally teach in the evenings or at weekends, although I will offer lessons then in exceptional circumstances.

Every lesson is different, obviously, and is tailored to the individual's needs at the time. However, the general format would be to spend between one half and two thirds of the session on a thorough technical warming up of the voice. This typically consists of a series of exercises to help support the voice with the application of good breath control and placing. Depending on the standard of the student, I talk about the importance of 'physicalising' the voice, I look at enhancing his or her technique, and I start to build stamina. I also work on expanding the range and projecting the voice safely, including the use of belt register where this is appropriate. The ultimate goal is to create and sustain a 'seamless passagio'. Ultimately, there is no substitute for a good technical lesson, and eventually my lessons become vocal work-outs. The remainder of the time is devoted to working through a student's repertoire which may be dependent on upcoming audition demands. I would normally expect to distribute material relevant and pertinent to each student, but I have no objection if anyone wishes to pursue a certain genre as long as it is not harmful to their voice. All my students have unlimited access to a vast library of music, covering every genre from classical through to pop and much in between. I also have over 1000 songs of all types on backing tracks created by me, all of which can be e-mailed upon request. If the material is new and a student requires the song to be recorded with the vocal line, then I use my aforementioned backing track of the song in question and overdub the vocal part. This enables the student to be suitably prepared for the next lesson. If the student is already familiar with the piece, we will work through the song in detail, with attention given to technical complexities, followed by a thorough exposition of provenance (background and context), interpretation and characterisation with particular emphasis on nuance, inflection, and cadence - in other words, how to put the song over. This then culminates in the presentation and performance of the song, with extensive feedback from me. Finally, we discuss the learning outcomes, focusing on the rehearsal process of the student between lessons. I do like to return, after a decent period of time, to previously-performed numbers, maybe a few years down the line, to check on the retentive powers of my students, but more especially to see how each voice, advanced by a few years of lessons, now deals with former problem points. To this end, I work on improving musicality, which may take the form of sight-singing or occasional musicianship studies. There is also provision for working towards the production of demo CDs, although the actual recording does not take place on my premises. Upon completion, these can be sent out to agents and casting directors for promotional purposes.