What Voice Lessons Are Good For in a Perfect World

Dear students,

There are so many reasons people take voice lessons. And for every reason that a student takes lessons, there are just as many reasons the voice instructor is teaching.

Earlier this week, I posted a video about the reasons I founded and teach at Octave Higher East.

For me, everything I do is designed to make myself the most valuable musician I can be. To me, that means giving back as much as music has given to me. It also means sharing the joy that music brings with everyone I can.

I also teach voice lessons so that I can help my students fulfill their goals. Be it performing in front of thousands of people, or just singing karaoke, my goal is to get my students performing well as quickly as possible.

As a voice teacher, I see a lot of frustration in my students when they don’t give what they think is a “perfect” performance.

This is totally understandable. But I think it’s worth mentioning that there is no such thing as a “perfect performance”.

Even amongst the great vocalists of our time, some are better at hiding their vocal errors than others.

The truth is there are so many elements to a performance that it is easy to forget why you’re spending hours practicing every week.

In my mind, the point of voice lessons is to have as many tools in your vocal tool belt as possible.

If we accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect vocal performance, then it’s probably worth having as many tools as possible.

Can you hit that high C dependably? Can you find vibrato when the band is pounding away behind you? Can you sing a melody that you just learned with authority?

Voice lessons can give you the tools necessary to achieve these things so fluidly that it will seem as though the performance is flawless to the audience.

After all, you’re singing for them, aren’t you?

Choose Music That Moves You

BreakdanceDear Students,

As artists you want to progress on your journey as fast as possible. A huge factor in how quickly you develop has to do with how open you are to new music.

Many people, though, get stuck listening to the same music for the wrong reasons.

This idea came to me when I met two unexpected friends at the Visions of Austin State Hospital Insights Art Show and Auction. The art show was comprised entirely of the art done by patients of the local psychiatric hospital.

This is Daniel Johnston.

Daniel Johnston

Not really. I mean this is his work and he donated it to the ASH benefit because he was a patient for a time.

If you haven’t heard of Daniel Johnston, I would definitely recommend checking out this amazing documentary about his life and music in Austin, Texas.

Here is one of my favorite songs by him.

Aside from the surprisingly great art, I also had the pleasure of meeting Karen Sams, a recreational therapist.

Basically, Karen’s work revolves around therapy in the form of play.

When I pointed out Daniel Johnston’s work, she began sharing what she knew about music therapy and its role in people’s lives.

I was shocked to hear Karen share that a person who has issues controlling their anger and listens to angry music can be doing a disservice to him or herself.

This may seem obvious but ask yourself: is there a type of music that you love, even though you know it isn’t good for you? Is there a guilty pleasure that you have with a particular song or artist that makes you feel pleasurably dysfunctional?

I found Karen’s statement so amazing because I immediately thought of one of my favorite artists, Elliott Smith, and how his sad music has played a role in my depression and anxiety.

For me, Elliott’s music forged a bond between depressive feelings and beautiful music. At the time though, I never really thought that listening to beautiful, yet sad, music could be holding me back.

I think that this is why some people love certain sad songs. They want to relive those feelings that hurt them. However, scientists have shown that this catharsis is not as beneficial as we once thought.

Perhaps instead of listening that same old song, recognize the role that that music plays in your progress, embrace the lesson and move on. Everything is an experiment.

Use Spotify playlists. Use Pandora. Heck, listen to the radio.

Find the music that moves you!