A recording device is an essential tool in my Marin singing and voice studio. What better way to review what you did in a session than by listening to it again when you get home? I find that if I don’t record my own voice lessons, I don’t remember all its intricacies. Your teacher may take you through multiple technical steps to get to your desired goal. Recording the lessons help you master those steps. It helps us practice what needs to be worked on. Plus, some students don’t play piano or even have a piano. Without a keyboard or other instrument, the recording device becomes the only way to practice.
I’ve never been a big believer in “just singing” as a way to improve your voice. If you continue to do the same habits, not much shifts, although there is such a thing as some vocal “osmosis.” LOL! Singing vs. not singing is a no-brainer. You always sound better when you’ve been singing regularly, like being in a show or a choir. The voice, after all, springs from use of muscles and keen coordination. But if you really want to make progress, like with any instrument, you must put in the work.
Practice is a tricky subject and very much a personal choice. Only the student can say if it is worth their while, in time and money, to take singing lessons without practicing. For me, every penny counts, and I want to get my money’s worth. I want to have an even more fabulous voice…yesterday. Thus, the voice journal.
When my voice teacher suggested the journal, I brushed it off because I often take notes when I listen to my lessons. However, they end up tucked away somewhere, scattered about, and I never look at them again. I decided to start the journal. I got myself a pretty diary and began by listening to my lessons, jotting down during my practice every exercise and pertinent thing my teacher said. Interestingly, I felt moved to also write down my observations of what I experienced and, of course, questions that came up. The next practice session I went to the journal and did the same exercises in the same order. When I went to my next lesson, we were able to discuss my comments, observations, and questions and further clarify what we’d done. With all my notes in one place, I can easily go back to past lessons and integrate other exercises into the new material.
Since your body is the instrument in singing, much of what we experience as “the voice” is both aural and kinesthetic. Much of a teacher’s skill is being able to find a student’s language of kinesthetic experience and steer the student toward effective acoustical tuning. So, language between student and teacher becomes very important. I may use certain words to express what I am experiencing. My teacher or student may have very different words to express his or her experience. The vocal journal is a good tool for mutual understanding.
For instance, in a recent lesson my teacher has been helping me find a certain operatic nasal resonance she calls “the buck teeth.” (I know, goofy, huh?) Well, to establish in myself that physical sensation took some semantical clarification. I was thinking that to get the “buck teeth” sensation I would have to let my jaw fall back. Turns out, her “buck teeth” image was less about the lower jaw and more about the upper mandible.
I am going to start encouraging my students in singing lessons for kids and adults to use a voice journal. It really helps us all get on the same page!