How do you feel?
As a singing teacher, you need to be able to deal with the singer in the room.
That means listening, noticing and understanding where they are coming from (their history), their voice (the instrument in front of you), their goals (attainable, just out of reach or just not feasible) and their way of processing information (because what you say might not be what they hear).
But there’s another singer in the room.
What are your beliefs, history, instrument, goals and ways of processing? Sometimes a potentially great teacher can be stymied by their own hidden beliefs or history, or by attempting to apply what works for their own voice type onto a different voice or gender.
Discovering how you feel
So is there a magic way of judging not just your things but the things of your students?
We think so.
It’s called introspection. And what’s the best way to start experiencing introspection? Noticing the way you feel.
The way you feel is entirely personal to you. It’s your personal reaction, your body sense, your emotional intelligence (or even your gut brain).
And the way your student feels is entirely personal to them, their personal reaction, body sense, emotional intelligence and gut brain.
Do one thing right now
Notice how you feel about reading this. Calm, annoyed, numb, dissatisfied, happy, relieved?
Does it challenge you or are you comfortable with it? Do you even have an emotion about it? Notice.
How you feel is a great clue to where and who you are right now. Your feelings are immediate. They are your first reaction. It is also interesting that your first reaction can be “talked down” or “dismissed” if there is another story, another history going on in your brain. It’s like having your original feelings denied in favour of a more “civilised” story imposed on you at some point in your life. Notice that too if it happens.
Why it’s important
Why is this important for a teacher? Because it’s good to be clear on what you’re teaching. Including recognising the unclear moments we all have. Sometimes we’re not clear. Sometimes we feel caught out. Sometimes we just don’t know. Sometimes things need to be explored. That’s good too, as it opens the door for the individual to create something new or unusual or different. But only if it’s acknowledged, only if that not-knowing is given a bit of recognition and space to develop.
The teachers and coaches on our Accreditation programme are experiencing this right now. Gillyanne and I share our thoughts, processes and not-knowing moments with our teachers. It’s truthful, it’s real and it happens. Sometimes we don’t know. And we notice when we’re about to give an instruction that is, in effect, learned behaviour (someone told it me in the past) and realise that it might not work or fit the singer in front of us.
How do we communicate that in a lesson with the person in the room? We say so.
- “I’ve got two possible things that will work for you, let’s experiment”
- “I need to think this through, can you sing it again like that?”
- “I want to work out where to go next, just give me a moment”
All of these things give us time to process, to choose, without putting the “blame” on the singer in the room. We’ve acknowledged our feelings of not-sure without panicking because we don’t always have to be right.
How does your student feel?
And how do you discover what your student is feeling?
In as many different ways as possible, because people don’t learn, feel or express themselves in the same way.
“How does that feel?” is a bit of a loaded question, since it requires the person to identify, analyse and understand feelings and emotions. Some brains do it really well, some brains don’t. You could start with it and spot immediately whether the instruction works for them or not.
“How was that for you?” is clearer. Also “what happened?” is pretty neutral.
My favourite is “describe”. Followed by “in the medium of modern dance” since that knocks the “I am only allowed to use sentences” thoughts out of their heads. Incidentally, in all the years of asking that, I’ve only had one student actually show me in the medium of modern dance. It was their preferred mode of communication and I loved it.
My own life coach says “talk to me” since that works well for me. I suggested he use “headlines please” and that works even better because I can go into a LOT of detail!
Where to start
So here’s a suggestion for your next time teaching or coaching.
It’s the most important bit. If your student starts to share with you what happens for them when they follow your instruction, the worst thing you can do is start thinking about how to fix them. Because you haven’t finished the job yet. Listen until they stop sharing the important stuff (how they’re feeling).
What does this mean for a lesson? It means you talk less. It means you “do” less. It might even mean you cover less territory. But it also means you dig into exactly what the problem is, what the singer in front of you is thinking, what instructions they give themself.
You really discover who the singer in the room is.
If you are the type of teacher who believes that you must give value for money, and value for money is sharing everything you know or solving every singing problem immediately, this will be extremely difficult for you to do. Because it requires you to stop doing that. You won’t be able to fix the singer in one lesson. You won’t be able to show them the technique, expect them to have learned it immediately and move onto the next solution and the next solution.
But what are able to do, the reality of this situation, is remain present for the singer in the room. Both of the singers in the room in fact. And you are honouring the situation, the lesson, your role and the student’s role.
And believe it or not, the solutions you do share will be more targeted, the student will understand faster and at a deeper level, and your lessons will be far, far more effective.
Notice now how you feel reading this
If it feels good, solid, making sense, comfortable, then you and your body are in alignment with these ideas.
If you’re curious but not sure about it, there’s something of value that needs exploring more, even if you don’t take these ideas on.
If it is making you angry, frustrated, dismissive, these ideas are not for you. And that’s fine too, you can drop them, erase them, forget them. Because that’s right for you. I also work with the reader in the room, and if it doesn’t work for you, we can change it or you can find a new teacher/writer – one that resonates better with you. I’m good with that. There are thousands of teachers and writers out there who have their own take, and you are a free individual. It’s better (for you and for me) if you work with them.
When you work with people you resonate with, you create new “harmonies”, new thoughts, new ideas. When people who resonate with me work with me, we create new harmonies, thoughts and ideas that work for us.
That’s the joy of any shared experience, whether it’s a 1-1 lesson, a group session or a chat over coffee. Everyone brings themselves to the table, their own thoughts that are different to my thoughts.
I’m a collaborative musician by instinct and training. I love co-creating. It makes me feel satisfied.
If you’ve read this far, we’d love to work with you
How do you feel?
Check out the 12 Hours to Better Singing Teaching online course here https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/12-hours-to-better-singing-teaching
Get to know our Accreditation Programme interviews here https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYDwxiBt-MOXNxCmRALabELj1fJGtVD_P