Nurturing Talent in a Singing Lesson – Choose


In the third of this 5-part series on nurturing talent in a singing lesson, we’re focusing on what to do once you’ve completed Stage 1, Listen and Stage 2, Diagnose

You’ve heard (and witnessed) how and where your student is today. You’ve diagnosed the symptoms and the problem precisely and have spotted the thread to pull that will undo the problem and minimise some of the other symptoms. Now’s the time to choose the exercise.

Stage 3 – Choose

If you’ve done your diagnosis correctly, you’ll know what the focus of the exercise you’re about to do should be. You might have several to choose from, or you might have a favourite that always works for that particular problem.

All singing teachers want their students to improve. And many will start the lesson with good intentions. The difficulty is they get distracted by unattainable goals, by the shiny things that appear just out of reach. And weirdly, they get distracted by the improvements. 

How not to choose

You’ve chosen your technique to combat “I can’t get the high note” and you start with it. Almost immediately something improves (yay!) and reveals something else – you spot for instance that the student is having a problem with diction. So you switch to a diction exercise, and then you spot that it’s a tongue position thing for the song. So you swap to a tongue position exercise on vowels. That works! Oh, and remember to breathe properly. Then you add the words back in and you notice that nasality has crept in. So you switch…

If you’re the sort of teacher who aims at a performance by the end of each session, it’s likely you’re packing in instructions, giving verbal encouragement (often while they’re still singing) and jumping from focus to focus as you “build” to the final performance. You feel great at the end because you’ve done stuff and your student has arrived. But the student has no idea what to focus on, what to practise between lessons, and how to reproduce what happened in the lesson itself.

The One-Thing rule

At Vocal Process we have a rule in our singing teaching sessions – “choose one thing”. And there’s an implied “and stick to it”. And for the performance-oriented teacher above, this rule is veeeeery tricky to take on board.

“But it won’t get performance-ready by the end of the session!”
That’s possible, but the benefits outweigh the problems. You need to choose just one door to open. You and your student focus on one particular issue, and you choose the exercise that will target that one issue.

In reality, you’re doing two things with your original “performance-ready” goal: 

  1. you’re replacing “performance” each lesson with “knowing what to do”
  2. you’re extending the “ready” from the end of the lesson to include at least the rest of the week

Remember that your focus for nurturing talent is the person in front of you. It’s great that you feel satisfied at the end of the session, but that’s a byproduct, an outcome, not a goal. The best thing you can do for your student is listen, diagnose and choose one thing so that they know exactly what they are doing, what they did and what they need to practise at home.

I could write a book about the effects of the “choose on thing” rule, and it comes up over and over again in the feedback to our courses as a game-changer – usually from the diehard “performance ready” teachers!

Making you choose one thing from the myriad of improvements you want to do in a lesson gives you and the student an incredible focus that pays huge dividends long-term.

“But what if I choose wrong? It’s such a responsibility that it’s easier for me not to choose!”.

That’s why you need the fourth stage, Explore.


We spend many hours on the Teacher Pathway and Accreditation Programme helping people to distinguish between symptoms and problems in vocal technique. And we focus on the One-Thing Rule specifically in the first course on our Teacher Pathway – 12 Hours To Better Singing Teaching. Click here to find out what else we cover – It could revolutionise your studio 



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