Bel canto means beautiful singing. Bel Canto is a term quite popularly used by vocal music aficionados worldwide to refer the beautiful, florid style of singing used by Italian singers in opera. This technique for singing began in Italy about four centuries ago and is based on the ideas of ease, purity and evenness of tone production. Bel canto singers have range, power, flexibility and ease in their singing style. The best singers in any genre, from pop to jazz to classical, have a foundation in bel canto technique. For example, Mariah Carey's mother was an opera singer and her personal voice teacher. Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand have a distinctly bel canto quality to their voices. Nat King Cole, Freddie Mercury, Meatloaf and Michael Buble have been known to appreciate classical music and have a technique that reflects bel canto style.
Two. Can a singer be cross-trained in more than one genre? Yes. And every singer really should be. In my studio, all students learn to sing their vocal exercises with classical bel canto technique, which is then easily transferred to any style. No matter what you are singing, the technique is always the same, however, the diction, nuances and vowel shapes are slightly different from one genre to the next. All of my students are cross-trained. Meaning, my classical students occasionally sing Miley Cyrus and my jazz students will learn classical art songs. Though you may certainly specialize in one particular genre of music, a good singer can sing in any style with vocal ease and beauty. Every genre has it's own challenges and should be respected as valuable for learning healthy singing. Three. How often should I practice? I recommend that beginners aim for 2-3 times a week, intermediate 3-4 and advanced singers should practice about 5-6 days a week. 30 minutes to 1 hour is a sufficient practice time for beginners, as the voice is very fragile and we want to be sure that we are taking things slowly while the vocal chords are adjusting to singing technique. The idea for advanced singers is to be able to practice for as long as you would have to sustain your voice in a professional rehearsal. Most professional opera or musical theater rehearsals require several hours of tension-free, beautiful singing, so your practice time as an advanced student should reflect this kind of stamina. Advanced singers will often practice 1-4 hours a day, depending on their performing demands. Four. How long is a voice lesson? I recommend a minimum of 1 hour per week. We spend about 30 minutes on technique, and the rest of lesson working on musicianship and incorporating technique into repertoire. A professional singer often prefers to see their voice teacher 2-5 days a week! Five. Why are voice lessons so expensive? Simply stated, you get what you pay for. I have never heard of a qualified voice teacher charging less than $60 per hour. The going rate for an experienced, educated and knowledgable voice teacher is anywhere from $60-200 per hour. Please do not waste your precious time and money with teachers that are not improving (and oftentimes even ruining) your voice. Get the absolute best teacher whom you can afford and watch for tangible growth and progress in your voice. Six. What is the difference between a voice teacher and a vocal coach? A voice teacher and a coach are two totally different things to a singer. A voice teacher teaches technique. She teaches you how to sing through a variety of vocal exercises that are geared towards you specifically. A voice teacher may or may not go over repertoire with her students. A vocal coach does not teach technique and has no business telling a singer how to sing. A vocal coach often specializes in languages, musicianship, interpretation and accompanying singers on the piano. The skill set for a teacher or a coach are pretty extraordinary and to be respected, but are quite different. Seven. What are the qualities of a good voice teacher? A good voice teacher has several amazing singers in her studio whom she has trained exclusively. Her students feel close to her on a personal level and respect her on a professional level. She is educated with college degrees, has years of professional performing experience, is knowledgeable as a musician and in foreign languages, and most importantly, she should love teaching. A good voice teacher is encouraging, helpful and assertive for your best interests. Teaching voice should not be a backup for her failed performing career; this should be a career of choice, heart and passion. Eight. How long does it take to learn to sing? I call it the rule of threes. For every 1 year of weekly lessons, expect to grow the equivalent to 3 years in grade school. For example, during year 1 of weekly lessons you will grow through the equivalent of preschool, kindergarden and first grade when it comes to your voice. For first year students, my teaching style is fun, slow and detailed, with a focus on building the voice from the ground up. In year two, you will move to the equivalent of a 2nd, 3rd and 4th grader, as reflected in your voice. I will expect more, give more complicated instructions, and begin to really instill a deeper sense of discipline in the student. In year 3, 4 and 5 of study we continue to progress through intermediate and into advanced studies. The more advanced a student, the more serious my expectations as a teacher. Learning to sing well enough to sustain a healthy and vibrant career as a professional singer usually takes about 5-10 years of study with an excellent teacher than is not wasting your voice, time or money. Nine. How do I know I am improving in my voice lessons? You should record every lesson and every few months check for improvement. You should sound a little better each month, feel a little more confident, and sing a little more relaxed and in tune. It is a slow process, but you should be getting better and your friends and family should notice this! I hold 2-3 recitals each year so that my students can demonstrate their improvements in practical ways. Ten. What kind of student is the ideal student for learning to sing? Attitude is everything, followed by commitment, and then talent. I need my students to trust me to guide them during their lessons in a way that is best for their voice. During the week I expect them to practice and then give me feedback (during their next lesson) on what they are learning and how they are growing. Hard work means everything to me when it comes to accepting new students into my studio.
For my studio, I require an audition in order to see if the student will be a good fit for my teaching style. I will look for the qualities stated above, along with a genuine passion to learn and perform vocal music. If you are passionate about music and learning to sing, and can dedicate yourself to weekly practice time, along with open and honest communication with your teacher, then you are ready to start the life-changing process of learning to sing.
A good voice teacher has several amazing singers in her studio whom she has trained exclusively. Her students feel close to her on a personal level and respect her on a professional level. Teaching voice lessons should not be a backup career for a failed performing career; this should be a career of passion, choice and priority. Voice teachers should be encouraging, helpful, knowledgeable and sometimes strict, all for your best interest. Here are six vital qualities every voice teacher should possess: One. Educated in the voice. Being a good voice teacher is an intellectual and academic pursuit. Your voice teacher should be educated with a Bachelors or Masters Degree in Voice, and should continue her growth and education outside the classroom.
Two. Professional performing career. A good voice teacher has many years of professional performing experience and understands what it really means to be the best and sing with the best. She understands the life and pressures of a performer because she herself has been one. This allows a teacher to take vocal pedagogy and theory from books and effectively put it into action in her own voice, thereby increasing her ability to teach singers effectively. Three. Comfortable with foreign languages. If you are a classical singer you need a teacher with experience singing English, Italian, French and German repertoire. She doesn't need to be an expert in the languages in the same way as a vocal coach, but she needs to have a basic working knowledge of the romantic languages in order to help you prepare your art songs and arias. Four. Be a musician. She doesn't have to play the piano like Beethoven or Mozart, but she needs to be able to play your vocal exercises and help you learn your vocal lines with the proper sheet music. A basic working knowledge of piano and music theory is quite essential to a productive voice lesson. Five. Love teaching voice. She must love her job as a teacher, rather than considering it something she was forced to do because she didn't have a "real career" as a performer. Being a voice teacher is a prestigious job with a vast skill set. Students should respect their teachers, and their teachers should love what they do and give their all during the lesson. Six. Strict but encouraging. A good voice teacher is assertive, but kind. She must be encouraging and put the needs of her students first. She must be willing to tell her students what is best for them, vocally, even if the student disagrees. Being a good voice teacher is a selfless job of putting the needs of the student before your own.