Frequently Asked Questions
Most of the following frequently asked questions are aimed to answer questions and concerns of beginners. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have more questions or need further clarifications.
- Who can take voice lessons? (Is this for me?)
- I am very nervous, is that normal?
- What about age?
- Can you teach me to sing in tune?
- I’m already singing; why should I study with a teacher?
- What musical background is required?
- I am not interested in music theory; can you still teach me how to sing?
- Which vocal technique / method are you teaching?
- Can you tell me if I am good enough to become a professional singer?
- What is a voice lesson like?
- How long is a voice lesson and how frequently should I attend one?
- When will I begin to notice change?
- How long does it take to master singing?
- What about singing styles?
- Where is your studio located?
- What should I bring to a lesson?
- How does one choose the right voice teacher?
- Why should I choose THIS studio?
- What are the studio’s policies?
- How much does it cost?
- I would like to join the studio; what do I do now?
- I still have some unanswered questions...
Who can take voice lessons? (Is this for me?)
Anyone, really, anyone who loves music and enjoys singing. You do not have to be a very good singer to begin voice lessons - you become (hopefully) a great singer by taking voice lessons. This is what studying (and hard work) is all about. A person beginning to take piano lessons is not expected to be a great pianist - he cannot be; and the same applies for singing. Sure, there are “natural” singers, but they are very few, fewer than what people believe. So if you love music and singing - yes - it can be for you!
I am very nervous, is that normal?
Of course it is. Your voice is a very personal issue; this is how you express yourself and communicate with the world. It is not easy to open yourself and trust a teacher to help you shape your own voice. Hopefully, I will be able to win your trust soon and you will feel more comfortable and less anxious.
What about age?
Singing can be taught at any age, as long as the student wishes to sing. Currently my youngest student is 4 years old and the oldest is 57. It is never too late and hardly ever too early to begin voice lessons. I do not teach all ages in the same manner, but the basic principles of healthy singing, healthy technique, awareness and beauty of tone are the same. The famous mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne began when she was only 5 years old!
Young children have a smaller instrument (short vocal folds and smaller lungs), therefore they produce a higher, lighter more angelic sound. Care should be taken not to “push” or overwork this delicate instrument. One should not expect a mature sound from a child. The sound would become fuller and richer with age, as the child grows (physically, emotionally and artistically), and when that happens - small adjustments should be made to fit those changes. This is also a great age to introduce general music education using the Kodály Method (based on singing artistic folk songs).
During adolescence, both boys and girls experience changes in their voice. Those changes should be explored with the teacher while finding the right place for the new voice. In some extreme cases (especially with male voices), one can consider taking a break from singing for a while, until the growing stage is over and the voice is stable again.
Some teachers believe that one should start taking voice lessons only after adolescence, but if a child wishes to sing earlier (in a choir / school play / singing for fun), she/he will sing; so it’s best to do that with a professional guidance. For further information read the article Vocal Pedagogy and Appropriate Repertoire for Pre-Adolescent Children.
Adults turn to voice lessons for various reasons:
- Musicians (singers, voice students, choral conductors)
- Teachers/speakers suffering from hoarseness turn to speech therapy or voice lessons
- Adults returning to music as a hobby after establishing a career in a different field
Many adults take singing lessons as a hobby; they find the lessons liberating and at the same time a demanding voyage into one’s true self and real potential. Often one hears that the lessons are a substitute to therapy.
Having retired from their fulfilling careers and the children out of the nest, seniors turn to their neglected hobbies; some join choirs and benefit greatly from the social and musical experience. Having a better awareness and control of their voice will make the musical experience more fulfilling for both themselves and the audience. One can become a more valuable singer and help in leading the choir.
Can you teach me to sing in tune?
Most people who love singing have a good ear and a basic control and awareness of their of their voice; they listen to themselves and are able to correct themselves. Most, but not all.
Singing out of tune happens because:
- The singer doesn’t control the voice (the vocal folds and other muscles).
- The singer is not aware of his/her own voice and doesn’t listen to the result.
- The singer doesn’t care about the music, only about the words and/or the rhythm.
In the first case - voice lessons usually address the problem directly. In the second case, one should develop their hearing skills and listening awareness, alone and with the teacher. Recording your lesson and listening at home does wonders, but still, this process may take longer.
In the third case one should consider turning to a different artistic career such as acting, writing or dancing, but not singing. Singers are first of all musicians who put music first. That being said, most actors should be able to carry a tune; an actor looking for voice training is welcome to come and work together on developing musical awareness through the things that are important to her/him, while working also on basic vocal technique.
I’m already singing; why should I study with a teacher?
In order to sing well, you need an external ear (your singing sounds differently than what you hear) and guidance, to make sure you are not hurting yourself and help you advance faster and get over obstacles.
What musical background is required?
To have a fruitful lesson, you should know how to read notes and be able to play a simple melody on a keyboard with one hand (or sight-sing). These basic skills (and more advanced music theory, if you are interested) are taught in the studio, and without them, learning is possible, but very limited. Taking singing lessons without these basics is equivalent to taking creative writing classes without knowing how to read and write. Sure, one can become a great storyteller but the illiteracy hinders ones growth. Students can acquire those skills by advancing on their own between lessons using books and free online material with little guidance.
I am not interested in music theory; can you still teach me how to sing?
I could - but you would be able to advance very little without basic music theory. You will not be able to remember the vocal exercises on your own because you cannot read the music and the exercises that I give you. You will not know how high or how low you are singing (at home or in class) and you cannot track your progress (for example, you will not know if your range is improving). You will not know where exactly your vocal registers are and where to expect (and try to avoid) the break. In short, you will remain very dependent. You may think that learning music theory is only wasting your time and money. On the contrary: you will be able to do a lot more on your own and become independent sooner, not needing my immediate guidance (or at least not as often).
Which vocal technique/method are you teaching?
The famous teacher Mathilde Marchesi said: “There are only two styles of singing: the good and the bad”. I do my best to teach the good... I base my teaching on William Vennard, Richard Miller and, of course, all that I learned from my teachers, fellow singers and... from my students. Some may ask if I teach “Bel Canto”. I certainly hope so; Bel Canto means beautiful singing (in Italian). This studio is aiming to teach beautiful singing! A serious answer will be given in person; the term is too charged to give a general answer.
Can you tell me if I am good enough to become a professional singer?
No, I cannot tell you. Singing is not about having a natural talent; it helps, but it is not the main thing. Determination, hard work, creative drive, intelligence, good interpersonal skills, creativity, luck - all these are even more important. If you want to be a singer - you can be one despite the obstacles; and if you do not want it enough - you will not be, even if you have a great starting point.
What is a voice lesson like?
Each lesson we will work on some (or all) of the topics mentioned here. The lesson begins with questions from the student about previous lesson/s. We continue with music theory (if needed). Then we move to vocal exercises (starting with simple warm ups and advancing to more difficult ones). This is the fun experimental part of the lesson: voice exercises are a bit funny and include lip trills, humming, laughing, breathing, dancing, working on posture and much more. After the exercises we move on and begin to work on a song or aria. You start singing, then I stop you. We start working to improve different parts of the song technically and artistically. I show you how to work on difficult parts of the song on your own at home. We work on acting the song and giving it your personal meaning. We conclude the lesson with summary and points to remember and to work on for next lesson.
How long is a voice lesson and how frequently should I attend one?
Ideally, beginners should study 15 minutes daily, and not practice in between (to avoid returning to old habits). This schedule is hard to meet for most students, therefore we usually decide on a weekly 55 minute session or 25 minutes twice a week. Serious or advanced students should take 55 min lessons twice a week. The frequency and duration depends highly on your age, your level and your attention span. If additional music theory is needed - a longer lesson (85 minutes) can be scheduled. Students wishing to attend classes less frequently or shorter than 55 minutes could benefit from the studio depending on my availability. These students will be given lower priority when scheduling lessons as I have a responsibility to the other students of the studio who wish to take lessons weekly.
When will I begin to notice change?
Hopefully (usually) you will begin to experience change on the first lesson, but it will be a small one. It takes time to make those changes your own and integrate them to your whole singing. Once we find that glimpse of change - it is up to you to experiment with it at home and to work on your muscle memory (actually: first work on your muscle “forgetfulness”, and then teach it your new “memory”).
How long does it take to master singing?
Explaining the basic principals can take 10-30 minutes. But making those principals your own takes years; it is a constant journey throughout a singer’s career. The process of learning is individual and depends on your work, your voice teacher and your talent (in descending order of importance). The teacher is showing you the way; giving you maps, compass and directions; but you are the one who has to walk in the path - I cannot get into your throat and vibrate your vocal folds 400 times per second.
Training a classical singer takes between 7 and 10 years. Integrating the basics needed for any style can be achieved by a serious student in one to three years of studies.
Professional singers continue to take lessons throughout their lives to adjust to small changes in the body and instrument, to get help when dealing with larger projects or to get an advice from a reliable objective external ear.
Some teachers promise results in 30 days. I believe in serious, thorough and intensive work and not in miracles or instant results. I never studied with those teachers and cannot say anything about them. You can try for yourself and see the difference.
What about singing styles?
I am trained as a classical singer although I love singing (and teaching) many styles; classical (early music, art songs, opera), jazz, musical theatre, rock, pop, R&B, French chansons, cabaret... I believe that basic vocal technique in any singing style is the same. Exercises are a tool in the journey of finding the student’s true sound. Once a singer found that sound - she/he can go from there anywhere.
Each musical style has different aesthetic values, so a different vocal production, different gestures and different range are used, but not a different technique. A different vocal production may mean more or less vibrato, more or less volume (with a microphone we often don’t need such a big voice), different range or registerse, different colors of the voice and adding stylistic gestures. But those are merely seasonings added to the singer’s basic true sound. Will a simple folk song sound like an opera? No, using operatic gestures on a simple folk song would ruin its meaning, just like singing an aria in the same manner of a folk song will be out of place. The music itself, if it is well written, will not allow the two pieces (or any different styles) to be sung in the same way.
Where is your studio located?
The studio is located in North York (near Don Mills & Sheppard), easily accessible by car (HWYs 401/404 and free parking) and close to Don Mills Subway Station.
Please call +1 (416) 477-7461 for detailed directions.
What should I bring to a lesson?
Review the list of item to bring to each lesson and try to bring what you can from the list to each lesson; it might take a little while to get all the items on the list, but remember that without them - your learning is less efficient!
How does one choose the right voice teacher?
Choosing a teacher is a difficult task. Not every teacher is good for every student; it’s important to find a good “match”, since the work is a mutual one. It is natural that the first few lessons are confusing, while student and teacher are trying to establish common concepts together. Click here, or check out this article to read what other teachers wrote about this issue.
This is one of the reasons that I offer free trial lessons unless I am fully booked. I have been offered (when I was studying) free lessons by highly professional university teachers and I return that gesture to my students. What would I check? I would check if there is any depth behind the declaration of your teacher. Many teachers (especially the non professional ones) promise to improve your range, flexibility, teach you support and breathing techniques. Check what their breathing technique is. On who or what are they basing it? Where did they study? What did they do? Do they want to teach you, do they share information, or are they only after your money? Do they make you more informed or more confused? Think about it and hopefully it will help you make the right decision.
Why should I choose THIS studio?
My studio is special in the personal attitude, the professional teaching and the exposure to knowledge. I give my students the ideal environment to learn - so they can advance as fast as they want to. I encourage them, from the very start, to read, to search, to choose and my goal is to make them independent and responsible for their own choices (as artists or human beings). I am not afraid of competition or of having my students learn too fast or learn from other teachers - there is so much to learn from every teacher and students will always return to the teacher who broadened their horizons. How many studios offer a website dedicated to the students with so much valuable information and resources?
Follow your instinct; if you’ve read this far - something must have attracted you in my approach. Art is not an exact science and there is no way of knowing in advance. If there is a good initial instinct, you try (there’s nothing to lose; the first trial lesson is free). If it feels good, you feel that you’ve learned, that there is good communication and that it’s fun - continue, if not - look somewhere else.
What are the studio’s policies?
Click here to read the studio’s policies.
How much does it cost?
The studio is highly professional yet affordable:
Rates are $39/$52/$59/$75 for a 25/40/55/85 minute lesson.
Discounts are available for multiple family members or when paying for 10 hours or more in advance (10 lessons of 55 minutes or 20 lessons of 25 minutes, etc). There are additional costs such as RCM examinations (the exam, the books, paying for a pianist and practicing with a pianist), participating in a students’ concert and covering the venue and pianist expenses (optional but highly recommended), purchasing / printing sheet music, music theory book (if needed) etc. 25 or 40 minute lesson are only available for children; their voice may be more delicate, and sometimes they cannot concentrate for longer periods. I would highly recommend two sessions of 25 minutes a week - one to work on the voice and one to work on theory, but often that is a bit of a challenge (coordinating and driving the kids); often we do have a 55 minute lesson for children too, and dividing the lesson to theory and practical. Most teens (usually from the age of 12, but sometimes only 15 and up) and adults can concentrate for the full 55 minutes, their instrument is more stable and I find that there is not enough progress with the shorter lessons, especially if we aim to cover some sight singing, music theory etc.
I would like to join the studio; what do I do now?
Please fill out the online application form (no obligation) and call +1 (416) 477-7461 to schedule your lesson. I am looking forward to meeting you and help you enjoy singing even more!
I still have some unanswered questions...
Please contact me and I will be happy to answer any question.