1. How to stand
No slouching! In order for your vocal student to make proper use of their vocal cords and diaphragm, they will need to stand with good posture, with their feet shoulder-width apart. It’s also important to make sure your student’s knees remain unlocked (passing out at your first voice lesson probably won’t make for a great experience).
2. How to breathe
Ensure that your students are breathing correctly while they sing by having them start each lesson with breathing exercises. One common trick for instructors is to have the student imagine a rubber band around their waist. When the student breathes in, this imaginary rubber band should expand outwards. Their shoulders should not rise as they breathe in, and most importantly, make sure they are relaxed.
3. How your vocal cords work
Strong vocal cords will not only fuel a strong voice but a healthy voice as well. Before your student can understand how to exercise and strengthen their vocal cords, it is important for them to understand how they work.
4. Warming up
Make sure to spend at least 10-15 minutes helping your student warm up their voice before they get into heavier material. Warm-ups are not only a necessity for vocal health, but they can help students improve their range, enunciation, projection, and sustain.
5. Identifying vocal range
It’s always a good idea to know what you’re working with. One of the first things a vocal coach should do when working with a new student is identify their range. This will help you know which pieces will be a good fit for their voice and which will be more of a challenge. Identifying the range when lessons start will also help you measure progress as the student continues.
6. Pitch exercises
Some people can’t carry a tune if they are holding a bucket, but very few people are actually “tone deaf”. If your student has issues with pitchiness, it is best to tackle that head-on. Oftentimes, when a student has a big issue with matching pitch, it is because they can’t feel the difference between moving their voice up and moving their voice down. Use songs that the student is already familiar with, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had A Little Lamb to demonstrate these differences to the student. This way they won’t have to worry about remembering the words or rhythm and they can focus on the way their voice feels when it moves in either direction.
7. Ear training
Have your students identify intervals and match pitches using a piano or pitch pipe. Being able to identify intervals, rhythms, melodies, etc. can take years of training for some students while for others it just comes naturally. Either way, It’s important to have your student challenge their ears and brains and track their progress.
8. Voice Projection
Encourage your students to get loud! Holding back, even slightly, because of shyness or fear of sounding bad will really limit their ability to reach their full potential. Explain that the only reason their vocal cords are able to produce sound is because of the air flowing over them. Show your students how to sing out.
9. Keeping rhythm
If your student is struggling to keep the beat or stay on tempo, encourage them to get moving! Have students clap the measures, count the beat, or conduct while they sing. Metronomes are also extremely useful for working on a new song and preparing to sing with other musicians.
It doesn’t really matter how good your student sounds singing a song if they aren’t clearly pronouncing the words. Before jumping into singing the song, read through it. Have them mark on their music where to take breaths and circle words that should be emphasized. One common bad habit in beginners is cutting the word short and not enunciating the end-consonant all the way through (T’s are the big culprits here). Use warm-ups that will help the student relax their facial muscles, jaw, and lips.