At Donna Tongue ~ PERFORMER’S STUDIO™, I teach lessons for voice, beginner to advanced violin/viola/ piano, theory and sight-singing. This page applies mainly to particular questions about the voice, and includes answers to the following questions:
I teach a healthy, classic singing technique, which can be applied to any style of music - from musical theatre legit and belt styles, to classical bel canto style for recital and opera, pop, rock, jazz, and anything in between! I also prepare high school students to participate in the Classical and Jazz All-State auditions (which includes jazz improvisation and singing the 12-bar blues), and have had students invited to participate in the Carnegie Hall National Chorus.
The technique I teach focuses on learning to use the voice in a healthy way, regardless of what style you choose to sing. By learning how the voice is designed to work, as well as how to strengthen your voice and keep it flexible throughout the entire range, the singer is equipped to know how to sing intelligently in any style.
We begin with learning good breathing technique, since this is the basis for good tone production. Next, we learn how to initiate a good tone. These foundational basics are immediately applied to warm-up exercises, and songs. Within the first few lessons, the different vocal registers are discussed and explored ~ you will begin to feel where the registers are and how the body resonates when singing. This is primary when it comes to developing your ear for singing as well! Over time, as your musculature develops and you begin to apply the things you’re learning, we introduce elements such as vowel production and diction, along with how to bring out the emotional content in a song, and how to develop a character through the words and musical motifs.
Learning how to control the breath flow and how to navigate the different vocal registers will, in almost every case, help to increase your range. However, even if you have a small range, you can be a successful singer ~ soul-filled jazz singer Billie Holiday
used a range of only about an octave and a half in her singing, and was very well-known and loved for her unique vocal style and flair.
This is something we can discuss, as it depends entirely on your goals and level of experience. Most students who enjoy singing take lessons indefinitely; while others who have more experience will come in for occasional coachings.
If you are a beginner, in order to see progress, you should consider taking for at least 4 months, since you are developing new ways of using your muscles. Just like an average person cannot go from lifting 5-lb. weights to 50-lb. weights in a few weeks, neither can one develop the skills and muscular coordination necessary to tackle singing the lead solo from Elton John’s rock musical Aida in only a few lessons either! Beginning students need to go at their own pace when it comes to learning the body coordination necessary for singing.
Another element of progress lies in regularity of practice. During lessons we will discuss the amount of time you should practice on an individual basis, since it is based on a number of factors. But the key, as in any worthwhile endeavor, is consistency. Those who practice more will naturally develop at a faster rate, since muscles need to be used regularly to strengthen and stay in shape.
It is never too early to start music lessons. With very young children (5 and under), it is best to start with experiential, socializing music programs, where they can interact with others, do lots of movement, and have fun with toy instruments and drums, to play and develop social skills.
For children in the primary grades, I offer early childhood vocal and musical development sessions, where we work on body coordination, ear training, sight singing, and exploration of the voice or instrument. We use the piano as a tool for exploring music in sessions as well.
From age 9 and up, more focused voice lessons can begin, based on a developmental scale. Students in the 'tween years can benefit greatly from learning good breathing technique and relaxed posture, and sight singing and ear training skills as well as early diction development using tongue twisters. Learning basic vocal technique and how to use the different registers is very important at this stage, as this serves to bridge the sometimes-difficult period of physical growth when the vocal cords are thickening and lengthening during puberty. Once a student reaches high school age, the voice has matured enough to begin a more technical study of the voice.
The old reasoning behind not taking students before a certain age lies in the fact that incorrect use or overuse of the voice at a young age can be damaging. However, this will not happen with a teacher who knows what young voices can do at different stages of development, and who does not push students into things they are not ready for.
There is no such thing as being too old to start your musical journey! Singing has been found to increase flexibility and lung capacity in older people, and learning to play an instrument or participating in a musical group brings much joy to life! You are never too old to start living life to the fullest!!
The best way to find out is to give it a try ~ come on in for an initial consultation! Even if you decide not to continue, you will have received:
- A professional assessment of your voice
- A discussion of what you need to work on to accomplish your goals
- A taste of what singing lessons are like
- A beginning introduction to what’s needed for good vocal production
Prior to your first lesson, you might want to think about what your goals are, and what you would like to improve in your singing. If you have no idea, don’t worry about it ~ we will talk about these things as we go along. Our first lesson will be a “get started” session, where we will explore your voice and discuss breathing. You will leave with some exercises to work on, and a song to get you started. Over the next few weeks, I will ask you to bring in any music that you have, or will recommend music books for you to purchase which will best suit your voice initially and give us repertoire to work on over the weeks to come. I have water always at the ready for my students, but you may bring a water bottle with you if you like.
The last thing I recommend is that you take advantage of my Superscope which records directly onto CD, or, if you already own your own recording device and would prefer to use it instead, feel free to bring it along. Many of my students record lessons their cell phones or iPads/tablets to review at home. Recording your lesson is useful for remembering and practicing warm-ups, learning songs, and recalling the technique fixes we make.
For more information on the studio organization, please visit the Studio Info page. While you are there, check out my TIPS FOR TAKING LESSONS section which has more ideas for being prepared for lessons and developing your musicianship!
To sign up for lessons, go to our CONTACT page.