A week ago, I had a great conversation with a bartender at a local jazz club. Like so many New Yorkers, he’s a trained actor and singer working in the restaurant industry to pay his bills while focusing on his dream. And like so many in New York and beyond, he feels he needs to be actively taking voice lessons before going out for the big auditions.
So I asked him what he wanted to accomplish in these lessons.
“Oh, you know… to really find and develop my voice.”
“OK. And how often are you singing now?”
This is a conversation I have again and again with singers– even professionals– who come to me with the hope of studying. And while it’s not necessarily good for business to turn people away, it makes no sense for us to start working together unless they're already putting in a great deal of effort on their own.
That’s not to say that an outside perspective can’t be helpful before an audition or while getting into (or back into) vocal shape. Yet weekly lessons won’t compensate for the hours upon hours of singing you need to be doing daily to properly prepare for either. There is just no substitute for time and effort when it comes to getting to know and nurturing your instrument– and the mind that runs it– so that you can recognize and receive the proper guidance.
This is true beyond the realm of singing. How often do we ask for help without doing the work that would allow us to optimally integrate what we discover? And more than that... how often do we set out to accomplish our goals without being willing to put in the effort that it takes to actually achieve them?
I can’t tell you how many singers I hear from and work with whose biggest obstacle is that they simply haven’t done the work. Take it from me: there’s no point in spending hundreds of dollars on coaching you may not yet be able to integrate. First, become prepared to the best of your ability. When you know what you're bringing to the table, as well as what you really need, coaching is not only vastly more effective, but enjoyable and empowering as well.
Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and psychotherapist in Manhattan, as well as the author of The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice. For more information about Jennifer's writing and practice, visit: www.FindingYourVoice.com