A voice lesson is usually a time when you're alone with your voice teacher, so you want to feel comfortable with that person and also feel positive about the work you're doing on your voice. In order to evaluate how well you work with your teacher, you need to know what you can expect from her. This article gives you an idea of what type of interaction to expect with your teacher in your lessons.
Feeling good when you leave the voice lesson
Feeling good about your lesson is a two-way road. The purpose of a lesson is to gain more information about singing, so you want your teacher to focus on the work. However, you need to able to shoulder her criticism well.
During a voice lesson, you should be doing plenty of singing, and your teacher should be giving you feedback on the sounds that you're making and offering suggestions on ways to improve those sounds.
Constructive criticism is about your singing technique and isn't directed at you personally. If you feel your teacher isn't giving you positive feedback, ask him.
Focusing on the work helps you see the teacher's constructive criticism as a means to help you get to the next level. If you expect your teacher to do nothing more than gush over your talents, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Any teacher worth her salt won't shy away from telling you what you're doing wrong (or from telling you what you're doing right). Even if you find a teacher who does nothing but praise you, you're wasting your time because that type of lesson won't help you improve.
To feel confident at each lesson, you need to make sure that you know what to practice. During your lesson, your teacher should suggest exercises for you to practice to help you improve your technique. She should then help you apply those concepts to songs that you're singing. If you aren't sure about what to practice, you can ask your teacher to clarify which exercises to focus on for the next lesson.
Being good friends with your voice teacher isn't really all that important, but you should feel confident about the work you do in each lesson.
Working with imagery and other vocal tools
Because you can't see your voice, you have to have some tools to help you make changes. One way to obtain these tools is to make sure that your lesson involves work with a variety of techniques such as imagery.
As your lessons develop your singing voice, the teacher may use images to help you understand how to make the best sounds. The teacher may ask you to notice the sensations as you sing, give you something to visualize as you sing, or give you something to listen for. All three approaches can work beautifully for you as you work on your voice. You may also find that one approach works best for you. Knowing which one works best for you is good, because you can translate what your teacher says into your own language. For instance, if your teacher describes something to you and explains the anatomy of why that worked, you may remember what it felt like when you made the best sounds. If you enjoy working with images, you can find a way to visualize the sound to enhance your experience.
Don't fret if a teacher wants to explain physically what's happening. You may not want to know in the beginning, but later on, you may be glad that you understand why a particular image works.
Applying tried-and-true singing methods
Teaching people to sing is an old profession. If you encounter a teacher who claims to have a "never-before-revealed, life-altering system of teaching," be wary. You want a teacher who bases his teaching on facts and not just experiments. Your voice may be very different from your teacher's voice. That's not a problem if your teacher has been teaching for at least five years. He should've encountered different vocal problems and figured out a way to work with them.
If you discuss lessons with a prospective teacher and she doesn't have a "system" of teaching, that's okay. Many great teachers combine all the information that they've encountered into their own method.
You may need three to six months to really grasp the concepts in voice lessons and hear changes in your voice. You should hear changes within the first month, but the big concepts and tough technical exercises may take a while to gel. Enjoy each lesson with the understanding that you're on a journey that you can't make in one day.