Don't mess with a soprano  

The singer and the song

How long does it take to learn to sing? 40 hours, 10 minutes, and 30 seconds.

If that sounds dubious, you are right.

Some people are born gifted, some not as much. In reality, it takes what it takes and differs from person to person.

Why should adults take music lessons? After all, they’re not going to be famous or make a living from it, so why bother?

  • For the pure pleasure that music, singing, and/or playing brings.
  • What joy it is to sit around the campfire and sing or play.
  • How great to jam with friends and have them complement your singing.
  • How invincible you feel singing in the shower — at least until the hot water runs out.

Music is healing, cathartic and not dependant on age. It is for everyone. Yet, if you are better at it, you derive more pleasure from it.

Lessons help you find that pleasure.

Sometimes comments stop us on our way to music and art.

My art career was squashed in kindergarten. We were making snowmen out of cotton balls. OK, I went crazy with the glue - at least I didn't eat it like some of my fellow students.

I had a cotton ball stuck on each of my 10 fingers and was trying to figure out how to get them onto the paper.

The teacher made me stand up and she proceeded the tell everyone how inept I was. I was convinced from that day on that I was not an artist.

Almost all my adult students have a similar story about their singing ability. It doesn't take much to silence our voice.

I’m always happy to welcome adults who have found their way to do something about their singing ability. It takes guts to face a fear or a perceived lack.

Studying voice is up close and personal and can be very intimidating.

Teaching voice is different from all other instruments by the sheer fact that the instrument is inside you.

If you study piano and have difficulty, the teacher may correct your fingering. She corrects your fingers, not you personally.

As a voice teacher, when I make corrections, it is deeply personal. How you sing on a particular day is mixed in with old fears, embarrassment or even what you ate for lunch. You can’t separate emotions from the voice.

Teachers must always be aware of the mental state of their student so they know how hard they can work them that day.

Adult lessons fill a gap in our lives. We give up so much making sure our kids have opportunities. Sometimes just making a living is enough to forget about our own desires.

Setting aside time to learn and explore makes us feel younger, more vital, and ecstatically proud as our abilities grow.

Here’s why taking singing lessons is beneficial.

  • Singing is a workout, both physically and mentally. Just try singing for an hour and see how you feel. I have run 10 Ks and sung many operas – the exhaustion level felt the same.
  • It strengthens the immune system according to a study by the University of Frankfurt. They noticed the number of proteins in the immune system functioning as antibodies were significantly higher after singing.
  • Singing lowers your stress levels - unless you are doing a solo for the first time.
  • You should be able to sing into your 90s and above – that is great value for your money.
  • The amount of air used is great for your mind as you age.

The most frequent question I am asked as a voice teacher is: can someone who has never sung on pitch, learn to?

Absolutely! How successful you are depends on a couple of things.

  • You might be too smart. I have found that bright students like being in control. They often try to “make” the sound rather than allowing the brain to do what it needs to do to produce an in-pitch tone. If I can get them to let go and let the air flow uninterrupted, the pitch comes out pure and clear.
  • The most important factor is desire. How hard do you want to work at it?

I had a very ugly voice as a teenager. Oooh, it was loud and edgy – think chainsaw edgy. I had something though that a lot of other singers didn’t; I had a burning, scorching desire to sing.

I took longer and worked harder than any of my fellow students. Hundreds of years later, I’m still singing and sound nothing like my former self.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, agrees. He lists five elements needed to make a success. Motivation is number three.

What is success? Reaching the pinnacle of being famous? How about singing in pitch all night with friends? Who’s success is bigger? I say they're tied.

Only you know if you want to spend the time and money to sing better. If you do, pick up the phone and call your local music school or voice teacher.

I challenge you to discover your personal joy of music. Stop listening to the naysayers and just do it.

Never ever discount the desire to be better.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

[email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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