Healthy and Confident Singing Voice: Teaching a Singer Using the Mentality of a Dancer: How and Why?

Teaching a Singer Using the Mentality of a Dancer- Seems a little different but hear me out and you’ll see its beneficial. Dancers seem to be more mentally and physically disciplined than singers. Part of this is due to the early age at which many dancers start and part due to the fact based pedagogy dance teachers use that obeys the basic laws of nature.

Dancers, like any athlete, are taught at an early age to stretch and warm-up well before working on a dance routine and to cool down and stretch afterwards. There is a method, stick to it.

Dancers also understand that learning to dance requires patience with initially low expectations. They taught that the more diligently and regularly they practice, the more success they will have.

Dancers know that their muscles are challenged by learning new dances and they are told that it may be not be easy, it may take time. They are taught that systematic and continual work of the muscles is necessary to accomplish the task. It will take the awkward beginnings of that pirouette and make it happen beautifully over time.

Dancer teachers work the whole body the whole time, not one side or the other.

How is it different with Singers?

Singers on average start a lot later in training although they have been naturally singing in some way their whole lives. They often jump right into repertoire cold without warmups or a cool down because that is what they have always done. Singing lullabies, with the radio, in music class.

Singers often expect quick results and have high expectations without putting in the work. It is not publicly known how much work successful opera singers and musical theater stars put in. We also see all of these success stories and people being in the right place at the right time with a song that is picked up by a recording studio. Sound is enhanced with all of the technology we have.

Singers don’t see all of the muscles on the outside or feel them working in the same manner. A singing teacher can not always point to a body part to help work on the particular technical issue at hand. Much of it is hidden and approached differently.

Many singers and singing teachers only work one register of the voice most of the time. Stretching it out to work more registrations balances the singing voice and the singer. This is an evolving concept still in the singing world as many different styles of emerging singing. The pop sound of musical theater is good example.

So what does all of this mean? What if we approached teaching our singers using a dancer mentality?

I have found using dancing and athletic analogies in my teaching to help explain all of these concepts. I love teaching voice to students who are dancers first. They have already experienced what happens when there is dedication to a craft, it is drilled into them. Singers, it is important for you to spend the time practicing because it builds a solid technique which will carry you far.

Its expected that you warmup your voice and cool it down after working repertoire. That’s how your body and your brain get ready to focus on the task at hand. Add some yoga to center yourself and then do your vocalise. Its important that you practice the particular warmups you are given as they will help you in your work on your repertoire. Then move on to work on your song(s). Spend 2-3 minutes cooling your voice down (speaking after singing counts to).

Diligent, regular practice is key to success in any physical endeavors. That means singing too! Shorter more frequent practicing makes all the difference. It works your muscles, your mind, and builds your stamina. Its like learning a dance sequence, your muscles have to learn what to do and regularly practicing, even if in small sessions, helps your muscle memory so it becomes natural or easier.

This is hard to instill as most singers have 1 lesson a week, so the regular work falls on the individual singer. Discipline is important, but so is the regular support of the choir directors who spend a little time on warmups and vocal technique in rehearsals. A teachers job is to help the student develop a regular practice schedule working a variety of skills. The more regular practice time spent develops all of the wonderful things you have learned in your lessons.

As the old dance adage says,

“If I don’t [dance] for 1 day, I know it. If I don’t [dance] for 2 days, my teacher knows it. If I don’t [dance] for 3 days, everyone knows it.”

Go on, read it again and substitute [sing] for every [dance]. That’s it, and repeat!! So important!

It’s also important to challenge yourself in learning something new or stretching your boundaries to grow. It’s not going to be easy or perfect the first time and that’s okay. That’s why you do it in a safe, comfortable space: your lesson and your practice time. Dancers get it may not be perfect the first time, but if we work on it, we will get there. We can step briefly out of our comfort zone in practice and work towards being comfortable with that skill to move it into our comfort zone for performance in time.

This is another thing to learn from teaching our singers with a dancers mentality. How many times have you heard a dancer say they have 3 different types of dance class this week? Its what is required by the studio to continue to work on different technical skills and be well rounded. Yes, singing teachers we should do the same to develop the different technical skills needed to work on the various genres of singing. The singing world has come a long way in the last 10-20 years in this, but we need to be diligent about helping our students add that to their practice.

So the long and short of it is, we can teach singers using some elements of a dancer’s mentality and watch singing students soar!

By approaching teaching this way, we also start to work on our students Triple Threat of Dancing, Singing and Acting in next week’s article.

Leave a Comment