How To Build Confidence? (Singing Teachers)
MemberFebruary 9, 2016 at 6:54 pm
So I teach this 18 year old girl who has a really nice voice, however, she has absolutely no confidence!
She will sing a song that she knows really well really nicely but in an extremely quiet voice and whenever I try to get her to do warm ups she freezes.
She will do something and then all of a sudden say she can’t and goes mute. She’s really good and all she needs is a little bit of confidence and she will go a long way. She must say I can’t at least 50 times in a lesson.
So what do I do with her to help build her confidence when she isn’t even confident enough to sing warm ups or scales?
ModeratorFebruary 10, 2016 at 1:06 pm
I have had this exact same situation, twice in fact. Lots of “I can’t” and “I don’t know” and general negativity throughout the lesson!
The first case was with a highly anxious 14 year old. I tried everything… for 2 years.
By everything, I mean I was gentle, patient, went at her own pace… then I would try to push her a little… she sometimes responded well but other times the opposite. I tried the tough love… the counselling method… just chatting about her day. But nothing really worked in the end unfortunately. She had a beautiful voice but I think her illness got worse so she started to regress. This is probably an extreme example and there’s only so much a teacher can do until out of their depth where illness is concerned. My best advice is to keep in contact with the parents and make sure the student is always comfortable.
However, yours is 18 and therefore an adult. I also currently teach a 21 year old with a personality disorder. Lots of negativity and again, a stunning voice but keeps shying away from each challenge I give her! I try to just let her do what she’s comfortable with in order to build confidence, before jumping in at the deep end and getting her out of her comfort zone (like I do with most students!)
I would have a chat to her and find out her likes and dislikes and see how her life is in general?! Also get her to talk about what makes her feel passionate about music. Aware of course, that you can’t pry too much when it comes to the “life” stuff, but just be open about listening, saying she can confide in you and that she won’t be judged. This can lift a huge weight off a students shoulders (which can take time!) and she’ll learn to trust you, which should result in her being less afraid and more relaxed and able to set her voice free!
I am still in this up and down process so any further advice for my 21 year old would be great!
ModeratorFebruary 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm
I also talk about my own fears and my struggles with singing, so I can relate to the student and make them feel like they’re not alone and these feelings can still overwhelm us, even as professionals! With warm ups, sing with her as much as possible to begin with, and encourage the silliness! Make her laugh as this automatically relaxes most people.
MemberFebruary 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm
Thanks for this Eliza! This is great, at the end of the day it all seems to come down to patience.
I really don’t mind as long as she is having fun and enjoys it. I only get frustrated because I see the potential in her and I know that she can really sing and her confidence is the only thing that is getting in the way.
I will experiment with a few different things and see what she responds to best.
MemberFebruary 10, 2016 at 10:57 pm
@Wes is she able to sing the scales when you sing them along with her?
Also, I don’t know if this is helpful, but I had a similar experience with a girl once and very gradually we got her to come out of her shell, but something that was integral to the process was making sure she had recordings of the scales to practice at home and that she had a practice space that she felt comfortable with. Even though she’d be really nervous in the lesson, she was still committed to improving so she’d practice her warm ups at home by herself (with no-one listening), and then eventually that’s what gave her the confidence to try doing them “infront of someone” in her lesson. Maybe this might help?
ModeratorFebruary 14, 2016 at 4:37 pm
Just to add to this further: a lot of my students aren’t practising (something I may start a discussion group about at some point – how to get your students to actually practice!!!) due to not feeling like they can really let go at home as they live in a house share or with partners or family. This really holds them back from actually moving forward! A lot of them practice in the car (much like myself) which still has its limits of course, as you’re not going to have 100% of your attention on the practising!
So my solution is to book a practice room. I did this for my own practice the other day, just me in a sound proof practice room. Even though I live on my own, and teach as loudly as I want in my flat, I still relate to that shy feeling of practising using all my power, as I know the neighbours can probably hear!
Booking that practice room was amazingly productive as I had to pay and therefore got the job done! I also felt so free and my confidence was improved with the songs I was doing. Winner!
MemberFebruary 14, 2016 at 5:24 pm
No she isn’t able to sing them at all, I decided to do something a little different with her and discovered that it isn’t just about confidence but also about being so frustrated with herself that she shuts down.
I spoke to her about it at the end of her lesson last week and we had a much better lesson this week. She said she wasn’t as frustrated and that she came in with a more determined attitude. So yes confidence is an issue with her but more than that she just get’s so frustrated with herself that she gives up trying for a while. I have given her the tracks and things that she needs and told her to sing scales at home so hopefully she will practice. However, much like Eliza is finding she has never practiced before as she has never sung in front of her family before. I’ve challenged her to sing for them but no luck yet.
MemberFebruary 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm
Eliza! Great Idea about the practice room. I always love going somewhere with soundproofing and really going for it.
It’s a great idea suggesting things like that to students and lots of students especially Uni students don’t want to sing at home because they are worried what their mates and people around them will think.
Might try this tactic myself, however, some of my singing students won’t be able to afford it outside my lesson which does add another debate to “What to do when students won’t practice?”
MemberFebruary 15, 2016 at 5:52 am
Haha yes, this practicing thing is a whole new topic!
MemberFebruary 16, 2016 at 12:41 pm
Hey guys, I totally agree with Eliza about encouraging them to potentially book a room to practise and even more importantly- being silly during the lessons. I too have a couple of students who lack confidence and I have taken the approach of distraction, which seems to have worked pretty well thus far.
During our vocal warm ups, I ask them to perform a physical exercise (gentle head shake from side to side, or lifting up shoulders and letting them fall just before doing a lip trill, etc). What I have found is that they then shift their focus from thinking about ‘producing sound / singing’ to performing the physical movement, which in turn results in the vocal exercise being performed in a much more relaxed manner.
ModeratorFebruary 16, 2016 at 5:28 pm
MemberFebruary 20, 2016 at 12:17 pm
Yes Monika! Totally agree with physical warm-ups as well as vocal.
One thing that I’ve found works really well with my students is setting them the challenge of performing in front of a family member/house mate at home. Even if it’s through the door! By eliminating the idea of “oooh, what if someones listening, what if someones judging, what if what if what if” and actually performing with the attitude of “I can” gets rid of any of their nerves about singing or even just being loud in someone else’s company. They can perform warm-ups or songs as long as someone other than me (the teacher) hears/sees/knows that they are learning to sing.
I hope that makes sense.
ModeratorFebruary 20, 2016 at 4:48 pm
I agree Lily – this is one of the reasons I have my lessons back to back. The students can meet each other and also hear each other. Most of them don’t mind and it makes them more used to being heard and less shy of it!
MemberFebruary 21, 2016 at 12:28 am
Wow, great idea Lily!
It reminds me of a student that came in recently and she won’t be able to make the next recital, so we were trying to think of a good performance goal for her (she gets very nervous), and she came up with the idea of using Snapchat! I’ve never used snapchat but apparently you can take a photo or video of just about anything, and it goes up on your snap chat and stays there for 24 hours. So she felt it could be a good way to let her friends know that she’s a singer and to do a few seconds of singing for them (a mini performance), with the knowledge that if she got embarrassed about it, it would be taken down in 24 hours anyway, never to be seen again. A nifty idea!
MemberFebruary 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm
Awesome ideas guys! One more thing I have recently started doing is encouraging my students to set themselves a goal to perform at an open mic a few weeks / months down the line. A clear objective of a live performance at a certain point in time gives them purpose, and most importantly motivation to practise, which seems to be a pretty rare occurrence indeed! 🙂
MemberFebruary 24, 2016 at 5:42 pm
The snapchat idea is excellent! I also find that getting them used to the idea of making silly noises early on is really helpful, as so often in singing you’re trying to make a “nice” sound, which can actually be quite restricting!
ModeratorFebruary 24, 2016 at 6:33 pm
Totally agree. Everyone is always so held back because they feel like singing lessons are about trying their hardest to not sound awful which is actually a completely negative way of looking at it! And you have to let yourself sound “awful” or silly as I say, in order to relax and let yourself actually have a chance to be corrected or just compare sounds 🙂
MemberFebruary 25, 2016 at 2:39 am
Yes! Silly noises are the best. Actually I find this can be a big hurdle for some students at the start. There are some people who could do well with a pharyngeal sound for example, but it’s a really uphill battle to get them to just let loose and imitate the sound, even though I assure them it’s meant to sound ugly and bratty and like a silly accent.
MemberFebruary 25, 2016 at 9:49 am
What are everyone’s preferred ‘ugly’ sounds? I like to stick with “nyah nyah nyah” which is very withcy!!
This was introduced to me by Alice and I’ll never look back! Witches all the way 😛
ModeratorFebruary 26, 2016 at 3:55 pm
YES I love the nya!!! Great for twang.
What is (I am ashamed to ask) pharyngeal sound!?
MemberMarch 1, 2016 at 3:46 am
Pharyngeal sound is just another word for the witchy/bratty/twangy group of sounds. I know some teachers would split hairs over this – actually some teachers would cry war haha, but this is what I’ve seen in common usage. All of these sounds raise the larynx and allow the vocal folds to adduct more easily and consistently.
Dopey or cry sounds are also pretty rad. I love a good cry/whine sound especially at the top of an exercise if someone’s voice is flipping a little too much into falsetto at the top.
ModeratorMarch 1, 2016 at 10:22 pm
Thanks Kat! Also, could you describe the difference between the cry sound, so tilting the larynx, and the pharyngeal sounds? Because tilting the larynx isn’t necessarily dropping it like a yawn, is it?
ModeratorMarch 1, 2016 at 10:24 pm
Also, I’m working on that exact thing (the flip) with a woman atm who is very belty but in a theatrical/diva way, and we are trying to introduce more twang which is working really well, but she hates how she still flips into head voice when going even higher! I have told her she can and should still allow this, but maybe make the sound more narrow and breathy so it doesn’t sound too “heady”. She’s doing Think by Aretha. Perhaps the cry would help here..?
MemberMarch 1, 2016 at 10:54 pm
So… this get’s a little crazy, but here’s what I believe to be true.
– bratty and witchy sounds both adduct and thin the vocal folds with a higher-than-normal but stable larynx position.
– a sobbing sound (or a cry if it sounds sobby – sometimes it’s hard to know we’re talking about the same sound!) again adducts the vocal folds but with a somewhat lower larynx position.
– a dopey sound only lowers the larynx without necessarily causing more adduction (in fact in many cases it will lessen adduction. In other cases it will simply deepen the level of adduction so that more of the “belly of the fold” (vocalis muscle) is used in vibration).
Now… the word tilt is really kinda misleading. The fact is that your thyroid cartilage will tilt whenever the cricothyroid muscle is used. And this is the main method of stretching the vocal folds (ie. making a higher pitch). So really, regardless of the quality of the tone, the cricothyroid muscle is primarily involved in pitch-making. But I’ve heard a lot of people with estill backgrounds talking a whole lot about “tilt”, so maybe there’s something going on here? You’d have to explain it to me 😉
MemberMarch 1, 2016 at 11:01 pm
As for your student, it’s hard to say without hearing. But as far as I know, Think is in Bflat, and it’s reeeallly high.
The top “freedom” notes are around F5, which is truly getting into second bridge/passagio! So if she’s not totally comfortable in middle voice yet, getting into head voice may just take time.
My only thought is that given how many Bflats are in this song, that’s dangerous territory for a really chest dominant singer unless she can mix well (I think Adele would just about keel over!). But like I said, it’s hard to know what’s going on without hearing her, and if she’s using twang to thin out and keep the folds adducted, chances are you’re definitely on the right track!
ModeratorMarch 1, 2016 at 11:04 pm
Great – that just about makes sense – thanks. Yes – Estill people love the tilt!
MemberMarch 2, 2016 at 10:19 am
I love this thread <3
ModeratorMarch 2, 2016 at 11:01 am
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