FAQ about Voice Lessons
at Joseph Michael Voice Studio
My approach to working with the voice comes from what we know about vocal function through science, medicine, historical pedagogy, and of course personal experience. Voice science is in a very exciting period because we are constantly learning new things. Being at the forefront of that information allows me to teach voice with the latest, most up-to-date information. This is not to say that lessons are “scientific”, but rather that cutting edge knowledge informs the way that I work with each individual.
Because of my involvement in the discipline of vocology (voice science), I am in the uniquely opportune position to have relationships with laryngologists and speech-language pathologists. This becomes crucial when dealing with vocal fold injury, as you, the singer, have a team of voice specialists who are communicating and working together to benefit YOU.
My background is in both classical and musical theatre. Today, almost all singers are asked to cross those boundaries. The principles of vocal function are the same no matter the genre or style, but the nuances of negotiating the different styles must be closely monitored. This is especially important when singing contemporary or commercial music such as pop, rock, R&B, etc. to avoid injury to the vocal folds.
Vocology is the science and practice of voice habilitation (and, if necessary, rehabilitation) which includes evaluation, diagnosis, and behavioral intervention. More broadly, it is the study of vocalization.
A vocologist works with professional voice users- that is people whose voice plays an integral role in their job. The goals of a vocologist are:
- To find the ideal voice for an individual.
- To teach clients how to feel good making vocal sounds.
- To allow an individual to achieve maximum control of their voice.
- To maximize the longevity of the voice.
I do not employ any trademarked “method” of singing. The basic instruction is to stretch and unpress the voice with the aid of a variety of semi-occluded vocal tract (SOVT) tools. I utilize a primarily top-down approach, bringing lightness from the upper mechanism down to create an even, seamless voice. More importantly, the techniques are tailored around the individual needs of the student, and not from a cookie cutter recipe book or method.
$100 for a 60 minute lesson in Midtown Manhattan. This includes the cost of studio rental.
Note that voice lessons do not include an accompanist. If you would like a full accompaniment for your material, then you can provide an accompaniment or backing track. In addition, you may bring your own accompanist. Alternatively, an accompanist can usually be arranged for an additional $25 per half hour. It is recommended that the accompanist arrives for the second half hour of the lesson, as the first half hour is typically used for technique work.
Package Rates: Pre-paid lesson package rates may be available upon request. Please inquire about a pre-paid package of lessons via email.
Lessons are taught in Midtown Manhattan, primarily at Ripley-Grier Studios. However, depending on scheduling and availability we may meet at another studio in the area. In addition, it may be possible to meet in Downtown Manhattan. The studio rental fee will always be covered in the cost of the lesson.
You will be asked to fill out a brief, confidential online questionnaire about your goals and voice history. You will also be given the studio policies and asked to agree to them.
Lessons are one hour. Approximately half of the lesson will be spent on technique and the other half on repertoire. The repertoire chosen will be designed to address specific areas that need improvement and support the technical work that we are doing in the first half of the lessons. Repertoire will be chosen based on the student’s goals as well as individual needs.
Lessons can be scheduled several ways, depending on your schedule, financial ability, and purpose for taking them. Lessons are usually scheduled on a set weekly routine, often on the same day and time. Lessons can also be regularly scheduled every other week. If you’re someone whose schedule changes frequently, we can be flexible with when we meet.
Every singer experiences results differently. The best approach to taking lessons is to develop or reinforce a change at every lesson. The rate at which each singer grows is vastly different for each singer. It is important to keep an open mind and consider your short and long term goals.
If you are interested in regular study then I will provide repertoire specifically chosen to enhance the technical work you are developing in the studio. You should bring that to each lesson. If there is something in particular you would like to work on, such as for an audition, then you can bring that.
A note about repertoire: Trying out repertoire is not like trying on clothes. Working on the wrong repertoire at the wrong time can not only impede growth, but can even undo it. So while you are free to bring music that you need for an audition/role/solo/etc., you are discouraged from regularly bringing in music “just to try it out”. Instead, let’s work together to find music that you like that is also beneficial to your growth!
At my voice studio, singers work in a variety of styles, including classical, music theatre, pop, etc. The primary goal is to create an easy, free, effortless vocal production, as well as enhance the current vocalism. Ideally, you will be able to sing xxxxx with that type of production. But understand that while singing xxxxx may be a goal, you may not be ready to work on that piece at present, and your time may be better spent working on more suitable repertoire for your current coordination.
How often we meet can depend on your goals, but regular meetings are encouraged. Ideally we would meet once every week. However, if you have time or financial concerns we can meet every other week. Pre-paid packages can be arranged.
You are encouraged to record your lessons!! You are doubly encouraged to listen back to them to improve your mindfulness of how you actually sound vs. how you think you sound.
Who I Work With
No. Only a certified, licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) can provide voice therapy. However, singers with injured voices require special care and instruction. Joseph Michael Voice Studio maintains relationships with laryngologists and speech language pathologists so that the singer has a complete voice care team looking after their voice. If you are a singer who is having vocal health issues and would like a referral to a laryngologist who specializes in singing voices, feel free to contact me for recommendations and referrals.
No. My position is that children should not engage in vocal study. Instead, it is recommended that young children join a choir and/or study an instrument such as piano in order to develop their ear and musical skills until their voices have changed. Joseph Michael Voice Studio welcomes students that are in high school and above whose voices have changed.
If you are a person who uses their voice for non-singing work, it is also beneficial to learn optimal voice use. Professional voice users include actors, public speakers, politicians, lawyers, fitness instructors, teachers, and other people who rely on their voice for their work. If you are interested in non-singing voice work to increase vocal efficiency, contact Joseph Michael Voice Studio for more information. If you have been experiencing voice issues, you should first see a laryngologist to rule out injury. If you would like a recommendation for a laryngologist, contact Joseph Michael Voice Studio.
Yes! All voice types are welcome!
Absolutely. While the primary goal of lessons will be vocal function, the importance of interpretation and its effects on the voice (both positive and negative) are also worked on. At Joseph Michael Voice Studio you can train your voice and get help choosing repertoire that is appropriate for each of your audition requirements. If you are getting ready for college auditions, we can also work together on ear training and theory tutoring to avoid remedial study, which usually costs extra money and does not count toward graduation credits.
In reality, only a small percentage of the population is truly tone deaf, which would be caused by neurological conditions. Most people who have difficulty matching pitch simply have a hard time coordinating their voice to match the pitch they are hearing. This can often be remedied very quickly in a voice lesson.
There are two types of vocal technique lessons available.
The Basic Lesson does not include an accompanist. I will be able to play melody lines and very basic accompaniment in your repertoire.
The Full Lesson includes a skilled accompanist for the second half hour of the 60 minute lesson.
You are absolutely welcome to bring an accompanist to your lesson. Please be sure that they can play your music and that you will feel comfortable singing in front of them. If you would like an accompanist but do not know one, please contact Joseph Michael Voice Studio and an accompanist may be able to play for you. Please note that you should have your accompanist arrive at your lesson for the second half hour. During the first 30 minutes we will work on technique only, so no accompanist is needed. During the second half we will work on repertoire.
IMPORTANT NOTE: With the exception of the Full Lesson, all accompanist fees are in addition to the regular lesson fee and are the responsibility of the student to be paid directly to the accompanist. It is your responsibility to find out the accompanist’s rate and preferred payment methods in advance of your lesson. If you choose the Full Lesson option, you may make one payment to Joseph Michael Voice Studio which will give the proper payment to the accompanist. If you prefer, you may also pay the accompanist directly for the Full Lesson.
Recorded tracks are a great way to sing with accompaniment without the added expense of an accompanist. Understand that you will not have as much flexibility in your interpretation if you choose to use tracks.
If you have tracks that you would like to sing with in your lesson, here are some guidelines:
- Send the tracks to your teacher the night before your lesson as a backup.
- Be sure that you can play the tracks on a device that is loud enough to sing with. An iPad can be quite loud. An iPhone may not be. Laptop speakers vary, so test them out before your lesson.
- If you are preparing for an audition, especially college auditions, it is highly recommended that you hire an accompanist for at least some of your lessons. You will be working with a real accompanist at your audition and should practice with one before then.
- Do not simply choose a track that is on YouTube, as an internet connection is not always guaranteed. If you find an accompaniment you like on YouTube or another website, try and locate the actual sound file and download it.
No problem! Send an email to JMF@JosephMichaelVoice.com and I’ll be happy to answer any other questions that you have!