What I’m learning in voice lessons (besides how to sing)

by Katie on November 3, 2014

I recently started taking voice lessons again. I missed singing on a regular basis, and wanted to bring some creativity back into my life.

My voice teacher is classically trained, and has a specific teaching style, very heavy on technique. I was skeptical of this method at first as it can be a bit tedious, but I’ve also learned a lot in a short amount of time. I’ve recognized some bad habits, and have learned about proper breathing and posture. The typical things you learn in voice lessons.

But unexpectedly, I am also learning about so much more than how to sing notes.

Let go of expectations

My voice teacher often says to let go of expectations. To let go of how I “expect” the sound to come out. She advises instead to let it flow naturally and trust that the sound will come out as it is meant to. We do a lot of breathing exercises, and her advice is always to release the expectation of how it is supposed to sound, and just let it go.

As a singer, I always want the sound to come out perfectly. Often times I’m nervous to sing in front of others for fear my voice doesn’t sound good enough. By letting go of the expectation of how I think it is supposed to sound, I am able to sing more freely and actually enjoy it.


One of the biggest epiphanies I’ve learned in voice lessons is that I don’t have to force it. I don’t have to try so hard. The best sound comes from a relaxed posture, and relaxed jaw. From gentleness and ease. Learning this has made a huge difference in my singing. And it makes it so much easier. I can have ease and still sing powerfully.

Which makes me wonder—what else can I do with more ease? Where else am I forcing a result, and trying too hard?

Rhinoceros skin

During our most recent lesson, my teacher talked about her rhinoceros skin. A term she uses to describe the figurative shield we wear to make us feel safe and protected. It is our tough outer layer. As a woman, I understand this need to put on armor, if only energetically, as a way to protect ourselves.

But the problem is that we forget to take it off.

In singing, this translates into a lot of tension in the back. An unconscious holding and need for control.

Sometimes we need our rhinoceros skin. It gives us a sense of control and safety. But we don’t have to be rhinos all the time.

Sometimes we can take the armor off.

Back to basics

These voice lessons are unlike any other I’ve taken before. Most of the lesson is spent doing breathing exercises and warm-ups. We don’t spend a lot of time actually ‘singing’. The theory is that by mastering the breath work and technique, the rest will come naturally.

At first this was difficult for me. These are singing lessons—why aren’t I singing more?

But I’m learning to trust the process. Setting this foundation and getting comfortable with the building blocks is invaluable. In order to sing effortlessly and consistently (or do anything well for that matter), I have to master the basics. It isn’t always the most exciting thing in the world, but it is the most important.


We do A LOT of breathing. A lot. I’ve never focused so much on inhaling and exhaling.

We all could use some more breathing.

Breath literally is our life force. And it is the most important thing when it comes to singing. So why do we so often forget to focus on it? Sometimes taking a deep breath is all it takes.

Have you ever inadvertently learned some life lessons when you thought you’d be learning something else? Have you ever received life lessons from an unexpected source?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Annie November 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

This is fantastic Katie!!! And the breathing will come in handy in so many ways!! I need to start vocal lessons again for so many reasons. Thank you for this post.


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