Written by ELLA
Taking lessons in anything is time consuming and... scary. I can admit it now that my biggest fear was for someone to tell me I suck. Eventually, I realized that if I do suck at something, lessons are the only way to improve. On the flip side, you might not think you don't need any training... but you never know what you'll learn from the right teacher. I held off on taking voice lessons for three reasons: I didn't have the time, I didn't have the money and I wanted to cultivate my natural talent first. Without the time and money, I had no choice but to be natural. As soon as I started becoming more comfortable with singing in public, I started finding it more difficult to find songs I wanted to sing. Since I don't write songs just yet (I'm a rapper and don't you forget it) I needed someway to invest myself in singing and continue to get better. When I perform, I can see that people enjoy it... but I really want to learn how to blow them out of the water. I had no idea what the lessons would teach me but, in the end... I know that it's practice that makes perfect.
I take voice lessons on Sundays in Brooklyn and sometimes I can't make it. I don't kick myself for it, I simply accept that, sometimes, I'm busy. And the Bronx is a bit far. I buy my lessons in advance so that I feel more obligated to go. I found my instructor, Desmond, on TakeLessons.com and he's been fantastic. I've only had three sessions with him, and I've had to push back a couple of times, but my favorite thing about him is that, when I get there, he doesn't waste my time - we only have 45 minutes. He immediately makes me sing scales, do vocal exercises, teaches me how to read music and assigns me songs to practice. My current songs are by Jennifer Hudson, which is scary because I sometimes doubt myself and feel like that's too much of a challenge... but when I put my heart into it, I amaze myself that it sounds better than I had imagined. Desmond is a great help in picking out my weak spots and turning my focus towards what I need work on. "It's no use doing what you already know how to do. You need to practice what's hard for you," Desmond told me.
I've realized that it's a mistake to think that we're fine the way we are. As the corny old saying goes, "There is always room for improvement." You can always learn more, and the more you know the better you will get. Accumulating skills and rhythm in any field is necessary for success. Even as a ball player, you might have the proper form to shoot the ball, but shooting from the top of the box is completely different from trying to make it at the baseline --you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
What I've gained most from lessons is confidence. I feel it's extremely helpful to be equipped with all the tools available, even if you don't decide to use them. My sole responsibility is to practice and (just like homework) I can see improvement when I apply myself as directed. I often forget to do my vocal exercises, but I can't help but to sing everyday --that's how I know I love it. Sometimes, I'll remember to do my vocal exercises when I'm waiting for the train or walking to lunch (I don't mind the public lol). The things you love rarely take up your time; the work is effortless because you enjoy it and makes it all feel like they come naturally. Or... find a way to make practice fit in when it works for you. I'll admit, I've been slacking on practicing... but now that I've found space to breathe, it's all I want to do.
Take the time to cultivate yourself in whatever your art might be. If you're going to "invest in yourself" the way people like to chant, I recommend you learn something. It seems to me that people focus on marketing themselves, but not bettering themselves. Eventually, the gimmick fades and people start to take a second look at your talent. What will they say then? It never hurts to expose yourself and try to learn. I encourage everyone to continue working on yourself and your talents. The worst that can happen is that you'll get better :)