Marty Heresniak, B.M., M.M

voice teacher

79 Hudson Heights
Ithaca, NY 14850


member National Association of Teachers of Singing

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What Can I Expect from Voice Lessons?

For those who sing, but have little experience with singing teachers,
some simple guidelines of what can be expected during formal study may be in order . . .

or to put it another way ...

Who is this guy and what am I getting myself into if I study with him?

To Begin ...

Learning to sing is an ongoing process. If a student has never had vocal study there may be apprehension in beginning the process. If the student has had lessons, there may be a desire to continue - or to avoid - the previous course of study.

When considering a voice teacher the student will naturally have some questions, even if they are never actually voiced as questions.

What can the student expect from the teacher?

What can the student expect from the student's voice?

What type of progress should the process bring about?

How much time is required?

What kind of music is taught?

And what should the teacher expect from the student?

These questions and the other ideas presented herein are subjective and apply to my own teaching. They are meant to inform prospective students about my methods. I do not speak for others' techniques or philosophies.


Every voice, as every personality, has unique traits. Many of the factors of your voice are locked in genetic codes. If you are short and dark I cannot make you tall and blond. So, too, if you are a bass-baritone I cannot make you a tenor. I cannot promise to increase your volume or range, get you parts, nor make you famous (although we can try). I will, however, help you find your own voice.


It may be a while before we know. The more vocal idiosyncracies you have picked up along the way the farther you have gotten from your own voice. To borrow organic metaphors, we may prepare for harvest, we may prune, or we may plow under, spread manure, and start from seed. Usually eight to ten weeks will give some indication of what we can expect to crop up.


Just what do you think voice teachers do? If you don't sing, I'll teach you how. I don't take only accomplished singers or even audition students. My main concern is educating and helping the student to realize potential. Any reasonably intelligent, healthy person can sing well. Your needs determine how we will work. I have even taught the "singing-challenged" how to match pitch. Just once in over forty years have I turned a student away - when it became apparent the singing inability was due to a hearing deficiency.


What program? My teaching changes with every student as I work to meet the individual needs of each voice. I choose not to affiliate with any institution precisely to avoid standards and rules and externalized goals. Curricular programs are convenient - often impressive - ways of organizing, but can be antithetical to learning. We will analyze your strengths and weaknesses and, together, decide on your goals - only to reëvaluate in another six months.


What for? If you want to, and if your voice is suited to it, we may try some. But most voices are not operatic. It would make as much sense for me to tell some students to learn arias as it would to say "hand me that piano."


I don't teach songs. I teach singing. Were I to teach songs you would learn a few, but not how to sing. I teach how to sing and how to approach learning and performing songs. Once you have those skills you can apply them as needed to learn songs on your own. In choosing repertory you tell me what you like and I tell you what I think might be suitable for your voice. Most of the songs I suggest are jazz standards and musical theatre songs of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. You sing some of what you like and you attempt some of what I suggest. And we both learn something.


That depends on how you are looking at time. The basic theoretical tenets of sound vocal technique can be learned rather easily. Mastery of the practical aspects of technique takes longer. The initial eight-to-ten weeks is enough to understand what technique can do for you, but it can take anywhere from six months to two years for the body's responses to catch up with the mind.

If you look at other aspects of time, practice does make for perfecting technique. There will be a great and obvious difference in the progress of a student who practices an hour a week and one who works an hour a day. The results are directly proportional to the effort. Practicing what I assign, in lieu of the songs you like, will speed progress.

Another consideration is where this process will fit into your other time commitments. If you just don't have a moment to spare, your progress will be halting and slow. If you carve out regular time for singing you will improve more regularly. Students considering extracurricular lessons should remember to allow space for the equivalent of a major course in their academic schedules.


I cannot control your practice time, but you do commit to weekly lessons with a standing appointment. Lessons are not blown off because it's sunny and you want to play, or it's mid-term week, or you haven't practiced, or you want to schedule something else. Cutting class when it's a lecture is one thing; cutting a one-on-one lesson is another. Besides, I'll charge you for it.