Updated: Jan 29
Good-bye 2020. I’m really happy to see you go. But I do want to thank you for forcing me to start teaching online. I love it and am never going back to in-person teaching. Online teaching has made me able to target my ideal clients (voice teachers and pro singers) and meet with them no matter from whence they hail. I know many independent teachers and coaches feel as I do; they enjoy the benefits of
online teaching and intend to keep teaching that way, at least in part.
There have been bumps in the road as we’ve changed to pandemic-proof studios, and I think you’ll agree that overall, we’ve handled them brilliantly. We’ve learned to use our video platform, we’ve made our studios more online-friendly, we’ve figured out how to distribute music, how to accompany, and how to create performance opportunities. Now we just have to get our students and clients to pitch in a bit! Let’s help them create lesson experiences that are more effective, productive, and fun!
There are three simple and physical things that can affect our time with our clients positively:
It can be glitchy through the platform. You have to remember to update it. And most importantly, many (or all) of your clients, are using the native mics on their devices. Though the mic on your client’s tablet is a small miracle, it’s not ideal for voice work.
Ever taught a session to a dark outline against a bright window? When we can see our students, it’s easier for us to help them use their bodies in an efficient way, and help them understand how their bodies work with their voices.
The position of the device is going to determine the students physical posture and how they relate to you, physically, emotionally, and cognitively, on the other side of that screen. It’s the single most important thing a student or client can do to make the most of their time with you, and yet they almost never plan for that. Nor do we. So let’s talk about how to help our students with that one small change. Let’s help them understand why this one tiny change really matters.
Because people are people, I’m going to assume that your clients are doing what my clients often do: they sit in front of their laptop or desktop for their session time with you. Or they prop their tablet up on something that’s about waist-high and look down at you throughout their private session. Often if we suggest another way of addressing their device the client either can’t or doesn’t want to change. We don’t want to spend precious lesson time on this issue, so we just make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.
In this short piece I’m going to give you three reasons you can share with your clients to help convince them posture matters, and matters enough that they should pop for a stand. I’m also including a link (at the end) to a free download. This helpful and attractive pdf designed to help you make your case for stands, lighting, and microphones. Let the flyer do the talking!
REASON No. 1: Standing Increases Attention
There was a study done at Tel Aviv university in 2017 about standing vs. sitting and the effects on cognition. The researchers point out the known fact that whenever you’re standing you’re multitasking. As bipedal animals, we’re constantly adjusting our posture to stay standing, therefore there’s no such thing as standing still. Simply remaining upright creates a certain degree of cognitive load. It seems as though this would make it harder to think due to, as the researchers describe it, the “potentially stressful load on the organism.” But when we’re talking about selective attention - in other words, our focus is on one thing - the “stressful load” that we manage by standing actually increases our ability to focus. It speeds up our cognition, or our thinking.
What that can mean is that when our students are able to stand during a lesson, rather than sit at their desks or hunch over a waist-high table, they will:
Find it easier to pay attention
Retain more of what they learn
Be able to more readily execute physical actions
Reason No. 2: Standing is Dynamic
Since she said it much better than I could, I’m going to share Vocal Yogi Sarah Whitten’s thoughts about the importance of standing during a voice or coaching session:
“Our bodies thrive on variety. That means don’t stay in one position all the time to do your singing. With online lessons it’s tempting to sit to see the screen. But when we only do things one way we miss out on opportunities to keep our body and instrument dynamic. If you incorporate standing into your online lessons you not only introduce variety into the body and voice, but you more accurately create a situation similar to one in which you will perform when the world reopens.”
Sarah’s points address what we call muscle memory. Singing and performing are dynamic activities. Why would we work to create an association between singing and sitting at a desk?
Reason No. 3: Standing Encourages Breathing
Your voice is your breath valve. I realize this is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also the most important point we voice professionals need to address.
When you’re standing with healthy posture you encourage the use of your primary respiratory muscles, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. You also allow for more efficient and natural laryngeal movement. It’s difficult to access that supportive and dynamic way of breathing if you’re sitting or looking down on your screen. You’re working with your client to breathe in a healthy and efficient way. Putting the laptop or tablet on a stand will allow them to practice what you’re teaching them!
This PDF (keep scrolling to get it) suggests five different types of computer stands. It also offers guidance for microphones, speakers, and lights. (ANNDD, it's written TO your student, not to you. So you can just share it as-is, no need to add to your to-do list!) But if your student was to make one small purchase that would make everything about their lessons more fun and more effective, it would be a stand.
It will help them think
It will help them keep their singing dynamic
It will help them create posture for healthy breathing
If you feel reticent to ask your client to make that purchase, remember that your client is that magical person who has chosen to invest time and money into personal and artistic growth. This person really wants to get the most out of their time with you. If they need to make a purchase that is about the same price as one voice lesson in order to make all their voice lessons better, wouldn’t that make sense? So if you ask them to make one small purchase, and you tell them why it matters, they just may step up!
It will also make your job easier and more fun. And after all you’ve been through in 2020, I think you deserve that! 💜