As a teacher we need to understand that making mistakes is a large part of the process of learning. Mary Tyler Moore once said, "Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow." In the voice studio especially when much of our discoveries are based in finding limits and our personal sensations.
Here are 5 ways we can encourage and celebrate mistakes in lessons:
Invite odd, strange and exploring sounds on a regular basis.
My stretch and sigh sequence at the beginning of a lesson is one of the most helpful things I have found with this. This can be a time for the students to transition from where they just were to a space of focus, fun and curiosity. AND to start to find their unique voice. You could also go into a new part of music with a "Let's discover all the wrong ways so you can do it right" attitude!
Say the right thing after a mistake occurs.
"We can use that!"
"What did that tell us?"
"Interesting, tell me about that."
"What did you notice?"
Or anything else you can think of that encourages the student that what they did will move them forward! This is also a great time to use humor. You will want to be careful not to say - "Yikes!" "That wasn't singing." or anything else that may not be super kind.
Own your own mistakes.
If you embarrass easily when your voice, piano playing or administration 'fails' occur the student will match that, but if we come as we are to that lesson that day, the student can relax and join us in our human nature.
One reason is to see if they notice! OR this can be especially helpful if you are focusing on something totally different. I may have a student thinking about their head position and they forget what the rhythm is I will let it slide. Or make a note for me to refer to later to see if they do it again on the coordination phase of the song.
If you encounter a moment where the student needs more information about the why this is happening take the time to explain the reasoning. If their voice did something unpredictable, explain the pressure and air relationship, or the growing nature of the voice as we learn. Then see if they can make the same sound purposely. If they are missing a sound in a French song, find other French words that make that same sound and do a deeper dive into the language. Relationships in their learning is what we are looking for!
Enjoy finding more creative ways to encourage your student and singers to make mistakes, if you have a favorite share it in the comments below! I will leave you with this quote from Henry Ford: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”