What to Look For in Your Vocal Coach

For anyone looking to improve their singing and vocal technique, working with a singing teacher, voice teacher, or  vocal coach, can be a decision worth its weight in gold.

The Benefits of a Brilliant Vocal Coach

Singing is no easy feat; even professional singers  seek expert advice throughout their career. Learning to breathe right, stand right, enunciate correctly – all take hard work, dedicated training and  consistent practice.

But developing a good voice doesn’t stop when you finally hit the high notes. Vocal coaches can teach you so much more than singing. Having a strong voice can help you to carry yourself with steady confidence, hold a room with rich tone, and communicate your message with crystal  clear clarity.

If you consider your voice to be the foundation  on which you will build your ability to sing and enchant audiences (whether on American Idol or just gathered around the piano on a rainy day), correct vocal training can truly shape your world.

 

What’s the Difference Between a Singing Instructor, Voice  Teacher and a Vocal Coach?

While all three help you improve your singing, there is a difference between each of the professions: Singing Instructor, Voice Teacher and Vocal Coach. Learning what they do can assist you in deciding who to choose to help you develop your voice.

Singing Instructor

  • Helps students improve their singing in a group educational setting
  • Helps students learn about music and singing in general
  • Focuses more on daily class lessons
  • Able to offer little time for individual assistance

Voice Teacher

  • Individually helps you to make the correct sounds, with proper pitch and tone
  • Teaches you how to sing without strain
  • Works on developing your own vocal skills
  • Builds your voice into a magnificent instrument

Vocal Coach

  • Individually helps, or coaches, you on singing particular songs
  • Focuses on proper pronounciation of words, especially foreign
  • Helps you to interpret and performing your songs
  • Builds your repertoire of songs to pull from

 

There isn’t much difference between a singing teacher and a vocal coach; it’s down to personal interpretation from the person advertising their skills.

A singing teacher will of course be tackling your vocals, and a voice coach will be gifting you those essential skills you need to keep your voice strong and healthy.

A singing teacher may take more of a technical approach to lessons, whereas voice coaches can help you to ‘own’ a song, by improving on things like pronunciation, accent reduction, performance practice and so forth.

It’s not only singers who rock out for voice coaching either; anyone working in the voiceover industry, public speaking, instructors, performers and even teachers delivering classes can all benefit from the bounty of tips and techniques a good vocal coach can give you.

How to Find a Vocal Coach

By now, you may be wondering the best way to track down your dream vocal coach.

One of the best ways to find a vocal coach is to ask for recommendations from other singers or public speakers you know. Word of mouth referrals are always great, but you can also turn to the online world and see what other people are saying about singing teachers in your area.

A quick local search is sure to pull up results. The Musicians Union or the American Federation of Music will also have a list, as will the National Association Teachers of Singing.

You can also find plenty of vocal coaches offering online voice training and tutorials. Online vocal coaches and singing lessons can work well, and give you more choice when it comes to picking a teacher you want to work with.

Often, online lessons can be a much more cost-effective option. Even when looking for a vocal coach online, you should still apply the following points and arrange a meeting or discount first lesson via Skype to assess.

Finding the right vocal coach is going to be imperative to your success. Here’s what to look for when seeking a vocal teacher…

Before You Go

Know your Own Actionable Goals

Before you start seeking out your dream vocal teacher, you should consider what you want to achieve from your private voice lessons.

Whether you want someone to help you train to get into a vocal studio, to help you feel more confident with public speaking, or to extend your vocal range and boost your vocal performance – knowing what you want is the first step in the right direction.

Of course, a good vocal coach won’t draw a line in the sand after hitting one goal. The whole aim of investing in a vocal coach is they will be able to spot your vocal flaws, strengths and weaknesses and will have the knowledge and training to help you correct them.

Communication is key when it comes to shopping around for a vocal coach; don’t be afraid to ask questions and point out the issues you are having that you hope to address.

Look for the Right Style

There are thousands of musical styles and there is little point working with a vocal teacher who isn’t interested in the range of music you want to sing in.

For example; if you are trying to train for an audition for a musical, or looking to wow the judges at American Idol, it wouldn’t be the best idea to choose a vocal coach specializing in classical opera. You may even be looking for a voice-over coach for audition work in acting.

Of course, a good vocal coach or singing teacher will be able to help you with your technique regardless of whether their personal taste aligns with yours. However, it really will help to push you forward faster if you find someone who shares your style, as they will have the technical knowledge that works within that industry.

Logistical Thinking

It may seem trite alongside other factors like qualifications, knowledge, and trust – but some logistical planning should come into play when choosing a singing teacher.

With offline voice lessons, if your singing teacher or vocal coach lives on the other side of town, then there is more risk of disruption to your vocal lesson plan. Bad weather, delays on the road, car trouble – a number of things can get in the way. But with online lessons you don’t have the barriers of geographic limitations, lost time commuting with traffic, and snow days because you can study in privacy without ever leaving your home.

You also need to ask questions about cost, availability and schedule. You want to find someone who you can afford to work with and who has a timetable of lessons that you are able to weave into your life. The more research you do to find someone who fits first time, the less disruption you will face later on in the process.

You want to select a teacher that works within your schedule and budget, otherwise you may find yourself on a start or stop program which will have a negative impact on the development of your progress and technique.  With some of the more popular teachers it’s common to find out they might  have a waiting list and to be patient if you are serious about having a good match.

Education and Experience

It’s worthwhile to ask about previous education and experience when whittling down the list of teachers you want to work with. Finding out if your vocal coach has relevant qualifications for reputable institutions may make you feel at ease that their background knowledge is firmly in place.

Along with qualifications like a master’s degree or bachelor’s, you can also ask about teaching experience. How long has the vocal coach been in business, how many students have passed through their doors, what is their average number of weeks, months, years spent with a student.

While formal education and training isn’t always the most important factor, it can help to have a teacher who has a proven track record of working in vocal training.

Seek Trusted Knowledge

While qualifications are impressive, you should seek vocal coaches that have passion, persistence and in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the singing voice works.

The best singing teachers don’t always come with impressive letters next to their name, experience and education is important – but arguably a great teaching technique is far more important.

When first meeting a vocal coach you may be impressed by the technical terms being thrown around the room, but dig a little deeper. Its beneficial to arrive at the first meeting with some background knowledge and research on healthy singing techniques of your own. That way, you are well prepared to ask questions and correctly evaluate the answers.

Warning lights should sound if the vocal coach has a bizarre or experimental technique with sketchy science to back it up. You should never guinea pig your voice.

Ask for a couple of suggested exercises and don’t be shy when it comes to asking for an explanation of how the exercise will benefit you. A good teacher will know the ins and outs and reasoning as to why they are asking you to do something.

[SAMPLE EXERCISES HERE WHEN WE HAVE THEM]

Listening to Learn

A good vocal coach should make you feel completely comfortable and at ease in their presence. Just like working with a therapist or life coach, you want to work with someone you trust, who listens to you and you’re are compatible with.

You could be working with the world’s best vocal coach, but if there is something that doesn’t click – it won’t bring out the best in your voice. If someone you are working with makes you feel uncomfortable, it will show in your voice.  Your confidence will drop, and you won’t be getting the best out of your investment.

You want a teacher who will give you time and space to air your concerns, and who will address them and work your actionable goals into a personal program suited to your needs.

Take recommendations from others who have worked with vocal coaches, attend a few lessons, ask questions, scrutinize how you feel after you have left, and always trust your gut instinct when selecting a teacher who you want to go further with.

Your First Lesson

Take one lesson with your vocal instructor for a test run before you sign up for the long haul. This gives you a chance to get a taste of the personality and style of the vocal coach you are considering working with.

Don’t go in there expecting to come out singing like you are ready for the studio after one go, but do look to come out feeling pleased and confident that you are going to make progress with this person.

The lesson shouldn’t all revolve around spoken theory, you should have vocal warm ups, exercises, and technique. If your coach just talks at you for 45 minutes this is not going to be a good investment of your time and finances.

From that first lesson you really want to ask your potential vocal coach about their methodology when it comes to teaching. You also want to sing in front of them and have them identify the strengths and weaknesses, and to offer a few suggestions as to how they think you will work together to build on your positives and overcome the flaws.

Also, upon leaving your first lesson you want to pay attention to how your vocal cords feel. If you are in pain or suffering a burning feeling, then you shouldn’t go back. A good vocal coach will advocate singing in a healthy manner and this doesn’t involve painful stress on your vocals.

Making Progress

As time goes on your needs will change, and your vocal coach should keep adapting their program to suit those changing needs.

A really good way of following your own progress is to record yourself singing. You will be able to listen back over time and see if you are making any headway with your music teacher, if your technique is changing for the better, and most importantly – if you are getting results you are satisfied with.

Patience is Key

Even the best vocal coaching session in the world won’t be able to work miracles overnight. Great singing and a strong voice isn’t something you can solely leave in the hands of your vocal coach – you need to be prepared to work too.

Patience is essential on the road to a powerful voice, as is practice. You can attend your lessons, listen, and have an awesome voice teacher – but unless you are prepared to take the work home with you, progress will be much slower.

A Final Note

The right vocal coach is out there. While it can be tempting to go with the first person who fits the bill and your budget, this is something that is worth taking your time with.

Those who want to quickly start progressing with their vocal technique and training should be thorough in their research. Finding a great teacher first-time helps to put you on the right road and will reduce the risk of stumbling blocks.

However, if at any point on the journey you realize that this person isn’t the right vocal coach for you – don’t be afraid to step out and find someone new.

As you grow, your voice will grow, and maybe one day you will surpass your vocal teacher’s ability and repertoire. At that point, find someone else who can take the reins.

Nurturing your talent and growing your voice is an ongoing adventure, be sure to pick your guide wisely.

Mike Elson

about the author

Mike Elson Mike loves to sing and make magic happen with computers and music. After trying lots of ways that didn't work to find... Read More

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