What to Look For in Your Vocal Coach

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

The Benefits of a Vocal Coach

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

Developing a good singing voice doesn’t stop when you finally hit those high notes, and voice coaches can teach you so much more than singing. Having a strong voice can help you to carry yourself with steady confidence, hold an audience with a rich tone and communicate your message with crystal 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.

Singers are not the only ones who “rock out” for voice coaching, either. Anyone working in the voiceover, public speaking, or theatrical production industries, as well as teachers instructing classes, can all benefit from the abundance of tips and techniques that a good vocal coach has to offer.

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

While both help you to improve your singing, there is a difference between each of the professions: Voice Teacher and Vocal Coach. Learning what they do will help you in deciding which to choose to help you develop your voice.

Voice Teacher
– Individually helps you to make the correct sounds, with proper pitch and tone
– Works with scales, voice building, registration
– Helps you to develop your own vocal skills; vocal production
– Lays the foundation to build your voice into a magnificent instrument

Vocal Coach
– Individually helps, or coaches, you on singing particular songs
– Focuses on style and diction – proper pronunciation of words, especially foreign words
– Helps you to interpret and performing your songs (works on character, meaning, sub-text – what does the song mean?
– Builds your singing repertoire of songs to pull from

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. Choir teachers in your high schools can be of great value in finding a vocal coach. Friends and neighbors may be able to give you referrals.

Word of mouth referrals are always great, but you can also turn to the online world to see what other people are saying about the singing teachers and vocal coaches in your area. A quick local search on google is sure to pull up many helpful results. The Musicians’ Union will have a list of teachers and coaches that you can check out. Additionally, the American Federation of Music and the National Association of Teachers of Singing can supply you with listings of voice teachers and vocal coaches.

Google or other search engines can provide vocal coaches offering online voice training and tutorials. Vocal coaches with online singing lessons can offer you first-rate instruction while giving you more choices in determining which coach you want to work with.

Finding the right vocal coach is going to be imperative to your success.

What to Look for BEFORE Seeking a Vocal Coach

1. Know Your Own 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.

2. 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.

3. Think Logically

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.

4. Research Their 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.

5. Seek Someone with 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.

6. Ensure They Listen To You

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.

What to Determine AFTER Choosing Your Vocal Coach

1. Assess 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 check out the personality, style, and technique of the vocal coach you are considering working with.

The lesson should include vocal warm-ups, exercises, and technique. You want to have discussed with your potential vocal coach all questions and concerns before your lesson so that you can focus all your lesson time on developing your singing ability. If possible, it’s also a good idea to sing for them before your first lesson to allow them to identify your strengths and weaknesses and to offer a few suggestions as to how they think you will work together to build on your strengths and overcome any weaknesses.

Also, upon leaving your first lesson you want to feel pleased and confident that you are going to make progress with this person. Pay attention to how your vocal cords feel. If you are in pain or suffering from a burning feeling, then you may not want to return. A good vocal coach will advocate singing in a healthy manner, and this does not involve causing painful stress on your vocals.

2. Determine If Are You Making Progress

As your lessons continue and your singing voice develops, you might want to review your progress to ensure that you are reaching your goals. Your vocal coach should keep adapting their lessons to suit those changing needs.

A really good way of following your own progress is to record yourself singing. You can then review your recordings to determine if you are making headway with your music teacher; if your technique is changing for the better; and, most importantly, if you are getting results that you are satisfied with.

3. Be Patient

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

Practice is as essential as patience on the road to a powerful voice. You can take lessons, study theory, buy a grand piano and have an awesome voice teacher; but unless you are prepared to practice consistently, your progress will be much slower.

Don’t beat yourself up if, after five lessons, you haven’t received an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall. Success takes time. Enjoy the journey.

One Final Note

The right vocal coach is out there. While it can be tempting to go with the first name on the list, it is worth taking your time to ensure you are compatible with your vocal coach in order to be the most successful.

If at any point on your journey you realize that this person isn’t the right vocal coach for you, don’t be afraid to change gears and find someone new. While you may feel uncomfortable making that change, keep your personal music goals at the forefront.

As your voice develops and matures, you may find that the training you require will surpass your vocal teacher’s ability and repertoire. At this point, you may need to find someone else who can better help you continue in your growth.

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