Our singing careers are undoubtedly going to be full of important decisions. Decisions that, we feel, can make or break our passion, drive and craft. One of the most important decisions you will have to make as a singer is who to study with. Who you are going to trust with the huge task of taking care of your voice, your instrument of work. Especially if this is your first time looking for a voice teacher or if you’ve moved and are looking for a teacher in a new city, this can feel a bit daunting and you might not know where to start.
The internet is a fantastic place to gather information and find the teacher you’re looking for, but what should you look for in a teacher’s website and/or a first lesson to decide whether they are the right fit for you? I have put together a list of things to consider when picking a vocal coach based on my experience both as a singing student and a professional vocal coach. Although a teacher doesn’t absolutely need to meet every specification on the list to be a great teacher, I believe it is always best to have all the data to then make an informed decision.
So, without further ado, here are 5 things to consider when choosing a vocal coach:
1.Do they understand the GENRE you are interested in studying?
The first thing to bear in mind when you’re looking for a vocal coach is: what kind of music do you want to perform? This is not to say that you have to limit yourself to only one musical style, you can definitely branch out! But if you want to sing, let’s say, Classical Opera and R&B Style, you are probably not going to find a coach that is equally experienced in both genres. Different styles of singing require different training, so always ask your teacher whether they teach the genre you are interested in and what experience they have with it. If the teacher you choose has ample experience in the genre you are interested in they will be able not only to teach you the appropriate singing technique, but they’ll also provide you with incredibly valuable tips and insights into that specific industry.
2. Are they able to tailor their lessons to you specifically?
Every vocal lesson should follow a trusted vocal technique while being tailored to each individual student, as all of our voices and needs are different. However, a great vocal coach should be able to detect your specific vocal strengths and weaknesses very quickly, as well as identifying any bad vocal habits you may have. It is key to work with a vocal coach with good ears and who can give you concrete tools to help you work through your vocal issues. If you leave a voice lesson feeling more vocally tired or strained than before, that is usually considered to be a major red flag.
3. Do they put vocal HEALTH at the centre?
There is absolutely nothing more important than keeping your voice healthy. And while stylistic choices and interpretation are undoubtedly important for the professionals, it is vocal technique hand in hand with good vocal health practices that will make you an employable performer. It does not matter how incredible your interpretation and/or singing style may be if you do not have the vocal health to allow you to perform at that level on a regular basis. It is also important to mention that vocal health isn’t something we ‘achieve’, but rather something we work on constantly throughout our careers. Vocal examinations carried out by medical professionals should be a must for singers, once every 12-16 months should be okay unless you or your teacher have a specific concern about your voice that needs to be seen by a doctor immediately. Does your teacher talk to you about how to keep your voice healthy? Are they giving you recommendations on how to take care of your voice on a day to day basis? Have they provided you with precise exercises for you to do during the week? If your teacher does not mention good vocal health as a key aspect of your singing training, I would consider that a deal-breaker.
4. Do they have or Have they had a professional singing career?
This one might be pretty obvious, but a good vocal coach should be someone who has immersed themselves in the music industry. Someone whose life revolves around singing and who has ample experience not only academically but from actually working as a professional singer. This does not mean however that great performers make great teachers or vice versa, teaching is in itself a huge skill and not every artist will make for a good teacher. Whenever possible, try to find a teacher whose experience you feel you can learn from and whose vocal technique aligns with your artistic aspirations, while taking into account that they will teach you how to sing with their technique but with your own voice.
5. Do you feel comfortable with them?
Learning how to sing can be an incredibly intimate and intense process. I like to think of finding a vocal coach like dating, it is going to take time and probably going through many ‘wrong’ teachers until you find someone with whom you are comfortable enough to explore your singing voice in full. Vocal lessons can be super fulfilling and incredibly frustrating, they can turn into quite the emotional experience and you will find yourself feeling very vulnerable around your vocal coach. This is why it’s so important to find someone who will encourage you to make mistakes, who will understand your frustrations and work with you to make you the best artist you can be.
Finding a vocal coach that is right for you is a journey in itself. You have great artistic value no matter how much training you’ve had up to now, and you deserve a great mentor. Someone who will help you find the capacities you have within yourself and whose guidance will quite literally change the way you viewed your voice. I have had teachers change my whole outlook on my singing career in just one lesson. Keep searching, trying and learning. Your vocal coach is out there!