voice teacher

What to look for in a voice teacher

Before we even talk about your Voice Teacher, let me shock you.

If you want to learn voice, your improvement won’t happen during the lessons.

What?!!

 

“I’m paying $80/100/150/200/250 per hour and you are telling me the lessons won’t improve me?! What a waste of $$$! “

Yes, your improvement will not happen during the lessons.

Your improvement will happen on your own, when you go back home, sit in front of the keyboard and start practicing everything you have learn in your lessons. Once you starting doing the exercises your voice teacher has prescribed on your own, only then you will start growing.

voice teacher - practice space

Beautiful practice area

Two things will happen when you enter your practice space. (Related: Finding a practice area for singing)

1. You will start to perform the vocal exercises.

2. You will develop the awareness of how you are performing the exercise.

Item 2) is the real key to improvement in singing.

Awareness is the ability to listen, feel and sense whether the sound was produced correctly.

You use your ears to sensitively listen to the sound – tone, pitch, resonance.

You use your body to feel your breathing, support, looseness of jaw, vibrations in the face (mask area) and so on.

Over time, you can instinctively gauge where you are in terms of the overall vocal production quality. You’ll see it isn’t just how it sounds, but also how it feels in the body.

 

Improving your voice happens when you become your own vocal coach.

The vocal coach you are paying money to is there because you need to be guided into your own voice and develop this independence. The best teachers enable their students to be independent, not dependent on them. During the lessons, a qualified vocal coach can provide a myriad of exercises, techniques and approaches to slowly build your vocal independence. Independence is what you need to get up there and sing. You can’t bring your vocal coach onto the stage with you.

So when you are back home and practicing what you have been taught in the lesson, that’s when you will be actualizing your vocal independence and actually improving. You take that hard work with you to the next lesson where you have something to show, and can then be guided by your coach to the next level of challenge. Growth happens when the bar is gradually raised, lesson by lesson. The lesson itself won’t raise the bar, the hard grit during practice raises it.

 

But…

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

— Woody Allen.

Well, that’s not really the case in singing.

I’ve had students that expected to improve just by showing up to the lesson. After a couple of months they had no improvement, despite my insisting that practise of a minimum of three times a week between lessons is critical. (ideally we need to practise every day)

In contrast, those who practise regularly between lessons see regular, gradual improvement and go on to build an impressive, durable voice.

I’ve seen this again and again from both perspectives – my students and also in myself.

Now we have established this, let’s talk about what we came here for.

 

What to look for in a Voice Teacher

I think there are three basic things to look for in a voice teacher.

  1. Systematic approach/technique
  2. Focus on you
  3. Vocal ability of the Voice Teacher

I’ve seen many lists online with 7 or 10 different things, which I think is overwhelming. Honestly, it’s hard to evaluate a professional when you are just a beginner at something, so keeping this approach simple is key.

Let’s discuss each one.

1. Systematic approach/ technique

This are the fundamentals of the teacher’s vocal technique. Whether they were taught this in a music academy, a private voice coach, or they just invented it, you’ve got to get a feel over the first 5-10 lessons of a real approach that has depth and longevity. This means that as a beginner you have exercises to work on, which slowly become more demanding and challenging as you progress through intermediate and advanced vocal ability levels.

You need to leave each lesson with a few concrete exercises or song excerpts that you can practise. You need to record these on your phone or mp3 player so you can go back to the exact manner in which the exercise was performed by the teacher and mimic them. {Related: Why mimicking is the only way you’ll learn how to sing]. That’s how you learn.

You can’t evaluate this after 1 or 2 lessons. At least 5-10 lessons will give you an idea.

Say you have one lesson a week for 8 weeks. Have you seen any improvement? Do your friends and family spontaneously make comments when you sing around them, noting an improvement? Does it feel easier to sing? Do you feel less strained afterwards?

 

2. Focus on You

Does the voice teacher use you as an audience member to show off their voice?

Do they not give you attention and take your questions seriously?

Do they not support or encourage you to perform the songs you wish to sing?

 

There is a delicate balance between instruction of a complex discipline and personalized focus on you, the student. The ground rules of the relationship are key here:

As the student, you agree to subjugate yourself to the voice teacher’s knowledge and experience. You agree to practice and trust (during the period of evaluation as a minimum) this teacher’s approach.

As the teacher, he/she agrees to give all of their vocal guidance that is tailored to improve you.

If the student doesn’t want to humble themselves and learn from someone who is greater than them, there is no hope for learning. Conversely, if the teacher doesn’t support and encourage the you to develop your unique voice, and only gives you generic advice, there is also no hope.

3. Vocal ability of the Teacher

This should be obvious, but it’s amazing how often you see vocal coaches who when asked to sing, actually are not that great. If you can’t do it yourself, why would I trust you?!

Let the teacher demonstrate all the time in the lesson. Ask them to hit those high notes. Let them show you different colors to the voice. Allow them to show you challenging passages of a piece where range, volume, coloratura etc is a challenge.

You’ve got to feel they can do it. If they can do it, you can trust their abilities.

If they have a technique they can give over, you can have an approach to learn with.

If they focus on you, you have a great guide who cares about your development and wants you to excel.

What about you? We’d love to hear your experiences, good or bad with voice teachers..Perhaps you are evaluating a new teacher now and are not sure if he/she is for you? Perhaps you’ve been with a teacher for too long and are stagnating? Leave a comment, let’s discuss and get to the bottom of your voice teacher questions!

 

 

 

 

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