There are tons of vocal coaches and voice teachers out there. These days, most teachers even teach online, so you have access to thousands of people to take lessons from. So, how do you know who’s good and who’s not?
Let’s be honest. Each person needs different things, and a teacher/coach who is great for one person, may not be that great for another. However, in my opinion, there are some significant signs to judge whether or not your potential teacher is knowledgeable and capable. Did you know that you do not need a degree to teach voice? Anyone can say that they are a voice teacher or vocal coach because it does not require any type of certification. But you must know, just because someone has a degree, doesn’t mean they are a great teacher. So, here are some ways to tell if you’re connected to the right person.
1. Does the teacher have actual experience singing and performing?
This particular question varies from person to person as far as preference. I believe that to be a great teacher, you need to know what it’s like to have some sort of career in the field you are teaching. Did this teacher graduate from school and has been just teaching ever since? It’s not imperative that your teacher is constantly performing now, but they should have had time in their lives that they performed regularly. In my opinion, your teacher should know what it’s like to need vocal stamina and be able to impart their knowledge from actual experience.
2. How long has this teacher been teaching voice?
Just because someone is a great performer, doesn’t mean they are a great teacher. Ask your potential coach about their teaching experience.
3. Are they interested in teaching the style of music you would like to sing, or are they trying to get you to sing the style they teach?
This is a tricky question. I learned a ton from a teacher who taught and sang a very different style than I was interested in singing. Just because the teacher doesn’t sound exactly like you and what you want, doesn’t mean they can’t teach you great technique in your style. What you have to watch for, are teachers who believe that the style you’re interested in singing is somehow damaging or a “bad” style. There really is no such thing. If you learn to control your voice and sing without pushing your cords, any genre is going to be just fine. There is no harm in learning different types of music, but if your teacher is trying to make you an opera singer when you came in to sing R&B, you should choose someone else.
4. Do they have knowledge about the physical voice and how it actually works, or do they basically speak in “feelings” and metaphors?
To me, this is one of the most important questions. When we are learning to improve our voices, our brains don’t respond well to things like, “Use less of your thyroarytenoid muscle.” to change and control our voice. A good teacher will not say that stuff most of the time, but it’s crucial that they understand it, and know how to use the right language to help you. If your potential coach only speaks in metaphors (feel like the waterfall is coming out of your nose) and never gets down to actual instructions on what to do, it’s possible that they don’t actually understand the voice. If you’ve gone through a few lessons and they’ve only spoken about breathing and “ringing”… it may be time to look for someone else. Now, don’t get me wrong. Most people benefit from some figurative talk in their lessons. Just watch out for teachers that can’t actually describe the technique in a literal sense.
Keep looking for knowledge. Keep striving for excellence. And above all… KEEP SINGING!