Behind every great singer is a great voice teacher. Before they became professional singers, there was a person behind them who honed their skills and made them feel secure about their natural talents. Aspiring singers need a voice coach to make them sound better than they already do.
To be successful as a singer, their voice needs to be strong, flexible, and reliable. A good voice coach can help them achieve these goals. They give the right tools required for singing professionally and teach how to sing effectively.
John Henny has explained some tips on how to choose a voice teacher in the Intelligent Vocalist podcast. This article outlines some of those qualities experienced musicians seek in a vocal coach, how singers go about looking for a mentor they can work with, and some advice they can carry with them on this journey.
The Myth About Voice Teachers
Maybe you've encountered click-bait titles like "Five Secrets Your Voice Teacher Doesn't Want You to Know." Then, they go on with a list of those "secrets," and you might feel like you have been denied those pieces of information.
John debunked that idea in his podcast. This is a marketing tactic that is especially heard from online lessons on YouTube, for instance. He said that some influencers use it as clickbait to paint music teachers as bad teachers to hook aspiring vocalists because that's how they market themselves to the public.
The truth is: no voice teacher is withholding anything from you. John has known this for a long time because he shares how important educators are in his life.
He always regrets it whenever he goes through periods of not studying. There is something about having that appointment on the calendar and just having someone to listen to you with fresh ears to keep him humbled and feel encouraged.
So, withholding "secrets" doesn't really happen. Teachers only withhold stuff from their students if they don't think it applies to them, such as digging deep into harmonics for beginning students who had just enrolled for their introductory lesson.
John advised that it's important to realize that every student learns differently, so they need to find the right teachers who can help them learn their craft and make them comfortable throughout the whole learning experience. To keep people from asking how to find the "perfect teacher" for themselves, John collected some tips to guide people who want to improve their voices.
Tips on Choosing a Prospective Teacher
Aspiring singers will have some trial and error in finding a teacher—they might stumble upon a mediocre teacher, an expensive teacher, or a coach they can hardly connect with. There is no perfect voice teacher, but there is at least one qualified teacher that can help not only to discover a singing style for their students, but also serve as a mentor to guide them along the way.
Tip #1 - Look Past the Shiny Objects
Some people might think the best vocal teacher must also be a great or a famous singer. However, that is not the most critical aspect because a voice teacher is a guide and a coach, not the star. For John, the most important thing is for you to see past shiny objects and look for a coach that focuses on the things that matter.
The ideal singing teacher is not determined by their own vocal prowess. John shared that some of the most fantastic and knowledgeable teachers he's ever known had vocal impairments, not due to overuse, vocal damage, or poor vocal technique, but from various life events or health conditions.
But while their demonstrations were shaky, it didn't matter since they were able to lead him the right way. Their hearing was so good, and their directions were clear that they could direct him where they wanted him to go without having to show it themselves.
Tip #2 - They're Open to Knowledge
It's very important to find teachers open to knowledge. Vocal pedagogy is ever evolving as we continue to learn more about he voice. It doesn't matter if these vocal instructors refer to themselves as reputable teachers or have been in the industry for so long. Even opera teachers who have been lauded many times knew there's always a place to expand their technical knowledge.
As vocal students who are curious and like to question things, musicians appreciate it when teachers admit they don't always understand everything. When educators let go of their egos, that's how they show it's not about them; it's the acknowledgment that information changes all the time, and they just don't yet fully grasp it.
As vocal teachers, their approach to voice and teaching must continuously evolve. That doesn't imply they were horrible instructors previously, but shows they always strive to improve.
Pretending like they know everything or avoiding questions they don't know the answers to is a bad habit one must observe from their teachers. If vocal coaches admit their lack of knowledge, it implies how they're more open to learning new things.
Tip #3 - They Have Experience with Your Particular Situation
Finding a vocal teacher doesn't simply mean going to a music school and joining singing lessons. It might be like that during your initial lessons. However, you may find greater success working with a singing coach that is familiar with your particular situation.
For instance, if you are planning to start a professional singing career, you would want to choose from experienced instructors who are known for training successful artists. If you're interested in a particular musical style, such as musical theater, opera, or contemporary music, you might want to consider vocal lessons with a voice teacher that has teaching experience with that style.
If you are singer that has problems with your voice that go beyond being out of practice, you will want find someone with background knowledge and specialization in voice rehabilitation.
Let's say an experienced singer hasn't been in classes in a while and needs some rapid changes since they have a performance coming up, they'll look for someone who is particularly adept at working quickly and making quick fixes. Alternatively, if you have some chronic issues, you want someone who can deal with long-term challenges.
Consider your personal vocal needs, your goals, and your learning style because your ideal singing teacher and their teaching style will align with those things.
Tip #4 - The Marketing Stops When the Lessons Start
A good vocal coach will be more focused on resolving your issues and helping you improve during your lesson time than continuing to sell.
John mentioned in the podcast stories about unlucky students who feel like they're continuously being sold every time they enter a session. He called them "unlucky students" because they always hear their singing teacher bragging about themselves, over-promising results, or name-dropping, which can be demotivating for a student.
Along those lines, experienced vocalists prefer to avoid egotistical tutors. The student must be heard, and the lesson must be focused on them and their concerns.
Tip #5 - They're Empathetic and Connected
Great teachers are connected with their students. Students want a singing teacher who listens to them, empathizes with whatever hardship they're going through, and understands their student's needs in each session.
They will know when to push and challenge your voice if you're up for it, and when to draw back a little so you're not being overstressed. They can make adjustments during private lessons to keep you in this goldilocks zone of learning.
Tip #6 - They Give Clear Directions and Prescriptions
A skilled teacher has a deep understanding of voice function, and a deep understanding of how certain exercises achieve desired results. In addition to this understanding is the ability to effectively communicate to the student what they need to do.
If you're encountering a particular issue with your singing voice, a skilled teacher can prescribe a vocal program of scales and exercises that will help you, and explain to you why and how they will help you.
They can go beyond practical demonstrations and give clear instructions for what you can do with your voice, and guide you through frustrations so you continue to progress with your vocal growth.
Tip #7 - They Have Great Ears
Great teachers have great ears. They really listen, can diagnose what they hear in your voice, and help you make adjustments in real time. They know what you're feeling. They can sense where you're tense. They can just hear it.
They can hear the nuances in your sound, and guide you into better balance. They will show you how to be better in tune with your voice, your body, and the sensations of healthy singing.
Is This Teacher "The One?"
Whether it's online singing lessons or in-person lessons, you can still figure out if someone is the ideal singing teacher for you, wherever you are in your singing journey. These were four pointers shared in the Intelligent Podcast to see if a singing coach is the one for you.
You feel comfortable.
As you look for a teacher (or if you already have one), you must try to look for the depth that lies beyond the flash. Whatever the potential teachers' accomplishments and accolades, they can assess your vocal skills, meet you at your level, and make you feel comfortable as they guide you in your vocal training.
You feel listened to.
The teacher should be focused on you, the student. You should be heard; you should feel understood. If you have certain goals or concerns, the teacher should be right there working alongside you with what you're trying to achieve.
You feel inspired.
To the best of your abilities, you should understand everything you're working on because the teacher knows where you're coming from so their instructions should be clear. And that clarity should inspire you.
You should leave the lesson thinking, "Wow, that was great. I know what I need to practice, I want to practice it, and I can't wait for the next lesson."
You feel improvement.
Improvement isn't linear. Sometimes, even if you're an advanced singer, your understanding of singing, your ears, and judgement improve faster than your actual vocal skills.
When that happens, it may seem like you're going backwards. However, if you step back and consider the big picture, you should get an overall sense that you are in fact improving.
The Role of Students in the Journey
On the one hand, a singing coach will help students find their voice, vocal range, and technique during the voice lessons.
On the other hand, students have to prepare themselves to a degree so that experienced teachers could help them unleash and improve their musical talent and establish a proper technique in singing. Put simply, everyone has a role in this vocal training journey.
They Know Themselves
Before searching for a voice teacher, students must take some time to think about what kind of singer they are or want to be. What does their style sound like? Do they prefer classical music or pop? Are they more interested in jazz or rock? Knowing these things can help anyone narrow down their search for the right teacher.
They should also find a good fit. As John recommended, one must continue to delve deeply into their singing, as well as deeply into themselves and their needs. And the more they know about themselves, their voice, their talents, and their flaws, the more effective the search will be.
They are Open to Knowledge.
There are indeed many different styles of teaching. Be open to a singing technique you can apply and other new things that might work for you. If you're looking for a specific type of instruction, ask questions about what you'll be learning.
Some teachers focus on technique, while others teach theory. Others focus on performance skills, while still others focus on any combination of these.
They Give the Relationship Time.
Singers must know that their coaches understand where they are and will tailor the lessons to their level according to what they need to learn. Giving the teacher enough time to develop a rapport with students is essential. It takes time to build trust with anyone, but if both parties put forth the effort, they will reap the rewards.
They Trust the Vocal Teacher.
As mentioned above, it takes time to build trust and confidence between two people. So, students who invest in dedicated training don't rush into finding a teacher just because they see them online. They give their teachers the time to show their personality and expertise.
They Stay on the Journey.
Potential artists continue their quest for a great teacher as they focus on their personal growth. If they stay focused on their goals, the more likely it is for them to achieve those ambitions.
Choosing the right voice coach might feel like a difficult task, yet learning from experienced instructors makes the search and decision worth it. In improving the voice, teachers and students each play a crucial role in the learning process. The student's willingness to invest time and energy to grow as an artist and the teacher's interest to hone an artist will make this journey worthwhile.