Voice Teacher vs. Vocal Coach
First, I'd like to clear up any confusion. While often used interchangeably, it's important to understand the distinction between voice teachers and vocal coaches. While their ultimate goal is to enhance singers' abilities, they each have a unique focus and approach.
A teacher works on vocal technique while a coach works on musicality and performance.
For this article, I will concentrate on training to become a voice teacher, a skilled technician with vast knowledge in vocal technique who can quickly diagnose vocal faults and make corrective measures for the student.
- Having a degree depends on where you want to work
- You should be passionate about learning
- There are several ways you can continue your learning and also grow your entrepreneurial skills
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Can I Pursue a Teaching Career Without a Degree?
It is estimated that half of working voice teachers have no college degree, and only one-third have an advanced degree in music, indicating a limited number of academic experiences.
I know many successful singing teachers who do not have formal training or a credential in voice or music education. I take nothing away from the skills and discipline you receive with a music-study diploma, but it is not a prerequisite for becoming a singing teacher in private practice. However, this certification will likely be necessary to get a job in a public school or at the university level.
What Skills Should I Already Have?
You should have a high degree of vocal skills (or be well on your way) with a strong background in studying voice. Whether you have honed your abilities through years of private lessons or gained valuable experience through performances, a strong background in studying voice is paramount. It's time to take your vocal prowess to the next level.
When teaching a singing lesson, I'd like to highlight the importance of having basic piano proficiency. It is essential to be able to play vocal exercise scales and accompany your students at a basic level.
Additionally, having a fundamental grasp of the concepts of music theory is highly recommended. While some educators rely on prerecorded scales and karaoke tracks, these can disrupt the flow of your singing lesson.
Passion for Learning
You also need a HUGE desire and capacity for learning. The best voice teachers are constantly studying, reading, attending conferences, discussing voice with their peers, and developing their own singing skills. A passion for learning will take you far. The openness to be taught and a genuine passion for learning will propel you toward great accomplishments and future success.
Vocal pedagogy and good vocal technique should fascinate you (and trust me, it is a never-ending rabbit hole of wonderful discovery). By delving deeper into the realm of voice science and vocal health, you can acquire invaluable insights for improving your perception of the singing voice.
Desire to Help Others
A desire to help others is critical. When you become a teacher, the focus is no longer on you, the singer and performer; it should be completely on the student. Their wins become your wins, and a student-centered approach will be a component of your success.
Unless you decide to work for an institution or music academy, you should have an entrepreneurial fire in your belly. Becoming an independent voice teacher is incredibly rewarding, but it also means opening a small business.
To build a thriving studio, having knowledge on how to market your services and attract clients effectively is crucial. This includes learning different styles, techniques, and strategies that will provide you with detailed information on promoting your studio for success.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
A shortlist of skills and experience that will help you improve your performance as an effective teacher include:
- Voice lessons
- Being in a band
- Music production
- Musical theatre performance
- Singing back up
- Choir performance
- Praise and Worship bands
- Playing an instrument (especially piano)
A great singing teacher needs great ears. Your ability to hear and diagnose vocal faults during vocal lessons quickly means you can get faster results for your students, which will directly affect your level of success.
Listening to and analyzing singers should be part of your study plan to develop your instructional skills. This approach will allow you to identify and understand nuance or a difference in every performance.
Gaining knowledge in the field of voice science can greatly benefit your ability to become a more attentive and skilled listener. When you have a deeper understanding of why certain conditions occur in the voice, you can more easily recognize and categorize what you are hearing.
This deeper understanding will help you choose the right exercises and corrective measures for different voice types.
Also, being able to understand various musical styles and vocal styles as a music teacher will expand your opportunities in the music industry.
In short, the better you hear, the better your students will sing.
Here is a video I did for my students where I break down how to listen to strong belt voices:
Where to Explore the Best Sources for Professional Training
There are no prerequisites to being a singing teacher or coach in the contemporary music world. Many of the most successful vocal teachers I know do not have university degrees. However, they do have vast amounts of capacity building and experience.
There are a couple of ways we must discuss to achieve this. The first is to take voice lessons and achieve an advanced level of proficiency. Then start taking on voice students and refine your process by trial and error. This is how it used to be done.
If you have a good relationship with your teacher, ask if they would be willing to mentor you. This support from my teacher is how I got started. During my singing lessons, I would ask what my teacher heard in my voice and why a certain exercise was chosen.
I would also observe him teach other attendees, constantly taking notes. This was my first teacher training.
While you should be singing at a reasonably high level when entering one of these programs, a good program can reduce the trial and error phase of teaching voice and accelerate your knowledge and experience.
Seeking feedback from experienced educators in the industry is a great way to learn and sharpen your skills.
I would have teachers review my lesson recordings and observe me as I worked with a student. The real-time feedback and critique from these professionals were invaluable in my development.
Your own vocal education should be ongoing. Working with different teachers and various modes of vocal coaching, touching varying topics will keep you fresh and your voice ready for the challenges of facilitating singing.
NOTE: My book, Teaching Contemporary Singing has helped new voice teachers worldwide start their training.
Gaining Teaching Experience
No matter how much you read and study various techniques, you develop your skills when you actively apply your knowledge to guide and educate learners. There is no course that can substitute for this experience.
At first, you can practice with family and friends - even if they don't sing. However, unless you reach the very highest teaching levels, a large portion of your student base will be beginners, and beginners can teach you a lot!
You will experience a wide variety of vocal issues and learning approaches, and trial and error will be part of your learning, so it's best to gain experience with non-paying, friendly clients.
Once you feel comfortable with coaching people you know, it's time to take on the paying public.
Working for an established music school is a great way to gain experience quickly. In addition, they will be able to fill your schedule with students quickly, so you don't have to take on the burden of running your own vocal studio business.
Your skill set should grow rapidly by working with a large and varied clientele, combined with consistent study.
Once you have a good grounding in vocal pedagogy basics, I suggest you specialize in an area where your passions lead you.
Being a specialist can attract the students you most want to work with while also charging a premium for your services.
Some teachers focus on audition prep, and others help rehabilitate damaged voices. I know a good teacher who is renowned for getting his students on American Idol.
Areas of specialty include:
- Working with children
- Musical theatre auditions
- Working with choirs
- Professional performers
- Public speaking
As you gain teaching experience, you will find areas that you are passionate about. For example, while I work with all types of singers, I am drawn to those who sing at a professional level.
Great singing teachers are always learning. Constantly listening to fantastic singers, keeping up on the latest research, and reviewing recordings of lessons will grow new skills and keep you sharp and focused.
You should also work on your voice with consistent voice classes and perform from time to time.
Becoming a voice teacher is akin to a never-ending song - it's a life-long journey into this greatest and most fascinating of all musical instruments - the human voice!
If you want to learn more about my books, courses, and the Contemporary Voice Teacher Academy, please visit johnhenny.com. And if you are interested in online singing lessons, you can reach out to our front desk at [email protected], and we would be happy to answer your questions.