The level of musicianship, and piano skills required of a voice teacher is a debatable topic. Although vocal coaches generally need high piano skills to work material with the student, the voice technique teacher will sometimes attempt to get by with just a handful of scales.

Your Voice Teacher and Singing Scales

Sometimes a few scales can get the job done, when warming up the voice or working on range. However, your voice needs to be able work in a number of musical patterns and styles and your voice teacher should be able to adapt to this. Only working a few scales over and over is a warning sign of poor piano skills.

Some voice teachers can’t even play simple scales but rely on prerecorded versions. I find this to be a real problem as your teacher should be able to adjust and change scales instantly, depending on what your voice needs.

Working On Material With Your Voice Teacher

The transition from scales to songs can be a difficult and this is one area where a certain degree of piano proficiency is really useful.


Some voice teachers try and use karaoke tracks as a substitute for playing piano. While karaoke tracks can be handy in certain circumstances, an overreliance on them is an issue.

Very often small parts of the song need to be worked out by themselves, often with changes in key. Karaoke does not lend itself well to this type of work.

You also lose the experience of working with sheet music

In addition, you are not getting the experience of working with a live accompanist that responds in the moment to your singing. Most auditions are done with a live piano player, you should be practicing this weekly.

A cappella

Voice teachers without piano skills will have the students work melody a cappella. While that can be an occasional useful exercise, the students usually need the support of the piano playing the melody with them. Your voice teacher should be able to read or at least figure out small parts of the melody and play it with you.

Minimum Skills

I believe the minimum piano proficiency a voice teacher should have are as follows:

• The ability to play major and minor arpeggios and scales, as well as popular scales used for style and riffs such as the major and minor pentatonics and the “blues” scale.

• The ability to play simple chords and melody from sheet music. If a teacher can at least look at the chord symbols and melody and create an effective accompaniment they are doing a great service to the student.

• Good knowledge of keys. This helps in transposition and setting the right key for the student’s voice

• To be able to pick out the melody from a recording. This will eliminate unnecessary a cappella work.

Final Thoughts

Although a voice teacher can help your voice technically with little or no piano, the better musician your voice teacher is, the more they can teach you about music – plain and simple. Make sure you are getting the most for your time and money.