Updated: Sep 27, 2021
“Do I need a voice teacher or a vocal coach?” That is the question I am asked when perspective students or parents call me. In addition, people inquire about the difference between the two and ask, “How do I know whom to choose?”
All of those are great questions. Before you choose a voice teacher or a vocal coach, first know the difference between the two. Secondly, do your due diligence and learn about the person. Remember that not all voice teachers are qualified to the same degree or equally gifted. The ways in which voice teachers are trained is very important. Singing teachers, like any music teacher, instruct you in ways to develop your instrument. Voice coaches work with voices that are already developed and assist in preparing for the public or online performance. They are not typically trained singers.
A Voice Teacher holds a minimum of a Bachelor of Music Degree in applied voice, vocal performance or vocal pedagogy from a respected university or conservatory of music. Voice teachers should have taken classes in vocal pedagogy (how to teach students to sing). Note that most universities do not offer this class to undergraduates voice majors. Most voice teachers hold a Master of Music Degree in voice or pedagogy and are members of professional organizations such as Voice and Speech Trainers Association or the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Voice teachers have had rigorous training in vocal technique, vocal health and focus on vocal development of voices of children through adults; experience in developing the pubescent voice, preparation for high school vocal competitions, college level training of voice majors and understanding voice issues of older adults. Singing teachers improve posture, breath control, pitch (singing in turn), range (how high or low you can sing), timbre (the quality of your sound) and resonance (where you feel the vibration when you sing) of the human voice. Vocal health is a major issue with the voice as this musical instrument as it is part of the body. Singers are athletes in that they use their motor skills just as an athlete uses motor skills- by training and practicing repetitive movements until they are fine-tuned. Untrained singers can injure the vocal folds by attempting to recreate the sound they hear from a pop or rock singer. Remember, you only get one set of vocal cords. No one is immune to vocal fatigue, inflammation of the vocal cords, vocal nodules, polyps, cysts or other major vocal issues that may require surgery. The voice teacher also works as the vocal coach in most cases except at the university graduate level.
A Vocal Coach may or may not be professionally trained in technique, vocal health or development of the voice. Voice coaches work in one or many genres of music (pop, R &B, rock, classical, etc.) Anyone can call themselves a “voice coach” as there is no certification required. Singing coaches prepare the singer for the performance, once the singer is already prepared. Most vocal coaches are pianists who work with the singer to ensure proper rhythm, dynamics, diction and stage presence. Basically, the vocal coach polishes the singer before the final performance. Be careful here as anyone can hang out a shingle with the words “vocal coach.”
“How do I choose the right voice teacher?” Nothing is more important than having a good rapport with your voice teacher. Your voice teacher is assisting you with an integral part of your identity - your voice. The voice teacher is working with your holistic being, not just your vocal cords. Do your research on the teacher’s/coach’s credentials. Listen to students from the studio and read testimonials from students and parents on the teacher’s website and social media. Inquire if the teacher will meet you in person or online for an initial audition at no cost to learn about you, your vocal needs and interests. Remember that you are paying for that specific person’s extensive understanding, knowledge and experience in their field and they offer that experience at a fair market price.
Your voice is important. Let it be heard. Choose your voice teacher or vocal coach wisely. Know who they are and how they can help you. Remember, if someone promises you something that sounds too good to be true- it probably isn’t!