5 Questions You Need to Ask Before Hiring A Vocal Coach
If there’s one thing the world isn’t short of, it’s people who coach singing, but how do you decide on a voice coach and make sure the approach they’re teaching is suited to your learning style and most importantly, your voice. Each voice is unique, so it’s important that your approach singing is unique and not just a ‘one size fits all’ method often sold in expensive singing courses. These 5 questions you need to ask before hiring a vocal coach will help you make a decision on which vocal approach is right for your voice and will help you achieve your goals in the most efficient and quickest manner.
#1 – Can they actually sing?
If a voice coach has impressive looking and sounding singing videos but they’re straining and going red in the face when they sing while barking and shouting their words, there’s obviously something wrong with their vocal technique and will not only lack the ability to coach you effectively, they will also put you at risk of vocal strain yourself. Singing should be free, easy and a joyous action – if a voice coach tries to get you to do something which is confusing or difficult physically, you’re drinking from the wrong fountain. Find a voice coach who’s singing you enjoy, and who has developed a coaching method that you gel with and you will reach your singing goals much sooner than one that makes you fight with your voice.
Singing is more an act of coordination than physical force, make sure you see a voice coach who doesn’t shout or yell when they sing, and can sing in a relaxed, clear and concise manner without pushing or undue muscular effort. On the flipside, if a voice coach demonstrates scales and “va va va” exercises, but just plain sucks when they sing an actual song, you’re also going to run into issues in your singing progress.
A great singer isn’t always a great voice coach, but a great vocal coach should have a great singing voice!
#2 – Do they tailor their approach or use a “one size fits all” method?
Your voice is unique, so it’s important that the approach you’re developing is tailored specifically to your unique vocal type, native tongue and individual issues you no doubt experience in singing. If a coach is selling a one-size-fits-all approach or course, then this isn’t really designed to help your voice, it’s designed to make as many sales to as many different people as possible.
#3 – Can they explain complicated singing terms and techniques in a simple way?
Well-meaning voice coaches and singers often repeat classical terms in a flippant way as though everyone ‘understands’ what they’re talking about – even when speaking to complete beginners or someone who has never sung before. If a voice coach tries to teach you Appoggio, or Open Throat technique but they can’t explain the physical approach and how it is intended to help your singing voice, then you’re going to have problems. Often, singing terms are a figure of speech and incorrectly translated in a literal sense, such as Open Throat – which in essence really refers to singing without the use of your throat rather than physically opening or widening your throat in any manner. To illustrate a point, your soft palate is CLOSED when you sing, your vocal folds are CLOSED and your vowel and vocal tract is often narrowed towards closure – very few elements of great singing are literally open. Open Throat is a figure of speech, so make sure you see a voice coach who understands this and can teach you the real meaning behind these confusing terms and singing techniques without just repeating them and expecting you to understand a 200 year old term in another language that is likely outdated or translated incorrectly.
#4 – Do they teach these foundation principles?
The foundational singing principles of diaphragmatic breathing, support, frequency placement and effortless resonance production should be the very first thing you are shown by your voice coach. If they use a singing method that doesn’t involve diaphragmatic breathing, vowel shaping, register release and many other singing principles that should be built into your foundation, this is a red flag.
#5 – Do they provide ongoing feedback?
This one is huge. Most of the progress that you make as a singer is actually after, or in between your singing lessons – if you’re unable to contact your voice coach and ask a simple question like “Hey, am I on the right track?” or “Something’s not right!”, then you’re going to be in the dark during the most formative time spent developing your voice – when you practice on your own. I’m not saying that a voice coach should work for free, but it’s in your and their best interest to provide ongoing feedback or accept the occasional email pertaining to your progress between your singing lessons.
By asking yourself, and your voice coach these 5 simple questions before you take singing lessons with them, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time, effort, money and most of all – save your voice from vocal strain. I always suggest finding a voice coach who has developed a singing method that you click with, along with someone who’s voice you actually enjoy when they sing – it’s all good for someone to like a different style of singing to you, but if they don’t understand Rock and you want to learn rock, or if they prefer an overly heavy sound when you want to sing pop or blues – then this isn’t going to work for you.
I suggest starting out with one of the many free singing resources out there geared towards beginner students such as our free foundations short courses or the extensive library of singing tutorials on YouTube, and when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started building a fantastic singing voice together!
If you have any questions about finding a voice coach, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.