You have decided that you want to take some singing lessons, but where do you find a teacher that will give you the training you need?  Before you can answer that question, take a moment to determine what you need to improve.  Many singers have these common reasons for needing voice lessons:

  • Struggling to sing high notes easily (or at all)
  • Running out of breath
  • Vocal tone is too breathy, nasally, or otherwise unpleasant
  • Tightness in the throat when singing or cracking in different parts of the range
  • Losing their voice after singing
  • Low range is weak in both tone and volume

A Brief History of Voice Training

In the past, most voice teachers learned classical techniques of singing, which focus on developing the voice to sing difficult and demanding vocal music that requires stamina and vocal strength.  The classical unamplified vocal style means that a the audience has to be able to hear the singer while being accompanied by a full orchestra!  Over the centuries, singers and voice teachers developed methods to train the voice so that singers could not only accomplish this task, but also do it with a beautiful vocal sound.

When the use of amplification and the acceptance of different types of singing tones became mainstream (such as is heard in rock and popular music), singers had no desire to pursue vocal training because the sounds they made were fine for what they were doing.

However, more and more people now sing outside of the classical style, and an untrained singer may find that they cannot handle the demands placed on their voices.  In addition, as popular styles have crossed over and become integrated into the musical theater world, singers find themselves looking for better ways to be successful vocally.  It has taken some time for voice teachers to emerge who can teach in these different styles and still offer a healthy vocal production for their singers, and there are now many qualified individuals who can do this.

So who is teaching voice these days? 

There are many ways to learn how to sing, and many different delivery systems, whether it is from a private voice teacher, a vocal coach, videos on the internet, vocal instruction books, choir directors, acting teachers, piano teacher and anyone who is bold enough to hang out their shingle and offer to help people to sing better.  Each instructor draws on their own background and training when they work with their students.  So who is the best person to help you with your training?  It depends.

Voice Teacher – Technique and Training

As a classically trained singer, I was fortunate enough to have outstanding teachers.  One in particular had a unique ability to approach the teaching of singing as a pure development of the instrument so that it could be available to express the thoughts and emotions of a song, an opera, a musical, or whatever the musical style demanded.  This meant a rigorous discipline of vocal exercises and practicing to improve and strengthen the voice.

I use this vocal fitness approach with my own students, and firmly believe that the technical training of the voice will give a singer the tools to sing any style they desire, while developing stamina and longevity for demanding performances.  Wouldn’t every singer want to attain a level of proficiency that allows him or her to explore their artistry without worrying if their instrument will fail them?

If you are serious about training and strengthening your voice, vocal technique lessons are the best investment you can make in yourself, whether you sing for fun or want to pursue music as a career.

You should find a teacher with a strong background in voice, preferably with a degree in music.  However, there are some voice teachers and other musicians without formal training who have had excellent private vocal training outside of college.  Generally, you need to look at a teacher’s experience and credentials first to determine if they have the knowledge to take you through a robust vocal training program.  A good place to start is at the National Association of Teachers of Singing website.

What to Expect in a Vocal Training Program from a Voice Teacher

First and foremost, you will need to do vocal exercises.  If you teacher does not ask you to do that, then you are not getting vocal technique training.  Some might complain that practicing exercises is boring, but when singers learn to do them properly, they will be anything but that.  The vocal exercises are designed to do many things, such as strengthen and create proper muscle movement and memory, encourage flexibility, and integrate proper breathing skills.

Since you can already sing, you may not be aware of the myriad of muscles that operate to create vocal sound, and if they are moving incorrectly, it can negatively impact your singing.  Proper muscle movements will enhance and improve the voice, and the best way to learn them is through the practicing of well-designed vocal exercises.

Vocal Coaching

What exactly is a vocal coach?  There are probably as many answers to that question as there are vocal coaches.  From my experience and viewpoint, a vocal coach is one who is going to help a singer with learning and performing songs.  That could include things like note learning, interpretation, presentation, musical phrasing, and the like.  However, there are many vocal coaches who also offer vocal training, and that is fine, as long as they are qualified and includes consistent and progressive vocal exercise.  A vocal coach may also be a voice teacher who has just chosen to use the term for marketing or other reasons.

There is no formal degree for vocal coaching that I’m aware of (except in the classical world, where they are also called Collaborative Pianists), and so the term is so loose that you need to make sure that the person you work with can offer you what you need.