Finding the Right Singing Teacher

Hey guys! I hope you’ve all had fantastic weeks, and I am so excited to share with you my first proper blog post!

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking ‘I wanna learn how to belt Carley, you said in your other post that you’d teach me that. TEACH ME. TEACH ME NOW’. But that’s the thing, there’s only so much that I can do sitting at a computer desk. Everybody’s voice is different, unique and responds to certain techniques and methods in different ways, and I couldn’t possibly type out a blog post that will give you all magic techniques to be the next Whitney or Beyoncé or Mariah. I can give the techniques that are generally taught and that work for me, but they may have to be adapted or changed to suit you and your vocal capabilities.

Despite popular belief, having a phenomenal voice is down to more than just ‘natural talent’, and even the most impressive singer has put in hours upon hours of work training and cultivating their voices. I really believe that the first step to being a successful singer is a capable vocal coach. I understand that not everybody is rolling around in money, and so if you have had success teaching yourself to sing and have managed to do your own research on the voice and (most importantly) are continuing to improve every day, then you may be able to get away with not finding a vocal coach. But for a lot of us, all the natural talent in the world won’t stop you from injuring your voice (maybe irreparably) if you unknowingly push it too hard or implement an improper technique. I compare it to driving – sure your dad could teach you how to drive, but when it comes to taking the actual test, who knows what kinds of bad habits your dad has inadvertently taught you – like not signalling at a roundabout or when you turn the corner. Sure you can teach yourself to sing, and you might even be good at it, but if you have no proper knowledge of the voice, the throat, the tongue, the jaw, the vocal cords etc. then you have no idea what damage you may actually be doing to your voice and what ‘bad habits’ you may unintentionally pick up by teaching yourself. You know your voice best, and so if you feel that you have no need for a singing teacher then carry on! Or you could even book in a one off session with a teach just to touch base and get feedback on your voice, but if you often find that your throat becomes sore after singing or that your voice tires out quickly, then please think about finding a vocal coach to help you because chances are that you’re doing something wrong!

The first step to finding the right teacher is to think about what type of teacher you actually want. By that I mean, if you want to be a rock singer, there really is no point contacting a pop and classical vocal coach. So. Number 1 – decide what you actually want vocal coaching for.

Number 2 – start searching. The internet is obviously a great tool for searching and that can easily be your starting (and maybe ending) place. There are also newspapers which often have ads in them and when I was young we found my first singing teacher in the Yellow Pages. But is that even a thing anymore? The Yellow Pages? Does anyone even use that anymore? I don’t even know. Don’t forget word of mouth either – if you have friends, relatives or even acquaintances that you know sing, don’t be afraid to ask them if they have a vocal coach and who it is! Pay attention to testimonials, and if you can find any reviews on potential teachers that is also a bonus.

Number 3 – once you’ve found a potential teacher, you need to contact them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – in fact I encourage this – as your voice is delicate and you need someone who actually knows what they are doing in order to make sure that you don’t damage it. I would definitely advise really talking to the teacher before you even have a taster session with them, explaining briefly what you hope to get out of lessons with them and asking them how they would help you achieve this. And then obviously ask them how much they charge, where they are based and all that stuff.

Number 4 – research. This is a pretty important one as well; as one of my potential questions down below suggest, you could ask if there are any specific techniques or models that they primarily use to teach from. Singing teachers have to be flexible, but often they have a specific model or technique that they base a lot of their teaching on. With that in mind, what is the point of asking them about this, receiving an answer such as ‘I use speech level singing’, and then having no idea what that is? Of course feel free to ask the teacher to explain themselves, but then go ahead and do some research yourself so you can really see if you think that that kind of technique will benefit you. Speaking from personal experience, a lot of what I have learnt ties in with the Estill Model of singing, but this is just what works for me and, as I keep yammering on about, everybody’s voice is different and responds to different methods of singing. So, research people. And if you’re wondering where to get this information – Google is your friend.

Number 5 – have a taster session. I’ve never met a singing teacher who hasn’t offered a preliminary session free of charge to introduce you to themselves and their methods of teaching. This session is really where you get to grips with whether you think that your voice will respond to the teacher’s methods (and whether you actually like them or not. Nobody wants a snotty singing teacher). Don’t feel bad about deciding that their method of teaching is not for you, this is about your voice and how you want to express yourself vocally, not about sticking with the first person you see because you feel embarrassed to tell them that you don’t want anymore singing lessons.

Number 6 – monitor your progress. Once you’ve decided on a vocal coach, you will obviously start having lessons with them (typically once a week). Over the next few months take real note as to how your voice is progressing. If you start noticing an improvement both in and out of lessons then chances are you are on the right track. If your voice often feels strained or you’re not noticing any improvement in your voice, then it’s time to move on. Again, don’t feel bad about this. I myself unfortunately have had lessons with a singing teacher for a few YEARS with little progression in my voice, and I didn’t move on because I honestly thought that I wasn’t capable of being any better than I already was. Then, I changed to a different singer and boy was I wrong. If they’re not working for you, just move on. You’re paying them, you should at least be improving. But do bear in mind that training your voice will be hard, and chances are you will get frustrated, but there is a difference between there being no improvement in your voice and you not having yet mastered a certain technique. I would recommend giving it around 3 months with the teacher that you decide on – your voice isn’t going to change overnight and it really will take some time before you start noticing real changes. You should definitely notice small changes in your voice throughout your coaching, but it will take a few months for big changes to start happening. But you know yourself better than I do, so even if it’s only been a couple of weeks, if you feel like you’re not responding to your teacher’s methods then follow your gut!

My final piece of advice is to stick with it, and not to give up, even when you STILL can’t hit that note in that song (I have those notes in those songs to, it sucks), because with the right training and if you dedicate enough time outside of lessons to practice on your own (individual practice is an absolute must by the way!) then you WILL eventually get there. You just have to believe in yourself and your abilities, have patience and give yourself a break if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want it to. I know you can do it J

I think that’s all the advice that I can think of to give, and I really hope that it helps all of you who have never had a singing teacher before, or even those who have, but who are looking for someone new and are not sure how to approach it. Believe in yourself guys – until next time!

Carley

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