Finding a great singing teacher is like dating: it’s a search for a potential “someone” who can help fulfil your “needs” and become a teammate when striving to reach your goals. Alexa Terry shares five things you should look for in a singing teacher.
1 Someone who is studious
Philosopher Sir Francis Bacon wrote “ipsa scientia potestas est”: “knowledge itself is power”. A singing teacher who not only has a good understanding of the voice and valuable experiences to draw upon, but who continues to expand their knowledge, is a worthy source. These are the teachers who may spend time reading material, publishing blogs or vlogs on their website, YouTube channels and social media pages, or attending vocal events that they then tell you about in your sessions. A continued interest and willingness to learn is their continued investment in you as a singer – and shows they don’t have commitment issues. Egotism is unappealing; a teacher could have a CV as strong as Roquefort cheese, but riding on a waft of arrogance does not a good teacher make. No vocal coach knows everything. Find a teacher who takes pride in their positive work ethic and the information they can share, but who openly admits when they’re faced with a question they can’t answer. In between sessions, these teachers are likely to do some research in order to fill in the gaps.
2 Great with a toolbox
Finding a teacher who can diagnose a technical difficulty and who is also handy with a toolbox to help fix the matter is critical to your growth. A suitable teacher will have a bunch of exercises at their disposal to help you to discover the appropriate vowel sounds, scale patterns and articulator placements to improve your instrument.
3 Compassionate and focused
Sometimes we have no choice but to bag up our troubles and cart them in a suitcase to singing lessons. Music can play havoc with us viscerally and physically, and a set of lyrics or a powerful melody can make that suitcase spring open. In these moments you want to be met with a tissue, a good listener and some empathy. Find someone who makes you feel important and special. Someone who is unperturbed by the buzz of a text message or social media notification, is student-focused and fully immersed in your work.
4 Encouragement and a bit of tough love
Singing teachers want to see their clients succeed in reaching their goals, and it is a shared celebration when exciting opportunities arise – they may even create performance opportunities for you. A vocal coach can be a wonderful source of encouragement and motivation; a mascot cheering us on from the sidelines. However, there must be an equal dose of constructive criticism to balance the praise to help us grow as artists – and sometimes we need to be told if we could be doing more.
5 Not possessive
It may not be a case of finding The One, but The Ones. The relationship between singer and vocal coach should be somewhat “polyamorous”. There may be times when a student and teacher don’t gel, or a singer wishes to learn a style which is outside of the coach’s expertise. To restrict the student to a “monogamous” partnership with a teacher who can’t address certain things is to potentially hinder the singer. You never know what you might discover if you explore your voice with different pedagogues!
A word on long distance relationships
As a singer, having a vocal coach is one of your most valuable investments – and there are plenty of fish in the sea! One of the perks of modern day technology is that if you don’t find anyone in your surrounding area, it’s easy to make long-distance connections with many great singing teachers offering online sessions. Following these tips may well lead you to finding the right “ones” for you.