Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What to Look for (and Avoid) in a Voice Teacher

When looking for a voice teacher, especially if you are living near a major city, there are so many choices. With many singing teachers to choose from how can a singer make an intellegent decision? Lessons can be pricey and so we want to be able to make a quick but smart decision. It's not a good idea to work with a teacher for 6 months only to realise you've made no progress. It happens all too often!

I personally have studied or "tried out" over 30 teachers. Some of them were amazing and helped me beyond my expectations. Many however, did not. I am not alone in this experience, and I am not overly picky. My aim with voice lessons was to improve my singing voice and the specific vocal issues I had and to learn to express the music I loved with a free and healthy voice.

The problem with finding a good voice teacher is that anyone who simply wants to can call themselves a voice teacher. There is no licensing or criteria for teaching voice. It's really "buyer beware"!  Insane, isn't it?

Here is a quick list of what to look for and another quick list of what to avoid, that in my opinion will help you know what to look for and which questions to ask of your prospective teacher. Who you choose to work with is important. Great voice lessons are life-changing!

What to look for:

  • She/he understands the anatomy and physiology of the vocal tract.
  • He/she has studied vocal pedagogy (or how to teach voice -which would also include the above). This includes studying how to teach various vocal styles if they are taught.
  • He/she teaches breath support and body alignment and understands that singing includes the entire body.
  • Teacher helps free tensions in the body/throat which may affect vocal skill.
  • She/he is supportive, positive and patient
  • Teacher is available on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
  • Teacher has sung professionally and taken voice lessons.
  • You are encouraged to record your lessons.
  • You feel comfortable with the teacher's personality.

Things to avoid:

  • Terribly over-priced teachers. No one is worth $250.00+ an hour.
  • Inappropriate behavior which demonstrates a lack of personal boundaries. Sexually exploitative behavior (yes, this actually happens) is very unprofessional!
  • An overly critical and uncaring teacher.
  • On the other hand, a teacher that flatters you and offers no corrections is a red-flag.
  • A good pianist that doesn't work on how you use your voice.
  • If you feel hoarse/tired after lessons instead of warmed-up.
  • After 8 lessons you and/or others don't think your voice has improved.
  • Use of meaningless phrases such as "open your throat" (how? what does that mean?), or "sing from your diaphragm".  (how?)
  • Charismatic, self-serving and manipulative personalities.
  • If anything physically hurts or seems abusive during lessons. 

Both lists come directly from my own personal experience. I've experienced it all. I strive to be a good teacher and to earn the respect of each student. Ultimately I have learned from all these experiences.  I hope this list is helpful to you, and feel free to post comments! Good luck in your search.

No comments:

Post a Comment