Contributor: Earl Harville
Make ‘Em Work For It!
Let’s be honest- voice lessons can be expensive!! In this tough economic climate, it becomes an even larger sacrifice to spend money on vocal training. For that reason, if you are making the investment, the vocal instructor you choose should be worth your hard-earned dollars. There are waaaaaay too many charlatans out there who are, in essence, ripping you off!! They are not leading you into vocal freedom and are nothing more than vocal cheerleaders. You should be making your teacher really work for the pay. I want to share with you some things to consider in terms of teacher accountability.
First of all, let’s be clear: If your vocal coach can’t explain clearly and simply how the voice works, RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!! A REAL teacher should be able to lead you into a working knowledge of your instrument. It is only when that happens that you will truly master your voice. He should be able to give you a purpose for any and every exercise that is given. I tell my students that if I don’t give you the reason behind the vocalese, they can smack me. When the client is away from me, he will need to become self-sufficient and fend for himself on the road, in rehearsal, or in the studio. Knowing what exercises serve what purpose will keep you able to function on a daily basis. For too long, singers have been allowed to be the ‘dumb’ musicians, lagging behind their instrumentalist cohorts in knowing the nuts and bolts of their axe. A solid coach won’t allow that.
Beware of voice teachers who throw around trite directions like “sing from the diaphragm” and “place the tone forward”, for example. This is often a sign that they have no clue as to what is pedagogically sound. Famed vocal coach Seth Riggs warns against such teaching by result instead of by cause and effect. They should be able to give specific exercises to bring the voice into balance. Teaching voice is an artful science and a scientific art. The scientific knowledge must be there. If not. move on to another teacher.
A good voice teacher doesn’t need to be the best singer you ever encounter, but if he can’t sing, MOVE ON!!!! The coach should be able to demonstrate the concepts and exercises for their students. You should put the teacher on the spot. Ask her to sing through her passaggi or bridges. If she can’t make easy transitions, she shouldn’t be teaching you how to do it. The trainer should possess the technique that they claim to teach.
By the way, a degree in voice doesn’t guarantee that the voice teacher is truly qualified to be training other singers. There are a number of wonderful teachers may have degrees in music education, musical theater, or speech pathology. Also, don’t be overly concerned with the piano skills of the coach. They need to able to play the exercises and chords, for sure. But their principal job isn’t to be the accompanist. The main focus should be on your watching and listening to you as you vocalize and then move into song work.
Set the bar high, folks. Don’t throw your money away. Do your homework. Ask good questions. Audition the teacher. You will not regret the effort you put into the search when you find your voice growing into the instrument you’ve dreamed of having.