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  • Writer's pictureVal Bastien

Five Tips To Choose Your Vocal Coach

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Singing is a personal invigorating experience; a search for excellence and acknowledgement. For others in moments of transitions, when there is a need for deep inner connection learning to sing can open emotional channels to a clearer life plan. Roadblocks on the path to success are typical. Who doesn't want to expand their range, sing louder and without straining? Above all, we want to sing more beautifully and have fun with our voice. It is only normal that vocal struggles and realizing our limitations activate the process of searching for the perfect vocal coach.


Learning to sing is as much about shaping the instrument as it is about hitting the right notes. Would a piano teacher require his student to put the piano together before actually learning to play it? No, but we do. Abstract science is what makes voice stand apart from the crowd as complex. It is also the most intuitive of all. Turning your body into this wonderful music machine is only the beginning of your vocal learning. Coordinating its intricate mechanism is followed by interpretation. We tend to skip the “shaping the instrument” part when teaching ourselves. So many singers I know, including myself, have fallen into the trap of underestimating the value of voice lessons.


I was put into guitar lessons as a child but always loved singing. I only picked up voice lessons after my choir director made the suggestion in CEGEP. Voice lessons? Me? It was a little naive of me to think that up until then, I didn't need singing lessons, haha!


When you are willing to step back and welcome help, you begin to understand the miraculous singing body and unleash your true potential. Books, online videos and webinars offer an extremely limited version of strategies to help you figure out correct singing technique.


If you want to build a strong instrument and if you are committed to addressing your personal vocal challenges directly and specifically, I highly recommend to sign up with an expert singing teacher for lessons.


A competent singing teacher adequately identifies your unique areas of need and offers effective solutions. He or she will model strategies that are designed to your individual concerns.


There are a few details to consider before selecting a vocal coach in your area or online. You may enrol in a few lessons in order to validate your choice and decide to continue working together. I have five tips to help you decide who to work with. First let me start by what should you actually NOT consider:

1) Proximity


Most singers put this criteria at the top of their list. They look for the closest singing teacher to their home. DON'T DO THIS. It's extremely limiting and you will pass up on the opportunity to EXCELL by working with a qualified vocal coach.


The good news is that with technology nowadays, nothing stands between you and your PERFECT match. Learn from the comfort of your home. It doesn't get any CLOSER than that!


Several singing instructors, including myself, teach online. With the RIGHT vocal coach, a virtual lesson is as effective as in-person. All you need is a computer or cellphone and a webcam. A decent microphone is recommended but not always necessary. Favour online lessons over a local mediocre vocal coach. In addition, online lessons help save on commuting. Reinvesting the extra minutes towards singing practice make for a happy combination of productivity and quality instruction. Save time and progress at the speed of light!


I have been teaching virtually for over 10 years. I've worked with singers as far as Hong Kong (I'm in Canada) with no issues whatsoever. When the pandemic started in 2020 all of my in-person clients continued online. When I was allowed to resume in-person, they all STAYED online! That says a lot!!


Technology is here to bridge distances; let's make the world a smaller place.


2) Teaching Skills


A competent teacher differentiates instruction to resolve vocal problems and meet your individual expectations. The ability to describe the same concept in multiple ways requires exposure to many different situations and CREATIVITY. A beginning teacher (0 to 5 years of experience) or a recent music school graduate for entry level instruction is great for children.


Less experienced teachers can be more economical and you may think that it's better for your budget but you will end up spending more and learning less. You will not meet your full potential and this will hold you back.


If your vocal concerns are specific such as:


-straining and vocal fatigue

-inability to connect registers

-unpleasant tone

-singing out of tune

-low confidence


Then I recommend choosing a singing instructor with longer years of teaching behind his/her belt. It takes at least 5 to 10 years for any professional to develop their craft and more to fully understand their art (I’m only estimating teaching years and not actual singing). Conveying knowledge coherently and resourcefully takes experience. This may come at a higher cost but it is well worth the investment. With proper guidance, you will resolve your struggles faster and make your money last a few miles (or songs!) longer.


If you’re looking to extend your overall singing and performance skills from average to “wow,” take your voice to the next level with an ACCOMPLISHED teacher.


3) Education & Stage Experience


Always verify a teacher’s credentials before setting up a lesson. In the age of social media, anyone can put up a video and claim breakthrough techniques. Don’t get fooled! Do your own research. You will find “street smart” (performance specialists) and “book smart” (singers with a recognized school degree) teachers. It is not necessary to have had an extensive performing career to be a wonderful teacher. The saying “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach” is FALSE.


There are many reasons talented singers choose teaching instead of performing:


-love of teaching

-financial stability

-family commitments

-lack of opportunities and connections, etc...


Gifted vocalists and amazing pedagogues often excel in their very own ways as singing well and teaching well are two! Although performing provides for exceptional entertainment dynamics and stress management experience too many performers improvise themselves as teachers and don't have the skills to effectively pass on their knowledge.


A music degree demonstrates certain quality standards and peer acknowledgement as well in the areas of performance and technique. It also insures a well-rounded music theory background.


Teaching requires superior understanding of the instrument in order to share knowledge adequately which can be acquired in school and on stage. But for both "street smart" and "book smart" singers, being great at something doesn't mean being great at teaching it.


Balance between performance and schooling makes sense but most importantly, look for someone who is passionate about teaching vocals as opposed to a failed performer reinventing themselves as a teacher. How can you tell if a teacher is not only good at singing but at teaching too?


4) Testimonials and Reviews


Does the teacher you are interested in live up to expectations? There is only one way to find out: read reviews.


Online recommendations will give you the big picture about customer satisfaction. They make it easy to get a general feel for the coach's teaching style and to predict whether your personalities would gel well together. After a beneficial lesson experience, help spread the word as well (we appreciate it!). Write an online review on Google, blog or post a testimonial on your teacher’s official website.


Do you know any singers in your group of friends? Ask around if they have ever taken singing lessons. A friend’s referral is an excellent starting point to pick your vocal teacher. It’s reassuring to hear from a friend that a teacher is trustworthy.


5) Budget


How much to pay for vocal lessons is directly related to the teacher’s notoriety and experience. You pay for what you get! Expect an hourly rate around $70 for beginning teachers or less for group lessons. University professors also teaching privately will charge you more. Prepare to pay over $130 for vocal coaches of international reputation or in big cities like Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. Prices fluctuate according to availability, demand and EXPERTISE.


Every item on that list is important. Make these work for you. What are you looking for in a lesson? Basics or a specific outcome? Are you doing this casually or are you an aspiring musician? Do you have any time constrains? Consider your vocal knowledge, how many years you have been singing for or studying voice, the severity of your difficulties and the nature of your vocal goals. Offset these factors with the teacher’s singing and teaching experience, style, hourly rate and area of expertise. Also take into account your motivation to practice. This is where the real progress happens. Make sure to practice for a bigger return on your investment.


I am 100% confident that I can help you because I have been working in the music industry for over 20 years. I have seen countless clients meet their goals in a short period of time. Often even within less than 3 lessons. In fact, most of my clients will experience a dramatic improvement within the very first lesson. If you are curious about how I can help you get closer to your dreams, start by watching my FREE masterclass "The Five Step Strategy My Clients Use to Sing Higher, Louder and Effortlessly":


Let's get you singing,


Val




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