You’ve always loved to sing, but now you are ready to take the next step and connect with a singing teacher. Great, how exciting!!! You search Google and a handful of teachers pop up…so who do you choose???
Well, not every singing teacher is the same, in fact, the way that singing is taught can be very different from coach to coach. Here are a few pointers to help you along…
For me, it is essential that your teacher has been trained to teach. Great singers don’t necessarily make great singing teachers. You need to feel confident in the teachers knowledge and experience, so make sure they can fully explain their approach, the methods they use and how it can help you. Whilst qualifications aren’t the only thing you should be looking for, I would raise concerns about teachers not being able to follow safe practises. For example, asking singers to push beyond their limits, making a child ‘belt’, or choosing material which is much too advanced. Teaching a poor technique is dangerous, listen to your own body…if it doesn’t feel right…STOP! (Serious and boring bit over!)
Gaining the expertise to pass on to students takes years and years. Speaking for myself, I attended singing lessons from the age of 10… it’s since then that my craft (and passion) developed. Initially, I studied with a fabulous local singing teacher, working through all of my Singing & Music Theory exams with the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music. A solid musical training is an essential part of being a teacher…the ability to read music, play the piano, run an effective warm-up and understand musical terminology will enhance the students experience.
Next, I pursued the London College of Music exams, gaining a Performance Diploma. At 16, I commuted to London to attend BIMM Music College, and then decided to make the move more permanent when I gained a place at Bird College. It was at here that I discovered my beloved Estill technique. Estill is a scientifically proven study of vocal anatomy. It is a complex and highly successful method, and the one that I follow in lessons today.
Three years of training at a professional stage school is invaluable to any teacher. The intense learning environment equips you with the skills, talent and discipline needed in order to succeed in the industry today.
Upon completing my training, I further studied at the Advanced Performers Studio at the Royal Academy of Music, as well as studying Vocal Pedagogy at Middlesex University. In more recent years, my training has focused mainly on Estill, attending numerous courses and workshops around the world…the learning never ends.
Qualifications on paper aren’t necessarily the only thing you should be looking for. What experience can a teacher offer you? Have they worked professionally in the industry? Who have they coached previously? Do they have insight from a wealth of professional sources?
There are huge advantages to being coached by someone who is present in the industry today…they understand the audition process, the standards required to succeed, the professional rehearsal, the realities of being a working performer (it’s not all glitz and glam) and the psychological battles that can arise.
Are you impressed by the work they have done before? Have they worked in a variety of jobs? Have you heard them sing themselves?
How does your teacher make you feel?
OK, so you’ve done all the research you can, now you have to book your first session. Right from the off, how does your teacher make you feel? You won't progress very fast if your teacher makes you feel awkward, stupid or hopeless.
You are trusting this person with something extremely valuable - your voice! Singing is a very personal thing…they should make you feel comfortable, confident and help you to emphasise the natural talent you have.
The best singing teachers I know dive into more than just singing technique. They truly care about their students and will pick up on mindset blocks or negative beliefs that may be holding their students back. Your teacher should be a role-model, someone you look up to, and someone that offers constant support in your life, makes you feel safe, and offers an ear to listen to you.
Can a classical teacher teach a rock style?
Good question! A great singing teacher will be able to teach you healthy technique within any style, while keeping the unique tone of your voice and style intact. I have students that work on a clean Musical Theatre sound, as well as heavy metal singers that are coached on adding distortion to their voices.
You may want to find a teacher that is versatile in what they can sing, rather than specific to one genre of music. This will then give you access to the many different tones you can create with your voice.
Teachers will often specialise or prefer to sing in one particular style but should be able to assist you with your technical concerns, no matter what their background.
If you have excellent training and technique, you should be able to sing in any style. It’s a real bug-bear of mine when singers pigeon-hole themselves as an ‘Opera singer’, or a ‘Musical Theatre singer’. We all have the same anatomy, capable of the same sounds and tones. You just need to find the right teacher to unlock them, and then practise, practise, practise! Again, nothing happens overnight!
How do I know if my current teacher is right for me?
It's often difficult to know whether or not you're working with the right singing teacher, but ask yourself the following questions to help make that decision:
Do I feel comfortable and confident in my lessons?
Do I feel as though they're listening to me and care about my progress?
Do they seem to know a lot about singing technique and can correct what I am struggling with vocally?
Does my voice feel free and safe when they offer corrections and new ways of singing?
Do they offer opportunities and guidance to further your development?
Am I making progress at every lesson?
Really, the three most important attributes for a teacher are that you feel comfortable working with them, you’re voice feels safe, and that they know what they're talking about. Singing should be the most enjoyable thing in the world…good luck on your adventure!