Updated: Sep 2
I'm going to be completely honest - I like to think I'm a pretty good Voice Coach. But here's the truth: I know that I'm not the right Coach for everyone. I have a very specific style of teaching - step by step, beginning with the foundations and building up to the tricky stuff. The vast majority of my students love my style, because it helps them become an incredible singer no matter where they started. But you know what? I'd be crazy if I thought that this style is exactly what every singing student in the world is looking for.
So, in the interest of being honest, I'm going to tell you one of the biggest secrets in learning to sing:
The key isn't finding the best coach in the business, it's finding the best coach for you and your needs.
And I'm here to help you do that. In my time I've worked with quite a few different Voice Coaches, and I've researched a lot of Coaches that I didn't end up working with as well. There are a few things that everyone should keep in mind when choosing a Voice Coach, and I've listed them all here for you. Keep these things in mind and you should have the Coach of your dreams in no time!
1. What Do You Want to Get Out of Lessons?
This is a big one - exactly what do you want from your lessons? Are you preparing for performances as a a part of your school music class and need some extra help? Do you want to take some Vocal Exams? Are you aiming to be starring on The Voice next season? Or do you just want to have fun and improve your singing voice?
When choosing your Coach, keep your goals in mind. Or, even better, talk to your potential Coach about them! You'll soon work out whether they can help you reach those goals or if you should be looking for someone else.
2. What Style Do They Teach?
Different Coaches have different specialties. For example, I teach contemporary singing, which is great for people who want to sing pop, rock or even musicals. It's not so good for someone who wants to join the Opera.
I once had a student who desperately wanted to sing classical music, but I only have a limited knowledge of that area. I did work with her for a while (I do have some knowledge of classical technique, having sung it for a few months basically as a challenge) but the moment she had the opportunity to work with someone who specialised in classical music, I encouraged her to take it! Last time I heard from her, she was loving her classical singing lessons.
On the other hand, I've also worked with a number of singers who'd been taught to sing contemporary music with classical technique. This can work - Katherine Jenkins, for example, sings a beautiful version of Evanescence's Bring Me to Life. But if the student desperately wants to belt it out like Amy Lee, then classical technique usually isn't the best fit.
3. Do You Understand What They're Saying?
This is maybe the biggest issue I come across when talking to students. There is a lot of terminology thrown around when we start talking about singing. Personally, the moment a coach starts throwing around complex biological terms I lose focus completely.
Ideally, you want to learn about how to use and manipulate the voice in terminology you can understand - and who can explain things differently if you still don't quite get it. (I'm looking at you, choir trainer who constantly told us to use our diaphragms but never told us what it was or how to use it).
4. Do You Feel Comfortable With Them?
It might not seem like it at first, but this is actually ridiculously important. Remember, you have to sing in front of this person - constantly. It's totally normal to feel nervous the first time you sing in front of them - especially if you've never met them before - but they should at least make you feel comfortable. If you don't want to go to your lesson because you're scared of the coach, then that's probably not the right coach for you.
5. Are You Improving?
This is more of a long-term thing. No one's going to become Beyoncé overnight - it just won't happen. But if it's been a few months, you've been practicing regularly and you don't feel like you're getting any better or haven't learned anything, then think about why that may be. (I'm not saying it's the Coach, it could be a number of factors, but if there's no improvement happening it might be time to change things up.)
I once had a student come to me looking to change teacher because after three years of lessons she didn't feel like she'd improved at all. Now, I don't know anything about her previous coach, what she did or didn't learn or how much she'd actually practiced, but I can tell you this with absolute certainty: After three years of lessons, there should be some kind of improvement.
Some Bonus Tips!
I hope these five points give you a few things to think about when choosing a Voice Coach. If you're still not sure who you should choose, here's a few things you can try:
Follow them on Social Media
Assuming they have social media, of course, you can follow them for a while and see what they're like. The idea of social media is to get to know people, so this is a great way to get to know your coach before you commit to anything.
Send them a Message
If you've got questions, or even just want to chat, send them a message. If you're not feeling up to a message, you can always just comment on a post. I'll let you in on a secret - any small business owner (Coach or otherwise) absolutely LOVES it when you engage with them - likes, comments, messages, it doesn't matter. We're on social media to interact with you, so don't be scared to talk to us!
Give them a Call
I welcome any phone calls I get from people interested in what I do. Sometimes that's a person who wants to learn but is scared to get started, sometimes it's someone who just wants a little more information, I've even had calls from other Coaches who want to know more about Rockschool Exams! (I've been teaching the syllabus for a few years now, but to most coaches in Adelaide it's still a very new syllabus.) No matter what, if you're not sure about a Coach, there's no harm in calling them and having a conversation.
Ask them about a Trial Lesson
I don't make a secret of the fact that I offer a Free Introductory Lesson to anyone who is interested in learning at Southern Voice Studio. To me, that lesson is incredibly important, because it allows a student to meet me, learn about how I teach and decide if I'm the right Coach for them.
The idea of a trial lesson actually isn't that uncommon among music teachers. Some of them are free, others are offered at a discounted price. Either way, you can meet your potential coach and decide for yourself if they're the right fit for you. And I highly recommend that you do!