Audrey Hunt, vocal instructor, gives us important clues for finding a qualified, caring singing teacher.
Find a Vocal Teacher Just Right For You
You've decided to take some vocal lessons to improve the quality of your voice. You want to find a teacher that is right for you. You also want to get the most bang for your buck. But you're not quite sure just how to go about it. Finding the right vocal coach can be time-consuming and even frustrating. You'll find lists of teachers in the classified section of newspapers, flyers, and the internet all promising to help you with your singing voice. You don't want to trust your voice with just anyone.
"Do I just pick a name from the yellow pages? Perhaps I'll just ask someone. Should I get private lessons or is it best to go with group instruction? How does one know which teacher to hire?"
Some are qualified and some are not. Anyone can hang a shingle on a building claiming to be a vocal teacher. But how do you know if they're qualified to teach proper vocal instruction? What questions should you ask? Does a great singer make a great teacher and how much will lessons cost?
I will answer these questions and give you other important tips for selecting the perfect vocal teacher.
You will learn how to steer clear of mistakes and pitfalls usually made when seeking vocal instruction. Selecting the wrong teacher can be costly and even harmful for your voice. If you are seeking vocal instruction and you're not sure where or how to begin, pay close attention to the following tips and advice.
The Most Crucial Characteristic For Being A Teacher Is Love
Classifications And Headings For A Vocal Teacher
Being a great singer does not qualify a person to teach vocal techniques. It takes more than a good voice to be a good instructor. The teacher must have a combination of schooling, knowledge of the voice, and plenty of experience.
Vocal teachers and coaches are found under the following classifications and headings:
- Voice Lessons
- Vocal Lessons
- Vocal Instruction
- Singing Lessons
- Singing Teacher
- Vocal Coach
- Vocal Teacher
- Singing Instruction
- Learn To Sing
- Singing Lessons
- How To Sing
Your goal is to find a knowledgeable teacher who is right for you. Degrees or credentials are not required for teaching voice with the exception of college and university instructors. However, a good competent vocal coach can still be found even though they do not have a degree.
Outstanding teachers go out of their way to boost self-esteem in their students. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish.
A Good Vocal Coach Will Incorporate Proper Vocal Technique In Each Lesson
Six Things To Consider When Choosing A Vocal Coach
What should I be looking for when selecting a vocal coach? Factors in choosing a teacher include the following:
1. Find a teacher to fit your needs and interests. Take responsibility for stating your needs. There are hundreds of teachers and coaches but each one has a specific way of teaching. Make it clear to the prospective teacher what you want to get from the lessons. Here are some examples:
. I want to build my vocal range.
. Can you help me learn to breathe correctly for singing?
. I need to control my vibrato.
. Will I sound better if I study with you?
. My lack of self-confidence keeps me from singing. Do you address this problem?
. I just want to sound better.
. By studying with you will I be given opportunities to perform in public?
2. Make sure the vocal coach can teach you the style you like. If you're a country singer you won't want to study with a teacher who teaches opera or classical. (And vice versa.) Singing styles include the following:
. Musical Theatre
3. Consider the driving distance. Picking a teacher who is an hours drive away is the fastest way to interrupt the lesson schedule. Bad weather, schedule interruptions, time and traffic can make you late for your appointment. Be sure that you find classes that are close and handy to you.
4. Ask the teacher if Vocal Technique is part of the training program. If a teacher is willing to simply allow you to sing songs without including vocal technique, run! Be sure the teacher is qualified to teach vocal skills such as breath control, increasing the range, controlled vibrato, resonating chambers, proper diction, vocal flexibility, lifting and strengthening the soft palate. (These are only a few techniques a qualified teacher is expected to be proficient at.)
If the teacher gives you a puzzled look or a resounding no, run and keep on searching. There's no way vocal instruction will be productive or give you the results you seek without a solid foundation built on vocal technique.
5. Look for compatibility. This is a key factor for learning and progress. A teacher without the ability to answer prolific questions and make individualized adjustments to your voice is not acceptable, therefore it is best to trust your gut feeling and keep looking until you click with the instructor. First impressions usually reveal whether or not you're compatible with a person.
6. Getting A Referral. Selecting a teacher this way gives you first- hand experience. The person giving you a referral has actually taken lessons from the instructor or knows someone who has. (65 percent of my students come to me through a referral.)
Find A Vocal Coach That Can Teach Your Style of Singing
Important Questions To Ask When Looking For A Vocal Teacher
Most of us feel uncomfortable and unqualified when it comes to interviewing a prospective vocal coach. I recently conducted some research on my own to see how many folks actually knew which questions to ask when seeking vocal instruction.
A whopping 9 out of 10 said they didn't know. And the rest were surprised to learn that they should even ask questions to begin with. Hence, this article was born.
Take a look at the list below to learn which questions you should ask in order to find the perfect vocal coach:
- Does the teacher play piano well? I can't say it enough. Never choose a singing teacher that can't play the piano. The reasons should be obvious but if not - The piano is used to play and teach scales as well as accompany the singer when performing solos. The piano also helps the student sing on key.
- Describe what a typical lesson is like.
- How long have you been teaching voice? Expect to pay more for a vocal coach with experience.
- Do you have a degree in voice? You want a vocal coach who has had years of performance experience or years of lessons and training in a degree program that focuses on the voice
- Where did you attend college?
- Do you include music theory in lessons?
- What is the average age of your students?
- What is your fee and what about missed lessons?
- Do you perform? If so, where? If you have the opportunity to hear the vocal coach sing, then by all means, do it. You may discover a lot about his personality that you might not get to see in the singing lessons.
- Do you include ear-training?
- Do you teach sight-singing?
- Are recitals available for students?
- Can I have a trial lesson?
- Is there a way for me to hear other students you teach?
- What do you like most about being a teacher?
- Do you work with a variety of voice types? Do you teach different styles of music? If you are looking for help with specific voice type, or specific singing styles, you need to make sure that your prospective vocal coach can work with your voice type or the style of singing you're interested in.
What Questions Should Your Singing Teacher Ask You?
Questions Your Prospective Vocal Coach Should Ask You
It's not just about which questions you should be asking your prospective vocal coach, it's also extremely important that you be aware of what questions the teacher asks you. If the instructor fails to ask you even one question you are better off walking away. Obviously, that person is not interested in your needs.
Here are key questions a qualified vocal teacher will ask:
- Why do you want vocal lessons?
- Do you have a specific goal in mind?
- How did you find out about me?
- Have you had previous training?
- What style of music do you like?
- Do you play the piano or another musical instrument?
- Do you read music?
- Do you sing in a choir or group?
- Is your family musical?
- Who are some of your favorite singers?
- Does your family or significant other support your choice to study voice?
When you find an inquisitive teacher you can be sure that the teacher wants to make the teacher/student experience work for you.
A good voice teacher wants to ensure that the two of you are a good match. Just as you’re checking out the teacher, the teacher should also be checking you out, to find out a little about your background and interests.
Summing It Up
Key points to remember when looking for the perfect vocal coach:
- Ask questions. Find a qualified vocal teacher with a degree in music and a vast background.
- Find a vocal coach who can meet your needs and teach your preferred style
- The teacher must be qualified to teach vocal theory and technique
- Playing the piano is an absolute must.
- Be prepared to ask the right questions when considering a vocal teacher.
- Find a vocal coach who is compatible with you.
- People appreciate clear, honest feedback delivered in a straightforward way.
- The key skills the teacher must have are: listening from the heart, effective questioning, establishing high levels of rapport and trust, and inspiring the learner.
As far as prices go, usually the better the teacher, the higher fee you will pay. Don't make the mistake of thinking just because you're a beginner you can get by with a less-than-perfect vocal coach. Many a voice has been ruined and damaged by an inexperienced teacher.
A good teacher will stimulate learning and inspire action. Helping students to focus on the path forward is much more productive than keeping them focused on what is wrong.
Above all — singing teachers must have a sincere love for people and a passion for teaching.
Your singing is a gift from God. Sharing your singing with others is a gift from you.
— Audrey Hunt
So What Do You Think?
Questions & Answers
Question: I would like to find a vocal teacher that could help me develop the skills to sing like the hair metal bands in the 80s like Firehouse and Steelheart. Where should I look?
Answer: Contact your local college or ask at music stores like Guitar Center.
Question: How does one find a singing teacher who will actually teach beginners and knows how to do so?
Answer: Most qualified vocal instructors are found in collages or through the Vocal Teachers of America. Locate one in your area. All, good instructors are able to teach beginners. Sometimes a qualified teach can be found through a referral. Maybe ask another singer that you admire.
Question: I have spent a lifetime in rock bands trying to sing tenor and sound like everyone but me. I am a baritone and want to sing Standards, but I must improve my tone. How can I find a teacher to help with that?
Answer: Congratulations on your desire to sing with your own, unique sound! I'm impressed. Check out the local colleges near you for a qualified, experienced instructor. Be careful of teachers who make outrageous claims. The better teachers may charge more for lessons but in the long run, you'll be saving money.
© 2016 Audrey Hunt
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 08, 2020:
Can you find a good teacher in your area? You must learn to sing with correct vocal skills to sing well. You may send me an email for additional help.
Thank you and keep singing.
Samiya on June 22, 2020:
I want to become singing girl please help me please can you help me
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on December 13, 2019:
Thanks so, much for being here and for your nice comments. I feel especially blessed to receive comments from another vocal teach.
I hope to see you again Michael
Michael Jacobs from New York City on September 13, 2019:
This is an absolutely fantastic article, Audrey! As a voice teacher and vocal coach for the past 15 years, I find that people are completely unaware of what to look for in a teacher. Thank you so much for sharing!
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 24, 2019:
Oh, wow, Audrey, that would be awesome! Thank you! I'm emailing you some details... ;-)
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on March 24, 2019:
Listen up dear lady. How about you and I get together and have a video chat. I'll let you know whether you will benefit from studying with a vocal coach. My gift to you. Let me know.
Thanks for reading my article and for your comments.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 23, 2019:
Between a couple of years of a community college voice class, almost a year of private coaching (sadly, the instructor passed away), and sitting in on my daughter's rehearsals at the San Francisco Girls' Chorus -- all of these over 20 years ago -- and reading your articles, I have a fair idea about proper breathing and enunciation.
That said, I have issues with allergies, and am always fighting post-nasal drip (charming, I know), and it has obvious effects on my ability to sustain singing before I start sounding clogged up, and eventually need to cough or clear my throat. Annoying in the least; embarassing at the worst, if I were to try and audition.
For many, many years, I've been surrounded by people who had 'perfect pitch' ears, and made me feel intimidated about being heard hitting wrong notes. My ex husband would visually cringe; my daughter, when she was in the SFGC, would comment, "keep your day job." My 2nd husband was a dear, and never made snide remarks, but he, too, had a good ear, and some musical talent of his own. He would tell me if I was off-key. I just stopped singing.
Sadly, he passed away in August of 2018, and though at this point, I'm still processing the grief, I have started singing again...for my own amusement. Now that no one is around to hear my mistakes, (my 81-year-old mother-in-law is very hard of hearing), I find my throat is less tense and I can have a better range, and don't squeak. However, I'm also 71 years old at this point so...we know that "everything" deteriorates with age. Maybe I'm wasting my time to think I should find a coach and take lessons again...
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on September 03, 2016:
Thank you kindly for taking time to read this. I really appreciate your comments. Enjoy your day!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 03, 2016:
Very helpful, Audrey. This would be one of those situations in which I don't know what questions to ask. Great primer for student beginners. Thanks.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 29, 2016:
Thank you Alicia! So nice of you to take the time to read my latest hub. I really appreciate your comments.
Happy thoughts -
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 29, 2016:
Your hub contains excellent advice, Audrey. Thank you for creating such a comprehensive and useful article. I'm sure it will be helpful for many people looking for a vocal teacher.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 28, 2016:
I will never lack confidence as long as I read your comments to my hubs. What a sweetheart you are! Please let your daughter know when she is ready for lessons I provide vocal instruction using the video program "skype" and/or "facetime." Been teaching this way for years with some great results.
I'm happy as can be to hear you like my own quotes. Thank you precious friend.
Thank you so much for confirming my hub as helpful for others. This is just what I wanted to hear. Appreciate your support more than you know.
Enjoy your day.
FlourishAnyway from USA on August 28, 2016:
This is an authoritative source for selecting a vocal teacher. Many people think they know what they want but have no idea how to get there, and you provide helpful instructions. Very well done!
Faith Reaper from southern USA on August 26, 2016:
Hi Lovely Audrey,
This is such a useful hub here for all seeking to find that perfect vocal teacher. Great questions to ask by both the student and the teacher!
I wish I had this insightful article here when my daughter was a young child desiring to take vocal lessons. She loves to sing still and I will forward your article to her. She is in the process of moving now, and maybe she can find a great one in her new area.
Your students are blessed to have you as their caring vocal coach.
I love the quotes you've included here, but the ones that are the best are the ones from you: "Above all - singing teachers must have a sincere love for people and passion for teaching. Your singing is a gift from God. Sharing your singing with others is a gift from you."
Hugs and blessings
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 26, 2016:
Hello dear friend. You are too kind (but I love hearing this.) So happy to see you here and do appreciate your comments very much. Sending you hugs across the world.
Oh Bill! I've been working on this next chapter but this is what happens:
1. I keep editing and changing and still not happy with what I write.
2. I probably am over-thinking ...
3. I want it all to be perfect before sending it on to you.
I haven't sent anything but maybe I should just send what I have.
My mind goes off in all directions...focus Audrey, focus.
Bronchitis can do a number on the singing, that's for sure. But come to think of it, the sound of a growling dog and a squeaking mouse may turn out to be the next big thing in vocal style! :)
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 26, 2016:
Do you have any kind of video program on your computer?
Nell Rose from England on August 26, 2016:
I would love to learn to sing properly, but since my bronchitis my voice sounds like a cross between a growling dog and a squeaking mouse! lol! always love your hubs, and you are so clever!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 26, 2016:
All I need to know is where is your next chapter to your book? I haven't heard a peep out of you in quite some time? Have you sent something and it got lost? If you do email me something, let's back it up with a message on Facebook letting me know to look for it, okay?
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 26, 2016:
Great hub and who else can suggest those important tips to find the best vocal coach but you!
I agree with your detailed and important tips. You are so right in saying that a folk singer/ coach would not be suitable to teach Rock and a spiritual singer is not very suitable to coach for popular singing.
Very useful, helpful and well written hub! Thank you!
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on August 25, 2016:
Audrey, I don't have Skype but I'm on Facebook. Ah my birds love my singing so much they fly away full of joy. How sweet!
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 25, 2016:
Thank you Ruby for reading my hub. And as for singing, I'd be more than happy to give you some pointers at N/C. Do you have Skype or Facetime? You're exactly the type of person I love to work with. I love the old church songs. They have such an innocence both lyrically and melodically. And as for your birds...how do you know they're not flying for the joy of hearing you sing? :)
Love you dear lady,
Hi Mike. I can always count on you to be at the head of the line when I introduce a new hub. You make me feel like a 'star.' I do love teaching. There's just something wonderful that transpires within me when I teach. Thanks dear friend.
Oh, Dianna, you are the prime example of compassion and love for teaching. Compatibility heads the list for sure when selecting a teacher. Thank you dear friend for your lovely comments.
Audrey Howitt from California on August 25, 2016:
Great hub Audrey! So many good points here--I started out singing musical theater, then did a lot of pop and studio work in LA and Vegas and then went to classical. So these days, I teach mostly classical, with a splash of the other two in for good measure--and I do teach sight singing--we should sing some duets!!!
Dianna Mendez on August 25, 2016:
I think compatibility would be my main interest in finding a vocal teacher, if I were to imagine I could even sing. It is important to me that I can relate and interact with someone to learn. Your words are so true: Teachers (this goes for all teachers) must have a passion to teach and love for people. Amen.
mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 25, 2016:
The world of music is so happy to have you. You are a natural teacher, with compassion for your subject and your students. That must make you feel great.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on August 25, 2016:
I wish I lived close enough to you to take lessons. I love to sing, but I'm a long way from sounding good or even ok. I sing at home and in church, but my voice pitch is off key. It's ok at home but not in church. Thanks again for all the great tips on choosing a vocal coach. I bought an old song book at a yard sale, it's really old. The title, Great Songs Of The Church. I sometimes sing the old songs ( When I'm alone ) I notice my pet birds at the feeder fly away when they hear me. lol