THE PERFECT VOCAL COACH

The 10 main characteristics every vocal coach must have.

Finding a vocal coach, what a struggle! All professional singers at some point in their lives and careers need a vocal coach, and if it is true that finding a perfect partner is hard, the same can be said for singing teachers. It is not only a matter of trust; it is much more, exactly like in all kinds of relationships. Finding the perfect one is of vital importance for our happiness and health as singers and performers.

There are thousands of amazing vocal coaches out there working with some of the greatest voices, famous or not. But for those of you that are just starting and have no idea of what to expect during a proper singing lesson or if you are not happy with your vocal teacher, well, we decided to make this list of the ten main characteristics that are mandatory for every singing teacher to have.

The perfect vocal coach must be:

1) Prepared in singing techniques, music, and anatomy.

A great vocal coach must be prepared and professionally trained not only in singing techniques but also in vocal anatomy and music theory ( at least ). His sole knowledge of singing wouldn’t be enough to teach properly without him being able to explain anatomically what are the parts of our body involved in each exercise, also the ability to recognize vocal diseases or major and minor vocal problems that if not solved may lead to serious damages. This doesn’t mean that a vocal coach must be a doctor ( of course it would help ) but he/she must be trained and updated in order to prevent and in some cases recognize it and address the student to a professional doctor. He/she must be also able to understand and teach music theory and should play a musical instrument. This would be of great help for example during the study of vocal harmonies and complicate vocal parts.

2) Able to use simple words.

It is important to make sure that the students understand what the teacher is talking about and understand the instructions given easily. It happens, often,  that very prepared teachers use very complicated terms, sometimes to validate their position or just because they forget that they are not talking to other singing professionals. It is very important that every teacher is able to explain complicated concepts or instructions in simple terms that are accessible to everyone.

3) A good listener that never oversings.

A lot of vocal coaches tend to sing too much during the lesson, singing over their student’s voice or turning the lesson into their own private show. If you have the feeling that your vocal coaches love listening to themselves too much instead of focusing more on your voice you should consider finding someone else.

4) Able to create a perfect program for each student.

It’s very important that the teacher you chose is able to understand the different characteristics and needs of each student and creates a program tailored to them. If you notice that the set of exercises is always the same and never changes and is limited to the same exercises similar to all other students you may consider trying a new teacher. Also, the understanding of what you like music wise and what you would like to achieve as a singer is fundamental. If your teacher tries to change or ignore totally your own musical identity it is the time to look somewhere else.

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5) Open to different kinds of music.

As we previously said, if the vocal coach is not flexible in order to understand what you like and tries to make you sing mostly what he likes he/she may be not prepared to sing and prepare singers of every kind of music. He/she also may not be prepared to teach vocal techniques used in different kinds of music. Of course, the teacher shouldn’t do exclusively what the student asks, but must be able to add to the program the technical aspects and pieces the student likes, together with the teacher choices. The vocal coach must always make the program interesting and various, helping the student discovering new aspects of singing and music genres that will enrich the singer’s knowledge. Unless you deliberately choose a specific kind of music (e.g. if you sing opera you chose an opera vocal coach), if the teacher’s approach is one way only, it is the moment to try new options.

6) Able to play an instrument and doesn't use music bases only.

This point may seem not fundamental but it is very important. A singer is a musician just like a guitarist or pianist, and it is important that during the learning process he/she learns all those aspects of music that can make him/her understand not only how to sing, but how music works. A teacher that puts bases only and doesn’t play any instrument probably cannot transmit that knowledge. Also, accompanying a singer with a piano, for example, makes it much easier changing the key or to slow down some exercises, work on specific parts of your range or song and teach harmonies and music theory.  If a teacher doesn’t have the musical knowledge or simply doesn’t make it available for the students, simply find a new one.

7) Able to make every lesson interesting and different from the others.

A boring lesson doesn’t help to make big improvements, but repetitive lessons are even worst.  There are thousands of good vocal exercises and millions of songs. If the vocal lessons are not well structured and for months your coach makes you sing the same things this means two things. You are stuck in your improvements and/or your teacher is not able to make you improve as you should in those exercises nor finding more effective training for your voice. A good singing lesson must be fun and interesting, changing gradually the exercises you are able to do properly and leaving the space for things you like, for example making you choose a song to prepare or giving you the chance to have different options.

8) Always positive, encouraging and constant.

Vocal coaches are humans so they may have a bad day, it happens to everyone. But it the behavior of your teacher is not positive at all, or negative and stressful, the lesson becomes a real nightmare. The job of the student is to practice, learn and improve, while the job of the teacher is to teach, check results and encourage the students in a positive and fun way. If the teacher sees you struggling on something and instead of changing approach and help you, just blames you and your efforts, it is clear that there won’t be any improvements at all. A teacher must be constant as well. There are a lot of teachers that travel a lot, especially the famous ones. Often they cannot offer more than one lesson per month to their students and this may be very risky especially for beginners that need at least one session a week.

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9) A good singer and performer.

It seems obvious to say that who teaches vocal technique must be a decent singer and performer as well. Imagine a piano teacher that doesn’t know how to play the piano or just knows the basics of the instrument. A good vocal coach must have all the technical knowledge of most vocal methods and must have live and recording studio experience to cover all the aspects of singing. Songwriting experience helps as well. If your vocal coach doesn’t have a good experience of live performances or recording in a studio how would he/she be able to help you before your performance, audition or recording session?

A good vocal teacher must be able to perform all the vocal exercises and songs the student is working on, in order to correct the mistakes and make examples on how to perform them correctly. IF your vocal coach avoids showing the correct way to perform a song or exercise or if he/she sounds very bad doing it, you know it is not prepared to be a vocal coach, nor a singer probably. Sadly there are lots of bad teachers out there that talk for hours and often have no idea of how to sing properly the exercises they assign to their students, counting on the lack of experience of the beginners that trust blindly a couch for many reasons. One of the most common is when the students trust a teacher only for the name ( e.g. ex-famous singers turned into vocal coaches when their career drops ) or contacts they may have in the music industry. Trust your teacher but make sure he/she knows what they are doing and can prove it.

10) Honest and have reasonable prices.

What is the right price for vocal lessons? There are lots of elements to think about when we give a price to knowledge. Prices vary from teacher to teacher and can be extremely different. Fees usually go from $10-15 up to $400-500 per hour, sometimes even more if we talk about famous vocal coaches known worldwide. An average and reasonable price of $30-50 per hour is what you should pay for one hour lesson with a teacher that has all the good characteristics of the points above. But again it depends also on the country you live in and on the CV of your coach. It is normal that a great vocal coach that can prove he/she is worth the price asked can be paid a bit more than the average, but sometimes the price doesn’t reflect the ability of the teachers. There are amazing vocal coaches that ask very little money for great lessons and very famous coaches that ask hundreds of dollars just for an average one. We also have to keep in mind that often some vocal coaches become very known because one or more of their students are naturally gifted and become famous recording artists. Others become great singers because of the amazing work with their “mid-price” vocal coach. It is very difficult to understand if a vocal coach is too expensive or not but if it is true that often the feedback from their students can help a lot in this decision, it is also true that online there are a lot of Before & After testimonials that are fake and paid for marketing purposes. So before you pay $500 for a disappointing session make sure you did all possible investigations. It is also important for a beginner to try several teachers and try to find the best one at an affordable price first, then start investing more money only if you can afford it and especially when you are sure that those expensive lessons will make a difference. Singers that have already a good technique and want to bring their singing to a higher level can and should invest more money in these expensive lessons if they think they will benefit from them but again be sure who you are giving your money to.

THESE ARE, IN OUR OPINION, THE TEN MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERFECT VOCAL COACH!

Hopefully, these ten points will be helpful to you during your coach research. Tell us about your experience! What are the characteristics you look for in your vocal coach?

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