Singing Teacher Versus Vocal Coach
There are two key differences between taking singing lessons and using a vocal coach.
(1) Singing lessons focus more on teaching students how to sing to achieve their next grade exam or learn a song.
(2) A vocal coach focuses more on improving vocal technique and connecting that with interpretation. Vocal coach sessions focus on something very specific in your voice and develop strategies to enable you to improve. The result will be a more rounded, intuitive, connected interpretation and performance.
What aspects of technique might a Vocal Coach cover?
As a vocal coach, I teach people how to sing better by helping them learn proper technique and develop a strong singing voice. Vocal coaches provide advice and several different strategies on how to improve:
(a) Pitch – I often use solfege, inspired by Kodaly, to help.
(b) Tone – Vocal coaches don’t just aim to improve your tone, but rather they aim to improve the variety of tone that you use. Listen to some classic singers such as Freddie Mercury, Eva Cassidy, Beyonce or others to hear how much they vary their tone. The ability to utilise a range of tone allows (1) for greater expression and (2) a more authentic sound for various styles, (3) the ability to enhance high notes if they are breathy or weak.
(c) Range – A vocal coach probably gets asked about improving high notes more than anything else. However, a good vocal coach will develop a solid technique within a comfortable range first and then, as a result, high notes will naturally open up without being forced.
(d) Breathing – Vocal coaches all have their own views on breathing. Essentially, they all aim to support the voice with a steady, effective air-flow. I actually use different techniques for singers of different ages, levels of experience, styles of music, and the type of emotion sort.
(e) Posture – Posture can have a huge impact on singing. A good vocal coach will examine things such as the position of your feet, how soft your knees are, whether your lower back is mobile, where you are squeezing in your abdomen/naval, how your chest is moving, shoulder tension, jaw tension and more besides. The more your body is aligned and the less tension there is, the more effective a vocal coach session will be.
(f) Embellishments, ornaments, runs and licks – How to decorate a melody depends on the style of a song and when it was written. If you were singing a song by Monteverdi (16th-17th Century Italian) you would clearly decorate your melody in a completely different way to a song by Whitney Houston. When seeking a vocal coach, seek someone with a holistic perspective, who considers and understands all styles. A good vocal coach analyses styles and knows the distinctive characteristics of each as well as exercises and techniques to achieve the finesse that you want.
(g) Text and lyrics – This is where the art of being a vocal coach really ties in. Everything above combines to allow you to be a true artist. When developing a performance, the best vocal coaches start with the meaning behind the text and helping you engage with it from your own personal experiences. You can then utilise all of your vocal coach’s techniques to enhance expression and bring a true meaning to your listener. After all, if a song doesn’t connect with your soul, how are you going to convince others of its value?
(h) Choirs – A good vocal coach trains the choir. They are not teachers at the front, but they are vocal coaches to a team. They are constantly finding the right balance vocally, supporting team members, building choral teams through vocal activities and always finding new strategies to help people achieve their best.
How do I find the Vocal Coach for me?
You will already be aware of the most obvious strategies – google “vocal coach near me” or seek a vocal coach online. The Maestro Online, author of this article, teaches in person (Teesside, UK), online via zoom (genuinely worldwide), and has a subscription library of courses that focus on solfege (for pop and classical), improvisation, harmonisation, vocal embellishments, technique and more. There are also many courses for song-writing, including masterclasses from guest celebrity pop pianists.
Look for a vocal coach that constantly seeks new strategies. These vocal coaches are the ones that will find every solution that you ever need to bring the best out of your vocal performances.
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