Have you been searching for someone to help you with your voice but don’t know who to choose? Should you go with a voice teacher? A vocal coach? It doesn't matter, they're pretty the same thing, right? Well, no, but first let me explain that it is important to know what your needs are and where you want to go with your training before making a decision. Some professional singers have a team of artist developers they work with, which may include a voice teacher and a vocal coach, but rarely does one teacher or coach, teach it all.
Many singers (and even teachers) think that voice teachers and vocal coaches are one and the same, and I'm about to tell you why they are not. For a young, inexperienced singer, a good voice teacher may set a proper foundation of healthy technique throughout their growing years. For intermediate singers, a good voice teacher will also provide some knowledge of emotions, style, musicianship and stage presence. However, when an artist reaches an advanced or professional level and starts to expand their performance into larger venues, great things can happen when he or she works with both a voice teacher and a vocal coach who understand each other and teach in such a way as to compliment one another's methods, while focusing on different things with the singer. While many teachers can effectively perform both roles to some degree, most of the time a teacher or coach has a much better level of understanding and effectiveness in one area over the other based on their training, experience and time they have allotted to work with a singer.
So, what are the differences?
Voice Teachers focus on the actual voice and building proper technique. They typically help singers identify and eliminate bad habits, show them how to sing with ease and freedom throughout their range and help them apply solid technique to their songs. Through the study of science, learning to sing well themselves and going through training to learn how to properly teach others, voice teachers can supply a singer with tools necessary to build a strong, healthy, long-lasting voice that can withstand many of the demands that come from long rehearsals, frequent performances, tours, etc.
Voice teachers also help the singer to develop particular tone qualities, as well as show them how to navigate evenly through their range while utilizing different levels of dynamics and power, so they can sing different styles of music with greater ease and musicianship. Voice teachers are great at laying a solid vocal foundation and help singers find their professional sound, within their chosen style, so they have the confidence and the ability to apply other skills without harming the voice.
Vocal Coaches typically teach singers how to communicate their music to their audience. They focus on things related to the voice, aside from working the actual instrument itself. While some coaches may vary in their levels of understanding vocal technique, they mostly rely on the singer’s own knowledge of technique. They can then further focus more on emotional and mental aspects of performance as well as personality, style, stage presence, authenticity and they building a relationship with the audience.
Vocal coaches are also helpful with accompanying singers on piano, helping a singer expand a song list, teaching them how to fill in gaps in a performance, staging their shows and creating a more professional image on stage. Vocal coaches have usually performed quite a bit themselves and know there are things that can only be learned while performing. They can help a singer to understand these things more quickly.
So how are vocal coaches and voice teachers similar?
The best vocal coaches and voice teachers have been highly trained at universities, conservatories or through prestigious vocal certification organizations and some may have had extensive singing careers. They have had years of education and teaching experience because it takes time for the best teachers to develop their own ears and teaching skills to a level of mastery that is necessary for professional singers.
There are voice teachers and vocal coaches in all forms of music from Opera to Theater to CCM Music. Be careful of those who say they are voice teachers or vocal coaches, but have not had proper training or application, for they could be the reason some singers may continue to have vocal problems, especially after studying for a while. When searching for any kind of vocal instruction, it is important to thoroughly research a prospective teacher before committing to lessons, because you only have one voice and it needs to last you a lifetime.
Costs for vocal coaches and voice teachers range widely based on the area in which they live, their level of experience and expertise and effectiveness. Costs also vary if the teacher is independent, on staff at a university or conservatory or works with a record label, or music company.
In my studio, I am highly trained voice teacher, with over 30 years experience and I lean towards teaching proper technique when working with singers. However, I do perform and I often do some vocal coaching to help artists reach higher levels. However, my expertise lies in technique and vocal health, so I find myself leaning in that direction more when working with singers. I feel that as a singer or artist comes closer to a professional singing career, it is important for them to surround themselves with a team of people that will support them. Working with a trusted voice teacher and an amazing vocal coach together, while focusing on different things, will allow the artist to expand their knowledge and become more well-rounded and better prepared for a professional career.
About the author: Laurie Winckel is a private studio owner in Texas. She is a highly trained voice teacher and has a music degree and an advanced level teaching certification through the Institute of Vocal Advancement. She is an executive at PCG Universal, a Nashville-based Artist Development Company and works regularly with emerging artists.
For more info regarding voice lessons in the Central Texas area or via Skype, or to get further information on PCG Universal Artist Development and Vocal Coaching, please visit www.vocaledgestudio.com.