What is a Vocal Coach, and Who Needs One?
The difference between a voice teacher, a voice coach, and a vocal coach, can be confusing and hard to understand. There are some major differences between them, however there is some slight “overlapping” of the lines which separate the purpose of each one. In this blog post we’re going to identify the purpose of each instructor, and reveal how different they are. Lets jump in!
A voice teacher or singing instructor is a technician of the voice. They help artists to understand the function of the voice in relation to singing! Working with a voice teacher is a must for beginners, as there is a lot to learn about vocal care, maintenance, and practice before becoming a professional singer. Working with a voice teacher, singers will learn how to practice their instrument using vocal exercises - much like going to the gym and learning different moves and fitness machines to target certain muscle groups. Singers will learn to tune their ear in order to understand musical elements such as singing on pitch, hearing the different dynamics of the voice, and learning/memorizing musical scales. Vocalists also learn how to sing with proper technique for their preferred genre or stylistic choice. For example, you may not want to learn from an instructor who teaches pop or rock style vocals if you’re looking to sing with classical technique in a choir, and vice versa.
A voice coach is someone who generally works with speaking functions. If you have poor singing or speaking technique, it is likely that damage could happen to your vocal chords (if it didn’t already occur). The voice coach is the person to go to for vocal recovery after damage has been done! This is like voice “rehab”. Some examples of poor voice usage that cause damage are:
Shouting in high pitches, like cheering at concerts
Over-singing/shouting instead of using a mixed voice technique
Talking over a crowd or loud music for a long time
Compressing the voice too much/pushing too hard from the throat
Not supporting your voice with the right breath support (singing or speaking)
A chest-voice dominant voice with overuse of thick vocal chord closure/connection.
A voice coach is usually recommended to individuals who have suspected a vocal injury, or vocal damage, and have gone to the doctor for a referral to an Ears Nose & Throat specialist. The ENT then refers the individual to a voice coach for vocal rehabilitation where they set you on the right path to recovery using low impact vocal exercises to slowly integrate a healthy vocal care routine.
Finally, a vocal coach possesses the same abilities of the voice teacher or singing instructor. They understand the function of the voice, especially in terms of training and developing muscle groups to increase a singers range, power, and control. They understand breath support, and the muscle groups used to support the voice through the entire range of the singer.
What really separates the vocal coach from the singing instructor is the ability to develop the creative and stylistic aspects of the student. A vocal coach will help the artist discover their strong attributes as a vocalist. They help the singer to showcase their strengths and own it in every performance. Weaker skills are worked on together, working to create a well rounded performer. The focus tends to be on the delivery and performance of the song choice(s), specifically noting the vocal dynamics of the original singer, and further interpreting the song and making it “your own”.
A vocal coach also helps to develop the artists vision, or purpose for their career in music. For example, is the student writing original material? What is the message they would like to convey through the lyrics? Is it written in a way that is clear and concise to the audience? Are they delivering an emotional performance that will make the audience truly feel and hear the message? On the other hand, are they a YouTube vocal cover star? Are they posting covers on Instagram to gain traction and followers, and using effective hashtags to increase exposure? Do they want to submit their music to Spotify playlists?
It’s important to get clear on the WHY, or the reason you are becoming a vocalist. Do you want to be a well known singer? Do you want to tour and perform? Do you have a dream to become a famous performer? A coach can help you clarify what that dream is for you. Ultimately, the vocal coach is always being an advocate for the artists development & for their student to have a successful singing career.
Who needs coaching?
Hiring a coach takes the guessing out of the game. You may have improved your voice at a steady pace on your own (without a coach), but perhaps you’ve reached a point of plateau and now you’re struggling to get any better at this point. Wouldn’t it make the best sense to get the help you need, and invest in making yourself better, without wasting time trying to figure it all out by yourself? There are professional coaches available to teach you what you need to know to make it to the top.
As a general rule…
Very beginners/hobbyists = music lessons.
Artist/musician/career focus = vocal coach.
So, who needs to hire a vocal coach?!
Vocalists who’ve taken singing lessons and reached “plateau”.
Career focused singers
Recording artists will especially need a coach. Some vocal coaches are available for hire to work in recording studios during the vocal recording process. To help the producer get the right vocal takes for the song, the vocal coach will help the vocalist to properly warm up their voice for an efficient recording session. The producer may ask the coach to help the artist with a certain element of the performance, such as reaching a high note, approaching the phrase/lyric with a specific emotional or vocal dynamic, etc.
If you are a singer who struggles with confidence, you absolutely need coaching. Without a doubt, your mindset and your negative self-image are contributing to your lack of confidence in your abilities. Not all vocal coaches are available to help you work through any personal confidence issues your may be facing. However, hiring that vocal coach, taking control of the outcome, and gaining a thorough understanding of the work that it takes to become a professional singer can drastically improve your abilities and your mindset about singing! Self-doubt can hold you back for years. Getting vocal coaching can develop your confidence more quickly!
When you are dedicated to your growth as an artist, it is important to find the right coach for you. I would recommend shopping around for a vocal coach. There are many to choose from. You should try a consultation class with a few coaches to get a sense of what it would be like to take their classes. You may not want to commit to a coach who does not resonate with you, or who does not understand your needs.
Why are vocal coaches more expensive than local singing lessons?
Working on your singing voice with a Vocal Coach is like working on your physical fitness with a Personal Trainer.
A vocal coach costs more money because they are investing their time in developing YOU as an artist. The sessions that you book with a vocal coach will be longer than the typical 30 minute lesson at a local music school. With a vocal coach, sessions are usually a minimum of 60 minutes, and the frequency of the lessons at the start of working with the coach should be at least 2 or 3 sessions weekly for the best results. It is recommended for vocalists to work with a vocal coach for the entire music career. The frequency of the lessons is reduced once the student gets a handle on their responsibility of the maintenance required for their vocal success. You won’t always have to train with the vocal coach, but you should follow up with your coach if it has been a while since you last saw them for a session.
Even world class singers always have a vocal coach. Especially professional artists who tour the world and record albums. There is always room for improvement, and you should always continue to learn new things! Even when you’ve seen success in your career… Especially when you’re seeing success in your career.
The Inner Voice Music
In the past few years of teaching singing lessons, I’ve encountered multiple different types of singers looking to improve their voices. Performing musicians, recording artists, university students, hobbyists. Very beginners. Rappers who want to incorporate hooks and melody into their songwriting. Transgender students learning a new way to use their voice. Many people who generally want to explore their voices! I’ve had voice clients come to me for projection tips - for talking over crowds and noisy rooms, to protect their voice from becoming damaged. I even had someone take voice lessons to sing to their spouse at their own wedding. How amazing!!
Whats the common theme here?
They all want to express through music.
They all want to improve their vocal skills.
They’re all willing to try something personally challenging.
They all have the guts to experiment with their voice!
Learning and practicing the singing voice is a lifelong process. Individuals’ personalities are fluid and ever-changing, and seasons of expression come and go leaving the vocalists journey an exciting and unpredictable one. It’s ideal to be able to rely on your voice to adapt to the changes that will occur in your musical journey.