Voice lessons are a complicated thing and can look very different depending on who your teacher is encompassing a wide range of topics and techniques. In the United States, both Voice/Singing/Vocal Lessons and Vocal Coaching are used interchangeably but understanding each will help you get what you are looking for from your teacher.
Vocal instruction is about improving understanding and improving on singing techniques. This can be taught through anatomically driven content like Estill Voice and through exercises like scales, intervals, vowel practice, etc.
Coaching is about the development of artistic skills and performance. This is facilitated through the learning and performance of vocal literature. Fine-tuning the performance of the literature by providing the student with feedback.
Both Voice Lessons and Vocal Coaching are two sides of the same coin. To improve as a singer you require:
Many good voice teachers lack a solid understanding of how the vocal anatomy works and as such work diligently to improve the students' technical skills and artistic skills. These skills are a practical foundation to excel as a singer, but students lack an understanding of how they are making the sounds they do, producing an inconsistent outcome.
Exceptional teachers train their students on how each part of the vocal anatomy functions to produce a healthy vocal sound in a variety of musical styles. At the surface level, there are twelve distinct parts of the vocal instrument comprised of dozens of muscles, cartilages, and bones, all working together to create the most adjustable instrument in the world.
When you ask a teacher the four questions above be on the lookout for these answers.
"Do you teach about the anatomy of the voice?"
Good: "Yes! During lessons, we will learn about the vocal anatomy and how it is used to produce sound. We will use exercises to isolate and understand how each piece of the anatomy changes the sound and how to use it healthily."
Bad: "Yes, we will look briefly at the anatomy."
Be sure your teacher is going to work on a complete understanding of the instrument. Anything other than a resounding "Yes" to this question will likely end in a vague understanding of how the instrument works.
"What is your approach to teaching music lessons? Do you focus on songs, techniques, anatomy, or a combination of all three?"
Good: "During lessons, we will work on all three in combination to understand the voice scientifically and practically."
Bad: "During lessons, we will work on technique through songs."
Many teachers talk about teaching voice lessons through songs and it is a common approach because it is so much fun. Songs are an important part of lessons, but it should be balanced with the technique.
"Have you had any vocal injuries?"
Good: "No" or "Yes, I had ________ which was caused by [poor technique], after my diagnosis I worked with my doctor and teacher to correct my technique. Now I teach voice lessons using the ______ method to ensure my technique and my students' technique are healthy.
Bad: "Yes, but I got better."
"What is singing from the diaphragm?"
Good: "The diaphragm is a domed muscle separating the thorax (chest) from the abdomen. When the diaphragm contracts it creates a vacuum in the thorax causing the lungs to inflate with air, when the diaphragm relaxes it creates pressure causing exhalation. When people are talking about breathing from the diaphragm what they really are talking about is relaxing the abdominal wall to allow the lungs to expand further, which is beneficial for some styles of singing."
Bad: "You control the diaphragm to get more air and to support the air while you are singing to reach louder and higher notes."
Want to learn how to sing and how your voice works? Manuel Creative Arts Academy's voice teachers are here to help. We work with each student to ensure they are working towards their goals while receiving a balanced growth in their skills and understanding. Click on the chat icon or Get In Touch button to get started on your journey.