Over the last couple of weeks I have had quite a few people ask me “How do I find a good singing teacher?” Or ”How do I know whether my teacher is any good?” and my reply is, and will always be – “Are they a singer?” If the answer is “No” then there’s your answer!
Would you ask a stranger on the street to do some dental work on your teeth? No, because they are more than likely not trained to perform dental surgery. And the same applies to singing. A good singing teacher should be someone that is a singer or was a singer professionally. They will truly understand the mechanics (the inner workings) required to produce a good and correct singing technique.
Recently, I have seen many examples of non-singers giving singing lessons or advertising for singing lessons whereby all they seem do is teach the student to match their voice to the pitch of the piano. This is not singing!
Many people think that singing is just learning words to a tune. Trust me, there is more a lot more to it than that! Unfortunately as the industry is not regulated there are many (in my opinion) unqualified people teaching singing and probably destroying voices.
In fact, this does not just apply to singing; it applies to all musical instruments. A good teacher should have a very good understanding of their instrument and how to work it properly to produce a performance that it worthy of being paid for. Music is not just about playing or singing the dots on a page. There is more to music and only someone who really understands his or her instrument will be able to show you how to unlock that information and be a good singer and/or musician.
Do your research on potential teachers. There are numerous sites where teachers can advertise their qualifications to teach. Look for someone that has formal training at university level. Nowadays a university qualification is the minimum required to be a professional performer (at any level). You should therefore also be able to find evidence of their performing abilities either on their own website or on you tube or another site similar. If possible, also try and see them live in concert.
In my opinion, classically trained opera singers do make the best teachers (not that I’m biased!). Singing technique is the same no matter what genre you sing. Opera singers are judged heavily on their singing technique as well as their performance so if they want to succeed then they have to master good singing practices.
If you are still unsure, I would recommend having several lessons with several teachers before committing to one particular teacher. It’s important that you should be able to get along and work with a teacher and have a mutual understanding of your capabilities and aspirations.
So, what should you expect from a good singing lesson?
- Posture – correct posture means good breathing. Good breathing means good vocal support and projection. If you have bad posture, the first thing the teacher should do is correct it. Even if you have good posture, a good teacher will monitor each lesson for any bad habits creeping in.
For more on posture see – http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Backpain/Pages/back-pain-and-common-posture-mistakes.aspx
- Breathing – is the key to singing! It is the foundation and the support for your voice. I cannot express enough the importance of good breathing technique.
It does take time (and we’re talking years) to master good breathing technique. A good teacher will spend a considerable amount of time each lesson working on this with you.
- Voice placement – the voice should sit comfortably in the resonating pockets of head or chest. A good teacher will know when the voice is placed correctly or not and know how to correct it.
- Music – song choices should be chosen based on your ability and to suit your voice. A teacher that’s giving you pieces outside of your range (in the hope of expanding it) or that are too demanding is not doing you any favours. They are more likely to be destroying your voice. Singing should feel effortless. If it doesn’t then there’s something wrong!
- Time – good singing technique takes years of practice. A good teacher will never push you or your voice and will let it develop on it own, in its own time.
I understand this more and more everyday. My current teacher, a professor of voice, is working to correct many bad habits that my previous teacher neglected. In order to go forwards I have had to take 10 steps back. As frustrating as it is right now, I know how important it is to have good singing technique, because once the voice is destroyed there’s no repairing it. 😦