It can seem like a daunting task to search and discover the best voice teacher for you, but there are really just a few simple things about yourself that you need to clarify before trying to find a teacher who matches.
Technique – Of course, you want to find a teacher who teaches a technique that you believe is healthy, comprehensive and will give a truly professional sound. Think about what you really want out of your lessons. What school of singing have you studied previously or think would be helpful for you now? Do you want to build a whole technique or work on only certain aspects? Do you like a more technical approach or a conceptual one? Teachers should be able to explain their approach either before or during a first lesson. Those who are less comfortable verbalizing their approach can demonstrate it instead through vocaleses and their own singing. State your own needs to a possible teacher, ask questions in a respectful and friendly way and expect answers. A teacher who is consistently reluctant to explain his/her approach or seems defensive and/or angry about being asked doesn’t have clear ideas about teaching and is insecure as a consequence. These types of teachers end up being much less helpful than those teachers with a clear approach and should be avoided.
Learning Style – Ask yourself how you feel comfortable learning. Do you like to have concepts explained to you or prefer simply to experience them when you are singing? Do you need structure and motivation, i.e. exactly what vocaleses you should do, how often to practice and someone to push you to work harder, or do you prefer to work more independently and motivate yourself? Do you like to have short friendly chats during your lesson or simply sing most of the time with a minimum of interruption? A good teacher will be able to honor your learning style when you share it with him/her and adjust in order to give you your optimal experience. If a teacher insists that you adapt completely to his/her style, that can be a warning sign.
Teaching Style – Think about teachers you have had in the past who you connected with. Did they seem warm and friendly or were they more professional and to the point? Did they have strong personalities or were they laid-back? It is important for singers to feel safe and relaxed during lessons. You should always feel comfortable when communicating with your teacher and never, EVER feel bullied or emotionally abused. If a teacher can’t find a constructive way to phrase feedback, rethink if that person is worth studying with. Emotional damage wipes out the benefits of any vocal progress.
Other – How often do you want to have lessons? Do you want someone to recommend appropriate repertoire? Do you want to do technical, language and musical work in the lessons or just focus on technique? Do you definitely prefer a man or a woman teacher? Do you want someone with additional skills/training, i.e. fach expertise, Alexander Technique or Stough training, vocal research, anatomical knowledge, etc.
Making the decision – When searching for a new teacher, do your research on-line and through colleagues, find several possibilities, respectfully state your needs and ask questions via e-mail/phone or at first lessons and follow your instincts. A new teacher should help your singing start to feel better within two or three months, if not sooner. If the technical approach makes sense to you, your singing feels better and you are getting positive feedback from those you trust, stick with it. If not, consider a wider search to find the very best teacher for you.
Remember, you are the consumer and you are in control! Make sure to get a good return on your investment in yourself and your voice. You deserve it.
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