What Makes a Good Singing Teacher?
Choosing a singing teacher is a big decision. As an instrument, the voice is very vulnerable and personal, as it is not a physical object that we carry around with us, or one that we buy and tune; it is literally inside of us. There are several elements that can be very intimidating to expose your voice to a stranger, and so it is paramount that you feel able to build a sense of trust between you and your singing teacher to allow yourself to make physical changes to your singing technique.
Vocal training is so focused on what our bodies are doing, and so any sense of nervousness and uncertainty with a teacher will reflect in your vocal performance. For example, when learning how to breathe correctly, which will have an incredible impact on your singing ability, you need to feel able to 'release' your breath, which physically looks like your stomach inflating outwards. This takes the tension out of your upper body (throat, shoulders and chest) and allows you to focus on your 'support' system in your lower body, ready to engage your 'support' muscles. This is not an easy thing for many people to do in a world where we are increasingly made to feel conscious of our outward appearance.
A good singing teacher will quickly establish a sense of ease with you, so that you feel able to allow your body to make the adjustments it needs to support your voice in the best possible way. I guarantee to never judge or make any of my students feel uncomfortable in my lessons, and often remind them of the silly things I am doing myself in my own vocal performances; you would not believe the amount of yawning and bum clenching that goes on!
Another important aspect to ensure that your singing teacher can offer you is patience. Every voice is different and students will come to me at many different stages of vocal development. Lots of aspects play a part in how fast or slow our voices will develop and grow, including puberty (girls voices break too!), practice, technique, hydration, medical conditions, the list goes on. The most important thing for a teacher to understand is to not rush vocal development, and instead to nurture its progress and educate the singer on how to continue nurturing it outside of lessons. It is vital that you are made aware of what is happening physiologically when you sing, as we cannot 'see' what we are doing when we sing a note. Once you have a thorough understanding of what is happening with your body when you sing, you will find it far easier to understand what you need to practice adjusting to produce a better vocal sound.
As well as being patient with each student's rate of development, a good teacher also needs to appreciate that not every voice will fit a single bracket. It is not possible to force your voice to become something it is not. I spent years wishing I would one day have a powerful high belt voice like Mariah Carey, but learned that my voice was never that way inclined. It is far happier in a high register with a 'classical' sound, and I have learned to love the power and focus that I can achieve through understanding my voice rather than wanting it be something it is not. I can help you to understand where your voice sits happiest, whilst strengthening your vocal weaknesses and advising appropriate repertoire to suit your vocal strengths.
Finally, a good teacher will allow you to have choice in your lessons. I have had many students come to me taking exams that they never wanted to do, or singing songs in a genre that they do not enjoy singing, all because their previous teacher had not given them the freedom to decide on what they enjoyed. I will always guide my students towards pieces and genres that I believe will best suit their current vocal ability, strength and range, but would never force a student to sing a song that they did not feel comfortable performing. Particularly for younger students, if they do not enjoy the songs that they are working on, it becomes even more of a struggle to encourage regular practice. I pride myself on my wide knowledge of musical genres and repertoire, and will familiarise myself with any repertoire that I do not already know if a student is particularly wanting to learn a specific song.
I have seen my own singing teacher since I was 12 years old, and 12 years later we can both see and enjoy the progress that we have made together. I am still training regularly with my teacher to continue my vocal prgression; it is similar to how a sportsperson would always have a coach. We are never in a position to not have another person's knowledge and expertise on our voice and I will always continue my own vocal tuition. Time plays a big part in building a sense of trust and a good working relationship with a singing teacher, to allow your teacher to know your voice, your personality, your strengths and your weaknesses.
In short, it is vital that you feel comfortable with your teacher in order for you to make the most out of your time together and allow yourself to progress quickly, safely and enjoyably. I hope that having read my approach to teaching, you will feel confident knowing that I am aware of all of the above elements, which are integral to my teaching style, and I would love to help you to achieve your singing goals in this way.
If you would like to book a lesson with me, please get in touch.