It is very sad to me when a vocalist comes in to me for the first time with a voice that's been hurt, fatigued or limited in the very act of taking lessons, doing vocal exercises, trying to improve. To put it bluntly, if you come to anyone - including me - for vocal lessons, consulting or directing, you should not trust the coach until you experience success in the lesson.
The Big Three Reasons a vocal coach can't be trusted:1. The corrections, directions or vocal exercises suggested cause you vocal strain!
Mental strain from doing something different is OK, but you vocal cords should end up unstressed. An intuitive coach will know how far to push each student on any given day, by the sound of the voice.
Bottom line: Your voice should feel BETTER - not worse - when you leave the lesson.
2. The teaching doesn't help!
A good vocal coach enables you to do something better with your voice. This could be better tone, pitch, execution of vocal licks, clarity of articulation, high notes, low notes, volume, mending of vocal breaks, mixing of registers, richer resonance throughout the range or a noticeable lessening of vocal strain. It could be in your singing and/or speaking voice. You can't expect all this at once lesson, and you may not be able to repeat the improvement techniques habitually yet, but something should really rouse your hopes and make you curious and eager to go farther.
Bottom line: Your voice should be able to do MORE, not less, when you leave the lesson.
3. The vocal coach won't listen or agree to teach you what YOU want to sing!
This doesn't mean a good coach won't challenge you to go outside your comfort zone... but it should all be for the purpose of enabling you to deliver the type of song that fits YOUR heart as well as YOUR voice.
Bottom line: You should leave the lesson confident the coach can and will train you for what you want to sing.
You may also wish to avoid a coach who ...
- ...teaches through intimidation. This may be a mask for what they don't know ... they may try to make you feel like the limiting factor is your lack of talent or intelligence. Or, a sick personality in need of ego gratification may just want you to feel 'less than' in that teacher's presence. That said, if you don't practice, expect to be called on it by a good coach! Teaching is a team sport... you have to do your part for continued improvement.
- ...wastes time. Be careful judging this... there is a difference between a teacher who doesn't respect the student's time (and money) and a teacher who takes the time to be thorough. Every student is different and care must be taken that vocal instruction is appropriate to that student's needs at that moment in time. A good teacher will also take the time necessary to connect on a personal level with the student (the opposite of intimidation) to create conditions where the automatic nervous system can become unguarded and allow positive changes to take place.
- ...is not well acquainted with, or is unwilling to teach you, the musical genre you wish to sing. Typically (but not always) a great classical vocal coach is not a great contemporary commercial coach, and vice versa. [Side note: The terms 'vocal coach' and 'voice teacher' are often used interchangeably. However, some define a 'vocal coach' as dealing with vocal style, a 'voice teacher' as dealing with vocal technique. I am both.] Ask! A good coach will readily tell you if they are not familiar or confident enough with a style to teach it.
- Did you connect well with the teacher?
- Does your voice feel more open, free and healthy?
- Did you actually experience (even momentarily) some improvement in your vocal ability?
Three yes's?... Trust THAT!