How to Find the Right Teacher

If you have been reading my blog for some time, then you know I’ve been encouraging you to learn to sing. Taking lessons from a person is far superior to just reading a manual or watching an online course of YouTube videos. YouTube is great, and there are many fantastic resources out there for singing, once you have gained some basic vocal technique and feedback from a real person!

I’ve outlined the steps below in more detail, but here is a basic list:

  1. Ask yourself what you like to sing? How would you like to sing? What are your goals?
  2. Community research – what musical resources are available in your community?
  3. Trial lesson(s)
  4. How much to pay?
  5. Questions to ask your teacher
  6. Personality match
  7. Opening your mouth to sing for a stranger
  1. What genres of music do you like to listen to? Jazz, Rock, Pop, Musical Theatre, Indie, Folk, Classical? Who are your favourite singers? Whose music to you like to sing along with? What exactly are your musical goals?  Answering some of these questions will help you decide how to narrow down a choice for a voice teacher. If you are an aspiring classical singer and the only teachers available in your community teach folk singing, you may have to broaden your search to other nearby communities. If you are a choral singer who is looking to improve your enjoyment of singing in a group setting, then try to find a teacher who has experience singing in a choir or training other choral singers. These are not requirements, just suggestions about how to direct your search. The basic mechanics of singing are very similar across genres, it’s the details and delivery that change.
  2. Look around your community first: ask your social circle, research music schools, church and community choirs, community theatres, the public library, etc. Are there any local performers who you admire and might like to learn from? Is there a local music school with voice teachers available who teach different styles of singing? Start in any one of these places and ask questions. How much you pay will depend on the size of your community (city vs. small town) and the qualifications of your teacher. This research will take some time, but it is important as it will help you get the right fit for a teacher.
  3. Once you have found a few teacher resources, contact them (or the school) to ask about a trial lesson. Some teachers offer a short first lesson at no charge, others will charge for 30 minutes or more. Book a trial lesson with each of your researched teachers. Take a recording device and a notebook so you can listen back and decide which teacher worked best with you.
  4. Rates vary widely across communities. As a basis for comparison, I live in a city of less than 500,000 people, I have a Master’s degree in Performance, and I charge between $45-$50 per hour. At most music schools you should expect pay a minimum of $20 per hour for training in any instrument.
  5. Make a short list of questions to ask your teacher – you can either prepare this before you call to book an initial lesson, or you can bring your questions to your lesson. Your potential teacher likely has some resources about themselves online – perhaps a website, an about.me page, a LinkedIn Profile, or a biography on a music school website, etc. If they don’t, you will have to ask more questions. Questions to ask might include: How long have you been teaching? Where did you do your vocal training? Do you play other instruments? What are some of your favorite singers/ensembles/bands/genres? What different styles do you teach?
  6. Now that you have the ‘technical’ requirements out of the way, do you like your potential teacher? Are they friendly, helpful, outgoing, too boisterous, intimidating? How do you feel after your lesson? Do you feel inspired to practice? Do you feel as if you don’t want to see that person again? Pay attention to all these feelings – this is why you take a notebook – to write down your thoughts in the lesson and post-lesson.
  7. If you are going to take a lesson, be prepared to open your mouth and sing for them. This may seem a simple and obvious request, but your voice is a part of you, and you are opening up yourself to someone for their feedback and help. I usually sing along with my student the first few times/exercises/etc. in order to make them feel comfortable and to let them hear my voice.  Just be brave, breathe, open your mouth, and sing.

Be prepared to listen to what your teacher has to say and to follow their suggestions for your own practice. Listen to your own voice with new ears. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things with your voice. Above all, have fun! Finding the right teacher will enable you to improve something you already enjoy doing.

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