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FINDING THE RIGHT
Classical music is a style of music - just like pop, rock, country, rap, etc. It is unfortunate that many people turn away from singing lessons due to voice teachers and schools forcing such a stylistic choice. Don't be so hard on them, historically there is a very good reason for this type of vocal training - the style of classical music tends to follow the actions needed to use the voice instrument to its full and natural capabilities. Other vocal styles tend to require nuances that are very effective during performance, but are not conducive to optimal vocal production.
Fortunately, there is a very simple solution for those of us that don't want to study classical music every day. Focus first on the full and natural voice - learn the mechanics and athletics of singing before concentrating on style. This can be done by singing popular music, as long as the focus is on the natural voice and natural vocal production (stylistic nuances not allowed).
Once the vocal production development is in line, then it is time to concentrate on stylistic nuances. They should not be sung as "accidents", randomly placed here and there -- they are choices. The wise singer will add nuances in specific places of song material for effect. Overusing a nuance (sliding into the note, scooping, growling, etc.) will diminish its overall effect. Stylistic nuances, while not conducive to optimal vocal production, are often necessary for a successful performance and are not detrimental if done with care and in moderation. Your voice coach needs to have this knowledge.
The ideal long-term vocal training situation would be to work with a song, first focusing on that natural, powerful, strong voice. Then take it one step further - sing the same song in many different styles, or whatever styles you wish to be associated. Study and understand the differences between those styles, and then put it into practice!
If your vocal teacher does not agree to this type of logical plan, I would continue in your search for a vocal coach.
If your time is limited and you are taking lessons to prepare for a certain performance, be sure your voice teacher is willing to openly discuss your lesson plan. Be sure that both the mechanics of singing and the artistry of singing is discussed. Remember, it is your time, your education, your money.
A performer is trained to perform, and an educator is trained to educate. Don't be fooled by the glitter if you really want to be the best singer you can be.
It has been my experience that the BEST vocal training is obtained from those individuals that have a music education degree, with their primary instrument studied being the voice. Why? These are usually the only people that have specifically studied vocal production, numerous musical styles, advanced music theory, conducting, educational philosophies and more. Their higher education curriculum was designed to create vocal educators so they could effectively pass their knowledge on to you.
Singers with performance experience or performance degrees often "fall back" on music education and therefore, coaching you is not their first priority.
In addition, "performers" often spend much of their time developing "their personal style", limiting their knowledge and promoting themselves (instead of you). Which means they teach a lot of singers to "mimick" their own sound, not help the singer find their own voice. If your current focus is on SONG STYLING only, then a singer of like-minded styles can assist you, but if singing becomes "hard" at any time, you need a teacher that can assist you with the mechanics of your own voice.
Bottom line. Don't be fooled and don't be intimidated. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask questions. If possible, interview several voice coaches and voice teachers before making your decision. If you need help knowing what questions to ask for your situation, visit our help desk for assistance with your personal situation: A2Z Smart Music Group Help Desk
It is important that your vocal teacher have performance experience, and is a big plus if they have had experience in a variety of musical styles and musical groups, but it is not primarily important for them to be full-time or even part-time performers.
Football coaches are no longer required to participate in the game on-field but are respected because they are the masterminds behind the teams. Vocal coaches deserve the same respect. Not to mention that performing and teaching are both a full time job; sometimes teachers have to choose.
Know what you want.
Be sure you know what you want to accomplish vocally when you begin looking for your vocal coach and don't be afraid to interview them. Be sure to engage in discussions regarding:
The mechanics of the voice.
Musical styles and performance.
Music theory, Ear Training and Sight-Singing
If you want to be the best singer you can be, these three aspects of vocal training that need to be included. Your singing teacher should have a lesson plan or coaching program that is utilized. This plan should be designed around YOUR GOALS. If you are going to a lesson and simply singing your chosen song material over and over again -- this DOES NOT constitute a qualified voice lesson and will most likely not result in the development you desire.
Your voice coach should recommend or require vocal coaching products or song materials for you to use between your lessons in order to guide your vocal development. Not having these tools will slow down your development, so be sure to ask about it.
The A2Z Smart Music Group provides singers a convenient place to find a variety of high-quality vocal coaching and voice training tools.
We even recommend you get started with one of these programs before visiting a vocal coach as they contain additional information on what a voice coach should be providing you. If they can't answer questions you have about the program you have been using....find another coach.
Know where to look.
Educational institutions and trade associations are usually the best place to look for qualified instruction on any subject. Look to your local university or college or nationally to NATS, National Association of Teachers of Singing. The internet also provides many possibilities for finding local teachers and even the option of learning to sing online. We are doing our best here at Vocal-Coaches.com to provide an easy connection point for singing students and teachers.
Speaking of the internet, lately we've witnessed an alarming number sites being launched by people claiming to be qualified to teach others to sing. Some of these individuals even go as far as bashing qualified vocal coaches that have dedicated their life to music education, stating anyone properly trained to teach music will lead you astray. Some have blatantly copied lessons and material from these same qualified teachers they are bashing. If these outspoken individuals provided original good instruction it would be one thing, but sadly some of the samples are disturbingly poor.
Think about it this way, we all have been going to the doctor all of our lives and learning a lot about how our bodies work along the way -- that doesn't mean we are qualified to give medical advice or medical training to others. So be sure to look at the qualifications of your vocal teacher closely. Just because someone has attended a lot of voice lessons, doesn't mean they know enough to train you. I have heard some voices destroyed by these types of training situations. Students beware.
Know who to ask.
Don't be afraid to approach other singers to find out where they are training. Learn early to network with those in your field, don't get caught in the competition trap.
There are very few cases where a training singer should study voice lessons with only one singing teacher, and this situation generally occurs only when you are well into your singing career. For the rest of us the general rule applies, learn as much as you can. Embrace the stuff that works for you and file away the stuff that doesn't work for you -- because with ever changing vocal development you just might need it later on.
Vocal development and training has gotten easier in the past years with the publishing of vocal coaching programs and exercise tools. These make training your voice on a daily basis much easier. Instead of turning to your piano keyboard, you can simply play your audio CD or click a button on the computer. It's also much easier to study the opinion of many vocal coaches and resources. Don't randomly purchase products just because they are available, use the criteria outlined above to help you decide which coaching product is for you. I, for one, love to sing and agree that vocal warm-ups can be boring and tedious, especially day after day. Having vocal exercise variations on CD makes it that much easier to keep my voice in shape.
There are many quality vocal training programs available and the A2Z Smart Music Group prides itself on finding the best courses available. Visit http://SingerCity.com and http://A2Z-Smart-Music.com to see our favorite online training choices, along with hard copy materials if you want to hold the item in your hand.
These questions have been answered by Vocal Coach Yvonne DeBandi, BME, and are protected by copyright. If you like her answers and would like to learn more, check out her page on this site:
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