Updated: Apr 28, 2020
That’s a good question, one which I wish I had known the answer to when I was younger.
Things people usually look for:
- Experience (performance and teaching)
Whilst the three factors above are important, I'd like to add one more:
The world of Singing teaching is not regulated by any central authority, which means that it’s really important that you do your homework. Word-of-mouth can be a good resource, and so is instinct. Go and have taster sessions with a range of teachers. Talk to them about your goals, and how they can help you. Find a teacher that you ‘click’ with. When we sing, we often feel vulnerable, we’re exposing our very self – unlike the piano or violin, our voice is physically part of who we are, so it’s vital that you trust your teacher and feel safe in their hands. You’ve got to have confidence in them.
You may find someone who is a fabulous teacher, and then find out that they don’t have any ‘official’ musical or teaching qualification. Or, as was my experience in the distant past, you may have had someone teaching you, who on paper is the real deal – international singing career, qualifications coming out of their ears, and a hefty fee on top, but you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. It’s a tricky thing. It certainly helps if your teacher has studied the craft of teaching (pedagogy) as it will, hopefully, make them a better communicator as they understand the process and science of learning, and so can tailor their lessons to your learning style.
One thing I would be vary wary about is taking lessons from non-vocal specialists. So often I’ve seen adverts offering lessons on multiple instruments including the voice. A Bassoonist may also teach the oboe as there are similarities between the two instruments, likewise the trumpet and cornet, but just because someone can play the piano and thus accompany you, this DOSEN’T QUALIFY THEM TO TEACH THE VOICE. I feel quite passionately about this; so many times have I come across pupils with vocal issues that I have had to correct because they have previously been taught by a non-specialist who don’t know the physiology of the instrument. Being taught poor technique on the piano can be corrected with (usually) limited long-term damage. Being taught poor singing technique can do MASSIVE damage to your voice, which may result in pain, loss of range, or in the worst cases, complete loss of voice! It may be useful for your teacher to play along with you but trust me (I’m speaking from experience here) it is not worth risking your vocal health by choosing a teacher who can accompany, over a teacher who knows what they are talking about. Please, go to a singing teacher who actually knows about the instrument! (A good litmus test – ask them if they can explain the elusive term ‘support’ -if they start talking about ‘pushing air’ I’d advise you to run a mile. I’ll be writing a blog post on ‘support’ in the near future, so keep an eye out!).
Below this post is a list of qualifications you might see on adverts – to help you decode what the letters mean!
Qualifications are important, but so too is experience. Not necessarily performance experience, but experience teaching. You’d be surprised at how many performers make lousy teachers, and vice versa. These are two very specific, very separate crafts; you might be lucky to find a teacher who is also an excellent performer, but when you’re deciding where you’ll spend your money, your musical education is more important than the teacher having an impressive performance CV. If you’re unsure, then ask your teacher about their work with other students – what challenges have they experienced? What type(s) of singing do they prefer to teach (classical, folk, jazz, music theatre etc.). How do they feel about teaching outside of their usual style*? How can they help with your specific goal/problem?
*This is a whole other blog post. I’ve met teachers who refuse to teach anything outside of their preferred technique/ style. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but goes to show why visiting a range of teachers is important.
To an extent, you get what you pay for. Be aware of cheap lessons. You can find out the average cost of a lesson in your area by checking websites like the Musicians Union. Prices may vary depending on geographical location, the experience/ qualification of the teacher or be set by an umbrella organisation (like a school).
I hope this little post has helped give you a bit of guidance on finding a ‘good’ singing teacher. If you’d like to book a taster session with me to find out if I’m the teacher for you, then please book your free taster session here.
Qualification codes explained:
PGCE – Postgraduate certificate of Education – Most secondary school teachers (and some primary) will take this qualification to become classroom teachers.
QTS – Qualified teacher status – UK Government recognition that the person has successfully passed teacher training (often through PGCE or BA (Hons) degree courses).
BA Mus – UK Undergraduate degree in Music
MMus/ MPerf – UK Masters in Music/ UK Masters in Music with the focus on performance.
EMT – Estill Master Trainer – The person has studied the ESTILL Voice Training (minimum 3 years) and achieved certified teacher status.
DipLCM/ALCM/LLCM/FLCM – Diploma/Associate/Licentiate/ Fellowship of the London College of Music (available in teaching (exc. FLCM) or performance specialism)
ARSM/DipABRSM/LRSM/FRSM – Associate/Diploma/Licentiate/ Fellowship of the Royal Schools of Music (available in teaching (exc. ARSM) or performance specialism).