Here at The Voice College, we are passionate about training singing teachers to a very high standard. We know that there are currently hundreds of singing teachers in the UK alone, however, in an industry that isn’t regulated, the standards of teaching can range from absolutely amazing, to the average and even inconsistent!
It should be common sense to everyone that the basic underpinning need for all singing teachers is to have a good working knowledge of their instrument. This includes an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the entire vocal tract and the breathing apparatus, and extends right through to the effects that the body, as a whole, can have upon the voice. Such knowledge is paramount if you intend to teach someone else how to use their instrument safely and effectively.
Unfortunately, there are always a number of individuals who believe that just because they have a great voice they can teach others to sing. Indeed, they may have a fantastic voice with an amazing back catalogue of credits in musical theatre and other areas of contemporary commercial music, but just because they understand how to get the best out of their own voice doesn’t mean to say that they know how to transfer this knowledge to other individuals who are eager to explore their own voice further.
In fact, knowing your instrument is only one aspect (albeit a very important one) of being able to teach others, as there are a number of qualities which are key to becoming a good singing teacher, some of which are outlined below:
- Passion; about the voice and teaching in general
- An in-depth understanding of the vocal instrument
- Encouraging and motivating
- Good communication skills
- The ability to tailor instructions to individuals
- The ability to listen to students
- Constantly seeking to improve their own knowledge
- Keeping up to date with the latest developments in vocal pedagogy
A common question from aspiring singing teachers is whether it is necessary to play the piano or have a knowledge of music theory to become a singing teacher. The obvious answer is that both of these will be an advantage, but in comparison to some of the elements listed above, these skills are not absolutely necessary. At The Voice College, we would always encourage our students to extend their knowledge of music theory, and develop their piano skills so that they can, at least, play basic scales. As such, we offer a piano skills course for teachers and singers, as well as providing advice and guidance on music theory skills where necessary.
Another aspect to consider when looking at singing teacher qualities are the types of individuals you want to teach. For example, young children and teenagers will have different needs to adult singers, as there will be much more of a focus on ‘fun’ within younger children’s lessons, but you will also need to bear in mind the vocal needs and limitations of the developing voice. It, therefore, makes sense that specific training for teaching the younger age groups would be beneficial to both you, as a teacher, and to ensure that your young students obtain the correct level of training they need to nurture and develop their voice. Additionally, we should bear in mind that some of the qualities listed above — such as patience — may be more pertinent when teaching young children, as will be the ability to be more imaginative in lessons whilst still having the ability to keep control of your students!
In the same way that the age of your students can demand different teaching qualities and skills, so too can the genre of singing you are teaching. As an example, a singing teacher trained in the field of contemporary commercial music shouldn’t automatically assume that they have the full knowledge to teach classical singing. Yes, the foundations are similar across the board but teaching musical theatre belt is different to teaching rock ‘scream’ or ‘growl,’ and both are a far cry from taking a student through a classical aria! A good teacher will know their limitations and, where possible, refer potential students to a more suitable teacher if necessary. That said, there is nothing to stop you from undertaking professional development within any of these areas so that you can teach such students in the future.
A good ear is another obvious quality that all singing teachers should have. The ability to listen to, assess and diagnose your students’ vocal habits is essential to choosing the right ‘tools’ to deal with those habits. As such, courses at The Voice College aren’t just about providing teachers with anatomy lessons and their own vocal “toolkits” for use within lessons; they also aim to provide the teacher with general teaching methodologies, as well as the ability to apply and adapt such methodologies as necessary, so that the teacher is capable of catering for the wide variety of student needs that will be presented to them.
At The Voice College we believe that when it comes to providing singing lessons, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. As a result, we utilise a number of approaches and techniques taken from various fields of vocal pedagogy. One of the reasons for this approach is quite simple — no two people are the same — what may work well for one person may not work, or could even potentially confuse, another. We all know that we use both sides of our brains, but some of us will have a preference for left or right brain learning. For example, your students could be ‘left brain thinkers,’ which means that they are more logical and are likely to respond better to a more verbal, objective, and even analytical approach. This will mean that they are more likely to need instruction using a more structured and fact-orientated approach in order to make sense of what you are teaching. Alternatively, your ‘right brain thinkers’ tend to be more creative, see everything holistically, and rely more on intuition. As such, they will require a teaching methodology which is based around ‘the big picture,’ using feeling, imagery and visualisation techniques, rather than learning verbally like the ‘leftys’ do!
As you can see, there are numerous considerations, qualities and skills required of the humble singing teacher, so this path should not be taken lightly or considered an ‘easy option!’ However, with the right training, plenty of passion and a dusting of determination, this profession can bestow the individual with a long career that is both fulfilling and fruitful, and provide endless possibilities and avenues to explore along the way.