I have been singing in a (classical) choir for several years, including the occasional solo line, and am now seriously considering voice lessons. However, finding a good teacher seems like a daunting challenge. What should I look for in a good voice teacher?
Probably, you would look for the same things you would seek in any private music instructor. No teacher is right for every student. Here are a few things I would suggest:
- Ask around. Do you know anyone who has been a voice student? Is there any particular instructor that this student recommends?
- When you do have one or more instructors in mind, find out their background and experience. Do they have experience in solo performance? Choral performance? Opera? Music theatre? What is their level of education? None of these answers will be determinative by itself, but finding a teacher who has been where you want to go can be a good thing.
- Is it going to work for you to have a lesson with this instructor basically every week? There can be a variety of reasons this is not the case. The teacher could be too far away from you for you to be able to take the time and expense to go to the teacher's studio each week. Or, the teacher could have too much else going on and could constantly need to reschedule or miss weeks. Everyone needs to reschedule once in a while, but doing so constantly is a problem, as it breaks continuity that you need for optimal learning.
- Is the teacher organized? Are payment and other policies clear? While the business acumen of a teacher may not directly correlate to his or her teaching abilities, a decided lack in this area can lead to a lot of frustration on your part. Also, there is a certain effect that this structure has on a student/teacher "separation" that can be beneficial.
- Can you afford the teacher's rate? The cheapest teacher may certainly not be the best teacher, but if you cannot afford lessons consistently, you will struggle.
- Does the teacher have references? Not all will, particularly if they are new to setting up a studio, but it is something to keep in mind.
- Once you have a list of instructors narrowed down a bit, see if you can try a lesson or two. Don't be afraid to pay for the teacher's time; back when I taught a lot more private lessons, I did offer a "first lesson free" deal to pretty much anyone who asked (or saw the offer in an ad). However, not all teachers will want to do that for a variety of reasons, notably that doing so tends to encourage students who are not serious about lessons for one reason or another. If the lessons "feel" right to you, and you know that you are learning something (and what you are learning), this might be the right teacher for you. If you have difficulty understanding the teacher, or the teacher cannot answer your questions, this might not be the right teacher for you.
- The teacher should be willing to discuss your goals and learning style, and the teacher should be able to articulate their own methodologies and reasoning behind them (at least upon request).
There are a plethora of items to consider, but the main idea is to find a teacher that works for you, with whom you are comfortable, who teaches in an environment comfortable for you, and from whom you find you are learning.
To Andrew's list, I'd add:
- Do they teach other adults as well.
What kids need drilled into them, is not the same thing that adults need. So an instructor that is brilliant for children will probably make adult students uncomfortable.
The answer depends on the teachers available in your area. If you live near a big city, or near a music school you will have more options than if you do not.
1) Choose a voice teacher experienced in the style of music you wish to learn. Many teachers will lie and say they can teach every style. If you want pop, find a pop teacher, if you want classical find a classical teacher.
2) Choose a voice teacher which is the right level for you. If you are a intermediate, a teacher that focuses on teaching small children will be wrong for you. If you are an advanced student you will need to find a teacher who works with a local opera , or a local music school.
3) Decide what the goal is. Decide up front what you want to get out of the lessons. Is there a difficult piece you want to learn? Are you trying to win an audition? Have a clear goal and communicate this to prospective teacher. They should let you know if that is a goal than can help you with.
If you experience is learning lots of advanced technique, be especially careful choosing teachers. Many professional teachers work mostly with children, and are not as proficient with advanced techniques as they should be. If you can, spend the money on a good teacher in this situation.
I had one single criteria in selecting mine: like how they sound.
The idea is how someone sounds is them applying all the technique they know. If you don't like how that sounds, then you probably won't be able to go very far with that instructor.