Questions you should ask when interviewing a vocal coach
Finding the right voice coach for yourself, your child, or for another artist or friend is a pretty simple process but one that should have through consideration and due diligence for the long term growth as a vocal artist.
First, you need to interview potential voice coaches, asking a series of questions, so that you can get to those answers that hopefully will fit your needs and goals as a vocal artist and performer.
So what are these questions? What should you be asking in order to make a decision that really will affect your talent and your gift as you move forward continuing to create?
The first question that I always recommend asking to a potential vocal coach or teacher is:
What is this potential vocal coach's background in voice?
You want to know what the voice teacher's background is so that you understand if they (he/she) know different styles; can they perform different styles; have they performed different styles, and do they understand the nuances of the different genres.
This is very important because there is a big divide in the voice world, you find classical vs. contemporary, opera vs. pop, and the mechanics of going from classical music to contemporary music are very different.
A potential client needs to make sure if he/she is a contemporary singer he/she will be working with someone who understands how to teach and coach in a contemporary style and methodology.
If the goal of a vocalist is to perform and sing in classical or opera, you are going to want to be working with someone who really understands that genre and that modality. So asking a potential teacher about their background specifically can help you select the best choice for you to grow as an artist.
What genres has this potential vocal coach performed in?
This is always really interesting as I have found many different voice teachers who have never performed in different genres – some voice teachers have never even performed professionally or personally.
Why should this specific question be important to you?
Your potential vocal coach and teacher should know what it’s like to stand on stage and understand the demands that a music director or a producer is asking of them.
Can they understand that? That may be important to you, it may not be, but that is something that you should be considering when hiring the right vocal coach for where you want to be long term in the industry.
Additionally, ask questions that help you understand what genres they have performed in and specifically, what genres they teach. Teaching a rock vocal or scream is very different from learning about an art song or even musical theater. Does your vocal coach understand the different nuances of what is going to take place?
Further questions you can ask about are specific to the vocal coach’s training experience in teaching.
What have they done in order to qualify them as a teacher or a technician?
This is important because when you go to school, there are some programs that train you to be a singer, but they don’t train you how to teach. Your future coach should understand different teaching protocols and different teaching techniques and be implementing them in their practice to help their client move forward in the best possible way.
Just because you can sing something, doesn’t mean you can teach something. Just because you teach something, it may be that they can’t demonstrate it in certain areas. Consideration for this component before hiring your vocal coach and how you weigh the relevancy as to whether that is a positive or a negative is going to impact your long term growth in your chosen instrument, the voice.
How would your vocal coach or teacher define themselves as a coach?
Are they a technician, are they only a style and arrangement coach, do they do performance coaching, are they a rep coach? Specific questions like this help you dig down as to defining what you need and if they are the right fit for your goals as an artist. You may get with a teacher who is a solid technician but if you are in need of a specific repertoire, say for maybe a musical theater audition or you are auditioning for American Idol, will they have the ideas or the know how to give you the representation that is needed for whatever you are trying to audition for?
Same goes for a performance coach. Are they a performance coach, are they not a performance coach, can they help with the performance side of being a vocal artist? Can they help with microphone technique? Can they help with stage placement? Can they help with the performance itself and delivery of the lyrics?
Have they ever performed professionally?
I know this first hand with different aspects: Have they ever stepped on stage in front of an audience of 1000 people? Do they know what it’s like to work with a music director who is looking for a sound outside of solid technique? Or are they a coach that says, nope we are just a technician, but this is what you have to do.
These are all important conversations especially if you are coming in with a really interesting sound or artistic fingerprint. Are they going to try and change that based on their belief on technique or are they able to help enhance what you're doing by showing you a more healthy way?
Would this potential coach or teacher understand the demands that a professional artist may have, and do they know how to navigate and provide knowledge first hand? Usually when you can find a coach that has had experience, they know the stress and demand and are able to help you work through that experience as a singer and growing professional.
What is the average age of their clientele?
There are teachers that can be amazing with kids and they absolutely love working with youth voices. However, if they haven’t worked with an adult voice or an aging voice, will that matter to you?
I always ask, what is it that you want to have in your clientele, who is that demographic, and are you fulfilling that need?
And you know for me personally, can I work with kids? Yes.
Do I work with kids? Not really.
Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what my studio is.
I would not be an effective coach for someone 6,7,8,9 years old who is wanting training. However, do I have teachers in my studio who are excellent with kids and that’s what they love? 100%. If a parent emails me, I want to be upfront and honest about that and say I don’t really work with kids, but I have somebody else that will be a right fit for them. Or if I have a professional client coming in, yes that is the demographic that I work with and so let’s go, fight, win! Let’s make this happen!
Has that coach worked in your specific genre with other clients, with other reps, other people?
Are they familiar with what the demands in rock would be, in Indie would be, what pop music would be, or R&B, do they have that experience? Same thing with classical, are they working with classical singers, that is a question you want to ask is are they familiar with the genre that I am going into.
Another question is do you do audition coaching? Do you do audition prep?
If I have clients that are going out into musical theater and they need to have very specific songs, do they know how to do that? Do they know how to pick great songs, great choices so that you stand out in front of the herd or are they just familiar with the standards, and are they familiar with what's on the do not sing list? So are they an audition prep coach or do they have people that can help with that. Same thing with school plays and choirs, or if you’re auditioning for American Idol or any of the reality shows, do they know how to pick rep that will work?
Now again, that might not be a goal or target that you are interested in, but if you are, that is an important question to ask.
Another thing that blows my mind is sometimes I’ll be working with someone and I’ll demonstrate something and they are like, wow, you can really sing. And it really shocks me and I’ll say, yeah that’s what I do. But it’s really weird to them.
And so I always ask the question, Do you like how your coach sounds? Because as singers, we are mimickers. We listen, we hear, we mimic. So from a coaching standpoint, are they able to demonstrate what they are asking you to do and when they do demonstrate, do you like that sound? You know, you wouldn’t take drum lessons from someone who can’t keep rhythm, so why would you take singing lessons from someone if you don’t like their sound? Or, you wouldn’t take guitar lessons from someone if they couldn’t play or restring the guitar, so why would you take singing lessons if a coach doesn’t have a great voice or if you don’t like their sound?
What is their background in vocal anatomy?
This one is really, really important. As a voice user, you are using human tissue, human anatomy to create sound. Does the coach you’re working with have a basic understanding of what the larynx is, how the vocal cords work and what is the vocal tract?
If they don’t know, run the other way. You are dealing with human tissue and they need to understand what it is that they are working with. They need to understand that instrument, so that they can help you reach that success. Do they have a background in vocal science? Does that matter to you? Should it? Yes! The coach needs to understand what the harmonics are, what the science is behind how the voice works. If you are truly trying to become a professional artist, these are things that you want to ask.
Another thing to ask is to ask for a list of referrals.
Do they have other past clients that you can call and get a referral from? Or clients that you can go to their Spotify? Just so you can trust what you are about to pay for and to be able to embark on this amazing journey of discovery. You are trusting your voice, your soul, to the hands of another person to help cultivate. So you need to understand who it is that you are trusting and really do your due diligence to make sure it is the right fit for you.
So moving forward, ask questions, get down to the nitty gritty. It’s ok to ask questions and if they get super defensive or back off, then maybe that is not a choice that is right for you. But if they are like, yeah, let’s go through this, this is who I am, and if we are a great fit, then let’s go fight, win and let’s create magic. And if they aren’t, then cross that one off the list and move forward. The world is wide open with voice coaches and just because there may not be someone in your direct location, that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone online to help you.
Be smart, educate yourself. You are responsible for your own vocal journey so you need to be proactive in making sure that whoever you work with is a correct fit for you.
Interview the voice coach, ask those hard questions, so that you can make the best decision for your vocal health, your vocal longevity and vocal development. If you have any questions or there are questions that I forgot that we need to add to the list, DM me, and let’s have this conversation because I want to help you find that perfect fit so that you have the success that you are meant to have!
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