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August 19, 2008

What to ask a prospective voice teacher

Filed under: Teaching thoughts/tips — jan @ 7:14 am

I’ve a friend who is looking for a voice teacher. I’ve written this advice:
I’m finding it difficult to put into succinct words what you want to know about a voice teacher. The problem is enhanced by the fact that there is no vocabulary that all voice teachers use – let alone basics that all voice teachers agree on. But let me give it a shot.

There still exists among some teachers the myth that young voices should not be taught the low chest/belt voice. Indeed the bottom part of a woman’s voice sounds like a man. Yes, different muscles are involved than the ones you use singing in the high “head voice” register. There is a lot of disagreement about the register in the middle – but it is basically a balance between the upper and lower registers. You want a teacher who understands all three registers (or some just think of it as two registers.)

Why? From my years of teaching experience, there are two really good reasons. I’ve heard some singers who consider themselves to be classically trained professionals whose voice becomes so quiet when they get down to middle C that you really can’t hear them. The lower registration has never been taught. They have no sound at the bottom. What good is that? Secondly, over the years as I have watched professional singer/actresses, it seems to me that the ones who become ill the most and lose their voices most often are the ones who have no belt voice. The muscles haven’t been trained. They have no strength to hold up singing 8 performances a week.

So, though there are many, many ways to teach voice, you want a teacher who understands registration and wants you to sing it all. I think that is the most important criteria. I think you will also want a teacher who will let you sing both musical theater and classical songs. There are techniques in classical singing that are difficult to master if you only sing musical theater, but at the same time, theater songs are fun. And you want to do it all. Some musical theater requires a classical technique. Some requires a “pop” voice. It will be more fun for you if you have a teacher who is comfortable with both.

The grammar here is sketchy – mixing singular and plural, etc. – but I hope it makes sense.

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