Gurus live on mountaintops and meditate all day. Voice teachers and vocal coaches are human -says Jaime Babbitt.
What do humans do besides eat huge amounts of dark chocolate? They MAKE MISTAKES… like eating too much dark chocolate.
But seriously, as voice teachers we have to bring our “A” game to every client. And just like we ask our students to be serious in order to improve, we need to walk the walk.
We all know different teachers’ methods, exercises, warm-ups, etc., can vary… and that’s okay.
We’re all snowflakes and there are plenty of vocalists and teachers / coaches / professors / choir directors to go around. But here are several universal singing teacher no-nos I feel need to be brought to light:
1. Not Being Proficient Enough On A Chordal Instrument
Professional voice coaches / teachers don’t need to be Ph.Ds. or concert-level pianists but they should know major / minor scales, triads and arpeggios well enough to play their students’ warm-up exercises. They need to know how to play piano or guitar well enough to read a chord chart to accompany clients and know how to speak music theory to some degree.
Should students sing A Capella all the time, or simply to a pitch sung by a teacher? No. You may say yes if we’re talking about lessons for toddlers and children, but teachers must still strive to play and sing well. Little humans’ ears are open and if good relationships to pitch and rhythm get instilled in them early on, the next John Coltrane or Mariah Carey might be right under our noses.
2. Not Really Listening To Their Students
Of course one of a teacher’s main jobs is to LISTEN. I’ve heard stories from my own clients about how choir directors or music professors asked them to sing in a range that made their cords swollen. Here’s a problem: students don’t always speak up if they feel discomfort; they want to please, they want to do well by their teachers. So students: if you feel something, say something. Singing should not hurt. But teachers: you’re the adults here. Please don’t take your students’ willingness to sing in a too-high-or-too-low register as the end of the story.
Develop your skills so that you understand the physiology of the vocal tract, hone your intuition and then combine those two elements to hear vocal problems that may arise and zero in on how to solve them. Providing a safe, informative and caring atmosphere for students is quite possibly the most important thing you can ever do.
3. Not Keeping Up With Their Craft
Not all voice teachers are professional singers – and they don’t have to be. However, teachers who understand their method and how to teach it, experience significant and consistent results with it, and still strive to keep an open and curious mind are ultimately the greatest teachers. So if they’re singers, maybe they’ll keep their chops up and do warm-ups, perform live, sing sessions, etc. They’ll study with a teacher themselves, go in for tune-ups when needed and KEEP IMPROVING.
If they’re not singers, perhaps they’ll ramp up their accompanist skills, look at other singing methods and the results they achieve and add to their own teaching repertoire. Every voice teacher believes their own method is the best, but keeping an open and curious mind could lead to teaching breakthroughs for the teacher and their students. And that’s teaching…like a boss!