Dr. Matthew Edwards shares his top tips on training and finding the right teacher.
I meet many pop and rock singers who are afraid of voice lessons because they believe they will lose the unique quality of their voice.
There is good reason for this concern. For many centuries, the only type of voice training available to singers was classical training.
Many rock singers were told that classical training was the best path forward. They learned to sing Italian songs and arias, and then found themselves sounding more like a classical singer than a rock singer.
People who have had that experience share their “horror stories” with their friends, which in turn has lead others to be afraid to seek vocal training.
Classical Singing Isn’t One Thing
There is no single codified method of classical singing and therefore it is difficult to say whether or not classical training will help you meet your goals.
A voice researcher named Richard Miller wrote an entire book about the differences of how German, Italian, French, English, and American classical singers are trained.
There are significant differences. Some classical techniques work for pop and rock singers, others train the mechanism to function in a manner that is contrary to the demands of non-classical styles.
Therefore it is impossible to categorically state that classical training will or will not prepare you to sing all styles.
The Word “Functional” Is Important
There alternatives for those who are weary of classical training. Functional teachers study how the voice works and are able to help students release tensions that could cause harm while allowing them to maintain their unique vocal qualities.
Many of these ‘functional teachers’ train classical and non-classical singers in their studios. There are also several trademarked methods that are geared specifically towards non-classical singers, each with it’s own approach to functional training.
Instead of steering away from voice lessons completely, do your research and seek out a teacher with a background in functional voice training that has a track record of producing singers who sound unique and sing the styles that you are interested in.
A good voice teacher will put your vocal health first and foremost; vocal injuries can put a serious dent in your career.
This does not mean you have to forgo aggressive sounds, it just means you need to learn techniques that allow you to create those sounds in a healthy way.
A good voice teacher will honor your tonal goals and not pressure you to accept theirs.
So for instance, if you like the nasal quality of your voice, your voice teacher should honor that and help you find ways to improve your range and stamina without compromising your vocal quality.
Finally, a good voice teacher will help you discover new possibilities. They will introduce you to ideas that you never thought of and help you explore parts of your voice you didn’t even know existed.
Top Tips for Finding a Voice Teacher
- Ask local singers who they work with. If there is a name that keeps popping up, you should try reaching out to that person.
- Look for keywords such as “vocal function,” “functional training,” or “Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM)” in the teacher’s bio. These terms usually signify that the teacher is aware of the technical differences between classical and commercial styles.
- Find out if the teacher has attended any certification programs for teaching non-classical singing styles (for example: Estill Voice Training, Complete Vocal Technique, Lisa Popeil Voiceworks™, McClosky, etc.).
- Check to see if the teacher is a member of any professional voice teacher organizations (for example: National Association of Teachers of Singing, Pan-American Vocology Association, British Voice Association, etc.).
- When looking through the teacher’s website, see if they mention past teaching and/or performing experience in non-classical styles.
- Ask the teacher if you can pay for a trial lesson before making a long-term commitment. During the trial lesson, be honest about your goals and aspirations so you can get a feel of whether or not it is a good fit.
It should also be mentioned that when choosing a teacher you should first and foremost be concerned with their vision of your voice, not how they sing. You need to discover your own potential, not try to sound like someone else. It may take some time to find the right person, but once you find them you will realize it was worth the search.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Andrew McDade - All Inclusive Diversity
Hi Andrew. This is an interesting song. I think it would sound best with just your acoustic guitar. I wouldn’t add the lead guitar; it takes away from your voice. As for your voice, I would like to hear more colors. For instance at 1:14, your voice could get a little edgier to match the strummed guitar underneath it. You can try doing this via vowel shape and/or registration. In this instance, I would say you should add a little more chest to your mix or sing with a little more closure of your vocal folds. Variations in registration and vowel will help your vocal colors match the colors of your guitar and most importantly the lyrics. I think adding this element will help take the song to the next level. Great hearing you. ~ Matt
Matthew Edwards, author of ‘So You Wanna Sing Rock ‘n’ Roll?’, has a B.M. in Vocal Performance and an M.M. in Vocal Performance. His work has been published in the Journal of Voice and the Journal of Singing, and he has presented at the NATS National Conference, the Voice Foundation Annual Symposium and the National Centre for Voice and Speech. His students have performed on Broadway, national TV, major motion picture soundtracks, and have appeared on the Billboard music charts. See more about Matthew on his website.