Singing Coach vs. Voice Teacher: What’s the Difference?
For a long time there has been a debate within the music community about the difference between the terms “singing coach” and “voice teacher“.
The debate is centered around the use of the word “coach”, versus “teacher”.
People use both these terms to refer to professionals who help singers, but the question remains the same.
What’s the difference between a “vocal coach” and a “singing teacher” when it comes to singing?
“Coach” vs “Teach”
To the general public, the terms “singing coach” and “singing teacher” are often thought to be synonymous.
However, the difference lies within the use of the verb “coach” rather than “teach“.
Generally speaking, a singing coach is someone who “coaches” singing while a voice teacher “teaches” singing.
If this difference seems small and confusing, you’re not alone.
There are also lots of teachers who use the term “vocal coach” and “voice teacher” interchangeably.
This adds to the confusion.
While there are some who do both, there are a few basic differences between a coach and a teacher we should discuss.
The term “voice teacher” is most often used to refer to a teacher that has been educated in and instructs vocal pedagogy.
Voice teachers teach the technique of singing.
The singing teacher is one who is able to guide a student, from a beginner to a seasoned pro, toward better singing.
It doesn’t matter what level the student is at, good vocal technique and a healthy singing voice is the goal.
There are many different vocal techniques dedicated to creating beautiful voices.
And teachers may be educated at a university, or posses a voice teacher certification.
However, it is the voice teacher’s ability to develop the singing voice that distinguishes them from the “vocal coach”.
Like the name suggests, a “singing coach” is a professional whose job is to “coach” a singer’s voice.
Often, the term “vocal coach” is a blanket term used by anyone who improves the performance of their student.
A vocal coach’s job is to improve the performance.
While a vocal coach may also use the title “voice teacher”, they may not possess the same level of education.
It would be odd, as an example, for a music professor at a university to call themselves a “vocal coach”, even if they teach private lessons.
A vocal coach’s job rests on the assumption that a student is already able to sing well and just needs coaching in order to achieve a goal.
Some students who seek a vocal coach may be preparing for an audition or are studying a character for a performance.
So while a voice teacher is able to instruct a student of any level, the singing coach must meet the student where they’re at and work primarily on improving the performance of a singer.
But they may not teach singing.
In the music industry, singing coaches and voice teachers perform many of the same functions and may even be performed by the same person.
After all, both professionals’ jobs are designed to improve the singer to achieve a goal.
At Ramsey Voice Studio, I rely on my education as a voice teacher to develop the singing voices of my students.
However, there are times I will also “coach” my students when they are preparing for a performance.
Of course, perfect vocal technique never survives impact with performance, so it’s incredibly important to be able to switch to the role of a vocal coach when needed.
Many voice teachers are versatile enough to do both jobs.
A “singing coach”, on the other hand, may lack the foundation of singing technique necessary to help their students become better singers.
But once the student’s voice has developed enough, a singing coach is absolutely essential for a serious performer.
Singing Coaches vs Voice Teachers: Side by Side
- Can develop a voice at any level
- Are often certified
- Are educated in vocal technique
- Focus on building the voice first
- Develop the performance of an already functional singer
- May or may not be certified
- May or may not be educated in vocal technique
- Focus on the end product of a performance
A Few Things to Note
While the terms may be used interchangeably, the difference between a singing coach and a voice teacher is that a voice teacher can “teach” singing.
Whereas a singing coach can only “coach” someone who already sings.
If you’re a serious performer, it’s important that you find a professional who is able to wear both hats.
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Both vocal technique and coaching are essential for a singer.
However good vocal technique should be the foundation.
Even if you already have a good voice, a qualified voice teacher will help you further develop your voice.
And a vocal coach will ensure you’re ready to perform.
How to Find the Right Teacher / Coach
Many singers out there are looking for the right vocal coach. But how do you find the right voice teacher for your specific needs?
Are you looking for a voice coach that will help your performance, or just looking for exercises?
Does the singing teacher need to be in an amazing band, or is it more important to you they have a music degree?
There are a ton of ways to go about finding the right voice teacher, but in the end the most important aspect of finding a good singing instructor has nothing to do with music.
Can you guess what it is?
It’s the teacher/student connection.
Let’s call it chemistry.
Bottom line, do you trust your teacher to take your voice where it needs to go?
Can you put your faith in a music teacher that you just met to take responsibility for you and your voice?
Or, to look at it another way, do you get along?
This may the most helpful and overlooked concept in finding the right voice teacher for you.
But why is the teacher more important than the technique?
Let me tell you a quick story (some of the names have been omitted to protect the innocent):
When I was busking in the San Francisco train stations (busking is performing in a public place for tips), I sought out the help of a voice teacher because I kept hitting a wall vocally.
For me, that meant that every time I tried to hit a high note, it would come out either falsetto or a strained yell.
It wasn’t healthy and it didn’t sound good.
So I began taking lessons with a very nice singing instructor in the area.
His rates were reasonable and according to everything I’d read, he taught a very successful vocal technique.
In those first few lessons, we worked on my chest voice, head voice and mix.
In some time, my break into falsetto was getting less pronounced and I was starting to hit high notes in my bridge with power.
In the end, however, I felt there was more that I was missing.
Sure, this voice teacher was very nice, but he had a very muted personality and I had (and have) a ton of energy.
One year later, I fly to Austin, Texas and I take a one-off voice lesson with a singer-songwriter friend’s teacher, Gene Raymond.
Same technique, same price, similar experience levels.
But within the course of one half hour, Gene completely transformed my voice.
Concepts and notes that had been totally uncomfortable before were now crystal clear.
I was really hitting high notes without straining. Finally!
I’m not embarrassed to say it: in addition to the beautiful weather and people, Gene and that magnificent lesson were a huge reason I moved to Austin.
I studied with Gene for several years before he told me to go away and become a voice teacher.
This in and of itself is a huge tribute to the man. He saw in me what I hadn’t yet seen in myself: my power to share my knowledge with others.
This is the proof of a good teacher.
In essence, there is nothing more important to finding the right singing teacher than your connection to this person.
You must enjoy spending time with them if you’re going to do all those silly Nay Nays and Gee Gees.
After all, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
And the journey is enriched by who is with you.
So, how do you get started?