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Considering A Vocal Coach

  • 1999 29 Apr
Considering A Vocal Coach
By Roger Beale, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%% Magazine

Why work on your vocal craft? Because you don't want to wind up in the doctor's office with a laryngoscope probed up your nose! II Timothy 15 says to study to show yourself approved. Frankly, I'm not hearing a lot of approved singers out there these days.

One of the saddest things to see in the music business is a top-notch professional singer who has let their voice go to seed. If your goal is singing in any professional capacity, your voice is your livelihood. You can't let it fall apart. What a waste that would be! A good vocal technique is imperative to a prosperous and lengthy career. You must spend time and effort developing the item you are marketing, your voice.

Many singers make the mistake of starting their careers without any vocal instruction or technique and end up a few years down the road with severely damaged voices and no career at all. As the old oil filter commercial said "pay me now or pay me later!" It's the same with your voice. The good news is, however, that with proper direction, damaged voices can be rehabilitated, and with a new, more confident vocal technique, even damaged singers have gone on to accomplish great things as musicians. And you can too.

As far back as the ancient Greek, Demosthenes, who placed pebbles in his mouth to stop stuttering, people have been striving to overcome vocal problems to improve how they sound. Other than the possibility of ending up in a doctor's office for less than comfortable treatments, let's look at some different reasons for strengthening your vocal technique.

If you're in ministry, you probably have a desire to do more than just sing a song. You want to communicate a message. You want to touch people's hearts. One of the problems of having a voice with very little discipline is that it makes it possible for that important message to get lost in the vocal translation, so to speak. And if the voice doesn't match the message trying to be expressed, then the ministry isn't accomplishing its purpose. People are left with false impressions. For instance, a singer's heart could be very compassionate, but their voice, sounding like they swallowed sandpaper, is communicating something gruff and abrasive, definitely not compassion. Another predominate problem, especially in churches, is singers that sing with a "wobbly vibrato". You know those people. Their intention may have been to belt out a song of praise and adoration, but their voice shakes so badly, they instead sound unstable and the congregation feels the urge to flee!

Working on your singing voice will also develop more confidence in your singing and your stage presence. Yes, confidence can be taught and learned. With more confidence, the obvious result will be growth in your ministry. Hey, maybe your offerings will increase due to your new confidence in your vocal skill.

So how do you find a good vocal coach? First you need to look for a person who is well schooled in the actual physiology of the voice. As much as we "artist" types try to avoid it, there are some realities within the human body and we have to learn to live and sing within those boundaries. The way the voice is made and the way sound is produced through that voice, just doesn't change.

In choosing a vocal coach, remember the adage, "Buyer beware!" For every knowledgeable and gifted voice teacher, there are many more that have no knowledge or understanding of the human voice. All some teachers know how to say is "Sing it again!" They don't have any tools to show you how to sing in a better manner. Some just know how to play the piano and teach the notes of a particular song. Teaching songs is no substitute for the knowledge of vocal technique. A bad vocal coach cannot get you where you want to be with your career. If you already have a teacher, and you do not feel your voice improve within a few weeks, find another teacher, now!

Also, don't forget how important it is to have your vocal coach with you in the studio. Many producers and engineers know nothing about the abilities and intricacies of the human voice. They know manipulation of the electronics. Your vocal will either make or break a song, so please spend adequate time recording it. Your vocal coach will help protect you from producers that want to rush you through the taping of your vocal. Because your coach is familiar with your vocal abilities, the result will be a true quality vocal performance for your recording.

One final thing, and maybe the most important, is to find a person who is genuinely concerned about you and sensitive to your vocal style and needs. You need to find a vocal coach who not only possesses the physical knowledge of the voice, but also has the sensitivity to listen to your dreams and goals for your voice. That person will be able to help you further those goals, lengthen your career, and change how people respond to you both as a singer and a minister.

This past summer we all had the opportunity to watch Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit a lot of home runs and establish records for others to admire. But one thing is for sure. After each home run they came back to the dugout and in that dugout sat their batting coach. They make millions of dollars and they have a batting coach. With these two baseball players in mind, let me pose a question. Do we, as singers striving to serve the Lord to the best of our ability need a vocal coach? I think the answer is obvious. We would be foolish to do otherwise. Don't you think it's time you started to develop your voice and communication skills? I do!

Vocal Health Tip:

The key to good vocal health is moisture. Make sure, as a professional singer, that you drink eight 10-oz. glasses of water a day. To moisturize your nasal membranes, try using a saline solution such as Ocean, Ayr, or Sea-mist. These are not habit forming. They are a .65% saline solution designed to thin your mucous and wash away debris in your nasal cavity. Try it, it may even keep you well.

Roger Beale is one of Atlanta's foremost vocal coaches. He presently works with professional singers in all areas of musical performance. His teaching and coaching facility, The Voice House, is involved in the management and care of the professional voice. Many of his students have won vocal competitions, scholarships, and are well known artists in the Christian music industry. Roger can be contacted at: The Voice House, 1675 Virginia Ave., Suite 103, College Park, GA 30337, (404) 766-0526, web site: