What is the Difference Between a Voice Teacher and a Vocal Coach?
And do they offer enough?
So you’d like to find someone to help you develop and free your singing voice. Do you need a voice teacher or a vocal coach? Or something else? And how do you choose the right person?
The answer to these questions depends on what your goals are. A voice teacher is the way to go if you are wanting to develop great, healthy singing technique. A good voice teacher can help you develop excellent breath control and support, postural alignment, good healthy vocal production, ease in singing through all the registers of the voice, pleasant tone, and strength and flexibility.
Voice teachers are great for those who want to identify and correct bad habits in their singing. They can help get the voice in shape after a period of not singing or reverse the effects of aging on the voice. They can also be helpful for those healing from a vocal injury, although these folks might want to enlist the help of a Speech Language Pathologist as well.
A vocal coach, on the other hand, might not even be a singer per se, but someone skilled in song interpretation. Vocal coaches help students work with specific songs in their repertoire, teaching them to use dynamics, phrasing, tone variations, and body movements to express the meaning of the song. The good ones can also help a student to connect with a song emotionally and allow this to influence their performance.
Vocal coaches are great for helping people to prepare for auditions, and for high level professionals who may have already spent years developing their technique and who are working on specific repertoire for an upcoming show or concert.
For most people, though, working with a teacher who is proficient in both voice teaching and vocal coaching will provide the most balanced approach to working with the voice. Voice teaching lays the groundwork and gives the student the skills and mastery they need to sing in a healthy and balanced way. Vocal coaching then allows the student to perform the songs they love with creativity, excitement, and meaning.
But is this all we need to truly free our voices and arrive at our full potential as singers?
I would argue that to be genuinely great singers, most of us also need a third approach to voice training. Let’s call it vocal mindset coaching. Did I make up this term? Well, yes I did, thank you for asking. But just hear me out.
A student can learn great technique, and they can learn to sing a song beautifully. But if they are plagued by stage fright, they will never be able to reach their full potential onstage. If they are blocked emotionally, they will never be able to fully communicate the emotion of a song, and their audience won’t feel much, either. If they have a negative mindset and are plagued by thoughts like “I’m not good enough, I don’t belong here, my voice isn’t important,” they may never even make it on stage to begin with. (Or to voice lessons, for that matter.)
Take me, for example. I was one of those kids you see in the grocery store or at the airport who just Never. Stops. Singing. Music was my life, for as long as I can remember. While the rest of my family was watching TV, I was in the corner of the room, the headphones way too big for my 5-year-old head, listening to records by the Carpenters and figuring out the harmonies to Beatles tunes.
But when I started voice lessons as a teenager, I had so much self-doubt that I could barely open my mouth, let alone project my voice. Because I was taking lessons with a woman who was strictly a voice teacher, she was never able to address the deeper emotional issues that were standing in my way of fully letting my voice be heard. (You can read my full story here.)
Because as singers we ARE the instrument, it’s important to address the WHOLE person, not just the vocal cords and lungs, not just the entire body, but the mental and emotional wellbeing of the singer too. What were early messages you received about your voice that are still holding you back today? How are you talking to yourself in ways that are eroding your self confidence? What are techniques you can use to calm the nervous system and create a positive mindset around singing?
When we start to answer these questions, we open the door to greater freedom, emotional connection, and joy in our singing. When we marry this with great vocal technique and masterful interpretation of songs, we invite our audiences into a world that feels vibrant, authentic, exciting, and deeply powerful.
(Side note: I’m so passionate about this that I created an online course all about it, called The World Needs Your Voice! You can learn more here.)
I am proud to be a voice teacher, a vocal coach, and (yes, I’ll just say it) a vocal mindset coach. Having these three areas of expertise helps me to customize each lesson to truly meet the individual needs of each student, rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach.
Have you been wanting support around your singing voice but are not sure how to get started? Please get in touch anytime through email or schedule a call. I’d love to chat with you about your goals for your voice and be a part of your voice journey!