How To Find The Best Voice Teacher

The best.  For you.  Right now.

Let’s be real, shall we?  Not every voice teacher is right for every student or client.  And there are as many reasons to seek voice training as there are people, so this article is about helping you decide on a teacher that fits your needs.

Since the field of vocology is still in it’s relative infancy, there’s a lot to learn about how the voice functions.  This also means there are quite a few voice teachers who either do not have access to current research, or do not know how to integrate it into their practice. 

And none of us have all the answers.  Not everyone needs a vocal coach with technical knowledge either, but it is helpful to know there’s a difference.  

Considering that, here are a few guidelines that will help in your search in finding someone who can help you meet your voice goals.

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Don’t Go To Music School

“But I worry that what students of the arts are often seeking in higher education is nothing more than proof of their own legitimacy – proof they are for real as creative people, because their degree says so.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic (103)

So, don’t go to music school.  Unless you have to.  Unless you feel so excited about it, your heart bursts.  Unless you know it’s the perfect path for you.  Unless it’s paid for, or you can easily afford it.

Of course, not all of these criteria will apply to you, and many people are blessed by music school in ways that nothing else can bless them.  All I want to point out is that creating art does not require a degree from college, nor does it require the kind of money colleges are asking for these days.

“But if you’re considering some sort of advanced schooling in the arts and you’re not rolling in cash, I’m telling you – you can live without it.  You can certainly live without the debt, because debt will always be the abattoir of creative dreams.” (104)

I feel like I have some ground to stand on when talking about this subject.  1) I was a University professor for 12 years.  2) I do not have an undergraduate degree in music.  3) I do have a master’s degree in music.

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Visualizing the Voice

Today’s post is my way of sharing a few free resources, as well as introducing you to voice acoustics.  In 2008, Diana Spradling at the University of Western Michigan had me sing into a computer program that analyzed the frequencies of my sound.  I know now this is called a Spectrum Analyzer.  The ability to see my voice on the screen had such a profound impact, that I felt paralyzed with awe for a hot minute.

Yesterday at one of my “Meet and Geek” classes, we used a Spectrum Anal

yzer to demonstrate how the voice produces a fundamental frequency as well as a series of overtones for each pitch.  The brain synthesizes all of these pitches into one tone, creating the perception of someone singing a single note.  By manipulating the overtones, strengthening and weakening them, the voice takes on different timbrel qualities.  To see this in real time, the folks at Sygyt Software offer a free version of their Analyzer that you can download here:

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SOVT for You and Me

There is an acronym whizzing through the ethers of the vocology cosmos causing some people to delight and others to raise their fists in the air.  Introducing: SOVT, which stands for semi-occluded vocal tract.  Voice nerds use it to describe vocal exercises, as in “SOVT exercises.”  You see it in scientific journals and hear it on the streets, depending who you hang out with.  It is an attempt to codify the language around voice, and for this reason I’m rather elated it exists.

This post stands as a tiny, little tutorial on SOVT and SOVT exercises.  Once you get the gist, you can identify any number of vocal exercises that employ its benefits.  I’ll list a few of the most common SOVT exercises, pin links to free resources that explain it, briefly describe a few of its incredible benefits, and list videos just in case you like your coffee pixilated.  (SOVT exercises are a sort of get-up-and-go drug, afterall.)

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Why Piano?

In this post, I’m advocating for you to learn the keyboard.  The piano is the foundation instrument for western music, and the more we get our hands on it the better off we will be as musicians and, dare I say, human beings.

There are only 12 distinct notes to deal with, people, and when you gain both a clear picture and auditory relationship of these notes then the sky is literally the limit.  It astounds me that we are still creating new music every day based on these same 12 notes!

The possibilities and inspirations are seemingly endless, but first we need to notice the relationships between the keys and use our ears to corroborate what we see.

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