Understanding the differences between a vocal coach and a voice teacher
A coach spends more time in preparing the overall presentation of your audition which often includes, teaching and recording your music, suggesting breath marks that are appropriate musically and dramatically, finding the acting journey of a song, helping you cut your music down to 32 or 16 bars, and marking your music to accurately to reflect these cuts, as well as teaching you how to communicate the tempo and style to the accompanist. A coach is often a great source for finding new music. When you hear the phrase, “to coach a song,” it often refers to finding the marriage of lyrics and music: combining the dramatic and musical elements of a song, therefore creating a cohesive presentation. Depending on the coach’s background, he or she might also offer input on audition attire and making sure your headshot and resume fits the professional standard.
A voice teacher specializes in the mechanics of sound production including vocal placement, vocal exercises, stretching your range, breathing and educating you on the anatomy of how the voice produces sound. (Not to say that some don't or can't crossover into coaching territory) however, most will focus on technique. From time to time, a new client sings for me and if I hear vocal issues that concern me, I will often refer them to a voice teacher or voice therapist, rather than working with me at that given time. If someone is producing an unhealthy sound, it is of the utmost importance that he or she works with someone other than a coach.
If you’re not sure what to look for in choosing a coach, you might fight this checklist helpful in selecting the right one for you.
-what is his/her knowledge of musical theatre repertoire when it comes to helping you find new material?
-what is his/her training and experience in helping you act a song?
-is he or she knowledgeable on basic vocal issues such as helping with placement and breathing?
-is he or she capable of transposing a song at sight while trying to determine the best key for you?
-is his or her schedule so busy that it’s impossible to get an appointment?
-does he or she challenge you to be a more prepared auditioner?
Don’t waste your time and money:
Too often, someone comes to me for a coaching and when I ask what he or she would like to work on, they answer, nothing in particular. If you would like to sing through all the songs in your book for an hour, I'm happy to take your money, but it's probably not the bet use of your hard earned money.
Be prepared. Make a list of everything you need to accomplish. I love it when someone takes out a list of things they want to get through in the session. Someone recently came to a coaching and pulled out her to-do list. Here is what she wanted to accomplish:
- I need to find a better musical introduction to a particular song
- Can we play around with other keys of this particular song because when I'm in the audition room and nervous, my voice tenses up and this key suddenly feels too high.
- This song isn't getting me many callbacks, but I really like it and I know it fits well in my voice. Would you take a look and listen and give me some feedback?
- Would love to find an up-tempo soprano song. The one I’ve been using is boring me to death.
- I found a pop song and I would like you to listen to me sing it and to tell me if I am singing it in a pop style or not.
A healthy philosophy:
- auditioning well is more important than necessarily booking the job. You might not be right for this particular show, but you are so good, the director or casting director are thinking of you for a future project.
- feeling comfortable in your own skin, a friendly persona, successfully communicating to the pianist, and really knowing what you are singing about, are just some of the elements of an audition that you can prepare
- you can’t rehearse or prepare your height, body type, vocal color, innocence, age range, resume, a police siren or fire truck passing by while you are singing
- what you can do is be extremely prepared with material that is appropriate for the audition
- having a presence, being active, and living in the moment
- not getting a callback doesn’t necessarily imply that you didn’t present yourself well. It may just mean that you aren’t right for that particular show, yet, the director could be thinking about you for a future project that you are right for.
- stop second-guessing!!!
My approach to finding you new material:
- the 'right' song is merely a vehicle to display a sense of yourself and your abilities, such as vocal range, personality, musicality, and ability to act a lyric
- a successful song is one that fits your voice, type, age, and emotional being, and most importantly, that you enjoy singing
- your audition song must fit and be adjusted to your needs, the way an expensive suit or dress need to be tailored to fit your body
- what part of your voice really sings?
I have one of the largest musical theatre libraries in New York City including obscure and standard material as well as shows currently running on Broadway. My clients include performers just starting out, to performers starring in Broadway Shows and National Tours.
"You are the one auditioning for the job, not the composer or lyricist of your songs"
Very often, I am invited to teach a musical theatre class, or to give a performance master-class.
My approach as a coach is exactly the same, except there might be 20 people in the class. One of the advantages to a group class is watching other people being coached. You might see a lot of the same habits that you have in other people and you can take notes on how they are addressed.
The stakes are a bit higher in a group class because lots of people are watching you. This is a good way to work out the parts of your song that cause problems when you are at your most nervous. Also, getting constructive feedback from your peers is very valuable.