Singing coaches or singing teachers work with individuals or groups of singers to develop and improve their singing ability and technique.
What is the job like?
They prepare singers for live performances, either individually or in a group and encourage singers to develop confidence and overcome stage nerves
They may specialise in a particular type of singing, such as rock/pop, opera, jazz, soul or choral. Coaches may work on-stage with live acts during rehearsals. The voice is a very delicate instrument, and coaches need to help singers take care of their voices, and not over-use or damage the vocal chords.
The work includes:
- Using warm-up exercises including scales and arpeggios
- Helping singers to get the best possible sound from their voices, using different vowel sounds and shapes
- Teaching various techniques including breathing exercises, accurate placement of notes and the best posture for singing
- Teaching improvisation, sight-reading, and music theory including melody and harmony
- Providing help with diction and pronunciation
- Helping singers to project their voices and to extend their vocal range
- Enabling singers to develop vocal strength and flexibility
- Teaching vocal articulation – how to sing notes legato (smoothly) and staccato (detached).
Vocal coaches also need to have an understanding of speech, and knowledge of this area will help them address general voice issues and deal with any potential health problems.
Many vocal coaches are self-employed, and therefore need to do their own marketing and publicity.
How do I become a singing coach?
Extensive experience as a singer is vital. Whilst still at school join in with choirs and any other singing groups and investigate youth choirs in your area. You might want to join with friends and form a singing group or choir.
Aim to get as much experience of singing a very wide range of music. Vocal coaches also need to play a musical instrument, preferably the piano.
Ability with languages is helpful in the classical and operatic worlds, where music is sung in German, Italian and so on.
As well as singing experience vocal coaches, like all teachers, need to have the right blend of personal qualities. You need to have good communication skills, and be patient and encouraging in equal measure. You also need to be patient, as you will probably be running your own business.
What training and qualifications should I take?
Helpful school subjects are music GCSE and AS/A level, and you can also take graded singing examinations such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), Rockschool vocals and Trinity College London.
Many singers will progress to further or higher education courses in music and may also take specialist teaching qualifications.
- BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Music
Entry with 2 GCSE (A-D) passes
- BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Music
Entry with 4 GCSE (A-C) passes
- Degree courses in Music
Including Popular Music as well as more traditional conservatoire BMus courses. Entry requirements vary, but generally include 2 A levels (usually with music) and 5 GCSE (A-C) passes and graded passes in musical instruments or singing. Entry is via audition and interview.
If you wish to teach music full-time in a school you will need Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music offer a part-time specialist Certificate of Teaching qualification, (CT ABRSM Plus), with a pathway in vocal technique.
The University of Reading offers a postgraduate MA course in Instrumental Teaching (including vocal teaching).
What can I earn?
The pay for singing coaches and teachers can vary widely. They normally charge an hourly rate - £30 an hour is an average rate, although this could be much higher in certain areas of London. Travelling time and fares are sometimes charged in addition to the hourly rate.
The most experienced coaches working with top singers can command much higher rates per hour or per session, perhaps £1000 per half-day.
Singing coaches are normally freelance, although may be employed on a more permanent basis in a university or music college.