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  • Sabrina Zimmerman

5 Signs You Have a Good Vocal Teacher

Updated: Jan 21

I'm going to date myself for a minute and then pretend it never happened....

I've been studying voice since I was 19 - over 33 years. And in that time, I've had several voice teachers - some that were amazing (like my current one) and some that just were not right for me. Now, that's not to say that those teachers weren't good ones, just that my voice and they're teaching style wasn't a good fit.

What I want to share are a few of the things to look for when choosing a vocal teacher - especially if you are a new singer or young student or even if you are just starting over as I had to a few times. But also, the signs that you have found a good one.

1) They understand how the voice works as an instrument - any teacher that doesn't have this basic knowledge should make you run for the nearest exit! Also, they shouldn't be teaching voice, obviously! A good teacher not only understands the physiology of our instrument, and how to use it to produce the most beautiful and healthy sounds, but they know how to protect it from damage. Note - you should never be hoarse or feel any vocal strain during or after your lesson! However, If it's a case of bad habits on your part, the teacher should know what exercises or information to give you to correct the issue. ie: semi-occluded exercises are gentle on the cords and help them to come together in a healthy way, and also there is resting your voice and hydrating!

2) They don't just give you the what or how but also the why - This can also tie into the first thing, but a good voice teacher will explain why they're having you do a certain exercise - how it will benefit you and your voice. If a teacher can't explain why they're having you do something, cross them off your list!

3) They spend a lot of time on breath work and body alignment - For me, this is make or break! Breath and body support are the foundations of good, unimpaired, and healthy singing. Poor breath support & poor posture can do harm and a good teacher will ensure that your air is flowing steady through your body and your body is properly aligned (the two work together!). These were two things I struggled with because none of my previous teachers spent time (or the time that I needed) working on these. My current teacher specializes in whole-body singing and uses all sorts of physical tools (such as my hand or a resistance band) to help me ensure my breath and body are working for my voice and not against it.

4) They're problem solvers - A good teacher can recognize when a student isn't quite getting something or when an exercise just isn't working for them and they are able to offer a solution or different approach. They understand that every voice is unique and that a one-size-fits-all approach isn't the way to go. They can also recognize bad habits and know how to correct them!

5) You feel inspired and motivated after your lessons - A good teacher makes you excited not only about learning but also about practicing. For me, my lessons can almost be like therapy - no matter how bad I am feeling or unmotivated I am, my current teacher always seems to know how to get me inspired and excited to work on repertoire! Note - there are times when a student just isn't into the lessons because they were pushed into it or thought it would be something different. In that case, the teacher shouldn't give up, but there are times when nothing you do will motivate them to practice. Speaking from personal experience here!

There are many other signs I could mention and maybe I'll go over those in a later post. But I just wanted to share these few that are important to me as both a student and a teacher. At 51, my voice is stronger and healthier than it's ever been since I started studying voice and performing at 19. I still have all of my high notes (including my extension above High C), but I now also have a strong middle and a (getting more) solid chest voice. I feel more confident in my voice and I no longer hate the sounds I was making (though hate is probably a rather strong word...but I wasn't happy). And all of this is because I found the right teacher for me and my voice. I'm so very grateful for her and I look forward to my next lesson!

What do you look for in a voice teacher? Any red flags you'd like to share?

Until next time,

Sing on!

Brie xo

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