Searching for singing lessons

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I'm wondering if it's time to try taking singing lessons again, just for the personal satisfaction of recording demos I'm more pleased with.

The thing is, I've tried twice in the past. First was a really nice guy who said he was a singing instructor, but I soon realized he was mainly a guitar teacher who was trying to branch out, and although I think he got my vibe perfectly well, I just didn't feel like he knew how to teach voice (or at least how to teach me voice), so that ended after a few weeks.

And although the second person a few years later tried to hide it, she didn't really understand where I'm coming from with my music (as people who know my songs might understand), and didn't really have an interest in helping me sing my songs (as opposed to learning how to sing the songs she selected, which is fair enough and probably the only logical approach, but not what I'm interested in spending time on, however unreasonable I may be being, given the limited time I have).

So I'm looking for something that may not exist: an instructor who is loose and fun with a relaxed sense of humor but also with good teaching skills and willing to focus on techniques for me to sing my demos.

Again, I understand that to sing anything well requires a certain fundamental technical basis, so what I'm looking for may well not exist, and I'm entirely willing to accept that. I'm probably an awful student given my unrealistic expectations.

Nonetheless, I thought this might be a good place to ask: anybody here know an instructor who might be suitable (or is anyone here an instructor themselves)? Although both of my previous attempts were in-person, I haven't been able to find anyone else local who looks right, so online is obviously OK.

Or else, I can just keep on inflicting my voice on everyone as-is! Biggrin

I'd love to give ya some lessons but my voice is screechy and you prolly won't like my singin' style. Or maybe you will.

As a teacher (but not of voice... I need a voice teacher too, TBH) I hesitate to recommend this, but maybe start trolling youtube. There are a lot of good vocal coaches that post videos and offer mini courses on youtube. Most of them teach zoom lessons so you can actually shop around for a teacher at this point, which is not a bad thing. Look for teachers that are offering vocal warm ups, and basic techniques about body placement, breath support, avoiding tension... things like that. Try out their suggestions. Do they work? Great! Try this with a lot of different teachers. You'll get a wide range of teaching styles and you might even find a teacher that you want to take lessons with.

You may not find one that is going to teach you how to sing your own songs, so think about which famous vocalists... based on their voices, not their material... would you choose to cover your songs. Find a teacher that is willing to teach you through those vocalists songs. Who do you want to sound like when you sing your songs?
Remember that teachers don't pick songs at random. They use songs that help a student work on a certain skill or technique so even though it's not the music that you want to sing, you will be able to apply what you learn on those songs to your own. It might even help you to expand your vocal writing techniques.

Here's someone who's videos I've gotten a lot out of. He's based out of NYC, and I've thought about looking into group lessons with him this summer. He seems pretty good at teaching vocal mechanics which I need a lot of work on.

Alright, @Ray D. Opossum, sounds like we need to have a sing off challenge to see who has the worse singing voice! :P

And thanks @katpiercemusic for your suggestions and thoughts! I have thought about doing a YouTube program, but it's a bit overhwhelming trying to figure out which of the hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of YouTube teachers to go with. I'll definitely check out the one you've recommended!

As per @metalfoot's comment in another thread, I can't seem to delete duplicate posts like this used to be (I get an error message), but at least I can edit them, it seems, into a fascinating self-referential post like this one is now!

Personally, @OdilonGreen, I really like your singing voice. It's different and immediately recognizable like, say, Neil Young and Robert Wyatt.

Alright Mr. @OdilonGreen I am down for this challenge. I can out-screech the best opossums in my entire town.

Thanks, @Fuzzy, and I know it's all just for fun anyway (at least for me - no aspirations of a career or making money), but even if only for my own personal satisfaction, I'd like to at least be able to hit the notes I'm striving for a bit more consistently!

From @ustaknow:

I've observed the "hunt" for teachers is very subjective, like shopping for underwear... Anyway, otherwise, you're heading for all kinds of "underwear" recommendations, - boxers, briefs, thong, commando...

I have to admit I find this comparison of singing pedagogy techniques to styles of underwear oddly thought provoking (as well as amusing). I'm trying to figure out which underwear style most describes my vocal style? Maybe homemade, hand-sewn underwear haphazardly stitched together from old sock puppets that I made myself in my younger years, but now have disassembled and repurposed? Biggrin

I went to a week long adult songwriting camp in 2015 expecting primarily to learn more about songwriting. On the first day I was wandering by a classroom. Through an open door I saw people doing some stretching exercises that looked like yoga to me so I joined in. By coincidence the class instructor also was a yoga teacher. Yoga also teaches breath control. We learned about some of what has been mentioned above. Later in the week we were each singing a song of our choice, solo and acapella in front of the class. That was like first-time-at-open-mic-night-terrifying to me without a guitar to shield my voice. That singing class, along with a performance class, were very helpful to me. Aside from that I have not taken any other singing lessons as I am just doing this for a hobby. However, I do warm-up my voice by doing scales and slides. I notice a difference in my singing when I don't warm up.

dzd's picture

@AndyGetch I rarely enjoy singing. I'm terrified at the thought of doing it without an instrument even if I was by myself Biggrin Even the few times I've tracked solo vocals I'm still holding and playing a guitar even if its not plugged in.

@OdilonGreen That sounds like a great vocal/underwear style Biggrin Good luck hunting for a coach/teacher, even if you don't find one I'm sure among the mass amount of them out there you can find a few to incorporate some tips/tricks that will work for you.

Thanks @katpiercemusic , that's a very helpful post.

Also would like to mention that singing lessons shouldn't change your voice... just teach you how to use it without hurting yourself and give you better control.

Yep, control is what I’m after (aka occasionally hitting the notes I’m trying to hit)!

@Ray D. Opossum & @OdilonGreen. you've lost your challenge before you even started. I won, long ago. ANd I fear it's too late for me, even with the best of teachers. "Many are called, but all are frozen".

@Tim Fatchen, I am highly offended that you are so sure you have a more bad singing voice than I do. Such hubris! I assure you I am the very worst at singing, and certainly much worse than you (or @Ray D. Opossum)! Biggrin

Hey there! I teach various things including voice and just got set up on Lessonface to teach private lessons. My teaching style is pretty much how you described--I like to let students take the lead and explore their interests at their comfort level, and I'd love to work with you if you're interested. Smile

Just so's you know, I think I'm going to take one of Eric Arceneaux's online programs for singing. It's not one on one. It's a modular video program, but if you like, I'll let you know how it goes and if there's any pedagogical value in it.

IA's picture

1. Singing is in my opinion one of those things you should really get some one-on-one in. You can develop really bad habits if someone isn't there to correct every little detail of what you're doing.

2. That, of course, requires a good teacher. It's like watching some amateur review an audio interface. "I can't think of anything to complain about." Sure. Doesn't mean that there's nothing wrong with the product. Just that you're not an expert on the subject.

Same thing if you're a beginner vocalist taking an online class. You can say "it went well", but how would you really know if you have no understanding of what "well" or "not well" is in that context. Not saying it would be different with one-on-one teachers. I'm sure there are plenty of them who couldn't teach any of us anything... or in the worst case, teach us something completely wrong.

3. How exactly does one spot a good teacher? Anyone got any input? You can rely on reviews if there are knowledgeable people reviewing them, but how would you know the merits of the reviewers? They might give somebody five stars because they were a nice person and it was fun... even if they didn't really learn anything (or learned something completely wrong).

4. How do you measure progress? How fast do you have to get better? And what is better? And how much depends on how much you practice?

With guitar, you can think you're making a lot of progress by learning things really really wrong. And when you hit that wall and can't figure out why, in best case scenario you realize that everything you learned so far was wrong and you needed to learn things another way.

I'd just like to point out that "different" does not automatically mean "wrong". I taught myself in a supppsedly wrong manner (both guitar and vocals), but I still reached a point of relatively good skills. I got there via a different path, but I still got there.

Just saying, "different" isn't necessarily "wrong".

IA's picture

Oh for sure. Different can also be right. But wrong is just wrong.

@IA that’s exactly why I offered to check out the course. I’ve never done an online music course for pretty much those reasons. But I have had one on one vocal instruction. I know what my bad habits are vocally and I know what it feels like and sounds like when I start slipping into them. I’m willing to try this course out because I’m at the point where I need to rewrite the bad habits so I don’t slip into them. I know that mostly means a good warm up and exercise routine where I can isolate things like breathing, ribcage, resonating chambers… you know… the sexy stuff. Ultimately, I think having an in person teacher is best, but I’m curious about this and I’m willing to shell out for it and I’m more than happy to let folks know if it has value as a standalone, or as a supplement to lessons, or or for specific learning levels. I’m a music teacher, and though voice isn’t my focus, I won’t recommend anything I think could potentially cause harm.

I've been a teacher/instructor in everything from personal growth to technology, and have studied voice and tend to be one of the biggest voices in the room when I'm singing. While I might be the kind of person who could help, I would say that my recommendation would be to think about *what* you would like to change in your singing voice? More volume? Keeping on pitch? Fuller sound? More control? Able to harmonize? I think that a lot of people go into voice lessons without a sense of why they are there, and what they want to learn. As you stated you want to improve your own singing and not what a voice teacher wants to teach you, I'd recommend you be able to speak about it in very clear terms, so that whomever you choose can focus on those things.

IMHO the one problem I hear from many performers is that they don't enuciate well and I can't make out the words they are singing. As a lyrics first songwriter, to me I want to hear the lyrics. I took vocal lessons for 5 years from senior students at our local music college. They were all aspiring opera singers and pretty darn good. I'm a alto folk singer and never could be a suprano opera singer, nor do I care to, but learning the basics of any type of singing is the same. Breath control, relaxation in your voice, placement of the air, good enuciation, warm-ups, etc. Keep in mind that all our voices will still be our unique voice, you can't change that but you can improve how you deliver it and be a little more happy with how you sound.

Try playing what you sing and singing what you play. When they happen simultaneously - there you go.

I never thought I was a singer, until I joined a community choir. I learned so much about music and breathing and how to stay in tune in two seasons there. And it was free to join.