As an instrument, the human voice is one of a kind. Not only is it uniquely linked to the body—altered by how the singer stands, breathes, or even eats—but it’s also the only instrument in the world that can’t be fully repaired or replaced if damaged. This is where vocal coaches come in. Drawing from a combination of technical knowledge and lived experience, these experienced singers work one-on-one to improve singers’ raw performance ability, vocal technique, and vocal longevity.
Vocal coaches may help their clients develop personalized warm-up routines, use exercises to improve their clients' range and breathing, work on articulation and projection ability, or provide other specialized instruction in advanced vocal techniques. Most vocal coaches begin teaching after gaining significant experience as performing singers. Some continue to work as performing musicians while giving lessons in home studios or online, while others set aside performing and land full-time positions with educational institutions. Still others may consult for television shows in Los Angeles, work with musical theater performers in New York, or travel on tour as the vocal coach to a high-profile performer. In addition to teaching and consulting, vocal coaches might also write books on technique, develop apps for singers, or create their own resources (e.g. warm-ups and exercises) for vocal coaching.
At a Glance
Most vocal coaches work as performing vocalists and musicians for a long time before shifting to coaching. They may carry over specific expertise from their time as a performer—for example, some vocal coaches specialize in the techniques used by metal vocalists to produce screams and growls, while others work with successful pop artists who need to fill an arena with their voice. In general, there are a number of different ways to have a career as a vocal coach. Some work full-time at conservatories, while others hustle up freelance jobs while touring and performing.
Finding initial work as a vocal coach is the greatest obstacle for those wanting to break into this field. Advertising around the neighborhood, connecting with local music schools and programs, and making use of music industry contacts can help—but there's no substitute for a solid reputation as a longtime performer and singer. Once a steady flow of students has been established, additional business is generated mostly by word of mouth.
- Vocal technique
- Music performance
- Music notation
- Foreign language (if specializing in opera and classical)
Like all tutors, vocal coaches must be strong communicators. More importantly, though, vocal coaches must be exceptionally perceptive listeners. A good vocal coach is capable of picking up on a student’s unconscious singing habits, technical weaknesses, and emotional and physical health from a single listen. Vocal coaches should also be flexible and nuanced in their approach; every voice is different, and the best vocal coaches tailor their approach to each student's needs.
Work situations come in all shapes and sizes for vocal coaches. They may be salaried, contracted, or paid hourly. Similarly, they might work full-time, part-time, or extremely infrequently with a small number of high-profile clients. They might travel on a national tour as the resident vocal coach, fly coast to coast to work with clients around the country, or rarely leave their neighborhood and home studio.