5 Questions Every Contemporary Singing Teacher Needs to Ask Themselves

Singing teacher with children
Teaching contemporary commercial styles of singing is all about providing choice for the student so they can find their unique and authentic voice – says Anne Peckham.

Teaching contemporary commercial styles of singing is all about providing choice for the student so they can find their unique and authentic voice – says Anne Peckham.

We chatted with Anne Peckham, Chair of the Voice Department and Professor at Berklee College of Music, who shared tips on how teachers can improve their practice to get the best out their students.

Here are 5 questions to evaluate your teaching practice:

1.Have you accurately assessed the student’s capabilities and needs?
Every singer brings to the table a different set of abilities.

One of the hallmarks of a great singing teacher is the ability to tune into the individual needs of the student and to balance their needs with their own goals.

I like to think of this as balancing “want to”, and the “must do”.

2.Are you using the appropriate style of teaching?
Teachers need to make an individual analysis of a singer’s learning style too. Observing and awareness of this can help maximize productivity in lessons.

For example, some singers need and want a definitive approach from teacher who has a strong disciplinarian personality and some students need a more nurturing teacher.

Of course, there are many styles in between that can be effective. Most of us have a strong suit in our teaching style, but I would encourage teachers to bring their strengths to the table and be ready to try a different teaching style if necessary.

Skilled teachers also understand the singer’s psyche. It is important to nurture a sense of self in our singers, as well as teaching them to be self-reliant, responsible, and to advocate for themselves.

Be flexible, learn many different ways of expressing the same concept until one resonates with the student.

3.Do you have the relevant set of skills?
Helping a student find an authentic pop or rock voice may take the teacher out of their comfort zone, especially if the teacher has a different stylistic preference and background from the student, and/or limited training in contemporary vocal pedagogy.

I think that is incumbent on teachers to find ways to bring the best out of their students. Ultimately, it’s not about what the teacher knows and teaches, it’s about what the student needs to move forward.

4.Are you providing choice for the student?
I heard an interview on the radio the other day of the group, The Chainsmokers. The interviewer asked them, “Aren’t you afraid that a voice teacher is going to train the natural quality of your voice out and you’re going to lose your unique sound?”

I think this is the fear of many singers and it keeps them away from voice lessons. In fact, singers of all types of music can benefit from vocal training to increase stamina and create and maintain an authentic sound.

There are many benefits that come with training – But again, it is important to be able to help students shape their voices in ways that is going to be useful and relevant for them.

5.Are you encouraging healthy voice production?
All vocalists should be able to produce a core vocal sound that is without extra noise and that sits in the ‘sweet spot’ of their instrument.

If singers want to use various vocal effects, they should be able to. The Rock ‘edgy’ or ‘gritty’ sound is just one of many effects the voice is capable of producing. However, singers should also be able to return to their ‘noise-free’ core sound.

A singer who is determined to constantly produce an gritty or distorted sound sometimes need to learn from experience that this can have long-term effect on vocal health.

Healthy habits such as hydrating, healthy eating, having adequate sleep, and living clean are going to reap benefits that are reflected in the quality and resilience of the voice.

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