Quitting Vocal Coaching

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Vocal Coach Leontine Hass says that it’s time to think of yourself as an artist—not a student.

Dear Leontine,

This is an awkward question to ask. I’ve had years of vocal lessons and coaching; I’ve learned a lot. My teachers have been knowledgeable and confident. But I’m feeling that I need to quit to find my own way. In your experience, when has someone been coached enough? 

Dear Janet,

That is a difficult question to answer! It very much depends on what sort of singer you are, in which style you sing, and where you are at technically. If you feel that you need to be “your own coach” for a while, then go ahead; that is not, however, a definitive answer. You might find that in another year you will want to go back to lessons.

Being a singer is a bit like being a tennis player: it’s always good to have a coach, but your coach also needs to be in tune with you. You should be treated like an artist who is coached rather than a student who is taught—maybe it is the attitude connected to your lessons that needs to be changed?

When I teach my singers, I try to teach them how to be their own best teacher. Many singers cut off from observing themselves when they are taught, as they become terribly good “students”, rather than terribly good “singers”. It is important as a singer to feel your instrument, to be friends with it, take charge of it; understand the voice might work brilliantly one day and then need tweaking into shape the next. 

I do find that all my best singers have a real relationship to their voice—which tends to be quite a humorous one. They do not to freak out when it doesn’t sound good: they know what to do to slap it back into shape. They tend to come to me to remind themselves of certain things, have another pair of ears, work on improving certain passages or vocal qualities. 

Many of my professional singers, who have established techniques and are working professionally, come only if they are auditioning for a new part, or feel worried that their voice is getting stuck or “tired”. Once things are back on track, after a few weeks, I probably won’t see them until their next audition. This pattern is healthy if you are a professional; however, if you are still establishing your technique and are a young aspiring singer, you should really try to come once a week. I find that many young singers do not commit to regular lessons; this is frustrating to observe as regular lessons would bring them up to a much higher standard, enabling them to work so much more quickly toward their goals. 

The vocal coach has to be the right one of course, as does the relationship and communication between the two of you. Remember: you are an artist even when you are receiving coaching.

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