Voice teacher -or- vocal coach?

Ralph Schatzki-The Voice Station-Core Melody Voice Studio

by Ralph Schatzki

They work toward the same goal. Where the vocal coach works on polishing the performance through a focus on style and musicality, however, the voice teacher's prime objective is to maximize a singer's ability to utilize his actual vocal mechanism.

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Voice Teacher or Vocal Coach?

Voice teachers and vocal coaches work toward the same goal: to make you a polished, accomplished performer. Where the vocal coach works on polishing the performance through a focus on style and musicality, however, the voice teacher's prime objective is to maximize a singer's ability to utilize his actual vocal mechanism.

If one is serious
about becoming the best possible singer, he should first go to a voice teacher in order to build a solid foundation, upon which he can then proceed to build elements of musicality and style. Voice teachers must always work with an eye toward such style and musicality, just as vocal coaches must work with an understanding of vocal technique; but, while this overlap serves to unify these objectives, the two roles ought to remain essentially separate.
Many singers believe
they need have only a vocal coach, but not a voice teacher, in order to learn everything they need to become better at singing. While it might be argued that having a vocal coach is indispensable, the presence of a voice teacher is even more critical. If it is the vocal coach who "polishes the diamond," then the voice teacher is the one who helps the diamond begin to form and then become stronger. One needs a stone before one can begin polishing!
The voice teacher is
most important especially to those just beginning the study of voice, for a solid foundation puts a singer in a good position for life (just as a poor one places a singer in the corresponding bad place). Without a comprehensive technique, a singer inevitably experiences some vocal difficulty, resulting in: stress, illness, or loss of flexibility, control, and power.
Vocal coaches
approach their task under the assumption that a singer wants to polish what he has at that moment. He is not trying to improve the singer's physical vocal production as much as he is trying to make it smooth and professional-sounding. The demands made by vocal coaches run the gamut- from dynamic contrast, to interpretation, to tempo changes, to breath control- and can easily expose gaps in vocal technique if care is not exercised.
The two roles
do overlap somewhat. In order to provide students the tools to enable them to reach their potential, voice teachers must know what a final product will sound like. For their part, coaches must have some understanding of vocal technique in order to know what they can reasonably ask of a singer. But the general responsibilities are clearly defined.
In order to
become the best singer you can be, first find a teacher who gives you a solid vocal technique. Only then are you ready to begin refining it.
Ralph Schatzki
is a professional opera singer and long-time voice teacher. He has performed and taught in both the United States and Thailand and is committed to bringing great singing- through both education and performing- into the lives of everyone who wants it. He currently is teaching at Core Melody Voice Studio, a private studio run by him and his wife, Pradichaya Poonyarit.

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