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Matthew Morrison 2009 Cropped, by Kristin Dos Santos, under CC BY-SA 2.0

The terms voice teacher and vocal coach are often used interchangeably. You’ll even see music teaching companies misuse the terms, so it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion out there. While there are certainly many crossovers between the two professions, as well as many teachers who can do both effectively, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two. You should know which one you’re looking for when you’re shopping around for one. So what’s the difference between a voice teacher and a vocal coach?

A Voice Teacher:

-Specializes in vocal technique: that is, the technical aspects of singing–vocal exercises, breathing, pitch, register shifting, vowel modifications, and all that nit-picky stuff that helps build a singer’s voice.

-The goal of a voice teacher is to prepare students to sing songs with ease–navigating through their registers effectively and not carrying tension in their throats.

-Is usually the first one a new vocal student should hire, since the technical aspects of singing should be in place before anything else.

A Vocal Coach:

-Specializes in the performance aspect of a song.

-Will help with the musical interpretation of a song–dynamics, tempo, key, and so forth.

-Will help you emote a song–working with you to create a character if need be, and helping you interpret the meaning behind a song.

-Works with you on how you carry yourself and move during a song.

-Is more likely to be a great accompanist who can help you rehearse your repertoire.

How are Voice Teachers and Vocal Coaches Alike?

Since both professions are about improving your singing, there are obvious crossovers between the two. Given how subjective singing “rules” are, there’s no clear separation between vocal technique and style. A voice teacher’s technical decisions unavoidably address stylistic decisions. For example, a voice teacher’s instruction to stay in chest voice in a certain passage is making both a technical and stylistic decision for the singer.

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