Quick answer: both terms have been used interchangeably over time because they can be very similar. The overarching component and aim for all teachers and coaches of the voice is that the student learns to have healthy and efficient sound production!
Let’s break it down a little more...
Once you take a leap into the world of singing and begin searching for voice lessons, you might notice something quite frequently. Teachers of voice tend to split themselves into several camps, the most prominent two being those who call themselves
Singing/Voice Teachers and those who call themselves Vocal Coaches.
So here's a quick little explainer to help you navigate the difference. Firstly, these two titles are confused A LOT. The reason for this is that the distinctions are so blurred at times that even those in the voice industry aren't always sure what each term specifically refers to.
The interchangeability of the terms are one of the reasons it might appear so perplexing.
Voice Teacher and Vocal Coach are terms that can mean very different things, but often you will find that two voice professionals with similar CVs and levels of experience simply choose to label themselves differently. Also, some teachers label with both terms. Again, you can see why these labels can be confusing.
DISCLAIMER: A professional's use of one term does not in itself mean that they are any less equipped to teach under the other, they simply chose the term that they believe better matches their approach or favoured skillset. That said, this is how we and many others in the industry use the terms.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BOTH INCLUDE:
Generally speaking, voice teachers and vocal coaches have many overlapping characteristics. Both work professionally with vocalists to improve their overall sound and make sure all elements of the body, support and breath are working together harmoniously. Both also tend to work one-on-one with students or clients in the studio to reach their goals, whether they are oriented toward performance or simply the pleasure of singing.
Singing teachers work with students of all levels, from absolute beginners to pros, to help them develop and improve their vocal ability. Often classes with a singing teacher begin with fundamental training focused on developing voice efficiency through healthy vocal technique and exercises. Lessons with a singing teacher can then progress to encompass a wide variety of techniques such as vocal flexibility, range expansion, pitch accuracy, resonance, breath work, primal sound, registration etc. Lessons with a singing teacher may also involve instruction on songwriting, audition technique, performance technique, voice examinations, and other topics. Just be sure that any teachers who offer guidance on the previously stated areas are also experienced in that field. Over the course of your lessons with a singing teacher, they will usually provide you with a structured practice plan and goals that will help your stay on track with your progress. The aim of the singing teacher is to ultimately help their students find the most efficient way of singing but also fine tune specific elements of technique with the understanding of anatomy and physiology of the voice.
A Vocal Coach typically provides assistance towards being your authentic self as a vocalist and getting the most out of each vocal performance. Vocal coaches often have a good understanding of vocal technique. However, they will have an expectation that the singer has healthy foundational vocal technique so they can focus on other concepts such as musicality, style and performance technique. Sometimes this can also include some tweaking of vocal technique. Vocal coaches are usually familiar with a wide range of vocal repertoire and assist students to pick appropriate songs for their age, type and technical ability. They also provide guidance in choosing repertoire that showcases specific technical elements and strengths for auditions and/or performances.
These terms present a grey area even among the people who use the terms.
We recommend conducting research and speaking with the person you're considering working with to determine what they offer and whether it matches your vocal and performance goals. Just remember that regardless of who you work with, you need to look after yourself and your voice. If ever something doesn’t feel right, ask questions and trust your instincts.
Dana and Kym at Audition Vocal Toolbox are a dream team when it comes to providing top-tier technical and practical voice & performance lessons. They have expertise in complementary areas of voice, music and performance and collaborate to help you achieve your vocal and performance goals and dreams. If you would like to book a duo session or masterclass (on zoom or in-person) with us, please contact us on email@example.com.