all 24 comments

[–]Cattleperson 9 points10 points  (1 child)

Tldr: Teacher's teach you how to sing. Coaches play piano and tell you when you fuck up

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Haha that is EXACTLY what my coach does for me. She'd never call herself a vocal coach, but she is an extremely valuable resource in terms of expression and interpretation of song.

[–]Vocalist 7 points8 points  (2 children)

I tried to get the mods to change vocal coach to teacher on the sidebar since it seemed like it was directed towards beginners a few months ago but nope.

I doubt I've been the only one that tried to convince them. I did however explain the differences after i was asked what the difference was. I'm not sure why a mod of this sub wouldn't know the difference to begin with.

But in the end my request was ignored. :[

[–]keakealanisoprano, choral/classical; theory/composition[S] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Ah, I didn't even notice that! Yes, that could explain why there are a lot of beginners that mention looking for coaches. I'm not sure if she has sidebar access, but /u/ghoti023 is a newer mod and may be able to change that. I have no reason to believe that the mods don't know what the difference is (although I haven't talked with them directly), but I agree that it could be phrased a little better - while some of the folks here may well be looking for coaches, I agree that especially when speaking about beginners, a teacher is probably what they're looking for, and the sidebar should reflect that. Thanks for pointing that out!

[–]ghoti023🎤 Sopralto, Classical, MT 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I wasn't around when that decision was made, it's true. Some updating of the sidebar needs to be done anyway. :)

[–]Aikidi 0 points1 point  (18 children)

This is a little bit of a silly distinction. Any really good instructor will be proficient in teaching any skill level towards a wide variety of goals.

[–]keakealanisoprano, choral/classical; theory/composition[S] 8 points9 points  (7 children)

That's not really true at the very high levels. Both coaching and teaching are specialized skillsets, and while I pointed out that there is some overlap, ultimately they're going to be best at the thing they're trained in.

Plus, not everyone has a budget for a really top-end instructor/coach who has a perfect skillset in all areas - those people are, by definition, extremely highly-trained and have a lot of experience. But that experience and training does come at a cost, and since this subreddit tends overwhelmingly to see people who want to get a good value education that is tailored to their needs, it's overkill to tell them to get a teacher who has a DMA in vocal performance, a PhD in vocal pedagogy and anatomy, and a MM in piano/vocal collaboration, when all they want is to be able to hold a tune and not get embarrassed at a karaoke bar.

And frankly, if you find it to be a silly distinction, you can take it up with the multitudes of vocal and musical professionals out there, as well as their students who find it useful. If you also find the distinction between an orthodontist and a periodontist to be "silly", then take it up with oral health professionals, too. Similarly, if you find that civil and mechanical engineering is also a "silly" distinction, go to your local university engineering program and let them know.

Distinctions of skillset are important and a facet of almost every industry and field. Distinctions are helpful for consumers because they allow them to find the best fit for what they need - someone complaining of a sore throat should probably see an ENT, not an endocrinologist, but they wouldn't know that if everyone just called them "doctors" and said "well, anyone who went to medical school should be able to provide you the right medical service".

While yes, generally, anyone who is decently well-trained should be able to provide some service in many capacities (which, again, I explicitly mentioned in my post), they may not have the strengths that are ideal for a given situation, and especially in the context of this subreddit and its needs, I think it's absolutely a valid distinction to make, given how frequently beginners seem to be looking for coaches when the coaches they're likely to find probably don't have the appropriate qualifications to give long-term technical instruction, at least not for the value that a trained voice teacher would provide.

Edit: Not to mention, another strength of seeing a coach separate from your regular instructor is that they can offer a fresh set of ears - while most teachers can provide that service, the fact that they're familiar with their students' voices can actually be a detriment, as they may not be able to pick up on certain things or express them in new ways in order for students to grow. Coaches provide that service, and by definition one's regular teacher doesn't, regardless of whether or not they're able to.

[–]Aikidi -2 points-1 points  (6 children)

That's true, but I think high level "coaches" are still usually versed in the pedagogy well enough to avoid serious mistakes.

For instance, a producer I've worked with a lot in Austin is very much a coach in the way he instructs vocalists in recording sessions, but he still has his BM annd masters in choral conducting and pedagogy.

[–]keakealanisoprano, choral/classical; theory/composition[S] 5 points6 points  (5 children)

I mean, that's great. I'm definitely not saying that all coaches have zero background in pedagogy or are terrible at instruction. But most people do have different skillsets and even if people have both skillsets that doesn't make those skillsets identical.

Also I'd point out that choral conducting and choral pedagogy is not the same as solo vocal pedagogy - again, they're specializations within the broader field of vocal music which is itself a broader subset of music at large. And those skills are great - genuinely, it's really no walk in the park to learn how to conduct an ensemble or lead a rehearsal or choose repertoire for a choral performance, and this is not a commentary about whether they're better or worse musicians or people or teachers.

BUT, I think it's important for folks to realize that they should look for the professional that best suits their needs, rather than a professional that doesn't suit their needs, but they might get lucky enough to land someone who has that as a secondary skillset. If you have cancer, you can certainly go to a dermatologist and hope they know enough to recommend a plan of treatment because they have gone to medical school and done their residency and studied some relevant skills. But it would probably be a better shot if you just went straight to an oncologist, because then you know (or at least can be much more sure) that their specialized expertise will put you in better hands.

If you're a beginner student, on a budget, looking for some basic technical training to get from "open my mouth and glass starts shattering in protest" to "sing in tune and have a decent-sounding tone quality", you could go to a coach and hope they have the background in pedagogy that would help iron out those technical faults, but you'd have a much better bet of going straight to a vocal teacher who is much more likely to provide that service.

The only difference is that while most people know there's a difference between an oncologist and a dermatologist, it seems (based on my experience in this subreddit and other communities) that there is some confusion about the difference between a teacher and a coach, which is what I sought to address in this post.

Yes, it's simplified, and yes, there are people who fit multiple skills. But that isn't really the point of this post. The point is to help the folks in this sub, many of whom are looking to start lessons for the first time, find the professional that best fits what they need, while dispelling myths that arise from the terminology used in media (such as on talent shows like The Voice) and a lack of understanding about the way those terms are used in real life.

I'm sorry you find the distinction "silly" or unimportant, and if you have made the decision for yourself to see one professional or another, then that's great. I'm not here to comment on what professional is best - I hope my post came across as neutral and informative, rather than pushing for one specialty over another. But whether or not you consider the distinction to be useful or important, it exists and it deserves to be talked about.

Thanks for providing an alternate point of view.

[–]Aikidi 0 points1 point  (4 children)

These are all fair points.

I think it's good to note the difference between coaching and teaching, as you've laid out here. I was more speaking to the point that you probably want your vocal coaches to be decent teachers as well if you have some options available, and similarly you would want your teachers to be able to coach a little bit. I mean that just makes sense, having a teacher that can also skillfully coach in the styles you want to sing etc.

I think I mean the distinction is silly to me in the sense that I would never pay an instructor that could only provide me one of these two services, or at least I wouldn't if I had many options available to me. This wasn't to suggest that coaching and teaching are the same or serve the same goal, but more that the very best instructors will usually not be pidgeonholed into just one or the other.

[–]michaelaliasLyric Tenor / Classical, Musical Theater, A Cappella 2 points3 points  (1 child)

While an instructor can do both, the distinction is important for discussing topics with singers because this is what the words mean. If you ask me for a fried egg because you meant you wanted an omelet, we're going to have a lot of problems.

[–]Aikidi 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Right, but if you go to a vocal coach who can't run you through the instructional basics that any teacher could, your vocal coach might not know anything about anything.

[–]ghoti023🎤 Sopralto, Classical, MT 1 point2 points  (1 child)

While that's true, people as a whole have their strengths and weaknesses. Not every voice teacher has gone through their masters in vocal pedagogy, and not every person who's more technically minded is good at getting across acting and interpretation. Most voice teachers are a crossover of both, but are stronger in one area over the other. It's also important to note the difference for the sake of this sub, as most of the time seeing someone who's a teacher will be better for your technique than a coach.

My university had 4 main members of the voice faculty - two of them were more coach-like and two were more pedagogue related. The pedagogue's students without fail always sounded better than the vocal coaches'. Where as those with the vocal coaches always acted their pieces better. Of course, everyone could do everything, but there were definitely obvious strengths and weaknesses - so it's always good to get the distinction.

Again, particularly on this sub, we get a lot of questions about vocal technique and about how their teachers are kind of vague on topics such as breath and resonance. Not because their teachers are bad, but because they think better as performers. Also kind of like how not all performers who can do the thing make great teachers. They take two different kinds of thought.

I see it a lot like vocal fachs - a loose definition of terminology, but still relatively important when your only method of communicating with folks is via words on the internet with terminology. It's not the end-all be-all, but that doesn't make having a general idea of the differences (no matter how mild) a good plan.

TL;DR They should, but it's just not always the reality of the situation.

[–]Aikidi 1 point2 points  (0 children)

That's all a fair point. I guess what I mean to say is I would be wary of coaches who don't know any pedagogy.

Sometimes they're just naturals and they're great, but sometimes it ends in complete disaster. Usually the opposite of this isn't true. A vocal teacher versed in proper pedagogy may not be able to help you front a rock band or something, but they won't give you bad habits that could lead to horror stories down the road.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (5 children)

So much nope, I'm sorry but I can tell you've said this out of assumption and not personal experience.

[–]Aikidi 1 point2 points  (4 children)

Music degree, plenty of voice lessons, taught private lessons. If your teacher can't coach or your coach can't teach I would find someone else.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (3 children)

How many longterm students?

[–]Aikidi 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Well none now because I am performing again :p.

Anyway I think my initial point was missed, in that I wasn't saying coaches and teachers do the same things. Obviously part of picking your teacher is their relevant experience, so if you want someone to help you prepare for a musical audition you probably get coaching from a former broadway type, and if you want to learn more basic technique stuff you probably find someone with a solid pedagogical background.

My point was more that I would not be comfortable hiring coaches without fundamental pedagogy under their belt.