There are many music schools and singing teachers who specialise in teaching certain styles of music, so they tend to be the most obvious options people look at when they want to learn to sing songs of a particular genre.
However, I’ve started to notice a tendency where some of these teachers focus only on the genre, and neglect working on the learner’s fundamental singing ability and basic vocal techniques.
Most people who want to take up singing lessons don’t realise that this is important, and may work with teachers who fail to cover the basics and want to focus solely on the song or genre.
A quick word on reading reviews of music schools and singing teachers: Reviews are applicable to the person who wrote them, and may not be an accurate depiction of what you can expect. Thus reading positive reviews doesn’t necessarily mean that their methodology and teaching style would be the most suitable for you.
Thus I’d recommend doing trial sessions with different teachers or schools, so you’ll get a sense of what they are like, who you feel most comfortable with, and which exercises bring you closer to the result you seek.
I’ve had participants in my online singing workshops who have their own singing teacher, but it shows in their singing that a lot of the basic vocal foundation has been glossed over. And when I ran through some basic exercises with them, such as the right breathing technique, they expressed never learning anything like this from their singing teacher.
For some of these students, they simply needed a little coaching in the right vocal technique and they would see tremendous improvement, and I felt that if their teacher had taken the time to cover these fundamental areas with them, and they practiced consistently, it would be much easier for them to pick up more advanced techniques like singing in a particular style or genre.
Mastering the basic techniques and laying a solid foundation for your voice increases your vocal dexterity, which allows you to easily adjust your voice according to what’s required for different songs, styles and musical genres.
But if you sense that your voice doesn’t have a lot of power or resonance in it, or you get breathless after talking continuously for a few minutes, or your voice hurts and sounds hoarse after talking for some time… these are usually indications that your vocal fundamentals aren’t quite honed yet, and that’s where your voice teacher needs to focus on with you, and not on musical style or genre, or how to sing a specific song.
A quick word about singing exams: these require candidates to perform a fixed repertoire according to standards laid out by the exam centre. When you work with a teacher to prepare for such exams, your focus may end up solely on mastering the repertoire, rather than improving your basic singing techniques.
The real test comes when, after you’ve passed your exam, are you able to apply what you’ve learnt and perform other similar songs to the same standard?
If you’re able to, it’s likely then that your basic vocal techniques have been honed. And if you’re not able to, it indicates that something is missing in your basic singing foundation, and you would need to build that up first.
Otherwise, even if you manage to master a new song, the same difficulties will arise again when you try to sing the next new song.
This isn’t only in singing, but in all other skills we may learn, there is always a basic foundation we’ll have to master first before we can attempt something more advanced in that area.
For instance, someone who has mastered only a couple of recipes will almost always need to follow them exactly in order to produce an amazing dish, and they’re less likely to be able to improvise if one ingredient is missing. On the other hand, a well-trained chef who is given five random ingredients will be able to create something amazing from them without having to look up a specific recipe to follow.
Thus my approach as a voice coach is to work on what your voice needs most at this point in time, rather than the specific song or genre you wish to learn. We will still use simple songs as a basis, but the focus is on strengthening the fundamental techniques your voice needs first, and from there you’ll develop the flexibility and dexterity to tackle something more advanced and complex.
In any case, each of us already possesses our own natural singing style, which is shaped by our vocal quality, our personalities and our personal histories.
Working on the basics is also about learning how to be comfortable with who you are and expressing yourself in your natural singing style. Once these become more second-nature to you, then we can talk about the different genres and how to create other personas with your singing, such that you have more versatility and range as a performer or everyday singer.
Ultimately, mastering basic vocal techniques allows you to sustain your voice for longer use and to have more power and resonance in your expression, so when you’re speaking with those around you, presenting at work or recording weekly vlogs, it becomes seamless for you to apply what you’ve learnt in singing lessons into other areas of expression and communication in your life.