If you are just starting out as a singing teacher and wondering what gear and resources you need then here is my recommended top 10 list.
One of my favourite jobs is being a singing teacher trainer for BAST Training. On the course, we discuss and look at bits of equipment as well as how to successfully find students and market your teaching studio. Just like any other business you should aim to start with the minimum, don’t overspend before you start earning. Gradually add gear and resources as money allows. Put aside a percentage of your earnings towards teaching resources and studio equipment. You will be surprised at how little you need to get going.
Here are my top 10 teaching studio resources
1. Piano/keyboard 5 or more octaves
Sure there are singing teachers who teach without a piano but I personally feel that this is inadequate especially if you are working on vocal technique such as developing the range, strength, stamina and transitional areas of the voice. I advise that you take piano lessons to get your fingers around the basic scales if you don’t know how to play the piano. With practice, you will be amazed at how much more in control you are of a person’s voice. Scales along with vowel/consonant sounds are the staple building blocks of vocal development.
If you are only working on style then a piano may not be as essential. Some teachers use the guitar.
2. Computer with internet access
You will find it is nearly impossible to run a successful business without a computer or internet access. Email is a quick and easy way to communicate with students and potential students. The great thing is you can do this any time of the day or set up automated responses reducing the loss of clients because you couldn’t get to the phone.
It would be difficult to build your business as a singing teacher without a website to let people know of the service you offer. So a website, even a basic one is a must. Bookings for lessons can also be made online. Check out this great service musicteachershelper.com, they offer a well thought out and comprehensive service to help with record keeping, bookings, invoicing, practice log and even a free website for music teachers. If you decide to join then here is a promo code giving you 20% off your first month
Paypal and internet banking transfer are fantastic inventions. I make sure every new student pays for their first lesson up front. This prevents no-shows or ensures I get paid regardless. I have a 24-hour cancellation policy and this is plastered all over my emails, website, services leaflet and in the studio. Trust me you only need to sit there a few times twiddling your thumbs and fuming at the waste of time before realise pre-payment for newbies and transparent cancellation policy are a must.
Once you are more confident as a singing teacher you can offer Skype lessons. Whilst this method will never be better than an in-person one2one lesson, you will be amazed just how much you can achieve this way. I worked with a young man over telephone and Skype for a year before meeting him in person, managing to help him develop his first and second transition to a high standard.
3. Sound system/speakers, MP3 player/CD player
To play backings or listen to tracks. These days most singers have their music on their smartphone. In this case, all you need are speakers with a 3.5mm audio jack cable or Bluetooth. I use Harman Kardon speakers (below is the Bluetooth version), not only are they a great talking point but they sound awesome. I have not had to use a CD player for over a year now. When I first started in this game I was taping lessons onto cassette tapes…yes, I AM THAT OLD!
4. Music/song books/Wikaphonia/backing tracks (YouTube/Spotify) Capo
Certain genres such as classical and musical theatre always use sheet music. Contemporary genres not so much but still relevant. Local music stores, Amazon and musicnotes.com are good resources for sheet music. musicnotes.com has an iPad app to download your sheet music to, you can then transpose the music in the app. I LOVE this facility, transposing on the spot takes up too much on my brain space, and takes my focus away from the singer.
These days most popular songs have a backing version on YouTube. Occasionally you have to search harder or find someone to create a backing. Obviously, if you are a proficient pianist or guitarist then you can accompany the singer, but remember it is hard to then focus on the student’s voice and performance when you are focused on other things.
5. Recording device e.g.. Garage band, MP3 recorder, mobile, Superscope or similar (expensive), iPod with mic, Dictaphone
If you want your students to improve they will need to practice what you have taught them in the lesson. No one can remember everything their singing teacher tells them. By recording the lessons students can practice along with the exercises you gave them in the lesson. They can also listen back to themselves and hear themselves externally, which is an invaluable learning tool. Also if the student becomes despondent with their progress it’s great to have a record of where they started, they can listen back and realize they have progressed. I use a Tascam Digital recorder (see below). It records the lesson as an mp3 file which can easily be transferred onto my computer either via USB cable or the memory stick, then I pop the file up on Dropbox to a folder dedicated to the student who then downloads it to their computer – boom!
It is important to keep time so you don’t run late or cut a lesson short. It is easy to lose track of time when you’re concentrating…and having fun!
7. Mirror (I suggest full length)
Students sometimes need to see what they are doing to make changes or recognize they have an issue. Good for postural issues, watching out for undesirable tension, checking out the mouth, lips, tongue and jaw.
Q: What do you say to a vocalist at the door?
A: It doesn’t matter what you say, she still won’t know when to come in.
Let’s stop those jokes about singers and their timekeeping! We are as responsible as the drummer for keeping time…it comes under “musicianship”, we are musicians too. Plenty of metronome apps available for smartphones and online. Or of course, there is the old school option.
9. Music stand
um, for sheet music? Or lyrics…or resting your pencil or bottle of water on?
10. Microphone, stand and PA
Learning to sing through a microphone and PA system is part of the contemporary singer’s education. Not so necessary for classical singers, though concert singers may need to know how to use a mic these days. MT singers tend to use a headset mic strategically positioned to capture their voice, once in place they don’t have to think about it too much.
I have the Audix OM2 mics with an Alto Mixpack Express PA system. To be honest I don’t think the Alto is the greatest PA system but it’s cheaper than some of the others. If you can afford it go for a more reputable brand much as Fender or Peavey – check out Ebay for secondhand gear, take a techie person with you to check it out if you aren’t confident with gear.
Make sure you have a box of tissues to hand!
Singing can be emotional and sometimes the singing lesson is a good place to offload! Also every now and then people need to blow their noses or sneeze…though if it’s a full on cold I would make sure you have a studio policy against students turning up at your lesson with contagious illnesses, if you get it then that’s a loss of income!