What is a Voice Coach?
News Posted: 17 November 2020
What is a voice coach?
If you Google ‘voice coach’, you’re in for a confusing surprise. It is a broad term used for a variety of voice practitioners including presentation coaches and singing teachers.
Here’s my definition of a voice coach based on what I do:
Someone who works with the voice, body and language to help people communicate in a particular professional environment.
I am concerned with the spoken word, its technical production and communication in its broadest sense.
I’ve identified 6 different types of voice coach:
- A singing teacher/ singing voice coach
- Speech and language therapist
- Accent and dialect voice coach
- Drama and performing arts voice coach
- Therapeutic voice coach
- Business and media voice coach
I’m going to run through each one so you can decide which one is right for you.
1. Singing teacher/ singing coaches
Who are singing teachers and singing coaches?
Both in UK and in US singing teachers may call themselves voice coaches or vocal coaches. They are concerned exclusively with singing and not the spoken word. There is considerable debate and confusion about what is a singing teacher, a voice coach and a vocal coach in the singing profession itself.
What do singing teachers and singing coaches do?
- A singing teacher helps you develop your singing voice. There will be vocal exercises to further your technique and improve those areas in your voice which are not working.
- A vocal coach/voice coach works with people who can sing already. They help with the interpretation of the song you want to perform, its phrasing and diction. They might also make cuts to the song and create arrangements that are best suited to the individual’s voice.
2. Speech and language therapists
Who are speech and language therapists?
- Speech and language therapists (SLT) have a science based training and often work within the NHS. They deal with problems around communication, eating and swallowing. SLT’s may have patients referred to them by ENT doctors and after giving a course of treatment, might refer patients on to physiotherapists, psychotherapists or another consultant.
What do speech and language therapists do?
- They treat children and adults with communication problems arising from issues such as autism, selective mutism or mental disorders.
- They treat people whose speech has been affected by neurological impairment, for example, by a stroke, Parkinson’s Disease or a head injury .
- Stammering, hearing impairment affecting speech, learning disabilities and delayed speech in children also fall under the expertise of SLT’s.
3. Accent and dialect voice coaches
Who are accent and dialect coaches?
- Accent and dialect coaches work with actors to help them create an accent for stage, film, TV or radio. The accent or dialect is specific to a geographical area and perhaps, if the script is not set in the present, the accent is also specific to time.
- They also work with non-native speakers of English to improve their pronunciation and intonation in English or indeed with someone who wants to soften a native dialect of English.
What do accent and dialect coaches do?
- If a play by Noel Coward were being staged such as ‘Private Lives’ or an Oscar Wilde play such as ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ an upper class accent would be required belonging to around the 1880’s to 1920’s. Alternatively, a dialect coach might be called upon to coach actors for a cockney accent such as you find in Harold Pinter plays like the ‘Birthday Party’ or in the ‘Caretaker’. The accents in both Coward, Wilde and Pinter are vital to the rhythm of the dialogue, the characterisation and the humour.
- An accent and dialect coach might also help English actors speak English with a French accent or, as I mentioned above, work with a French actor to neutralise their own accent.
4. Drama and performing arts voice coaches
Who are drama and performing arts coaches?
These voice coaches work in a drama school, a theatre or with a theatre company. In drama school they teach technical voice production which forms a major part of an actor’s training. In theatres these voice coaches work with actors and check whether their voice is working at its optimum and successfully expressing the character they are portraying. They might also combine their role with that of an accent and dialect coach.
What do drama and performing arts coaches do?
- They prepare and deliver a structured programme of study to train the voice of student actors at drama schools for the vocal rigours of working in the theatre.
- The help an actor’s voice respond to the emotional impulses of the character they are playing.
5. Therapeutic voice coaches
Who are therapeutic voice coaches?
The role of ‘therapeutic’ voice teachers is to free and release the voice using singing, chanting or speaking to develop one’s own sense of wholeness.
What do therapeutic voice coaches do?
There is less emphasis on technical voice production and more emphasis on expressing yourself via sound and letting go of any inhibitions that might block this. The focus tends to be on singing but may also include speaking. There may be references to paradigms from the world of therapy, ancient musical systems or folk music.
Business and media voice coaches
Who are business and media voice coaches?
They adapt techniques and skills taught to actors for use in the business world. Most voice coaches will also supplement voice training with a range of other communication skills to create a programme of embodied leadership.
What do business and media voice coaches do?
- The help to create executive presence, credibility and personal impact. They might also include influencing, presentation skills and messaging.
- Some journalists use voice coaches on their media training programmes in preparing people to effectively negotiate interviews on TV or radio. The voice coach will look at the body language, voice and overall impression the individual is giving while the journalist is concerned with the message itself and how questions are negotiated.
When voice coaches collide
Just to confuse issues further voice coaches are eclectic creatures. One voice coach I know works with the spoken word as well as singing. Another accent and dialect coach also works in business. I have worked with people who have lost their voice with good results but I am not a speech and language therapist.
So when choosing a voice coach to help you fulfil your professional objectives, it's useful to look at the experience they have in adapting voice work to the business world.
- Can their skills meet your objectives?
- Which professions do they work with and at what level?
- Have they worked with other clients who have similar objectives to yours?
- Can they help you to influence upwards, if that’s your aim?
- Does their work extend to include leadership?
Don’t be too surprised if the work itself is slightly left field, physically based and like nothing you’ve done before. It really is transformative!
I’m the type of voice coach who works with business leaders.
To give you an idea of the people I work with and what I help them with, here are some of my more recent clients:
- A senior manager who found it difficult to make an impression with the board and as a consequence was being passed over for promotion
- A barrister who had lost his voice. He used his voice for hours a day in court in an extremely pressurised environment
- A start up IT director who was failing to get investment for a product he knew was pure gold
- A director of finance who felt she lacked credibility
- A CFO who felt he didn’t have the charisma of leadership for the next level up
Before working with clients I recommend a 30 minute consultation on zoom to discuss how this type of coaching can work for you. I then draw up a detailed proposal of your learning outcomes, your journey to get to your goals and the time frame involved. I then present this back to you in another zoom call. There's no fee for this process and no obligation to continue.
Put your name and email address here and I’ll get back to you.