Dec 182018
Stick figure person surrounded by blah words and bored by the teacher talking too much

I’m surprised how many vocal coaching experts and singing teachers talk so much in lessons.

Usually that makes me think the coach is waiting to hear themselves say something important or useful. Or as I call it, blaguing.

There are some really gifted blaguers out there, but they’re gifted in blaguing rather than in coaching. Good coaching involves, listening, identifying the real problems for a singer and taking them through practical solutions that are relevant to that person and that problem.

In previous articles I’ve described lessons where we’ve solved problems with practical techniques in minutes like belting the money note or improving diction. My favourite type of lesson is one where my singer brings in several songs or several recordings and says “how do I sing this bit” or “I need to perform this song but I don’t sound like the original artist”. That’s a packed problem-solving hour!

It’s the same on my Skype/Facetime/Zoom coaching sessions. The singer gets to sing within the first 5 minutes, and will sing, experiment and embed all the way through the hour. Basically, if I’m talking for more than a few sentences without the singer singing something, I’m not doing my job.

So here are five different types of teacher to look out for in your singing lessons or vocal coaching sessions.

The Blaguer

Blaguer coaching singing with a speech bubble of twaddle words

How well do you understand afterwards what you did in the lesson? 
If you finish the lesson with no idea how to reproduce what you did afterwards at home, or don’t even understand what it was that you did, you could be with a Blaguer. The Blaguer can talk well and use the latest jargon but doesn’t actually share much (or sometimes even know much) that’s useful or practical for you to take away. Make sure you get to know the exact steps you made to get to your new vocal achievements. You need to feel knowledgeable after your lesson.

The Magician

The magician coaching

If you’d love to know what steps you took to achieve what you did but feel you can’t ask or are told “It’s too complicated for you”, you could be with the next-level blaguer – the Magician. This is the teacher who doesn’t want you to understand the ‘magic’ of what they do because they want to keep you coming back (and that means more adulation and more money from you). Look for a teacher who wants you to succeed, and wants you to know enough to stop being a student. You need to feel empowered after your lesson.

The Fussbudget

Fussbudget coaching - fussy lady listening hard and disapproving

How much do you achieve exactly? Do you just sing one section of one song, or single phrases at a time? Do you only sing for 10% of the lesson?
You might be with the Fussbudget. You sing three notes and get stopped for corrections, and you never get to sing more than one phrase. While singing is often about instruction and discussion, mostly it’s about trying things out. Make sure you’re singing or making sung sounds for more than 50% of the lesson. And make sure you get to put the techniques you learn into practice in a whole section of a song, otherwise it’s just not realistic. You need to feel able after your lesson.

The Fanatic

Fanatic coaching - young man in glasses staring intently at you

Find yourself discussing concepts but don’t know how to put them into your own singing? Listen to them talk for 80% of your lesson? You might be with the Fanatic. They’ve learned this fantastic new vocal system /singing exercise routine /anatomical attribute (delete as necessary) and they’re going to explain it to every student they have, in great detail, so you understand exactly where they’re coming from and how much they know. Make sure any discussions are short and relevant to your singing. Then sing and apply the new knowledge vocally. You need to feel clear after your lesson.

The Sovereign

Ego-teaching coaching. Woman wearing crown staring into the mirror

If, at the end of the lesson, you have a list of great students your teacher has worked with, and you’ve got details of their own career and where they’ve performed, you might be with the Sovereign. This teacher encourages you to be in awe of them, perhaps so you don’t ask too many awkward technique questions. While stories of other students or someone else’s career are interesting, unless they are entirely relevant to you moving on in your understanding and technique, they’re padding. They’re best done over a coffee outside the coaching time. After all, your coaching session is about YOU standing on stage or in the studio and singing, not the teacher or their other students. You need to feel like you matter after your lesson.

So there you go. Five types of singing teacher or vocal coach to spot. Unfortunately I’ve worked with examples of them all. If you think you might be studying with the Blaguer, the Magician, the Fussbudget, the Fanatic or the Sovereign, share your experience with me!

Want to find out why Jeremy isn’t a blaguer / magician / fussbudget / fanatic or sovereign? Book a coaching session online for targeted vocal or performance problems to solve, or join Jeremy’s mentoring programme, and experience how fast he works.

  12 Responses to “Singing coaching – 5 teacher types to avoid”

Comments (12)

    You made me laugh a lot! Your drama-look was impressive!
    And when you use the word “awe” I laughed much more… when you read my mail you will understand why.
    Your nuanced opinions and thoughts are precious and exact. As I am a teacher I know how difficult it is to transmit and transfer knowledge, love for a discipline, wisdom as a seed not as something finished, and respect for the pupil.
    Many thanks for this beautiful article.
    Another point for me to searching for your guide.


    Love this. Thanks for the wisdom!


    Brilliant! I’m sure I’ve been taught by each of them plus a few others I could name!: The Rescuer, The Judge, The Sass-Monarch, The Expert…
    Perhaps a new book is needed -‘The Games Singing Coaches Play’!
    I was very impressed by our lesson two summers back, and still listen back to it; such an adult-adult interaction, and inspiring to me as a teacher as well as a student.
    Thanks for a great article, lots of food for thought!


      Thanks Jason Rees, I recognise your teacher types too, although I suspect that book would be somewhat inflammatory! Thanks for your comment on our session. In Gillyanne’s conference at LCM Dr Denise Borland and Ali Bell talked about the Transactional Analysis model and the ideal adult-adult balance. It’s a tricky one to get right in coaching sessions but it pays the most dividends and it’s the most soul-satisfying to do. Glad you liked it – let’s do it again!


    I remember one sovereign telling me ‘this is your space and this is mine. I may enter your space but you may not enter mine.’ Once this person entered my space to check my breathing and gave me a good old squeeze on the sides, without asking me if it was ok, or even telling me it was going to happen. I broke wind, which I had been politely holding in for the session. This teacher left my space very quickly. In this case I suppose you could say that I brought down the monarchy.

    Sadly, I feel that this was the greatest utterance I ever made with this teacher.


    Brilliant! I love the descriptions. Looking back in the past I have come across at least one of each type. Interestingly, the best teachers I have had did not fit any of the categories. Shame this article hadn’t been written 20+ years ago :D. Well said Jeremy!


    I personally love Magicians–but not your definition. Magicians are those who can see what others cannot. It doesn’t mean they cannot teach students to understand. Just reading the Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart. And he was not like like you describe at all.


      Absolutely Meribeth. I think we’re talking semantics here. The Magician I talk about in the article uses his or her skill to obfuscate and glamourise rather than to explore, clarify and share. I have come across more than one Magician in the music industry and the experience was never uplifting.


    SO gonna share this! Well said Sir Jeremy 🙂


    Good article Jeremy. I enjoyed it. Hope you two are doing well.

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