Pros and Cons of Online Singing Lessons
Comparing Online To In-Person Voice Lessons for Singers
Online singing lessons are very popular these days for a variety of reasons. Among the most obvious are saving money by not having to pay for transportation and parking, saving time by not having to drive and wait for your lessons to start, and of course the biggest perk of all, having access to specific vocal coaches you might never normally have a chance to work with due to living on the other side of the country… or even the planet! But do these online conveniences outweigh the experience of working with a singing teacher in the same acoustical space with an in-person lesson?
As a teacher with 20+ years working 1-on-1 with singers in person and labeled the “world’s leading online vocal coach” by the Wall Street Journal since 2007, I have been through all of the growing pains of this technological phenomenon with 15 years of overlapping first-hand experiences to answer that very question. After all, I love my online students just as much as my in-persons, but not all lessons (or students) are created equally! Which means online lessons may not be for every singer. But first, for those of you have never experienced online learning or a singing lesson in general, allow me to answer the following:
Do Online Singing Lessons Actually Work?
Yes! Unlike every other musical instrument which can be seen and felt by holding it in our hands, a singing teacher does not have physical access to your vocal instrument (larynx and brain), regardless of being in the same room as you or not. And thanks to the continued advancement in technology, an experienced and knowledgeable vocal coach will be able to communicate their techniques used to help you reach your goals as a singer through everyday devices and video conferencing software such as Skype, FaceTime, FaceBook, Whatsapp and Zoom.
Since most online and in-person lessons share a similar structure, as Jorge Sanchez broke down for us in “What Happens In A Singing Lesson”, let us compare the pros and cons of the most common and valuable aspects of a lesson so you can decide for yourself!
Your First Online Singing Lesson
- Meeting a new vocal coach for the first time can be both an exciting and nerve-filled experience! Since sharing your voice with someone new requires a degree of vulnerability, doing so from home allows you to sing in a more familiar and comfortable environment, especially for those who struggle with performance anxiety (aka stage fright).
- Scheduling several trial lessons or consultations with multiple teachers before settling on one for a more permanent basis is generally easier to do online. This is a recommended approach as finding the best teacher for your voice and artistic goals is essential to long-term growth. If the one you like most turns out to be relatively close by, you may have the option to work with them in person as well!
- Setting up for lessons at home is a lot easier now than it was just 5-10 years ago. You can use any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with a standard internet connection and built in webcam. Your teacher will likely recommend their favorite video-conferencing platform, such as Zoom, Skype or Whatsapp, as there are many to choose from. Check out the FAQ section at the bottom of this article to see my personal recommendations.
- Another benefit of online lessons is that your lessons are less likely to be canceled last minute due to illness. If either you or your teacher are sick and concerned about being contagious, but feel well enough to do the lesson, there is no need to cancel or reschedule!
- Once you find a vocal coach you want to work with, it can sometimes take longer to develop a personal connection through a webcam. That said, a good teacher will be your biggest cheerleader while guiding you towards your personal and professional vocal goals online or otherwise.
- Being in someone else’s space (vocal studio or home) will naturally help you stay focused and pay attention. For this reason, younger students, under the age of 10, and those with ADHD may struggle benefiting fully from a virtual session.
- There is something to be said about the transfer of energy and emotions that occur when first meeting and working with someone in person that simply can’t be replaced by a virtual presence. The nuance of body language, the feel of a handshake (fist bump or hug!), and the general awkwardness of performing directly in front of someone adds to the excitement and development of your “live” performance skills. This lack of physical connection is, in my opinion, the biggest negative to online lessons, but there are some wonderful workarounds discussed below.
Evaluating Your Voice
Due to the lack of physical presence, the teacher must find creative ways to properly evaluate your voice. Fortunately, there are several free tools available to help you work around these challenges. In fact, utilizing some of these items can provide even more accurate and measurable results in your progress:
- Vocal Profile Assessment: Instantly see and measure your relative skills as a singer
- Mirror: Get visual feedback in your expression (exterior muscle behaviors)
- Decibel meter: Monitor dynamics and control over volume/projection
- Metronome: Test and challenge sense of musical timing
- Frequency app: See exactly where you go sharp or flat in your performances
- Keyboard or piano app: Learn basic relationships of pitches and melodies
- Voice recorder: Occasionally playback your performances for self-assessment
- If there is a poor internet connection, the audio and video may skip or compromise in quality. This can make it difficult for your teacher to evaluate the details of your voice and frustrating for you to hear what your teacher is saying. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence with modern technology! In extreme cases, most vocal coaches will accommodate by simply rescheduling or reimbursing the lesson altogether.
- Even with a great microphone and internet connection, a fine degree of quality is likely to be compromised in the singer’s tone or dynamics. However, a knowledgeable vocal coach can easily distinguish between a technological limitation and a vocal imbalance on part of the singer’s performance through audible and visual cues such as changes in your volume, diction, timing, expression, pitch or tone.
- Since the vocal instrument is hard-wired to the entire body, it can be beneficial for your teacher to see you from head to toe during a lesson. This may help them notice any subtle tensions or posture issues, as well as provide additional feedback to improve your overall storytelling in response to body language not visible on screen.
- One of the biggest advantages to online singing is being able to screen record the entire lesson and save it directly to your personal device for playback. Recorded lessons can be used to review details of an exercise and practice along with on the days leading to your next lesson. Plus, you are bound to catch something you may have missed during the session.
- Your teacher can quickly share links such as piano tracks or vocal exercises on YouTube during the lesson via chat section, messages or text. These guides can be used for warm ups and vocal training both during and in between lessons.
- Due to technological limitations (discussed in the next section), online lessons require a fresh take on how to guide a student through a vocal exercise without live accompaniment. A popular approach for experienced singers is to share an audio file for the student to vocalize along with by playing it on a second device. Alternatively, the teacher can demonstrate the exercise and ask you to echo it back in an acapella fashion (no accompaniment). This preferred method can be incredibly revealing and riddled with micro-challenges, which helps to improve your self-awareness as a vocalist. This process will accelerate the learning curve, forcing you to balance your voice in the same way one might learn how to ride a bike without using training wheels! Of course, all of this can be accomplished in an in-person lesson too, but I listed it here as this method is often overlooked and a silver lining to online training.
- Most home setups and online platforms do not allow for simultaneous audio. This means that an online teacher would not be able to play a scale on the piano and hear you vocalize at the same time. As a result, it can be challenging for you, and sometimes your teacher, to determine how accurate your pitch and functional vocal range is through traditional methods.
- Not having to physically go to a teacher’s vocal studio means you will need to find a private space during your lesson time in order to minimize distraction and ease self-consciousness. It’s rather difficult to ‘let go’ and be vulnerable in your training if you are worried whether or not a neighbor can hear you or what a family member may be thinking in the other room! For these reasons, it is ideal to find or create an environment that will allow you to take risks and explore freely. Over the years I have worked with students taking their lesson from their car parked in the middle of a large parking lot, snuggled in the corner of their parents coat closet, in the bedroom or garage away from their siblings, in a nearby park, in the break room at work, in the stairwell of a hospital, in the green room just before going on stage, in the practice room at a University, on a hiking trail while walking their dogs, in the bathroom at a hotel, in the bunk bed of a tour bus… the list goes on and on! The point is, you may have to get creative to get some privacy. but it will be worth the effort.
Singing & Performance
- Singing a song is the best part of a private lesson! When learning online, you learn very quickly to become comfortable on camera, which has become an industry standard for initial auditions in acting, touring musical productions and singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice.
- Your teacher may not be able to accompany you live online, but this affords them the opportunity to focus entirely on your performance rather than be distracted by their own performance on the piano!
- Once again, by recording your voice lesson, you will be able to watch your performances back after the lesson to study and learn from. Your teacher may also provide you with specific tips or exercises to try on your own and you won’t have to worry about writing everything down or trying to remember it all during the lesson.
- If your teacher is well established, they may have a strong social media following in which to share videos of you singing when you are ready. They may also be connected to or able to recommend various singing retreats, national competitions and touring events to participate in.
- Since the music you will be singing to is pre-recorded (unless you are able to accompany yourself on piano or guitar), you will miss out on the feeling of being ‘supported’ by another musician, responding to your personal vocal style and delivery. Nevertheless, your teacher may be able to record a version of the song for you to sing with on your phone or simply send a link to a karaoke video on Youtube. Karaoke-version.com is also a great resource to explore, as they provide modified keys, tempos and even optional instrumentation to help make the song your own.
- If you are pursuing a professional singing career in singing, performing in front of a live audience will be an essential part of your training. Although in-person lessons don’t qualify as having a large audience, online lessons are one step even further removed. Therefore, it will be important to seek local opportunities such as karaoke and open-mic nights or audition for school and community-based productions. Additionally, localized teachers are often “plugged in” to the community and can make specific suggestions and introductions. In either scenario, be sure to record your performances and share them with your teacher for constructive feedback.
- Unless you have another singer in the same room as you, duets are rarely achievable due to latency in the internet connection. This is another reason to look for local opportunities or other musicians and singers to interact with, which will help accelerate your growth.
- Vocal journaling is a fancy title for “what do I practice at home?”. It is important that you practice vocal exercises and monitor your singing often on the days in between vocal lessons in order to see real change in your singing. This is where many students go wrong! Having an online presence and interaction with your teacher already established will make it easier to stay accountable and keep track of what to practice at home by:
- Getting direct links to karaoke tracks or MP3s to practice to from your teacher
- Having sheet music or technique documents at your fingertips (or purchasing it for yourself on sites such as Amazon)
- Taking a Vocal Assessment for you and your teacher to diagnose and monitor vocal progress
- Sharing a Google Doc with a personalized song list, exercise routine and other related goals
All of the above items can be achieved with an in-person lesson as well, so the only con here is the inconvenience of writing things down during your lesson or having to remind your teacher to send a link or two after the lesson is over. And don’t be shy to do just that! You will find that most teachers welcome questions and reminders outside of the lesson as this suggests you are eager to learn.
At the end of the day, if you have a choice between a great vocal coach in person and a great vocal coach online, in-person is the way to go! However, if you don’t connect with your local teacher for any reason (teaching style, level of expertise or personality) it is definitely worth seeking outside of your immediate community. Don’t let distance stop you from reaching your potential as a singer. After all, it is better to be inspired and improve with someone interacting with you on a video screen than to feel lost or limited by someone in the same room. Whichever path is best for you, you can develop all of the following with the right vocal coach:
- Expand and balance your vocal range
- Increase your control over breathing
- Develop a healthy and strong voice
- Prevent vocal fatigue and damage
- Enhance your voice for speaking and acting
- Overcome performance anxieties
- Prepare songs for auditions or touring
- Improve your pitch control and riffs
- Increase your overall confidence in singing
- Understand how your instrument works
- Learn specific exercises that target your voice
If you’re still unsure whether or not an online lesson will provide you what you are looking for, try one! There are also a ton of online singing courses out there to explore which is even more cost effective than private lessons. Either way, it is essential to your progress to find the best vocal coach or program that aligns with your personality, voice and goals! If you’re passionate about singing, it will always be worth the time and effort.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There are many video conferencing platforms and apps to choose from for online learning. Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages based on environment, internet connection, device (mobile, laptop or desktop) and geographical location. Based on personal experience, the best platforms for teaching voice lessons include:
- Skype: This video conferencing software has been on the market the longest and despite some early challenges in technology, it is a reliable platform with all the necessary features for a successful vocal lesson, including adjustable background noise settings, recording add-ons, chat/messaging, a share screen option and multiple users.
- Zoom: This is one of today’s most popular platforms and for good reason. It has many of the same features as Skype and the video streaming tends to be more reliable. One drawback, however, is that it does not save chat history automatically, so if you leave notes or messages for your students during a lesson, make sure they copy paste it somewhere else before the session closes.
- FaceTime: This is a super convenient platform for apple users due to their devices being already connected and always within arms reach! IPhones in particular already have high quality built-in cameras and intuitive sound adjusting technology for a dependable quality. However, there are a couple of major limitations including not being able to record the lessons or “share screen” for visual presentations.
In most cases, online singing lessons are the same rate as in-person lessons. Except you save time and money from not having to travel to and from the lesson. The rate can range anywhere from $30 to $200 depending on the teacher’s years of experience, geographical location, areas of expertise and reputation. If 1-on-1 lessons aren’t in your budget at this time, there are many online singing courses available as well. They are generally much more cost effective and allow you to learn at your own pace. Additionally, some of the more advanced and interactive online courses will provide you with direct help from teachers within the course to provide feedback and assistance when needed.
Singing should be nurtured in a child’s life from the day they are born! However, a structured lesson in a private lesson environment requires a fair amount of focus and commitment. It’s not like piano where a student can see and touch the instrument, which makes new concepts and practices much easier to engage with and understand. For children under 8, it is often recommended to participate in music appreciation classes or small groups to learn melody and rhythm through play. Piano lessons are also a great way to develop a strong musical foundation while encouraging them to vocalize and sing along as often as possible. Children should also explore local opportunities like singing at church and any community plays or talent shows to get stage experience. Depending on the individual attention span and personality of a child, private lessons can be effective starting as early as 8-10 years old. Keep in mind that online lessons require an even greater attention span than in-person as it can be difficult for a teacher to fully engage a young singer outside of the studio environment.
Yes! Online singing lessons are a great way to be introduced to formal vocal training from the comfort of your own home. As you progress, your teacher will help you find ways to share your voice with others and encourage opportunities to sing in front of live audiences as well. 1-on-1 lessons are a great way to reach your personal goals as a singer!