We all know that it’s very easy to sell something to someone who has no information than to have success with someone who is knowledgable. The Simms Clothing company has as its motto, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” They mean, of course, that people who are knowledgeable about high quality clothing will recognize the bargains at Simms’ as being good ones.
If you don’t know what “high quality” is you can buy “off the shelf” and think you are getting a bargain when you are just being ripped off. But quality costs more because it is quality. When it comes to services rather than goods, that’s even more importantly true.
If you “price shop” for a service you are making a big mistake. Singing teachers are not brands of laundry detergent. It would be much more useful to save up for one or two lessons with a well-established, highly regarded expert than to buy whatever is “inexpensive” in bulk. You might learn more from two really excellent lessons from a master teacher than from a dozen from someone who barely knows what’s what.
If you are being told that you can learn “all you need to know” in a few short lessons you should be highly suspicious. Be wary of all “the 10 best tips” people. There is nothing worthwhile that can be learned through 10 best tips, or 40 best tips, or even 500 best tips, although that larger number might be more useful, especially if the tips came from a real expert.
Recently I had a student who had studied seriously elsewhere and came to me with a number of significant technical problems. Breathing and coordination issues, tone quality problems and lack of awareness just generally. This was a large-framed person with an overly forward sound, a tight throat and less than stellar control over either body or throat. Still, progress was being made, sometimes significantly, and there was talent there and a lot of vocal potential. Then, just as things were beginning to turn around, the student disappeared to work with someone else. Happens. Is that other person going to know what to do? The best odds are only 50/50. That’s quite a risk to take if you have just started to get over your problems.
But some individuals like their problems. They enjoy the struggle. They identify with it. Maybe their “not-so-great” vocal behaviors were not, in fact, unconscious or accidental but deliberate. Maybe the singer has no clear idea of what encompasses good vocal production or free singing. Maybe someone else was very flattering in lessons and that ploy worked well enough to pull the student away.
In the end, you do not have an unlimited number of years to get things right and get out into the world as a professional singer. If you come to New York City and you have various technical issues you can’t spend forever fixing what’s wrong. There are too many folks who arrive here without those challenges who are your competition and they will be spending time learning rep while you are trying to figure out how to use your voice and body properly and get a better, freer sound. The worse off you are, the more you are vulnerable to becoming the victim of vocal “snake oil” salesmen.
If you get sold a bill of goods because you did not do “due diligence” regarding investigating your singing teacher comparing him or her to others with more experience, more skill and a more reliable reputation over many many years, it becomes your own fault if you get taken advantage of as you study. Be careful. Think. Use your eyes and ears.