When you go to a used car lot to buy a car, how do you know if the car you are buying is what they say it is? One good thing that we have now is online resources. You can look up all kinds of things about cars before you buy one.
How do you know when you start taking singing lessons that the teacher you have is the best one for you? There are no rating systems and, even if there were, how would you know if they were truthful or not? It comes down to reputation or personal recommendation or trial and error, or maybe you are related to a singing teacher!
If you can find a teacher who is a faculty at a highly rated college or university program, that should be a good place to begin. People who are knowledgable in singing have hired this individual. Perhaps you could research a famous vocalist you like and ask that person if they have a teacher to recommend. If you know someone who sings professionally you could ask that person for a recommendation or advice about how to search. You could go onto one of the singing teacher sites and look at what people have written there. They have lists of teachers.
Still, the “trial and error” part is hard to circumvent. Since the process of learning to sing is complex if done well and confusing if not, it takes a while to determine if what you are being taught is what you actually ought to be learning. You have to do what you are being asked for a while in order to see if it has an impact on how your sound when you sing, and how you feel. If you sound better and feel better, you might be working with someone who is a good choice.
But you can sound better and feel better for a while and then start to sound not so good and feel even worse, even if you are doing the same thing. How could that be possible? It’s like your car develops a knock even though you’ve taken good care of it.
When you are young, particularly if you are talented, training can take you too far too fast. You wouldn’t know until it is too late, until you were already in trouble.
I know many many people who have been in this situation. It isn’t so that it is unheard of. Most of the people I’ve spoken to who have gotten caught this way who are still singing managed to dig themselves out, sometimes with help and sometimes on their own. The rest — gave up and stopped singing.
It’s possible to push the muscles of the throat and body to do more than they should particularly when the vocalist is young, but adults can get caught this way, too. The symptoms include inability to stay on pitch or to sustain high notes, wide, wobbly or too obvious vibrato, extreme effort to use “breath support” on even moderate phrases, a feeling of squeezing in the throat and neck, and a necessity to over open the mouth/jaw and sometimes to nod the head in a downward way while going to higher pitches. The vocal folds, when observed, could be normal, but the response the singer gets is not. This is an insidious problem and one that many singing teachers not only do not know about, they might even be unknowingly responsible for causing it.
It’s not quite the same thing when you start to study singing as when you go out to buy a used car. You can look up car statistics online. You have to be a bit more careful when you look for someone to teach you how to sing.