You are a singer and consider hiring a pronunciation coach but you are not sure if you really need one or if this isn’t just an other fancy way of killing time? After all, there are lots of recordings on YouTube you could learn of, couldn’t you? (This is a rhethorical question and the answer is always NO! You might want to read this article about it).
So, when do you need a pronunciation coach?
Well, there are several situations indicating that working with a pronunciation coach will definitely make sense for you:
You are losing time in your singing lessons because the teacher has to go over pronunciation
Imagine you are a perfect illiterate when it comes to the kitchen and you want to learn how to bake a cake. When you have finally found a teacher, you wouldn’t want to lose time in your lessons because they had to explain how to use the oven, the scales and the mixer, right?
It’s the same with singing and pronunciation: you take singing lessons because you want your teacher to advice you on how to best use this beautiful instrument called voice. You want to learn about vocal techniques and how to use breath support, how to tackle the passagio, and where the voice resonates in your body. In short: you want to learn every aspect of singing. When in addition to that your teacher has to correct your pronunciation, you will lose precious time. That said, get thee to a pronunciation coach!
You want to learn techniques of professional diction preparation
Staying with the comparison of baking I’d say that knowing how to prepare a dough will help you a lot when learning how to bake cakes.
Every language has its general rules of pronunciation. To know these basics will save you a bunch of time in preparation and thus make your life a lot easier.
Imagine being able to prepare the pronunciation of a text on your own by just knowing, for example, that a vowel followed by a double consonant is pronounced open and short.
At the same time, you want to have somebody who can tell you exactly if your pronunciation is correct and who can help you for example to produce a genuine “ch”-sound and tell you how to form a proper R.
You are preparing for a role, a recording, an audition or a singing workshop with a top coach
When you are asked to bake a special cake for your mum’s birthday, you might want to make sure that you have learned and practised all the skills necessary for that task.
First of all: congrats! You got the role or the invitation and that’s wonderful. Now, it’s preparation time. I strongly recommend doing (musical, historical and societal) research on your pieces.
The next step is to get clear on every nuance of pronunciation and then: practice, practice, practice.
Only when you have internalized your vocal and diction techniques will you be able to work on your interpretation. However, internalizing takes time! This is, why it is so important to start preparing well in advance.
You want to have up-to-date information on pronunciation
When baking a cake, you will most likely choose a modern recipe, not one from 1898.
Language changes in the course of time. What was state of the art some decades ago might be outdated today. Admittedly, we may be talking about minor things here. Nevertheless, these issues could decide upon either “accurate pronunciation” or “what(s)hesays?”, upon “you get the role” or “thank you – next one please”.
When you work with a pronunciation coach, you want to make sure that they have an ongoing personal experience of language learning and the skills, motivation and knowledge to teach it.
You want to understand how the song text’s sounds and rhythms serve the meaning and the music.
This is not only the icing of the cake but the whole elaborate cake design!
Ah, my favourite subject! I simply love analysing a text with regard to its musicality. The use of words, the stylistic devices and the rhythm of the language are instruments, as well. It’s amazing how for example the use of bright or dark vowels can influence the mood of a song; or how onomatopoeic sounds and words may support the rhythm and complement the musical flow. Analyis and proper pronunciation not only help you to articulate correctly and understand the overall and detailed meaning of the text. They also endow you with a deep comprehension of the poet’s (and the composer’s) thoughts and intention. In the end this will be the key to a great performance.
Now, there are also a few situations when a pronunciation coach won’t be of use for you (yet):
1) You are just beginning to sing
When you want to bake a cake, concentrate on the basics first before you start to learn about icing.
In that case, concentrate solely on singing. You must build a solid basis from which to move forward. The time will come, when you will start to sing arias in languages different from your native one and then you may need a coach. Not earlier.
2) Your audition, recording, concert etc. is tomorrow
When your mum is going to celebrate her birthday tomorrow and you want to make her an exquisitely embellished cake, it’s too late to start baking it now.
Although I do offer emergency-lessons, I strongly recommend preparing your role or arias well in advance. It’s very difficult to learn and impossible to internalize (!) something new. Or even worse: wipe out mistakes you already acquired in such a short time and under severe pressure.
3) You are not willing to put in the necessary effort
You want to bake a cake but are not willing to fetch all the ingredients? This will never work.
Learning correct pronunciation, as well as training to become a singer requires time. A large amount of time. If, for whatever reason, you are not willing to take that time and put in the necessary effort, spare your money and your coach’s time and do something else.