The Voice Teacher VS. The Voice Coach. One in the same or completely different?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 by Thomas, Michele | Education

by Michele Thomas

Singing is something you do.  Your voice is the instrument in which you use to do it.

That being said, the difference between a voice and a singing lesson will ultimately lie with the teaching content that your vocal coach provides as part of your instruction.  This is more than just your instructor's personal style of teaching.  This is literally what they teach to you in your lesson.  For example if your instructor focuses mostly on…

  • - Song preparation & rehearsal
  • - Ear & pitch training
  • - Song interpretation
  • - Performance skills

…then you might say this is more of a singing lesson than a voice lesson.  Because these are the technical attributes that pertain to the creation and artistry of music.  The ultimate result is that the student comes away with the ability to give a great performance.  However if your lessons are more focused on….

  • - Vocal Muscle Conditioning through intensive vocal warmups & exercises
  • - Breath Support & Control
  • - A personalized vocal exercise regimen
  • - Vocal self-care and health

….then you are probably looking at more of a voice lesson, with the emphasis being put on the actual vocal instrument and how best to exercise it and utilize it.  With such attention to the conditioning of the voice the end result is more technical control of your singing, and better vocal health which translates to strength and stamina for the longevity of your singing life.

Ideally, one would hope to have a integration of both a singing and voice lesson as part of their overall instruction.  And in all actuality most vocal instructors aim to combine all of these components into their program of study.  Yet there is also the matter of the aptitude level of the student coming into the lesson, in other words, what are your musical and vocal abilities at the beginning of lessons?  This will vary widely from student to student depending on how actively the participate in singing, how much training and education they've had exposure to and any natural abilities they bring to the table.  (Notice I listed the "natural talent" factor last as it is not the single factor in the success of a singer…)

It is the culmination of many of these components that will most likely dictate whether your lesson looks more like a singing lesson or a voice lesson.  In cooperation with your instructor, you can get an assessment of your skills and learn what type of instruction might benefit you the most according to your goals and passions.

The Whole Singer - Singer's Diet & Nutrition

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by Thomas, Michele | Vocal Health

This month's posts features articles from two of my favorite experts in the field of vocal coaching.  Jeannie Deva offers a quick and concise guide to understanding the most important physical roadblocks certain foods may present to the voice.  And Cari Cole, celebrity vocal coach offers holistic prescriptions to some of the most common singer ailments including sore throats and hoarseness.  Together they give a wider perspective to how best treat and care for your voice, and even offer some smart tips that you may have never heard of!  Read more below...

Keeping Voices Well During Cold Season: Healthy Singer's Tea

Saturday, February 23, 2013 by Thomas, Michele | Vocal Health

by Michele Thomas


Colds are so much worse for singers...

So many of my students are consistently sick from cold viruses this season! I think with far more people suffering with regular allergies and even more erratic weather here in Chicago than usual, keeping your immunity strong is more of a challenge than ever! And for myself and my students - trying to keep your voice in a healthy state takes a good amount of diligence.

Because it's not just the cold virus itself that gets us. It's the days (or weeks) of recovery after the virus is done. Congestion, stuffy noses, lingering coughs, thick mucus and phlegm (ewwww!) - all of which interfere with the functioning of a singing voice. The sometimes long wait for your voice to fully recover can be frustrating.  And for active and/or professional singers, the recovery time has to be even swifter in order to get the voice back in shape...

The saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I say this needs to be the mindset of every singer when it comes to care of their voice. It's important to be proactive in the health of your voice by not only choosing habits that keep your immune system strong but also creating a shield against the constant array of viral and environmental combatants out there.

Healthy Singer's Tea - A Natural Remedy

Try this all-natural delicious hot beverage! This is a great go-to tea whenever you feel a cold coming on. (It has helped me ward off sickness all season long!) It soothes sore throats and coughs, breaks fevers, quells nausea, boosts digestion and fights stomach bugs too!

Fighting cold and flu is especially important for singers as sore throats, excess mucus and congestion have negative effects on your singing voice. And trying to sing under these conditions can cause discomfort to the vocal muscles, not to mention potential vocal injury.

Here's a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to make the tea. (All from my humble kitchen!)


- 1 inch chunk fresh ginger, thinly sliced or grated (no need to peel)

- 16 ounces boiling water

- 1 heaping tablespoon honey (Or more to taste)

- 2 fresh squeezed lemon wedges

- 3 fresh thyme sprigs

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- 6 whole cloves

- 1 star anise pod


1.) Put on a pot of boiling water.  You will need 16 ounces for this recipe. 

2.) Slice up one inch chunk ginger root.  (No need to peel it, just slice it whole) I tend to use a bit more because I like my tea stonger...

3.) A lemon wedge. (1/4 of a lemon) Again, more if you like the taste of it...


4.) Three fresh thyme sprigs - one of my favorite smelling fresh herbs!  You can find these in the produce section of most grocery stores.

5.) Two cinnamon sticks.  Again I like to add an extra stick... just as I will for the other spices.  Because it ends up tasting like hot apple cider to me! (yum!)

6.) Six whole cloves.  I found these at Whole Foods Market, but my favorite place to get the best spices is The Spice House in Evanston, IL!


7.) One star anise pod. (pronounced "AN-iss")  These I got from Savory Spice Shop in Hinsdale, IL - another great spice shop! The broken star anise pieces are cheaper in price than the whole star anise pods, so you can save a little money on them...


8.) Assemble all your solid ingredients in a thermos or thermal carafe like shown here.  (Something that is meant to keep beverages hot.) Be sure that the container can hold 16 ounces of water.


9.) Add one heaping tablespoon of honey. Or more to taste. (And you KNOW I used more than that!) It's good for you too...if you're not a diabetic she says under her breath. 

10.) Add your lemon juice.  I like to squeeze mine into a cup before hand...

11.) Once your hot water is boiled you can add that as well.  16 ounces (or 2 cups)

12.) Stir it all up and seal the container tight.  This is going to steep for about 30 minutes to an hour.  For a even stronger,  more potent brew I recommend letting it steep overnight which I love to do.

Strain the tea through a strainer before serving.  (Or leave everything in the pot which is what I do!) And sit down for a nice cup of soothing, healthful tea! (Look, I even got the steam showing up in the picture! Nice!) Why buy ThermaFlu in the store - other than the obvious convenience - when you can drink this all-natural and none fake tasting beverage for your cold?  Enjoy!


*Adapted from Natural Health magazine. Article by Maria Noel Groves, clinical herbalist at Wintergreen Botanicals, L.L.C., in Allenstown, N.H.

Michele Thomas | SOULSTREAM MUSIC All Rights Reserved 2013