Best Learning From Models, Mentors, and Coaches


Many a singer learns what he knows by “feeling his way along,” listening to (and watching) other singers.  In fact, MOST of us learn how to sing just like that…listening to someone else sing.  This method of learning is called…MODELLING.  You simply watch and learn.  You try to duplicate what you’re seeing and hearing.  The person you watch serves as your MODEL.  There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of learning.


  • The model doesn’t have to cooperate.  You just watch or listen to them.  No matter how famous they are, how inaccessible, you can “steal” their methods or their sounds or their style
  • You don’t need to schedule an appointment. Unlike mentors and coaches, models are just there at your whim. You don’t have to get on their calendar to model them.  Just crank up their CD or watch their music videos.
  • They’re free or nearly free of charge. When you start modeling someone else, they don’t send you a bill.  At most, you’ll have to buy a copy of their CD or video  performance.


  • You must provide ALL the discipline and drive.  Your “whim” can work for OR against you when it comes to making decent progress.  A model can inspire you, but they won’t get  you out of bed and into the practice room
  • Your model can’t provide correction. They usually don’t even know you exist, so they  won’t be able to direct you in any way
  • They can’t tell you whether you’ve chosen a good model for your talent. For instance, you have a nice natural twang to your voice, perfect for country music.  But you decide to model the opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti. He might roll over in his grave, but he can’t tell you to switch to Brad Paisley as your model.


The word “mentor” has become such a buzzword that it has lost some of its impact.  But the concept behind the word is still very powerful.  A mentor is someone who is farther along on the path and agrees to give you some wisdom and advice to help you along.  I often hear people talk about having a “mentor” they’ve never contacted.  That is model, not a mentor.  It’s easy to see what the advantages and disadvantages of the mentor/protégé arrangement are.


  • Direct contact. Even if it’s only occasional, it’ll motivate you.  It allows you to “borrow” discipline from the mentor, since they’ll be asking hard questions to see if you’re doing what they suggest.
  • They can correct you if you give them an honest picture of your situation.
  • You can easily end the relationship if it isn’t doing any good.  Mentors are usually busy people and therefore, they normally value their time.  They’ll usually be glad to end the arrangement if it’s a bad match.


  • Mentors don’t usually see you at work.  They must rely on your questions and feedback to be able to advise and guide you.
  • There are things a mentor can’t teach…like singing or playing a guitar, for instance.  However, they can help you with business, people skills, or even HOW to find a good coach.
  • It takes determination just to find a good mentor. Think of how busy any worthy mentor is and you’ll get the picture.  Most potential mentors have been approached by others to get help.  They learn to put up “tests” to run the lazy ones off without wasting too much of their valuable time.
  • If you find a good mentor, here are a couple of guidelines to keep you from blowing a good thing:  ONLY call on them with a “pressing question” if you have spent at least 2 hours looking online for the answer.  Don’t call “just to chat.”  Don’t EVER make excuses or lament your lack of discipline.  Any mentor worth their salt will only want to give time to people who use their OWN time wisely.


There is a reason Tiger Woods still has a swing coach.  Talented people are great mentors for younger talents…yet they STILL make sure to get coached on a regular basis themselves.  Why?  Because busy people need exterior measures to maintain their progress.  Otherwise, they’d tend to just do what they do as best they could, and they would soon lose their advantage.  In that way these “super-talents” are just like the rest of us…they have to live life, eat, put their pants on, keep a schedule, pay their bills, maintain friendships, and get some sleep.  If it weren’t for a coach, “getting better” might fall through the cracks of their busy lives.  I’d argue that in most cases, the fact that they added a coach to their regular routine accounts for much of their high achievement.


  • They hold the whip.  You can be the most disciplined person in the world and yet a coach can see places where you are not reaching your full potential.  They are paid to “press” those places and keep you going when you would have otherwise stopped short.
  • The right coach is also a good mentor. If your singing coach can also sing well him- or herself, you have a coach AND a mentor all in one.
  • Quick correction.  If you begin to veer off course in one aspect of your voice, it’s no big deal…UNLESS…you keep doing it.  Seeing a coach regularly keeps you from persisting in the wrong direction.


  • They cost money.  Coaches make their living coaching, so unlike an occasional phone call to a mentor, they must be paid for their time.
  • If they are good, it can get difficult to schedule with them.  (This goes for great hair stylists too, but I digress.).
  • Choosing a good coach is a gamble at first.  Before you take your first lesson, unless they came highly recommended, you really don’t know whether or not they are any good.  One coach is not the same as another.  But like choosing a mentor, you should at least have a good idea of their reputation to go on.

My Advice: Don’t Choose Between Models, Mentors, or Coaches… Go for All Three.

  • Choose a model and study their abilities, sing a couple of their songs, watch live footage; just don’t disappear into their  personality
  • Choose a coach based on the best information available.
  • Contact the mentor.  Be determined, but not pushy.  Know ahead of time what you actually want to learn from them.
  • DON’T waste money on a second or third lesson if lesson #1 goes poorly.
  • Use references.

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