There was a time not that long ago when taking singing lessons would have required repeated trips to an instructor or music studio. For people who don’t have that kind of time, the Internet has spawned lessons of every type, and singing lessons are no exception. All that’s needed is a computer with a high-speed Internet connection, a webcam, a Skype account and a willingness to shed any voice inhibitions with a total stranger.
Online lesson styles and approaches vary greatly—as do prices and quality. “The explosion of social media has, unfortunately, made ‘experts’ out of many more marginal performers and teachers than it has high-quality ones,” said Allen Henderson, executive director of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and a music professor at Georgia Southern University.
Before signing on, Mr. Henderson recommends verifying the credentials of instructors (a Google search is a good start), interviewing them via Skype or phone; and requesting a free trial lesson. He also suggests supplementing the lessons with a few in-person ones.
“I think the greatest benefit can be derived when students have a mix of live and Skype lessons after developing a relationship with a teacher,” he said.
Our first lesson was with Margo LeDuc of Fremont, Calif., who has sung backup for Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, and R&B singer Charlie Wilson, among others, according to her site. Ms. LeDuc, who says she holds a music degree from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music, set the tone for a low-key lesson by appearing onscreen wearing a baseball cap. Ms. LeDuc was the only instructor who asked us to try singing a few lines from an actual song. (The others stuck to vocal exercises for the first lesson.) She asked who our favorite singer was (Al Green) and which of his songs we would like to try (“Let’s Stay Together”). For homework, she gave us a number of vocal exercises. Ms. LeDuc was very encouraging, at one point saying, “You can sing. You’re just going to have to work at it.”
Next we tried Thomas Appell of Orange County, Calif., who told us in an email that he has spent nearly three decades training singers and spent two years playing guitar and singing in a band with drummer Tommy Lee before his Mötley Crüe days.