R&B and Soul are such amazing and expressive genres of singing and require a great deal of singing skill and stylistic chops to get right. R&B has a rich history and borrows heavily from soul, jazz, blues, and gospel which makes it a rich and deep music.
Many R&B or soul singers have a lot of experience styling R&B-like runs (aka: melismas) but lack the technique needed to hold out notes for longer periods without breathing, or have the powerful high range that singing R&B and soul music tends to demand. So I like to talk to and listen to beginning or new singers who come in for R&B and soul singing lessons to see and hear the style of artist they seem to want to be and build techniques that will get them to be able to perform the things they are trying vocally.
Most R&B and Soul singers need to have breathing and breath support covered in the singing lessons (these are two different techniques useful in this style of music as well as others), and to find a right mixture of voice to air that fits with the style of singing they wanna do.
Also, in R&B and Soul singing a lot of times the melismas (vocal runs and ornaments) lack a definition – they can be kinda slurry or sloppy. So in the singing lessons I often introduce singers to breathing and breath support as well as focus excerises which can make the voice more powerful and allow the singer to play around with the breathiness of the sound. Something a lot of people who come in as beginners to singing technique might not know is that breathiness is on one end of a spectrum to a certain extent and power on the other – at least in the beginning. Of course, with voice lessons and training the quiet voice helps with getting power into the voice – and training a powerful voice can help with getting a voice that sounds well put together in the softer dynamic range. They kind of inform each other as techniques and R&B and Soul both use these vocal highs and lows to communicate powerfully.
My philosophy in the singing lessons is to try to hear what the singer wants to do as an artist and then give them the tools to do that. Sometimes you have to work backwards from that and help the student get an idea of some styles they might wanna sing in – which is vocal coaching as opposed to vocal technique – but most people who come in wanting to sing R&B or soul music have done a lot of listening to these genres and already have a stylistic identity which I feel like you have to honour.
The best thing to do for beginning R&B singers who are looking for singing lessons is to come in for a first lesson and jsut see how it is for you. I recommend this whether you take singing/voice lessons with me or chose to study vocal tehcnique elsewhere – it’s always good to do a first lesson and just see how the student/teacher dynaomic is, to make sure the teacher respects you and who you are, and to see if you learn useful stuff in the singing lesson. After the first lesson, you should have a better idea if you might wanna contiue with singing lessons here. Most singers do come back in, but you’re not going to have a good working relationship with every voice teacher, so it’s good to maybe do a first voice lesson and just make sure it’s a good dynamic.