I often hear voice lessons and vocal coaching as well as voice teacher and vocal coach used interchangeably; however, a voice lesson/teacher and a vocal coaching/coach are very different. It is important before beginning lessons to understand this vocabulary in order to achieve the type of session you're seeking and know what to expect in your session.
Voice lessons involve a voice teacher and perhaps an accompanist for the lesson. The main purpose of the voice lesson is to work on technical issues surrounding the production of the singing voice in general and as applied to repertoire. Examples of issues that may be addressed during a voice lesson include breath support, resonance, methods of smoothing out the registers, placement, correct ways move the voice from note to note, and more. Vocalizes and exercises are emphasized. During a voice lesson you should already know the repertoire you have been assigned or are working on and ideally have already worked on it with a coach.
The purpose of a vocal coaching/coach on the other hand is to work on the artistry of the repertoire. Little to no time will be spent on vocalizes and exercises and you will be expected to arrive warmed up. Typically a coaching includes only the singer and the vocal coach. The vocal coach is usually not a singer his/herself but often takes on the role of a conductor or director. Examples of issues that may be addressed during a vocal coaching are style, diction, phrasing, communication, presentation, and more. A vocal coach is the person who takes your work in the voice lesson and polishes it off for public performance as well as helps you prepare new repertoire for your voice lessons. For best results, it is recommended to work both with a voice teacher and a voice coach once a week.
An accompanist is NOT a vocal coach but may in some circumstances act as both. An accompanist may play the piano for you in lessons, coaching, performances, auditions, and even just with yourself to help learn the piece. An accompanist is not expected to give technical or artistic feedback; he/she is there to support the singer with his/her accompaniment only. If possible, it is recommended to rehearse your performance or audition repertoire with the accompanist beforehand; however, this is often not possible.
If you'd like more information about the difference between voice lessons/teachers and a vocal coaching/coaches, we're here to answer any questions you may have at email@example.com.