Riffs and Runs: Paul McKay Review

If you have been browsing the web for a web coach, you might be already getting tired of it. All of the courses of the coaches you saw were all about basic, fundamental, simple, yada, yada. Rejoice, my good friend. You have found the person you’ve been looking for.

He’s someone out of the ordinary, and he will not teach you the same things you learned from your high school music teacher or glee coach. ‘Riffs and runs’ is his thing, and it’s a set of technique for aspiring singers who’re done with the core teachings. Without further ado, here he is.

The Coach That Will Take You To The Next Level

The instructor for today’s review is Paul McKay. He’s both a singer and producer. And a few of the people and organizations he had worked with before are Drake, Anthony Brown, and Fantasia Barrino.

Interestingly, he received formal education from the Royal Conservatory of Music as a pianist. Basically, he is another alumnus of the school like Gabriel Burafato. After that, he also obtained a Commerce degree from the University of Toronto.

Despite not pursuing professional vocal training, he made it as a singer and a coach. The unique thing about him as a coach is that his teachings are based on traditional opera training. But instead of teaching opera, he teaches contemporary and pop singing styles.

The Best Vocal Coach In Canada?

Yep, you read that right. He’s selling himself that way. I can’t really contest that since I’ve only read and researched about two of them, which is Gabriel Burafatto (he isn’t even residing in Canada anymore).

But after checking him out, he does have the chops to back up his claim. He’s good at singing, and he has a lot of followers on social media, and his YouTube videos are a hit. Anyway. It’s time to move forward with Paul’s school and his courses.

Aside from his course from Udemy, Paul also established his own school: OneVoice Music Academy. His school’s key copy is that everybody can sing, and he can prove that to you by making you do it. Basically, he turns amateurs into pros and pros into stars.

The courses he offers in Udemy are included in his academy. But instead of focusing on OneVoice Music Academy, or OVMA for short, we’re going to focus on his two main courses. Namely:

  • Riffs and Runs 1
  • Riffs and Runs 2

Here are some of the Aspects I like about this dude

His course pricing is competitive. You only need to pay $19.99. As mentioned, there are two core courses, which will immediately net you around $40. There is a separate course for increasing your range and vocal resonance and tone theory. Both are priced around $12 each.

The entirety of the first course is around an hour and 17 minutes. There are three chapters in the course: introduction to riff and run, pentatonic style, and non-pentatonic.

Be warned that this course isn’t created for new singers. The content is advanced. And it’s actually a breath of fresh air. Most online courses always start from the ground up. If you choose to get budget courses, like most of the classes I review, you’re on your own to learn the advanced stuff by yourself.

Only a few coaches dare to teach this type of singing online since you need the instructor or coach to personally guide you through the learning process. This may be the reason Paul took his presentation approach this way.

Riffs and Runs

Riffs and Runs: A Quick and Dirty Rundown

Also, if you also write your songs or interested in songwriting, you can get a lot from this course. Riffs and runs are basically melodies composed of tones that sound good together and played in succession in one line or bar. If you’re a guitar player, you must be familiar with the term riff.

Here’s a super simplified explanation. Riffs are like chords that play repeatedly. Runs are often played in quick succession running up or down a scale. Riffs and runs often follow popular patterns because  there are a lot of combinations of notes that sound good, but not everything that sounds good is appropriate for the meaning and emotion of a song.

As a songwriter, you can easily place familiar, catchy, and appropriate riffs and runs in your song, which can elevate the musicality and quality of your masterpiece, if you learn the popular ones. As a singer, learning riffs and runs can help you add some spice in your performance to show off your vocal skills and entertain the crowd.

Through the exercises included in the course, you’ll not only improve your voice, but you will also train your ear and learn how to do riffs and runs. Knowing which notes mesh well together can help you sing by ear and harmonize as a backup vocalist even if you heard the songs for the first time. After all, the pentatonic scale only has five notes, and just hitting those five alone can let you safely sing without exactly knowing the key for the song.

Learning the pentatonic scale is the first step in learning jazz and blues. There is a whole set of singing techniques that you can unlock once you learn this scale. After all, it plays around both the major and minor of a key.

Chest, Mixed, and Head Voice

Pacing and Teaching Style

The teaching feels hands on. He doesn’t teach a lot of technical details. His goal is just to train you using modern vocalization techniques and mastering the riffs and runs. The end result is that you will get started on the right path to teaching your voice to deal with modern popular songs.

The pacing is slow, and you’re going to be bombarded with exercises and vocalizations. The course doesn’t teach, but rather it aims to make its students master the art of riffs and runs.

What I really like about his class is that it’s more of a hands-on and exercise approach. Paul sings with you as he keys in the vocalization notes on his piano. It makes me reminisce when I was still in a church choir when I was a kid. This was the way the choir director refined my singing voice through vocalization.

On the other side of the coin

The marketing for this course and OneVoice Vocal Academy can be misleading. The course isn’t created for new and aspiring singers. After all, his promise is to prove that you can sing and turn amateurs into pros. Singing based on the pentatonic scale isn’t going to convert anyone to a professional or can show that anyone can sing. This can be misleading, but I believe it isn’t intentional.

Also, if you look at the big picture, the amount of technical knowledge you’ll learn is quite scarce. Comparing it to Glazer and Waterman’s courses, you will find McKay’s is leaner and focused on a single core technique, which is riffs and runs.

Nonetheless, the number of coaches that tackle advanced topics like the pentatonic scale and melodies are few. Not to mention that I’m just talking about the main two courses. He has two others, which are also advanced lessons that make him sought after by the experienced singers.

Pentatonic Scale


If you dig gospel, pop, and R&B songs, this is the course for you. However, he doesn’t teach it for the sake of converting you to only sing those genres. He also covers how you can use it on other varieties of music styles. I said multiple times before that this isn’t for beginners, but I know that an amateur can digest this stuff just given the right amount of time.

Either way, if you mostly learn from online videos and coaches, then you will inevitably take this course once you’re over with foundational training. Besides, the teaching style of McKay is something to look forward to since riffs and runs are one of few defining styles out there that can help you both your vocal skills and singing style. Although I should remind you that to fully benefit from his videos, you should actively participate or do the things he say.

Here’s the page to get his course: Paul McKay’s Riffs and Runs. Or you can click any of the images below to access his other courses.



  1. Hi! Thank you for the article! I have tried the vocal range course by him, was excellent. I cannot seem to access the courses anymore on Udemy, any idea why the courses have been taken down and where can we access them? I would have loved to try the riffs and runs course

      1. I was also searching for the same course as Sarah. Thanks for the redirect offer to the other course. I reviewed it but will pass, no knock on the content creator but it’s difficult to find a rival to Paul McKay’s way of instructing and connecting with aspiring singers and people in general. He has the greatest breakdowns of complexities and is an awesome communicator.

        1. Hi Raphael,
          I’m not so sure why Udemy is not carrying Paul McKay’s course anymore, but if you haven’t gone to his youtube channel yet, you can just go here. He’s got a lot of other videos there as well. I’m going to reach out to him and see if I can get more info on his course on Riffs and Runs.

          At any rate, your effort in looking to learn to sing will go a long way. See if this is something you feel will be helpful in your journey as well. Masterclass.com has some great teachers there that can inspire you in your growth like Christina Aguilera and Usher. Let me know what you think of them.

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