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How To Have A Good Singing Lesson

How To Have A Good Singing Lesson
Singing lessons

Sing, sing, sing

I know some things seem to be common sense with regard to music but, every once in a while lessons go much better than other times. With this in mind, I figure I can write about how to make things run as smoothly as possible when having your singing lesson and preparing for it.

Rule number 1, SHOW UP!!! Be on time and remember your teacher has scheduled your lesson to accommodate both your schedules. This is not to say disregard the fact that we are all human and life happens. However, your teachers time is important to him (or her) and they look forward to you being there.

Number 2: Try doing a little before your lesson to be more relaxed. What does this mean? Many students deal with tension of various forms. Some carry a lot of tension in the shoulders. Others carry it in the neck. Many carry tension in the tongue or in the jaw. Begin with something simple like shoulder shrugs, or doing circles with your shoulders. I like to instruct my students to do sets of 10 in both directions…going forward then reversing. This tires the strap muscles and helps to relax the area very nicely. For the tongue, try holding pencil under your tongue without assistance from your teeth and vocalize a little. The faster the pencil falls out, the more tension exists. For the jaw, try stretching it in conjunction with all the above. Of course, everyone is just a little different.

Number 3: Try sharing something happening in your life. Now, I’m not saying to complain about your second cousin, twice removed who married into the family and is currently acting creepy and stalker like toward your family friend who always comes over when you least expect it and takes the last serving of dinner which you really wanted to have because this is your favorite meal. Share something that was exciting or interesting. Perhaps you took a trip to a local museum, or maybe you planted something in the yard last week. Maybe you are going to get braces next week or the family will be traveling somewhere new for vacation. All these things are very exciting and it helps to build a rapport with your instructor. Plus, this gives you and your instructor more to talk about than simply music.

Number 4: Try finding new music for yourself. This helps make a couple things easier. First, it helps you find music you like and want to do. Second, it helps your voice teacher know you are vested in your own lessons and learning things that inspire you to practice more. Another little thing I personally enjoy about students bringing their own ideas about what to sing is it saves me lots of time searching for the music myself.

5: Practice, practice, practice!!! I always know, very quickly, who has practiced and who has not. I do not always point it out but, I always know. Having voice lessons is like owning a membership to a gym. It is completely useless unless you are willing to put the time in to use it. In the case of singing lessons, that time is your practicing. Otherwise, progress will never be made.

Are there more items that can be listed here? Absolutely, these are simply the ones that have entered my mind today. I hope these tips help you!

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Can I Sing Too Much?

Can I Sing Too Much?
Can you really overdo it when it comes to singing?

Don’t you like to listen to me?

Singers love to sing. Many vocalists on the starting edge of their learning and singing careers might spend hours a day listening to their favorite music and they just can’t help but to sing along.  Mostly, I don’t think they think much about singing too much.

One of the greatest vocal abuses is overuse of the vocal folds. In addition to all that singing we love to indulge in, singers have the added passion for talking. If you ever have the opportunity to be in a room full of singers (as I have been on many occasions) you will realize almost immediately that they are amongst the noisiest bunch of folks. I daresay most singers do not think of their voice when they are talking as much as when they are singing.

Of course, as one grows in their art and becomes more astute with their instrument, they realize when and how often they should take care to talk a bit less. Perhaps simply reducing the level of ones voice would be enough.

Singing too much, combined with talking throughout the day can invite a tremendous amount of vocal fatigue. If you are not sure when enough is enough, try singing and see how your voice reacts. If you find it becoming breathy, weak, (or certainly) tired, you should put yourself on vocal rest.

How much rest is appropriate? Usually, a good night’s sleep will be enough. If you happen to be starting the day, or you have a long way to go before the day is over, try pacing yourself when talking to people. Use a softer voice. If there is a loud noise in the room, don’t try speaking over it. Find a good place, or opportunity to be heard more easily and use your voice then.

If all else fails and you arrive at rehearsal, let the person/s in charge know the condition of your voice and tell them you will be marking! They will completely understand…at least, they had better. If they don’t you might want to reconsider ever working with them again. However, everyone I’ve ever worked with has understood.

While we are on the subject, I usually tell my students that they should not sing more than two hours a day. Even that is stretching the limits of the human voice. Research has offered that the most beneficial use of the voice is gained when practicing three times per day, 1/2-hour each time. Beyond this, we are simply overdoing it.

But, you might think that the voice is a muscle and like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will become. Each muscle in the body will work and become stronger but only to its limit. After that point is reached, fatigue and failure will occur in the muscle. A bicep muscle will tear, heal and be stronger afterward. This is not where you want to arrive with your voice. If pushed too far,  the vocal folds will develop an assortment of conditions which can end a singing career before it begins. These problems are simply not worth pushing the envelope for.

Like our back, each of us are born with what we have. It requires care. We should love our voice enough to take proper care of it. If singing is what you want to do, find a teacher who makes things interesting, fun, understandable and educational for you.

!!!–I highly recommend signing up for a trial lesson with me today–!!!

After finding a good teacher,  (me!), learn your voice and follow the guidance your instructor gives you. With the correct technique and understanding of the voice, your singing will be fun for you for many years to come.

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Diction How To’s: Speaking Or Singing, What’s Best?

Diction How To's: Speaking Or Singing, What's Best?
Improve your singing

Recording yourself is good!

That is the question. Very few singers seem to consider the ease with which they talk when they sing. One very dominant philosophy I’ve endeavored to follow in my singing studio with every voice student has been the continual pursuit of creating greater singing ease and more relaxed vocal instruments. Making this happen and focussing on it begins, at least from my own school of thought, with our speaking voice and how we make sound when we don’t pay attention. Bringing the ease with which we speak into that paradigm we have built our singing on can be tremendously altering to the way we sing and sound. How can a singer make things easier on themselves?

Earlier this week during a lesson with one my wonderful students, we discussed the idea of diction while singing. This prompted a unique topic for me because, while I am a stickler for diction, I do not normally address in detail with my students the finer points of eloquent utterances. This idea got me to thinking about how we make sound and how that sound is affected by what we hear internally.

We hear ourselves so very differently than our audience (whomever they may be) hears us. I began instructing my student to sing with a more vertical sound even if the pronunciation suffers slightly. The unexpected outcome for my student was a much clearer, freer sounding voice as well as the most understandable diction I’ve ever received from this particular student. This should be something each singer should ponder.

Most of my students will tell you that one great practice I have enjoyed through the years in my studying, rehearsing, and singing sessions has been the art of listening to myself. The easiest way for me to have done this was to record myself each time I had the opportunity.

At first, listening to myself was excruciatingly difficult. My voice, at least to me, was so much different than what I was used to hearing. However, over time, I came to enjoy putting myself in the position of teacher so that I could hear exactly what it was that I was doing when I made any sound I was attempting to make. The adjustments I was able to make were easy and almost instantaneous given that I knew/know precisely what I was/am doing to make every articulation.

The next time you try singing, pull out a recorder and put yourself in the position of your audience. Hear how each sound is articulated and listen for an open, easy, vertical, relaxed sound. If you don’t hear one, at least you will be able to experiment to make the sound you need come to life. Remember, also, that even though things might sound a bit off from your perspective, inside your own head, it might sound fantastic to your audience. Of course, if things sound truly fantastic inside your head, you might want to record yourself just in case. For some, this might be more hazardous than others. Ultimately, though, I am sure this little exercise will prove very helpful to you!

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Online Singing/Voice Lessons Pros & Cons

Online Singing/Voice Lessons Pros & Cons
Pros of online lessons with Skype

Thinking about singing lessons online?

So I’ve decided to address this topic today due to the fact that this genre for tutelage is still a new frontier in learning. Having lessons online has an assortment of benefits and opportunities.

Pros: Convenience; the ability for student and teacher to get together at a time easiest for your schedule has never been more easily achieved than now with online singing lessons.

Variety of quality; utilizing the information super highway for your personal learning experience can now bring the best teachers from all over the world right into your home. Living in Kansas? No problem! You can have the best teachers from New York, Los Angelis, Yucca Valley, California… 🙂 or anywhere. Can you imagine the possibilities?

Cons: Connectivity can be bad at times. Nothing is more frustrating to me than having a lesson end abruptly due to the video call freezing up, or having poor call quality appear. Sometimes this can be due to weather, sometimes home internet systems. Still, other times, Skype just has a bad day and logs you off.

Please note: Always be sure to keep the Skype program on your computer up to date. I check multiple times each week. This also helps keep things moving along nicely.

Call delays; there are days when our lessons go along well and then the sound gets delayed on both sides. I recently gave a lesson to a student who heard what I said approximately 4 seconds after I said it. We turned the video off but kept the audio. Some of the delay diminished but I recall having some for a short time.

These are the foremost thoughts coming to my mind for online voice lessons. On the whole, this is truly a unique and engaging way to build the learning life of yourself or your loved ones and I believe the plusses far outweigh those things which take away or add frustration.

The internet has brought a new way to bring education home; literally. Be sure to check back here soon for more.

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Many years ago, I had the honor of singing for a friend’s funeral who lost a rough battle to cancer. He served in the army and fought in World War II. With Allied Forces in Bastogne, Belgium, Mr. Nelligan fought in the military exchange that would famously become known as “The Battle of the Bulge.” How many of us know similar stories in our personal lives? The military honor guard at his funeral gave very fitting and moving tribute as Taps was played by trumpeter and the American flag was folded reverently. I couldn’t help but cry for the awesome integrity, honor and respect our wonderful military showed in performing this most solemn duty. So many put themselves in harm’s way voluntarily. I’d love to wish all of you and your families a most wonderful and enjoyable memorial day. Of course, we remember always the sacrifice of those who have fallen, but we also remember those who have fought and the sacrifice of their families who have suffered through loss and hardship. I have the blessing of knowing many current and former military service members in my life and they are among the finest people one can ever meet. To all of you service members, on behalf of a grateful nation, thank-you!

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Start Singing Better Today

Start Singing Better Today

Often times, people enjoy helpful hints that gives fast, if not immediate, results. Unfortunately music is not a genre which lends itself easily to this paradigm. However, there are a few simple tips for quick and immediate improvements for those searching. Today I will address one of the big biggest problems singers have, especially English speaking singers, specifically, tension in the jaw and the tongue.
Because of this it is a very good and necessary practice to separate the muscles we need to use from the muscles we actually use when singing. Any of my students know that this is one of the first issues I address with them. They are quite familiar with this simple exercise offered for your consideration: speak the glide sound, ya (in International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA the sound is transcribed as [ja]) and repeat it several times while looking in a mirror.
For most the jaw line will be moving every time you say it “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya!” Because of the way this particular glide is made only one articulator (the jaw—lips—teeth-tongue—and soft palate) is supposed to move; the tongue.
Say it now, “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya,” and you will feel the back of your tongue rising up for the “E” [i] vowel and lower again for the “ah” [ɑ] vowel. Do you feel the tongue move? Is your jaw moving with it? It shouldn’t be. Next place a finger lightly on your chin and observe yourself speaking the exercise “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya,” in the mirror. Make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and be sure not to move it. This exercise may be done either with, or without phonation—using the vocal folds, or making sounds with them.
If you’re like me and many other singers today, doing this exercise will be somewhat difficult at first. Rest assured, however, that after doing this for only a little bit of time you will find yourself using your jaw muscle less and less. The resulting effect of this will inspire less constriction for the vocal mechanism and greater ease in vocal production.
Jaw and tongue tension are serious and very common issues amongst singers today. And since the results of over using muscles can and will be a tremendous vocal impediment, this is one of the simplest exercises to help free up your voice and have you on the path to singing freely, openly and beautifully. Thanks for reading today! Sing well. D.F.

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