Vocal Coach

Lace Up: How to Train Your Voice Like an Athlete

Tips On How To Train Your VoiceSingers, you’re more like an athlete than you might think. Sound crazy? Here, Los Angeles voice teacher Lorna E. shows how you can train your voice with that in mind…

Have you ever thought of signing up for a marathon if you’re the type that gets tired running for five minutes? I’d say most people wouldn’t take a chance like that.

Many singers, though, believe that they are ready to perform for hours in gigs or rehearsals even without any previous vocal technique endurance. Asking a person to sing during long periods of time without this knowledge is basically like asking someone who doesn’t usually practice running to participate in a long-distance foot race.

Sometimes when we listen to amazing vocalists, they all seem to perform in such a natural way that it almost convinces us that singing is as easy as breathing or chewing gum. In fact, those who are well-trained enjoy their voices with total freedom and without any effort.

But keep in mind – that’s with proper training, similar to what an athlete undergoes before competing. Here are some common questions I’ve received, to help you understand:

  • What is a vocal coach?

A vocal coach will help you improve your vocal technique and endurance, so you can achieve the best results possible. Just as every athlete has his or her own coach, singers also require this kind of support. With a qualified voice teacher, you can learn how to train your voice in a similar way.

  • Why do I need to work out my voice for singing? Isn’t talking every day enough?

It’s important to understand the specific techniques involved in order to get the best results possible for singing. These kinds of vocal “workouts” help teach your body how to behave to be more productive while you build up the strength in the muscles engaged with singing.

For instance, in order to sustain notes and reach higher pitches for a longer period, you need to improve your breath control and strengthen your diaphragm and vocal folds. As your teacher, I can lead you through specific vocal exercises to help with this – the same way a trainer in the gym helps you target specific muscle groups.

  • Why do I experience hoarseness or discomfort while singing or afterwards?

This is a common issue, and is typically caused by not using the proper technique. You may be engaging the wrong muscles to produce the sound, for example.

Singing should be easy, delightful, effortless, and without any pain or strain. Imagine what would happen if any athlete participated in a professional competition without the proper preparation, working out, and specific nutrition.

  • How long will it take until I see the results of my vocal coaching sessions?

You will feel different and improve even after your first session, because you will understand your body and how to sing smarter. Long-term results, such as building muscle strength and adapting to the new techniques might take a couple of months.

  • What might happen if I keep singing without the proper vocal technique?

At the beginning you will notice flaws in your voice and pitch, or experience fatigue. As time goes on, you can cause permanent damage to your vocal folds.

The more you repeat the wrong muscle engagement, the more you increase your chances of suffering vocal damages that can reduce your opportunities as an artist and can lead to more serious health issues like nodules, polyps, and contact ulcers. If not treated correctly, these issues might even require surgery.

On the other hand, if you practice the right way, you can understand how to train your voice so that you can sing more challenging music pieces. Your body holds the treasure of an amazing music instrument ready for you to master it. The right vocal instructor can show you how to explore its possibilities. Then you will feel free to sing as you always dreamed!

  • I already sing well, but I’ve never taken vocal lessons. Is that OK?

Sure, it’s totally OK. If you already sing well without knowing how you are doing it, imagine what you would accomplish with the right training! You already have the most important things: musicality, intuition, passion, and an artistic sense. Vocal technique then will take you even further so that you can become the best singer you can be!

Lorna ELorna E. is a singer, composer and vocal coach in LA. Born in Argentina, she is of English descent, lived in Brazil, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. As a vocal coach Lorna uses a proprietary method of vocal technique specially created for developing power and highlighting each singer’s personal style. Book lessons with Lorna here!

 

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Musical Theater

How to Select the Best Song for a Musical Theater Audition

Best Song Choice For Musical Theater Audition Preparing for an audition? Learn how to select your repertoire with these helpful tips from San Jose teacher Alison C.:

Picking out the best song for a musical theater audition is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make. Your selection must demonstrate not just what a great singer you are, but also your ability and appropriateness for the role you want, your professionalism, and your ability to follow direction.  Of course, once you have your song, you will need to rehearse and coach it to perfection! Here is a criteria list, in descending order of importance, for selecting the best song for an audition. Above all, items #1 and #2 are most important.

1) Follow All Requirements Outlined by the Producing Organization

  • Length (in minutes, seconds, or bars) – Time it!
  • Style/Tempo (upbeat, ballad, blues, pop, legit, etc.) – Give them what they ask for!
  • Format – (CD, flash drive, sheet music, etc.)
  • Make sure karaoke tracks have lead vocal eliminated. They want to hear YOU, not another recording artist.
  • If using sheet music, make sure that all the notes are visible, no cut off lines at the bottom!
  • Sometimes companies specify formats with sheet music.  Follow them!
  • If there is no requested format, taping music back-to-back, 3-hole punching, and putting in a binder is a good way to go. Loose pages can create nightmares!
  • Do not put plastic sleeves over music to protect it.  This can cause glare.
  • Mark all cuts, tempos, vamps, etc.

2) Pick a Song That Makes You Sound Great!

Not the song you wish you could sing, and not the song you will sing well next year… the song you sound great on right now! It’s good to get an objective, experienced set of ears here. Singers often get very attached to a favorite song that is special to them, but it might not be the most the best choice for any given audition.

3) Pick a Song That is in the Style, Range, and character of the role you are auditioning for.

Do your homework and find out what the vocal range of the role is and what style of music they sing. Pick a song that shows that you can do what is needed for the character.

4) Avoid Songs That Are Currently Overdone, or Too Tied to a Particular Star.

  • It’s not to your advantage to be the 50th person to sing the same hit song the directors have heard all afternoon.
  • It’s not to your advantage to be compared to a beloved star.
  • Most musical theatre organizations prefer to hear songs not from the show they are auditioning for.

There are other considerations to make as well, but this is the survival list for top priorities for finding the best audition songs.  When in doubt, consult your voice teacher or coach. They are there to help!

Alison C.Alison C. has taught at San Jose State University, Chabot College, and privately. She has appeared as a featured soloist in Opera, Musical Theatre and Concert throughout the United States, Europe, and China. She holds a B.M. in voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and M.A. in vocal performance from San José State University. Learn more about Alison here!

 

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piano 4-14

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 4/14/14

piano 4-14Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Vanessa P. in Lynnwood, WA wrote, “Congratulations to Sophia on the wonderful reviews for her performance as Laurey in her school’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway classic, “Oklahoma!” You did us all proud!!!” Bravo Sophia!

Kelvin L. in Bolingbrook, IL wrote, “My student Ava just passed her Certificate of Merit – Level Three…Woohoo! Congratulations Ava!” Keep up the good work, Ava!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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bring it in

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 4/7/14

bring it inEach week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Courtney P. in Winter Springs, FL wrote, “A great big congratulations goes out to my student Peter for booking a role on ABC’s The Middle! Hard work and dedication pay off! I am so proud of you Peter! Congrats!” Well done Peter! We can’t wait to see you on the screen!

Sandra H. in Philadelphia, PA wrote, “My student Alice V. after studying voice for over a year, was accepted at the Art’s Academy at Benjamin Rush High School. Congratulations Alice!” Way to go Alice! We’re all proud of you!

Richard C. in Phoenix, AZ wrote, “I would like to congratulate my banjo student Adam S. and his wonderful wife on the birth of their first child Olivia. 9 lb 10 oz born 4/4/14 at 11:19 am. Congrats you two! and get that kid a banjo stat!” Congratulations! And for the record, Olivia is a great name for a future banjo virtuoso!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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Featured1

Teacher Tips Round-Up: Ace the ACT Test, Audition Prep, and More!

Tao3Throughout March, we invited TakeLessons teachers to share their best tips and advice for students – and we received a handful of excellent articles! Here, we’ve rounded up the posts so you can see – at a glance – what our teachers have been up to.

– Audition Monologues for Kids, Teens, and Adults: Every Actor’s Worst Nightmare! - by Orlando acting teacher Courtney P.

– Do Online Voice Lessons Work? The Surprising Truth - by Hayward, CA teacher Molly R.

– Expert Advice: Make the Most of ACT Practice Tests & Improve Your Score - by Rochester, NY tutor Danh L.

– Giving Purpose to Your Music: Two Tips to Avoid Burnout - by Long Beach, CA teacher Glenn S.

– Getting the Gig: Audition Tips for Musicians by Sunnyside, NY teacher Tao G.

– How to Avoid (and Check for) Plagiarism - by Fallbrook, CA tutor Sarah B.

Teachers, want to contribute your own article? We’re always look for guest posters! Check out the guidelines here.

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check for plagiarism

How to Avoid (and Check for) Plagiarism

check for plagiarism

With so many resources available today, the temptation to plagiarize can be strong for students. So how can you check your work to make sure you’re not walking the line? Here are some tips from Fallbrook, CA tutor Sarah B.:

 

Copying and using the writing of others as one’s own – called plagiarism – used to be difficult, before modern computers. Today, digital text makes it easy. Copy and paste. Bingo. Perfect writing.

Why not plagiarize instead of crafting original prose? Because it is stealing. Theft of another author’s carefully-worded sentences is the same as pinching dollars from his wallet. Today, plagiarizing is rife in schools, even in the most prestigious universities. But professors are on the lookout for paragraphs of beautiful prose mixed in with amateurish writing. In fact, many schools use computer applications to check for plagiarism. So what’s a student to do when the allure of plagiarizing may reduce the stress of a time crunch? Or, when the research chosen to use is so perfectly written no other words will suffice? Try these two techniques:

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Getting The Gig

Getting the Gig: Audition Tips for Musicians

Getting the Gig: Audition Tips for MusiciansPreparing for an upcoming audition? It’s a competitive world out there! To get a leg up, check out these helpful audition tips from Tao G., who teaches music theory, trombone, and guitar lessons in New York City:

Work in the music industry is drying up due to lack of funds, a generational shift of interest away from live classical music, and the evolution of music taste to an industry that places more importance on being a dramatic public figure than being a good musician. Broadway shows aren’t willing to pay 30-piece orchestras when they can get away with pressing play on an MP3. Symphony orchestras are going bankrupt because their audience is literally aging out. Established performers are hanging on to their job until they retire. All these factors are creating a bottleneck of resistance for many young musicians looking to make a living playing music.

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good news 3-31

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 3/31/14

good news 3-31Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Kelvin L. in Bolingbrook, IL wrote, “My piano student Ty M. has made his first international audition at the Dulwich International Music Academy (DIMA) in Dulwich College Beijing! Congratulations Ty! We are so proud of you!” Great work, Ty!

Patricia D. in Washington, D.C. wrote, “I am giving a shout out to three of my students who have done an excellent job in mastering their piano skills. Hurray for Milena, Yaphet, and Delena.” Keep it up!

Deborah C. in Las Vegas, NV wrote, “Congratulations to Ace and Jordan on getting parts in Les Miz! You were selected from a large pool of talent and should be very proud. Have fun in the show and keep those voices in good shape.” Break a leg, guys!

Cheryl M. in Detroit, MI wrote, “I’d like to give my shout out for Colleen S., my voice student, for having competed in a music competition this past Friday, March 21st in Midland, Michigan. She received scores of 17′s and 18′s out of a possible 20 in the categories for breath control, musicianship, interpretation, intonation, diction and such. Her overall scores for her two selections were 88 and 85 respectively, out of a possible 100 for each. Colleen has been a REAL trooper and has perservered over these five weeks of instruction despite her challenging health issues and ongoing setbacks because of having had leukemia. Even now, she needs to have another hip replacement. She is a brave young woman that I pray will continue to study voice in the future! Way to go, girl!” Go Colleen! You’re amazing and we’d love to hear you sing!

Mike S. in Lehighton, PA wrote in with some good news about his own career! He said, “The Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association held its 15th Annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards presentation on Sunday, March 9th at the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Among the special Honoree recipients is veteran guitarist and bandleader Mike Stanley of Mike Stanley & Friends, who was recognized for over 25 years of entertaining in the region.” Congratulations Mike! We’re proud to have you on the team!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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Acting

Audition Monologues for Kids, Teens, and Adults: Every Actor’s Worst Nightmare!

Audition Monologues for Kids, Teens, and Adults: Every Actor's Worst Nightmare!Struggling to find that perfect audition monologue? It can take some time, so be prepared to be patient! Read on as Courtney P., one of our acting teachers in the Orlando area, offers her advice:

Let’s face it, most actors HATE monologues. They are tedious, and most of the time, it’s ridiculously hard to find the right one. Monologues are, however, necessary in the entertainment Industry, and many times your monologue can make or break an audition.

The process of perfecting your monologue can be long and drawn out, but working with an acting coach can really be beneficial. Many of my students have booked jobs, found an agent, or wowed audiences with their pieces. Finding and perfecting the right piece for you is crucial. Here are a few tips that can help you in your search:

1) Find the right piece for YOU:

The right monologue is out there, you just have to look. There are so many ways to find great pieces. Monologues from plays, TV shows, and films are all great places to start! The possibilities are endless. In many ways, monologues are like a great pair of  shoes. You have to try the monologue on for size. Does it fit your personality? Does it inspire you with ideas? Does it complement your skills? It has to be more personal than just Googling monologues and picking the first one you see. You should try out a few until you find the perfect one.

2) Make sure your monologue is age and situation appropriate:

This is a BIG one!  For children, there should be an age range of no more than one year younger and one year older. Adults can usually span about five years or so. As an adult, even if you look young, it’s not appropriate to use a teenage monologue, and likewise for kids/teens, stick to something close in age. As you’re searching for your audition monologue, keep in mind if you’re looking for monologues for kids, teens, or adults. The director can use their imagination if they need to consider you for a younger or older role.

Also, consider your audience when choosing a piece. Are you auditioning for a children’s theatre or family-friendly theme park ? An agency? A dramatic role in an adult play? As an actor you should have a few different pieces in your repertoire. A child-friendly monologue, a PG or PG-13 piece, and maybe something a little more heavy. Choosing the right monologue for the situation can really save you a lot of embarrassment and keep the casting director, director, or agent from feeling awkward.

3) Practice makes perfect:

Now that you or your coach has helped you find the right piece, you should really begin to explore the piece. Make strong choices, and think outside of the box.

You should try to keep your audition monologues fresh and rehearse them as much as possible, while continuing to add new pieces. Having a coach or qualified friend view your monologue and give notes is really important; often they can point out mistakes you’re overlooking or give constructive criticism.

Taking on the challenge of finding an audition monologue can be daunting, but once you find the right piece, you will flourish! Take the time to find complementary pieces for you. Make sure to practice often and keep adding new material! Happy hunting!

Courtney P.3Courtney P. teaches speaking voice, stage performance, and acting lessons in Winter Springs, FL. She specializes in TV & Film, Commercial and Stage Technique, and has worked with some of the industry’s top casting directors. Learn more about Courtney, or search for a teacher near you!

 

 

Photo by vancouverfilmschool

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ACT practice tests

Expert Advice: Make the Most of ACT Practice Tests & Improve Your Score

ACT practice testsPrepping for the upcoming ACT? Check out these tips from tutor Danh L. to calm your fears and take the test with confidence! 

 

The April ACT is imminent.  Many students worry increasingly around this time as perhaps they feel they haven’t studied as diligently as they could have.

Don’t fret, though!  With less than three weeks left until the test, progress can still be made if you’re willing to follow the steps outlined below and dedicate at least 45 minutes a day to studying (1-2 hours would be best though).

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