Sing Exercise

5 Excellent Sight Reading Exercises for Singers

Top Sight Reading Exercises For SingersUnless you’re a career-chorister, the concept of sight reading music is probably going to at best make you slightly nervous, and at worst paralyze you with fright. However, at some point, probably when you join a choir or perhaps go to an audition, you’re going to have to face that hurdle.

Sight reading comes easier to some singers than others, but it’s not some mythical task akin to retrieving a golden fleece; sight-reading, even for the more able, is a learned skill, and there are several sight reading exercises you can practice to improve.

Here are five sight reading exercises that will make a difference and help calm your fears:

  • Familiarity – Pick an octave that comfortably covers the middle of your voice. Sit down at a piano and play up and down that octave; as a major scale, harmonic and melodic minor scale, and as a chromatic scale. Listen carefully to each of the notes, and fix them in your mind and your ear. Next, play intervals to yourself within that octave and memorize the sound of the interval. The final stage – a friend will be useful here – is to play the home note, and then sing back a specific interval. Check your work thoroughly, as this sight reading exercise has as much to do with memory as anything else!

  • Ear and Eye – Once your ear has established what those intervals sound like, train your eye to recognize them on paper, as you’re going to struggle in any sight reading exercises if you can’t translate that knowledge from ear to page. Be aware that intervals don’t always look how you might expect on paper, so use this as an opportunity to improve your general music reading skills as well.

  • How Do You Eat an Elephant? – The answer should always be “a forkful at a time”! It may feel overwhelming to be faced with a whole page of tricky music during sight reading exercises, but dealing with it one bar at a time will make it seem much less scary. If the whole page fills you with panic, put the brakes on for a moment and just deal with small sections at a time.

  • Map Reading – Think of a piece of music like a roadmap. Take careful note of key and time signatures, and pinpoint interesting “landmarks” like accidentals or key changes. Look ahead, and fix “rest spots,” i.e. half or whole notes where you can take stock and plan your strategy for the rest of the piece.  Don’t be afraid of sight reading new pieces a little under tempo – better to do this and keep going than practice with an error that you can’t shake.

  • Self-sufficiency Rules – Nothing will give you greater confidence as a singer and a musician than being able to prepare your music yourself, and to know that you’ve prepared it accurately. There are many singers out there – even working within the classical industry at the very highest level – that can’t read music, and need a voice coach to teach them every single note.  Being able to read songs as easily as you would a newspaper is a valuable skill that will carry you far.

Now that you have all these tools to make you a confident and capable singer, there is one final, important thing to bear in mind over and above any exercise or other preparation rule: Without a well-trained, properly-produced instrument, all of your work will be pointless.

Finding a good voice teacher is essential to take you beyond being a talented, untrained amateur singer with natural ability. Since we can’t hear our own voices accurately, it’s important to find a good teacher to help you identify and correct bad habits as they happen, and show you the right exercises to practice to improve your skills.

Good luck with your singing, and don’t forget to have fun!


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How to Sing Jazz Like a Pro in Five Steps


Interested in learning how to sing jazz? Here, Ann Arbor, MI singing teacher Elaina R. shares how to get started…


Jazz is the cool cat of the music world. She sits in the back of the room wearing sunglasses and red lipstick. She doesn’t sing, she croons – soft and sonorous, drawing the ear in. It’s no wonder so many people want to learn how to sing jazz!

At its most basic form, jazz singing is just like any other kind of singing. All singers carry their instruments inside of their bodies. Their lungs provide fuel, their upper face controls resonance, and the rest of the body has to stay relaxed. Learning how to sing jazz well won’t just impress your friends at karaoke night; it will make you better at singing in general.

1. Choose the Right Song

The first step to singing jazz well is choosing a song that you can sing well. Study your own voice, paying attention to your comfortable vocal range. Try singing along to different jazz songs. Can you comfortably reach all of the low and high notes? Does the tempo seem too fast? Consider singing a piece in a different key if necessary.

2. Remember to Breathe

If a singer were a car, breath would be gasoline. The better you get at breathing like a singer, the longer you will be able to sing without taking a breath.

To breathe like a singer, stand up straight but not stiff. Place your hands on your ribcage (above your waist) so that your four fingers are on the front of your ribcage and your thumbs are on the back. Take in a slow breath, trying to feel your ribcage expanding outward in every direction. This is how you should breathe when you sing.

3. Speak Easy

Much of jazz singing occurs on the same pitches we use when we speak. Thinking of singing as projected singing makes it much easier.

Using your “singer breath,” practice projecting words and phrases from a song as normal speech. Now, add the notes back in, maintaining the speech-like quality. Use a mirror to make sure your body and face stay relaxed as you sing.

4. Lift That Palate

The soft palate is the squishy muscle right behind your hard palate in your mouth. This muscle moves up and down to seal your nasal tract off from the rest of your mouth and throat. Singers use the soft palate to keep air from escaping from the nose during singing, since singing out of the nose produces a nasal sound quality.

To lift your soft palate, pretend you smell something awful but have shopping bags in both of your hands. Practice “plugging” your nose this way without actually touching it. Test whether your soft palate is up by singing a note, raising the palate, and plugging and unplugging your nose with your fingers. If the sound quality changes, your soft palate isn’t all the way up.

5. Exercise Your Weaknesses

As you practice jazz songs, you might notice that some parts are harder than others. Study the parts that are hardest. Why are they hard? Are there fast-moving notes? Is there a large leap?

Try practicing these parts slowly, taking the words out and using a single vowel (such as ‘E’ or ‘Ah’). Find vocal exercises that address that particular issue, and work them into your warm-up routine.

All That Jazz

With the right songs and some practice, you can quickly learn how to sing jazz well. Use your new skills to blow people’s minds at open mic night, or just to have fun while you sing along to Ella Fitzgerald in the car. No matter where you take your jazzy abilities, remember the number one rule for singing: have fun!


Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here! 



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How to Select the Best Songs to Sing at Open Mic

3407029143_48c0537645_bWhat are the best songs to sing at an open mic? Here, online teacher Liz T. shares her best tips for selecting a song and impressing the crowd…


If you’re a singer looking to get more experience performing your songs in front of a live audience, attending a live open mic is a great way to start! Open mics are becoming very popular these days, and you don’t have to live in a major city to sing at one. Many local restaurants, coffee shops, and colleges host open mic nights to build a music community and are very supportive of live music at their establishment.

Get to know the live music venues in your city and ask about their open mic nights, and how you can be a part! Keep in mind that some places will be free to play, but you will not be paid to play – or you actually may have to pay $10 or $15 to play one song. If you need piano or guitar accompaniment there may be a small fee for that as well.

Once you’ve found a good spot, it’s time to take the stage! Here are some tips for selecting the best songs to sing at open mic:

1. Pick a song you know. My advice is to pick something that you are very comfortable with singing at first. You might be nervous performing at a new space, and the crowds may vary from 2-3 people to 100 people. The best songs to sing are ones you know like the back of your hand. If nerves do start to kick in, you’re less likely to forget the melody or the lyrics!

2. Choose a cover song. Choose a song that another artist has made popular, a song that the audience will be familiar with already. Some of my go-to favorites are “Natural Woman” by Carole King, “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys, “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye. The crowd will really get in the mood, encourage you, and perhaps even sing or dance along.

3. Be yourself. There is no particular right or wrong style of music to sing at an open mic. Even when doing a cover song, try to be unique and individual as yourself. Just like on YouTube when you hear covers, you don’t want to hear them sing the song exactly like Alicia Keys. Give it your own interpretation, or if you are accompanying yourself, change the style or tempo of the song. You could do a country song maybe with an island/reggae feel for summer, or try doing a rock ballad a little more pop, with swing.

4. Perform an original Song. If you are a songwriter, open mics are a great place to start showcasing your original work, and to test if it works in a live setting. You can feel free to experiment at open mics, just make sure you are comfortable with the song before you start experimenting. Open mics should be fun, low stress, and truly for your and the audience’s enjoyment. It should be laid-back, but you still want to look professional on stage. Also, open mics singers usually perform with one instrument rather than a full band, either you and a guitar player or piano player, or you can accompany yourself. You can also use a background track, but then that tends to sound a little too much like karaoke.

So have fun, and enjoy performing for a live audience. Once you get comfortable singing at open mics, start keeping a book of different songs you could perform in the future. Good luck! You never know who might be in the audience; this could be your big break!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music, including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!



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5 Things That Singers Should Never Do on Stage

singer on stage

Ready to hit the stage? Read on as Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. reviews 5 rookie mistakes you should avoid during your next performance…

Singing on stage and in front of an audience is really special. Some estimate that only two percent of the world’s population will ever sing on stage by themselves. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Those challenges can seem bigger than our confidence performing. Perhaps the easiest way to feel confident singing on stage is have a short list in your mind of what not to do. As a 20-year veteran of the stage, I’ve created a list of what not to do when you’re singing on stage.

1. Stop singing
I’ve experienced it a dozen times. You’re singing just great, you feel good, then you get to the second verse, and your mind goes blank. You forgot the words. It happens. If you’ve rehearsed well enough with your bandmates or accompanist, then you can relax knowing that they’ll “come back around,” so to speak, and pick up at the moment that you dropped out. If they don’t, or if you’re performing with a recording, then you could still find a way to sing “la, la, la,” or you could even repeat the first verse. As silly as those might sound, they’re a lot better than dead air. Even a heckler or other distraction might make you think about calling it quits. Don’t stop singing.

2. Scratch
This is a tough one that I learned as a choir kid years ago. Even a singer in a large group scratching his face on stage can be really distracting to an audience. In a way, it can take away from the show. So just imagine how much less polished a solo singer must look. Now, let’s be realistic. Don’t torture yourself. If you have an unbearable itch on your face, then so be it. But do your best to wait until a song is over, or at least until the verse is over.

3. Apologize to the audience
I once heard a fellow singer at a church where I served apologize out loud to the congregation after what she perceived to be her mistake, in the middle of the song! Truly, no one probably would have ever noticed. But by saying sorry and bringing attention to it, she not only distracted the audience from the song’s message (which is why we sing in church in the first place), but also made them feel uncomfortable. In my book, a singer’s first job is to get and keep an audience comfortable, not disengaged.

4. Keep your eyes closed
While recording, I close my eyes sometimes. I even close my eyes while I perform for an audience, in moderation. But I can think of several singers whom I’ve heard perform beautifully but kept their eyes closed for a song’s entirety. In fairness, they might have had stage fright. But it doesn’t make you look cooler or make the song more meaningful. It closes you off to the audience. It impedes upon your ability to share. The singer and the audience have a relationship. In any relationship, there’s only so far that two can go together without sharing. Imagine meeting a person with whom you’d like to develop a friendship, but then telling her, “I want to be good friends, but sorry, I can’t tell you my full name, and I can’t have you over to my place.” Your potential friend might ask, “Okay, so what exactly can we do?” Don’t let this happen to your relationship with that crowd of yours. Remind yourself to open your eyes regularly. If it makes you nervous to look at people’s faces, then look at the back wall. The audience won’t know the difference, but they’ll still be able to see your eyes and their unique expressions.

5. Argue with your fellow musicians
Musicians are not always known for being even-tempered. Even famous performers like Tina Turner and Elton John have been known to argue on stage. But even between sets or songs, it’s unprofessional, distracting, uncomfortable, and frankly, childish. I’m not asking singers not to argue at all. I’m asking singers not to argue on stage while the audience is sitting right there.

Remember, the moment that you take a stage, it belongs to you until you leave it. You essentially own it. That also means, however, that you own what you do up there. Your show could be polished and professional. With a few simple reminders for ourselves of what not to do, what to do might just come naturally when it comes to singing on stage.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star, Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

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Piano Guitar

5 Contemporary Songs for the Piano, Guitar, and Voice

Practicing any song on the piano can be fun at first, but after a while playing the same songs by yourself can be a bit boring. Why not find some songs for the piano, guitar, and voice? You can perform for others in a talent show or an open mic night, or just for yourselves and have a good jam session!

With any of the songs for the piano, guitar, and voice, your music teacher can help you with some pointers, and might even be able to teach you the chords by listening to the song. Be sure to ask your instructor before setting out to practice one of these songs by yourself, because there might be certain techniques that he or she wants you to focus on within the song. Here are a few ideas to get you started!

OneRepublic – “If I Lose Myself”

While this acoustic cover of OneRepublic’s song also features a violin part, you can easily do without it and still get the same feel. This might not be one of the newest songs for piano and guitar, but it’s still out on the radio now and then and you’ll have no problem getting into the groove of it.

Decide which parts each instrument will take, as the song has a few different riffs that happen simultaneously. The guitar player should be able to pick a fairly fast rate, as the riffs can get going pretty fast!

Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball”

If your singer really likes to croon, this is the perfect song to try! With a melody that is fairly slow and methodical, you won’t have to worry about things picking up speed and getting left behind.

Both the piano player and guitar player should be prepared for powerful chords throughout the chorus, and lighter playing during the verse. You can mix it up and make this one of your own songs for the piano and guitar if you’d like though, by making a few simple changes here and there.

The YouTube video above does not feature any vocals, but that just means that the melody is picked up by the piano and guitar. In the long run, having someone sing along with the piano and guitar parts can make things easier, as they can concentrate on the harmony and rhythm of their own playing, and the singer can carry the melody!

Coldplay – “A Sky Full Of Stars”

The YouTube video for this song again has no vocal part, so the melody is covered by the piano and guitar. Both this Coldplay song and the Miley Cyrus song can be much easier songs for the piano and guitar if the vocal melody is actually sung instead of played!

The guitar part for this song is mostly chords above the 12th fret, so be sure you’ve got those polished up! The piano part has many staccato chords scattered throughout the song. The vocal part is picked up by the piano, so the right hand octaves the melody.

Adele – “Skyfall”

If you haven’t seen the latest Bond movie, the opening credits alone are definitely worth watching. Adele lends her signature sound to the James Bond saga, and definitely does it justice! If you’re looking for songs for the piano and guitar with soaring vocals, look no further than this tune.

This is another song that’s a little bit more contemplative and dramatic than just upbeat and fast-paced. While it might be easier to learn, be careful, as the slower pace of the song leaves more space between notes. And it’s easier to notice your mistakes with this pace, if you happen to make any!

The vocal part is played by the guitar in this particular cover (above), but doubling the vocals and guitar is a great way to add some depth if your guitar player also sings (otherwise any late or early notes on the guitar would sound well out of place). You could also make this song a duet for piano and either guitar or voice, if you’d like.

Maroon 5 – “Payphone”

This final song is a great closing number. It can really rock, and most people know the words, so it’s good for a crowd sing-along at the end of a set. In the video, the piano plays chords and doubles the vocal melody, and the guitar doubles the chords played on the piano.

While this isn’t one of the most complicated songs for the piano, guitar, and voice, it is a crowd favorite. If you’re playing an open mic or talent show, sometimes that’s the best way to leave things, with a familiar tune that everyone can enjoy and hum or sing to even after the show is over!


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6 Beautiful Songs for Piano and Voice

Sometimes, it’s good to take your singing practice back to the basics, and just sing with a small ensemble. Most satisfying of all is working only with a good pianist – the level of detail just you and one other musician can achieve when working on material for piano and voice is very valuable to your development as a singer, no matter what stage you’re at.

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to work on, the following six songs – one religious, two modern pop classics, one German-language lied, one jazz standard, and one music theater number – may give you some ideas. They won’t all be suitable for your voice type, nor will they all be suitable for your current level of ability, but these six songs for piano and voice can give you an idea of which composers or artists to start your search with.

Schubert – “Ave Maria”

Perhaps the most beautiful and appropriate setting of the Latin text for this combination, “Ave Maria” is the perfect addition to any singer’s repertoire of songs for piano and voice. Suitable for singers at an intermediate level and up, it demands great purity of line, good breath control, and a moderate level of vocal flexibility. When working on this song, concentrate on evenness of tone, and experiment with dynamic contrast.

Adele – “Someone Like You”

British sensation Adele supplies a variety of modern classics for the female singer. This breakthrough hit requires considerable vocal control, however, and a solid technique. Make sure that you aren’t changing the shape or sound of the vowel as you change pitch on it, and practice exercises of arpeggios through the fifth on “ah” and “ooh” vowels before you sing this song to help you master this.

The Fray – “How to Save a Life”

Lyrics-driven pop songs for piano and voice are an excellent addition to your vocal repertoire, as they make you pay close attention to text, and how to color it. For this song in particular, the vocal line itself isn’t that difficult, and a beginner to intermediate singer should be able to master it quite quickly. However, bland and colorless words can be a problem for a beginner singer, so rather than preparing for this song with vocal exercises, practice speaking the text aloud, and pay special attention to your diction.

Schubert – “An die Musik”

We make no apologies for including a second Schubert song in this list of songs for piano and voice; the undisputed king of song repertoire, Schubert’s beautiful “An die Musik” is an ideal first foreign-language song for a beginner singer, as it covers many of the singing basics that you will cover in your first few lessons, including sustaining a lyric line, mastering vocal leaps, and managing dynamic contrasts.

George Gershwin – “The Man I Love”

Gershwin’s great jazz and big band standard is the ideal starting point for a female singer at an intermediate stage of vocal development to learn how to develop flexibility within a rhythmic pulse, and how to improvise around an existing written vocal line. Classical singers have been experimenting with similar vocal embellishments – called cadenzas – for hundreds of years, and it’s a great way to add some excitement to your singing.

Lerner & Loewe – “On the Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady)

Sung by the hapless Freddy Eynsford-Hill, this is a perfect addition to the music theater and concert repertoire of a young male singer. Ideal for learning purity of vowels, it will also help for work with high notes and working toward a big climax at the end of the song. Aim for breathless, enthusiastic innocence and don’t be afraid to use your full voice.

For every song you discover by a composer that you like, try to find at least one more, as this is an excellent way to build repertoire and to explore music that you might not already know. Finally, although exploring repertoire can be fun on your own, make sure that you’re also working with a good teacher, who can help you find songs that are appropriate for your specific development and abilities. Have fun!


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compose a song for piano

How to Make Composing Fun for Singers and Pianists

compose a song for piano

Want to learn how to compose a song, but not sure where to start? Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her strategy for teaching the process and making it fun at the same time! Read on to learn more…


Teaching my voice and piano students how to compose a song is a huge part of my curriculum. It is multi-functional, in that it works to hone students’ sightsinging, musicianship, creativity, and theory knowledge in practice. And with most students out of school for the summer, it’s a great time to do something out-of-the-box, like composing!

One of the easiest ways to get even the youngest students to write and then sightread their own music is a simple game. First, on a sheet of staff paper, I draw a five-note scale in a tessitura where the singer’s comfortable. If the student is a pianist, I’ll choose a position where they’re comfortable. I prefer the simplicity of C major for beginners, but I might use an entire scale for more advanced students. Below it or beside it, I draw a series of notes. For instance, for my six-year-old voice student, Ella, I drew a quarter note, then a half note, then a dotted half, then a whole note. Depending on the student’s theory level, I sometimes write the number of beats beside each kind of note.

Now, the fun begins. I’ll ask the student to choose a note from the scale that’s been custom tailored, so to speak, just for his theory level. Then I’ll ask him to choose what kind of note we’ll use. So my voice student, Ella, asks, “May I please have an F and a half note?” I write a half note on F. Ella then asks, “May I please have a G and a dotted half note?” I reply, “No, Ella. It’s in 4/4 time. Only four beats fit into this measure. With a dotted half added to a half, that’d be five beats. That’s too many.” “Okay,” Ella says, “I’ll take a quarter note on C and a quarter note on D.”

Many of the best piano curriculum books feature a few exercises in which you must write a few measures of melody, but this game extends it and makes it accessible either for voice students who don’t have those books or for piano students who may not be quite ready for the exercise of simply coming up with something. Eventually, of course, you will slowly grow to take charge of this game and be able to compose a song more freely and independently. As that time comes along, I’ll begin to allow more freedom with only some constraints.

For instance, if you’re an intermediate student, I would ask you to write your own eight measure piece, but I’ll give you the time signature, the key signature, and perhaps the left hand chord progression. Making it even more fun could mean writing some lyrics first and trying to write the melody to match.

When I was growing up, it was always the running joke that singers were the dumbest of the musicians when it comes to theory and composition. Often, pianists weren’t regarded much more highly. But perhaps, that’s because they were never given the encouragement needed even to try.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star, Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!


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How to Start Singing: What to Know Before Your First Lesson


Ready to learn how to start singing? There’s no need to be nervous about your first lesson – check out these top tips from Valencia, PA teacher Melody M.:

So you want to start singing? Great! You might be so excited you can’t wait for your first lesson. If you are like most people, you may also be filled with a little trepidation or even outright anxiety. Here are 5 pieces of advice to help make that first lesson a great one.

1. You Are Not Supposed To Know Anything Yet.
Your teacher is not a judge on American Idol. Remember that when you walk into your first lesson and first learn how to start singing, it is their job to teach you, not your job to impress them. Relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy learning how to sing from someone who has dedicated their life to it. They will appreciate you acknowledging their expertise, and you will be relieved from the pressure to perform.

2. Love Your Mistakes.
Mistakes are not mistakes, they are part of the learning process. Imagine that instead of learning to sing, you were learning to play guitar. Would you cringe and crumble every time you plucked the wrong note? Probably not. Guitar players understand that the best way to learn is to experiment with their instruments. The same goes for singing! Learn to love your mistakes – they will make you a better singer.

3. You are not Beyonce.
One of the most common complaints I hear from students is, “I want to sound like Beyonce… Kelly Clarkson… Ed Sheeran…” The truth is, you will probably never sound like the famous person you want to sound like. This is because each person is born with their own unique instrument, and there is no changing that. You wouldn’t yell at a ukulele because it doesn’t sound like a Fender Strat. Go into your first lesson excited to discover your own unique sound, and I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.

4. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Before you begin your lessons know that singing well takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication. How long it will take you to sing well depends on your level of natural talent, the technique you are learning, your practice schedule, and how often you take lessons. Singers are vocal athletes, and muscle memory training takes time. Also remember that your teacher has been studying singing for many years. Don’t expect to match his or her level of mastery overnight.

5. Enjoy the Ride.
You and your teacher have one very important thing in common – you both love to sing. Remember what inspired you to start singing in the first place? Was it a concert you went to? A music video you watched? Perhaps a Broadway show that blew your mind? It is that fire that burns inside of your teacher, too. So much so, in fact, that they decided to make a life out of it. Never lose sight of this shared passion and allow yourself to enjoy the process as your journey unfolds.

Valencia music lessons with Melody M.Melody M. teaches singing, Broadway singing and songwriting to students of all ages in Valencia, PA, as well as through online lessons. A certified SLS (speech level singing) instructor, Melody joined the TakeLessons team in March 2009. Her specialties include pop, musical theater, jazz, rock and blues styles. Learn more about Melody here!


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How to Find the Right Voice Teacher for the Long Run


Want to learn how to sing? Selecting a great voice teacher to take lessons with is your first step! Read on as Chicago and online teacher Ian H. shares his advice for finding the perfect teacher for you…

Finding a teacher whose philosophy fits your learning style is a huge challenge for both student and teacher. It can translate to a great deal of success or stagnancy for young artists developing their voices. Your pace of learning, entering ability, and choice of musical repertoire should all play into how you choose a teacher, though at the forefront of the criteria should be a healthy approach.

With this kind of healthy foundation, your teacher is better able to:

  • Challenge you appropriately for your age, ability, and development
  • Offer support tailored to your specific needs
  • Structure a plan for you and your voice
  • Instill correct technique within each lesson

Keep in mind: healthy singing lends itself to all styles, whereas style does not necessarilyalways lend itself to healthy singing. A singer of any genre is capable of hurting their instrument, though with a healthy approach, artistic and stylistic choices can be made more effectively and bolster your stamina.

So, how can you use this information to make sure you’re working with the right instructor? Always keep in mind that your teacher should:

  • Challenge you without hurting you 

Arts education and musical training have been a huge part of my life ever since I was a very young student. Right as I began to mature vocally, at the age of 18 years old, I grew an inconveniently placed abscess in my tonsil and throat due to a strep infection. This left me tender, scarred, and with a whole new mechanism to learn and sing with. In the very early days of my college years this caused quite a bit of grief in my vocal production, but what absolutely saved me were my private teachers who kept me in a healthy and productive place.

  • Continually focus on your vocal health 

It has taken me years to understand vocal technique, because it takes years to study, learn, and master it. My injury aside, what kept me healthy and capable as a young singer were my teachers and professors devoted to offering me good solid technical foundations to avoid injuries, such as vocal nodules and hemorrhaging. Considering my injury it was extra important that I focus on healthy singing, so as not to burn myself out with bad habits and injury.

  • Structure a plan for you to follow

I felt stifled in my repertoire choices because of what happened with my injury; I wanted to be challenged with operatic arias, interesting song cycles, music far too large for my vocal ability. But had I been given what I wanted, my poor little vocal folds and over-taxed soft palette would have been fried to nothing. Instead, my teachers focused on music with a limited range to help me build stamina, explore the breaks of my voice, and find my breath. We worked to reestablish my understanding of my instrument. I was not the most receptive student to this ‘slow’ and reparative approach, thus slowing my progress down tremendously. Being a brash young man and wanting challenge clouded my judgment, and I failed to see the challenge of building my own instrument. This applies to any style of singing the artist performs; there needs to be an approach from a healthy place.

  • Show you how to get the most out of your voice lessons 

Finding singing teachers and coaches that truly support your progress and vocal ability is vitally important. Those who go into the field of teaching are people who desire to educate people in their chosen craft, they want to do well for their students. Though, not every teacher is a fit for a you. Listening to your body’s defense signals and finding a teacher whose language corresponds with that body language provides and safe and productive environment to learn and grow. Educating yourself is important, practice is important, but more important is you and your teacher knowing your limits and how to push them.

In the early stages of vocal study, looking at technique and health will only inform the art to come. Don’t allow the stars in your eyes to blind you from your future. If you want to sing Jazz but your teacher is giving you simple folk songs, ask him or her what the lesson is. Learning line, breath, and control. Finding color, phrasing, and stamina. Work on yourself so that as you find your style and voice you can continue singing for years to follow.

IanHIan H. teaches singing, acting, piano, and more in Chicago, IL, as well as through online lessons. He has a comprehensive knowledge of classical repertoire, as well as experience in Jazz Standards and Golden Age Broadway tunes. Learn more about Ian here! 

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audition songs for musicals

5 Good Audition Songs for Musicals by Voice Type

audition songs for musicals

Ready for your big break on stage? With these ideas for good audition songs for musicals, compiled by teacher Molly R., you have some fantastic options to choose from:


Musical theatre auditions! They can be daunting, can’t they? Especially when they’re only asking for 16-32 bars of a song. What can you possibly show off in THAT short amount of time? No matter if you’re asked to prepare a cut or if you’re lucky enough to sing your whole song, it’s super important that you find the song that really sells not only your voice… but YOU!

Musical theatre is different. Unlike opera, it goes beyond voice type- it’s equally important to have tons of personality and serious acting and comedic chops. With this in mind, selecting your audition repertoire can be a lot more fun. I’ve suggested 5 good audition songs for musicals, for each voice type, representing an equal mix of classic and modern shows.


  • “This Place is Mine” from “Phantom” by Maury Yeston. Everyone sings from the OTHER “Phantom” – don’t make that mistake! Funny divas can really sell this song. It’s as big as anything you’d find in the major hits from that era (and you know what they are!) but this song is hardly overdone.
  • “To Keep My Love Alive” from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Rodgers and Hart. So outrageously funny! This is for the soprano who’s also a comedienne. Plus, it’s always good to have some Rodgers and Hart in your repertoire!
  • “Unexpected Song” from “Song and Dance”. This is an absolutely beautiful ballad from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser-known works. You can’t go wrong with a single song in the show, in fact; it’s a one-woman show and you have a lot of great audition songs to choose from!
  • “One More Kiss” from “Follies”. It’s not always a good idea to bring in Sondheim unless they specifically ask for it (too complicated for many accompanists), but this is a simpler tune in the style of song from an old operetta.


  • “How ‘Bout a Dance?”  from “ Bonnie and Clyde” by Frank Wildhorn. This is a sassy and fun song perfect for a younger actress that belts. This musical is fairly recent, but due to the fact it was not a hit… well, chances are not too many other people will be walking in with this one!
  • “Wherever He Ain’t “ from “Mack and Mabel”. What a score! This is an up-tempo, rag-timey song that is just plain fun to sing by a spunky leading lady. While “Mack and Mabel” is respected for its glorious score by Jerry Herman, this show never took off!
  • “Home “ from “The Wiz”. This a pop-like song that builds. Memorable melody and you can really put some emotion behind it. Perfect if you’re auditioning for something like “Dreamgirls” (but again, it’s best to avoid those songs unless they specifically ask for them).
  • “All Falls Down” from “Chaplin”.This song is sung by the character of Hedda Hopper in the show. It’s a real scene stealer! Another modern (2006) musical that was not a hit, but has a marvelous score (see a theme here?).
  • “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from “Funny Girl”. We all know that Barbra owns “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, but this lesser-known ballad from the show is gorgeous and a solid choice.


  • “A Bit of Earth” from “Secret Garden”. If you need something a little more modern that’s a moving yet simple ballad , this is a great choice.
  • “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love” from “Finian’s Rainbow”. This is a mid-tempo song for a tenor with charm and personality, from a more “classic” show.
  • “Seeing is Believing” from “Aspects of Love”. Another one of Sir Andrew’s flops – but what a score! This may be a better choice than “Love Changes Everything” from the same show, which many performers tend to oversing.
  • “Shiksa Goddess” from “The Last Five Years”. This is for a comedian! A mid-tempo number from another more modern show with very clever lyrics that will leave the audition panel rolling.
  • “You are Beautiful” from “Flower Drum Song”. Ballad for a young lyric tenor from one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lesser known shows.


  • “C’est Moi”- from “Camelot”. Need something classic? Are you a solid actor? This one’s for you.
  • “Gonna Be Another Hot Day” from “110 in the Shade”. Mid-tempo as well as lyrical, and could suit a variety of types.
  • “I’ll Be Here”- from “The Wild Party”. Wonderful song from another more modern show for a baritone who is a bit more pop/jazz-like and comfortable with some vocal improvisation.
  • “Love Sneaks In” from “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. Need something current that’s also a ballad? Perfect choice!
  • “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway”- from “Spamalot”. Perfect for the man who is an “actor first, baritone second”! Very patter-like and needs a comedian to sell it – but that goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Repertoire selection becomes a piece of cake once you establish who YOU are (comedian, ingenue, baritone, belter, etc.). After knowing your “type,” it’s all simply a matter of two really big things: what shows are being cast (all modern? All classic? A mix of the two?), and what YOU truly enjoy performing. There is so much out there that there’s no excuse for using a song you think is just “okay” as an audition piece. The audition panel will always be able to tell!
Have fun – discovering new shows and songs are one of the best parts of being a “musical theatre geek”!

mollyrMolly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!



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