Dolly Parton - "Shine"

6 Awesome, Unexpected Cover Songs You Need to Hear

Singers, why limit yourself to one genre? Many artists have produced amazing cover songs to put their own spin on tunes, even those not in their particular genre. Here, St. Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L. shares six covers worth a listen…


How amazingly awesome is it to hear a song re-sung by a singer in a way that’s totally unlike the original version? The correct answer? Really amazingly awesome! Sometimes it can change the way we hear the lyrics completely, sometimes it’ll make us laugh or cry, and sometimes, it’s just plain mind-blowing! Some songs might just showcase another artist, while others bend genres and provide a whole new sound and feel. If you’ve ever heard metal covers of pop songs, you know what we mean!

Below are some of the best cover songs ever — enjoy!

“I Will Survive”
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor, covered by CAKE

This may be the weirdest, most unexpected cover song of all time. Gloria Gaynor sang the original survivor ballad with elegance and soaring melody, and CAKE pretty much just reads the lyrics. And it couldn’t be cooler!

Originally performed by Collective Soul, covered by Dolly Parton and Nickel Creek

Post-grunge band Collective Soul had a big hit with “Shine”. But in this cool cover song, iconic country singer Dolly Parton jams with progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek and takes it to another planet. And she’s smart enough to cut out a couple of the superfluous “yeahs” that Collective Soul’s lead singer belts before the chorus.

“Rather Be”
Originally performed by Clean Bandit, covered by Pentatonix

The British electronic group Clean Bandit got their first number one hit in the U.K. just last year with “Rather Be”.  And the a cappella supergroup Pentatonix has already covered it and made it a hit of their own by using their voices in amazing ways to create the electronic sounds of the original.  Listen and try to hear how the vocalists make the drum, scratch, and bass noises!

Originally performed by Dolly Parton, covered by The White Stripes

Jack White is a huge fan of classic country, and his cover of “Jolene” is a real tribute — sung and played with love. Dolly’s original is sweetly sung in her honey-coated voice, and Jack pretty much yells it. At least he plays the guitar intro the same way.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Originally performed by John Denver, covered by Toots and the Maytals

Even the most die-hard fans of John Denver, arguably the most popular country/folk singer of the 1970s, have probably never heard his music played by a reggae band. It’s even more happy-go-lucky and smiley than the first one.

“Nothing Else Matters”
Originally performed by Metallica, covered by Tori Amos

Metallica is the ultimate metal band of the 1990s, and Tori Amos is the ultimate girl-on-a-piano. What happens when she covers them? Cover magic! The words really shine through when you’re singing them at half the tempo. And listen, she does.

If nothing else, awesome genre-bending covers teach us that anything is possible in our craft and your creativity is only limited by your imagination. Einstein taught us that imagination is more important than knowledge. Well, here’s hoping he was right!

Readers, what do you think? What’s on your list for the best cover songs ever? Leave your favorites in the comment section below! 

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. 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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7 Singing Experts Share Their Best Music Biz Advice

7 Singing Experts Share Their Best Music Biz Advice

Here at TakeLessons, we’re passionate about helping students achieve their dreams, reach their potential, and receive the guidance they need from professionals ready to pass on valuable singing tips, knowledge, and encouragement. We talk about our singing teachers a lot, and have even featured many of them here on the blog. But we also know there’s a lot of advice worth noting in other corners of the web.

So we scoured the Internet, searching for other professionals, vocal coaches, and performers who could provide their own two cents — namely, what does it take to “make it” in the music industry? For those singers who aspire to be in the studio, on stage, or breaking records, what does it really take to get there? What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to be a professional singer? Here’s the advice we rounded up.

Tom Burke

Sign up for Tom’s Broadway VoiceBox program here!

Mark Baxter

Wade Sutton

Download Wade’s eBook, “The $150,000 Music Degree” here!

Cheryl Engelhardt

Download Cheryl’s eBook, In The Key of Success, here! (Note: She’s actually one of our teachers, too!)

Kimberley Smith

Nicola Milan

Judy Rodman

Readers, what do you think? What are the best singing tips you’ve ever received about breaking into the music industry? Let us know in the comments section below!

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too much vibrato

Too Much Vibrato? Not Enough? How to Control Your Voice

too much vibratoIs there such a thing as too much vibrato? Find out about the technique in this guest post by Brooklyn, NY singing teacher Liz T...


Have you ever listened to a professional opera or Broadway singer and noticed how strong their vibrato was? Or noticed how a lot of contemporary pop singers on the radio today do not use a lot of vibrato? In this article, I will explain how to find and control your vibrato to use appropriately when performing.

What is Vibrato?

To begin with, a simple definition of a vocal vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression, and can be characterized by the amount of pitch variation and the speed within the pitch that is varied. Listen to the clip below to hear Liza Minnelli’s interpretation of vibrato:

Opera and Broadway are two common musical styles in which vibrato is used. Singers such as Ethel Merman, Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand, Maria Callas, and Renée Fleming are all excellent singers to listen to for examples. Vibratos usually come into play at the very end of a powerful line or phrase, or at the end of the song to make it more dramatic. Vibrato is created by belting, and making the “word” of the note you are singing sound longer.

Some songs are written perfectly for the use of a vibrato. Take for example, the classic song “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, below:

This song has strong, powerful, melodic lines with held notes at the end of each phrase, especially near the end of the song (2:40 to the end). By adding a little vibrato, this is going to help you hold the note longer!

For singers who are just experimenting singing opera and Broadway, it’s important to begin by finding your vibrato. If you sing these songs completely without vibrato, the style is going to sound very different to the ear. These styles are are meant to sound dramatic and powerful, and without the use of vibrato, the song is going to be lacking in musicality.

Now, please note when singing in these genres, there is such a thing as singing with too much vibrato, as well as not enough. When you are singing in these genres, there is no need to add it all the time, really only at the end of phrases to create a dramatic effect. If you start out the song automatically punching out vibrato, it’s going to sound alarming to the listener! On the flip side, there is such a thing as not using enough vibrato.

Do Other Genres Use Vibrato?

In pop, rock, R&B, and country music, you need to have more of a balance of using your vibrato. Not to say you will never use it in these styles, but it’s not what makes these styles work. Riffs, improv, yodels, and a high mix, for example, are things that make these song work.

To get a feel for when vibrato does work in these genres, listen to the clips below of Beyonce and Christina Aguilera, two singers who use good vibrato technique.

For some singers vibrato may come naturally, while others will really need to work on developing and feeling comfortable using vibrato. My advice to singers is start exploring vibrato by listening to great singers who use vibrato and others who don’t, in the specific styles that I mentioned, and to practice belting to some songs that have a great potential for vibrato. Adding specific vibrato exercises, like this one demonstrated by Jacob O. Nygaard, will also help. Just remember to control and balance your vibrato, no matter what song you’re singing!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing and acting lessons in Brooklyn, NY. 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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From Queen to Carassimi. Keeping Classical Music current for Teens

How to Get Your Child Excited About Singing Classical Music

From Queen to Carassimi. Keeping Classical Music current for TeensIs your child excited about taking voice lessons — but ONLY wants to sing Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars? Read on as Pittsburgh, PA teacher Jennifer V. shares two secrets to introducing him or her to classical music without a fight…


Sometimes really cool things can get a reputation for being weird, boring, or even scary. Take classical music, for example. As parents, you might be thinking of enrolling your kids in classical voice lessons or constantly playing Beethoven at home because of everything you’ve heard about the benefits of learning music.

Unfortunately, many teachers (and parents) push classical songs on students without making it fun. Picture this: your child has a few voice lessons and everything is going swimmingly, then one day, she walks in the door with a big heavy book of foreign language songs and a look of panic in her eyes. Your heart sinks; you know that look. It’s the look that ended ballet lessons, and why the violin is in the attic with the tap shoes. The look plainly says, “I don’t wanna do this, I want to stop taking voice lessons.” So what do you do next?

First, don’t worry! Sometimes all it takes is sitting down with your child and looking at things from a different perspective. Music, after all, is a timeless way to not only enrich our children, but also connect with them!

Here are some tips to do just that:

Listen to the Music (oh yeah!)

Before lessons begin, take some time to listen to music that has pieces of classical and rock in them. Electric guitars that play with opera singers can be very cool to listen to! Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift can sound great with piano but they can also sound totally amazing with violin.

Other examples are Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Barcelona” by Freddy Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. The latter has a lot of fireworks and huge drums — watch it below:

“Lacrymosa” by Evanescence is another great example, based on the Lacrimosa movement from Mozart’s Requiem. There are so many amazing examples when you really look and listen! Continue looking for songs like these to give your child a taste of classical songs.

Talk about the Tunes

After listening to music like this, try chatting about it! You don’t have to be a Puccini expert to do this. Ask questions like: “Wow, so what did you think of that guitar solo?” and “What if you were to add some drums in that part of song, how do you think that would sound?” Sometimes a few casual questions can lead to some really amazing conversations, and the idea of studying and singing classical songs won’t seem as archaic.

Listening and finding a way to relate classical music to your child’s interests can really make a huge difference. Active listening goes a long way in the classroom, but it also makes a huge difference when introducing a new activity.

If you haven’t signed up for singing lessons yet, go forth and give it a shot — find out how much Brahms and Bohemian Rhapsody can enrich your child’s life!

jen v

Jennifer V. teaches singing and music performance in Pittsburgh, PA.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, a Master of Music degree and Artist Diploma from Duquesne University, as well as a Certificate of Contemporary Vocal Pedagogy from Shenandoah Universtiy. Learn more about Jennifer V. here!



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Vocal Audition Crimes

Vocal Audition Crimes: 3 Mistakes That Turn Judges Off

Vocal Audition CrimesHave an audition coming up? You may know what TO do, but what about what NOT to do? Take a look at these tips for singing auditions in this guest post by Glendale, CA voice teacher Ben M...


Let’s face it: auditions are nerve-wracking. You’re presenting your talent for somebody else’s approval, and that’s not easy to do. But auditions can also be a ton of fun and lead to amazing changes in your life. It’s incredibly important to make auditions a habit, even if you’re happy with where you are in your singing career. The more auditions you attend, the easier it will be to convince yourself to go to the audition in the first place, the better you will perform, and the more likely any given audition will lead to the result you want. We’ve already covered the things you SHOULD do at an audition in a previous post. Here are the top three vocal audition crimes to avoid.

1. Letting Your Fear Take Over

A teacher once had to convince me that my anxiety over auditioning has exactly 0% benefit to my performance. Many of us believe that our anxiety will somehow prepare us to perform and will cause us to do a better job because we “take it more seriously.” But there’s a difference between anticipation and anxiety.

It’s great to be mentally prepared and aware of what will be expected of you at an audition. But the moment it crosses over to stress, you’re wasting valuable physical and emotional energy. You’ve crossed over to the dark side, where you’re now faced with the risk of psyching yourself out, forgetting your lyrics, or creating unnecessary tension in your voice. If you find yourself in this position, take a deep breath, count to 10, remind yourself that it’s just an audition, and RELAX. Just as with vocalization, the only way to see the results you want is to let go and allow your body to arrive at and STAY at a place of rest.

2. Not Knowing Your Words By Heart

There’s never an excuse not to know your lyrics at an audition. In fact, there’s every reason to ensure you know them by heart. It’s not just to prove you know the words – it’s about internalizing the song and spending time with it, which is one of the important tips for singing well. Once you learn how to efficiently memorize lyrics, it can actually be quite fun. The process allows you to apply your own voice to the song and make little changes in phrasing and intonation. Methods vary depending on how you learn best, but I have always found that memorizing a song line by line yields the quickest results. Sing through one line of a song until you know it, then start from the top of the song and sing up to the line you just learned. It may seem like it takes longer this way, but you’ll find that you internalize the tune much faster. Remember to do your core memorization at least one night before – you’ll find that the words come much easier the next day.

3. Going Too Far Out Of Your Sweet Spot

Not everybody agrees with me here, but an audition is not the time to try something you’ve never done before. Nor is it the time to try to sound like somebody you have never sounded like. It’s tempting for singers to go over the top and show the outermost range of what they can do, but the problem with this is that you are exposing your limits to the folks auditioning you. In the process, you’re taking the attention away from what it is you do best. When an audition notice asks to “see your range,” be smart about your choices. Make sure that your audition piece is 90% in your sweet spot – the tried and true range and timbre of your voice. If you like, you can add a few special embellishments that show the tip of the iceberg, but don’t make that uncharted territory the meat of your audition. Besides the weakness-exposure factor, you’ll find that whatever anxiety you do carry into the audition will not work in your favor if you’re trying to hit higher notes or mask your voice with a tone that isn’t yours.

Lastly, don’t go at it alone! Consulting a vocal coach is a necessity before attending a big audition. Besides helping you brush up on technique, a good coach will also be able to critique your audition and help you pinpoint weak spots, preparing you for an easy audition process that you can repeat again and again.

Readers, what other tips for singing auditions have helped you? Let us know in the comments below!


Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!



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cures for lost voice

Lost Your Voice? Expert Tips You Need to Know

cures for lost voiceFeeling a sore throat coming on? Take action NOW! But if it’s too late and you’ve already lost your voice, you’ll want to know these tips for getting it back quickly. Read on as Hayward, CA singing teacher Molly R. shares pro tips and lost-voice remedies…


An important audition or performance looms, and the worst possible thing has happened — you lost your voice! Before you panic, know that there are some things you can do to get it back. Here is some expert advice on what you can do if you have laryngitis as a singer.

One thing you can try is joining Dr. Eric Berg for the following informative video. By doing a certain head and neck exercise (which he’ll walk you through), you may feel a tremendous difference in your throat right away! Dr. Berg has worked with performers at Juilliard, and refers to this as “The Singer’s Cure”.

Award-winning Nashville vocal coach Judy Rodman also has simple, yet very effective advice for getting your voice back. In addition to reminding us that “silence is golden,” she shares other techniques, such as “wall work” when you vocalize, as well as a recipe for the “master tonic”!

Cortisone shots are only for singers with really, really, REALLY important gigs. We’re talking about making your debut at the Metropolitan Opera or singing for the President! By taking a cortisone shot (a steroid), you run the risk of having your vocal folds swell further, so think very hard about the consequences of this option! There’s a reason why singers often have understudies, after all. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it to compromise your health! One of the country’s foremost singing and speaking voice experts, Lisa Popeil, explains further here.

We voice teachers go through this sometimes, too! Just recently, I had a stubborn, lingering viral infection. It was very frustrating, given that I need my voice for my job! My advice to you is to rest, rest, and rest some more.  In fact, I  took a weekend off from teaching and even SPEAKING, which helped a ton. After that, I slowly and gently eased back into my routine. You must start small, meaning light vocalization (think humming and lip trills). Never force the voice. If anything still hurts, that means your folds are still inflamed, so go back to resting! Lastly, always keep yourself hydrated. One of my favorite remedies during this time was simply inhaling steam. After about two weeks, my voice was sounding a lot more normal, and I was feeling much better!

Of course, these lost-voice remedies may not work immediately, or for everyone for that matter. If you’re suffering from laryngitis that just won’t go away,  it’s time to seek medical advice. Your voice teacher may know of a good ear, nose, and throat specialist (also known as an otolaryngologist).

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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How to Deal With the 6 Most Embarrassing Singing Mistakes

singingDo you get nervous when singing, or maybe right before a vocal performance? You’re not alone. Thinking about all of the worst-case scenarios can be scary! Luckily, these situations aren’t the end of the world. Read on as Austin, TX teacher Gfire M. shares how to deal…


If we lived in a perfect world, our voice would always sound 100% our best, the venues would always love our choice of material and provide the best sound reinforcement possible, and we’d never, ever, ever make any mistakes on stage. But realistically, the magical, musical Murphy’s Law will ensure that you encounter some of these worst-case gig scenarios. But instead of letting your nervous energy take over, use these tips to cope with grace.

1. You forgot the words to your song

This particular problem is actually easy to deal with for us creatives! You can repeat a verse that you do remember, or you can even make up some words on the spot. At least 90% of your audience won’t notice!

2. You have to sing even though you’re sick

This problem is more difficult. Plan to get extra sleep on the night before the gig if possible. Drink extra water, Throat Coat tea (with honey, if you like), or perhaps some raw juices to get things flowing. Make sure to pack ibuprofen and throat drops for the show to help you feel better. Then, just do the best you can.

3. You can’t hear yourself on stage

This is also a difficult problem. If you don’t play an instrument, you can hold one ear shut with your finger so that you can hear yourself internally while the other ear listens to the band. For a long-term solution, you may find that in-ear monitors offer you a better opportunity to hear the band and yourself in a mix that is programmed to your needs.

4. The venue doesn’t like your music, singing, band, etc.

This problem is horrible, but it does happen! Just do your best to be as professional as possible and get through the gig — hopefully getting your full pay at the end. And then, never perform at that venue again. There’s always another venue that will totally love your music, singing, and band.

5. You’re nervous about singing that spot in the song that you never really hit in tune…

There are a few ways to approach this problem. The first is to have an alternate note ready to sing instead of the problem note. You can then work on hitting the note better at home, while having an easier note to hit in the meantime on stage. Or you can practice like crazy on that note at home and just go for it as best as possible at the gig. Again, at least 90% of the people will not hear whether you hit the note or not. It’s just one note among the thousands you sing in any one night.

6. You forgot your microphone, mic stand, music, music stand, etc.

Facing this problem can be easy or hard, depending on your circumstances! If you live close enough to go back to your house or wherever you’re staying, just tell whomever is in charge that you’re going back to get this vital piece of musical equipment, and that you’ll do your best to get back on time. If this is impossible, you just have to improvise. If you’re prepared, you have stashed away a spare mic in your bag, or perhaps one of your bandmates has a mic or mic stand you can borrow. Just do the best you can.

At its best, the music industry can be quite challenging. While getting nervous when singing is normal, it doesn’t have to take over your performance. If you can maintain an attitude of flexibility and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to help your gig go well, you will be primed for a successful singing career!


Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!



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songs to sing

5 Ways Your Voice Teacher Can Challenge You to Improve

songs to singYour voice teacher is there to guide you, inspire you, and encourage you. While the lessons should of course be enjoyable, you should also feel challenged and see improvement over the years. Here, Austin, TX voice teacher Gfire M. shares a few things to consider…


Say you’ve signed up for weekly voice lessons, found a great voice teacher to help you reach your goals, and set aside time to practice singing three to five days a week outside your lessons. Now what? What should your voice teacher be challenging you to do so that you can reach the next rung of vocal prowess? Choosing the right songs to sing is the first step. Read on to learn what that means, as well as some other ideas.

1. Choose songs that force you to work on your high notes.

If one of your long-term goals is to expand your upper range, for example, your teacher should be introducing songs to sing that have one or more trouble spots for you with high notes. Spend extra practice time on those notes to make sure you can use your upper range well.

2. Choose songs that force you to work on your passaggios.

If you’re having trouble with your passaggios (the passageway between your chest voice and your middle voice, and the passageway between your middle voice and your head voice), you should be working on songs that have one or more notes smack dab in the middle of your passaggios. Placing these more difficult notes will give you the confidence to sing any song in your repertoire.

3. Choose songs to sing that include holding a note for an extended period of time.

If you’ve been doing your breathing exercises, take it to the next step. Your teacher should be encouraging you to work on breathing in other ways, too. For example, practice a spot in a song that you’re working on to make sure you can hold the note for exactly the amount of time you want to, not just until you run out of breath.

4. Encourage you to perform in front of at least one person.

Sure, you perform for your voice teacher each week, but the next rung on the singing ladder is to perform for other folks. For example, your teacher may have suggestions for local venues with karaoke or open mics. Or, many teachers host recitals for students. Make sure you perform at the next one.

5. Encourage you to record yourself singing.

A lot of people are afraid of what their voice sounds like on a recording. The only way to get past that fear is to start recording your voice regularly. You’ll know if you’re singing in tune and if you’re putting real feelings into your words. Most importantly, you’ll begin to make friends with your voice and all of its strong and weak points. Every voice has its strengths, and every voice is unique. By recording yourself, you can even begin to create your very own vocal style!

It’s also helpful to make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do with your voice and to show that list to your singing instructor. He or she is there to help you — so knowing your specific goals or aspirations will make that job easier. For example, there may be additional exercises your instructor can teach you that are specific to something you want to work on. These can include new breathing exercises, head voice techniques, developing or straightening vibrato, building power, and loads of other “no-longer-a-beginner” tricks to try. By challenging yourself with these new ideas, you may find that your voice does some amazing things that you would have never thought possible!


Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!



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6 Popular Spring Hobbies That Won’t Break the Bank

Happy first day of spring! Now that the days are longer and the weather is warmer, it’s the perfect time to start a new hobby. And don’t worry — there are tons of hobbies to choose from that don’t require expensive equipment or pricey commitments. In fact, many of these cheap hobbies can actually save you money in the long-run. Check out our recommendations below, and see what sparks your interest!

1. Languages

learn a language

Did you know that learning a second language can increase your brain power, expand your network of friends, and set you apart from other candidates in your job search? Plus, knowing how to speak the native language of a country is the easiest way to save money while traveling, since you’ll be able to quickly negotiate with locals and avoid tourist traps.

The best way to learn is by working with a language tutor, but there are also tons of free resources, apps, and online games that can supplement your lessons and help you improve even faster at no added cost. Additionally, language classes are among the easiest lessons to take online — saving you the commuting expenses and allowing you to learn from the comfort of your home.

2. Crocheting, Knitting, or Sewing


Why spend money on a tailor when you can hem your paints, repair holes, and sew on lost buttons yourself? With the right skills, you can even design your own garments or make statement pieces like springtime scarves, headbands, and handbags. To cut down on costs, stick with inexpensive yarn or fabric, and connect with a crafts teacher who can help you learn without wasting materials and making pricey mistakes!

Tip: These handmade creations make excellent gifts for Mother’s Day!

3. Cooking


It’s common knowledge that eating out constantly is one of the best ways to sink your savings. So why not learn to cook a few dishes that you bring to all the spring picnics and parties coming up? To really watch your budget, stay away from expensive ingredients like fish and opt for legumes, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A cooking teacher can help you master a particular dish or technique, to make your learning more efficient.

4.  Yoga


Yoga is one of the best cheap hobbies to consider, because it doesn’t take much to get started, and it results in a ton of mental and physical benefits. All you need is comfortable clothing and a yoga mat! And spring is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine as you breathe, relax, and focus on positive thoughts. While you can find many yoga poses described online, it’s best to work with a teacher, who can observe and adjust you in each pose. If you want more individual attention, a private yoga instructor can guide you through exercises that are catered to your specific needs.

5. Dance


Spring is a popular season for weddings — and that means lots of opportunities for dancing! Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of your family and friends (or worse, the date you’re trying to impress), why not take a few dance lessons to brush up on your skills? An instructor can show you specific steps, or give you overall feedback to help you feel more confident on the dance floor. The best part? For most genres, there’s no need for fancy equipment or attire — all you need is comfortable shoes and a positive attitude! 

6. Music


Music is a great skill to learn any time of year! If you’re looking for something easy to start with, singing is a go-to choice for many, since you already own your instrument (your voice)! If singing isn’t your jam, there are many affordable ukulele brands out there,  as well as reasonably-priced keyboards that are perfect for beginners. Beyond that, many music stores rent out all types of instruments — just do your research to find the the best option in your area. With the help of a private music teacher, you’ll be ready to show off your skills at any potluck or bonfire by summer.

These are just some of the cheap hobbies that are fun to learn and can even save you money! Ready to get started? Enter the hobby you want to learn and your location here to find teachers near you.

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How to Get a Raspy Singing Voice – Is it Healthy?

raspy_singing_fiDo you love the sound of a “raspy” singing voice? Find out the truth about this vocal style — and why you may want to avoid it — in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R...


What do Janis Joplin, Louis Armstrong, and Steven Tyler have in common? They are all famous for their raspy, gravely voices. A raspy sound is so popular in some types of music that some people with normal voices want to learn to sing with a raspy tone.

Is it possible to get a raspy singing voice if you don’t have one naturally? Yes. Is it healthy? No. Here’s why – and how you can fake a raspy voice for a little while.

How to Get a Raspy Singing Voice

What kinds of people have raspy voices? I immediately think of rock singers, smokers, children who throw lots of temper tantrums, hard-partying college students, people with sore throats, and the elderly. It’s a pretty varied list.

What do all of these demographics have in common? Most of them abuse or overuse their voices. Sorry, but that’s the key to a raspy voice.

Kelly Clarkson, the first “American Idol” winner, is a good example. Take a look at her audition (2002) below, which starts at 0:35.

As you’ll notice, she sounds clear as a bell. She was a waitress at the time and had no formal vocal training. She went on to win “American Idol” and launch a successful career, which involved lots of singing. In her 2005 VMA performance of her song “Since U Been Gone” (skip to 0:50), below, she sounds very different. This is the result of three years of untrained singing.

People with “naturally raspy” voices usually have a combination of injury-susceptible vocal cords and bad vocal habits. For example, one of my brothers has had a raspy voice ever since he was little. He also talks so loud that he’s almost shouting, and he has no vocal training.

What Causes a Raspy Voice?

It’s not just the sound that is changing; it is the actual vocal folds. When you sing, your vocal cords vibrate and contact each other many times a second to produce sound. If you do this too much or with bad technique, your vocal cords tire out and develop problems. Imagine if you clapped for several hours a day, with a lot of force. What would your hands look like after a month or so?

A healthy set of vocal cords is relatively straight, and both cords come together and form an airtight seal over and over during singing (this diagram of different vocal faults might help you visualize this). An unhealthy set of vocal cords is lumpy and doesn’t form an airtight seal. The escaping air gives the voice a raspy quality.

Raspy voices are often caused by nodules, or calluses on the vocal cords; polyps, which are lurid fluid-filled bulges; or ulcers, also known as open sores. Nodules and polyps require surgery to remove. Some people develop inflammation that will eventually turn into nodules without care. Maybe you want a raspy voice, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want surgery.

How to Fake a Raspy Singing Voice

Since incomplete vocal cord contact creates a raspy sound, you can fake a raspy voice. Just tense your neck and extrude a lot of air when you sing. This is not a healthy way to sing and will result in real vocal problems eventually, so don’t do it for too long. If you want to record a few vocal tracks it might be worth it, but don’t perform a full concert this way.

Healthy, Happy Cords

Now that you know how to get a raspy singing voice, you probably don’t find it so appealing. Don’t worry: there are innumerable ways to make your singing interesting without rasp. Experiment with vocal ornaments and styles on your own to find something that feels and sounds good. If you’re having trouble, see a voice teacher.

ElainaElaina 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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