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What Does “Pitchy” Mean? (Plus 4 Steps to Improve)

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What does “pitchy” mean, and what should you be doing if you receive that critique? Here, Gambrills, MD voice teacher Shannon F. shares her tips…

 

“You’re a little pitchy.” Ok, Paula Abdul. We get it. Singing in tune is important. For some, good intonation comes naturally. For others, it’s a struggle. But just because you’re a little sharp or flat now doesn’t mean you’re doomed to singing out of tune forever! In fact, I’ve had many students’ intonation improve in just one week of focused practice. Here are some steps you can take to improve your pitch:

Examine your breathing

Take note of your breathing and physical condition. Most pitch issues stem from a physical issue of some kind. A likely cause is lack of breath support. Start using your diaphragm and understanding your vocal mechanism, and your pitch will almost certainly improve. Doing a simple “shh” or “sss” breath exercise with your rib cage expanded will get your diaphragm up and running and ready to support your singing voice. Here’s a great video on breath support by vocal coach and singer Felicia Ricci:

There are other physical boundaries that can get in the way, too. I’ll let you in on a secret: I had a very rough time singing in tune before I was treated for chronic sinusitis. My ears worked fine, my breath was supported, but because my sinuses were clogged and I was always ill, I could not stop my pitches from falling flat. Now that I’m all better, singing in tune is much easier and I am able to use the resonant space in my sinus cavities properly. Other health issues such as ear infections or even acid reflux can result in vocal problems. Take care of your body and, if necessary, see an otolaryngologist or a gastroenterologist for help.

Identify your personal pitch issues

Recording yourself or taking voice lessons is the only way to know for sure that you’re singing out of tune. Any laptop, smartphone, or sound recorder will do. Sing a song that you’re comfortable with and listen back for any intonation issues. If you can’t tell whether you’re sharp or flat, find the note you’re looking for and play it on a keyboard or sing it into a tuner to check. You don’t have to own a piano to do this; any mobile keyboard app/tuner will do, or you can Google “virtual piano.” After identifying isolated pitch issues, take note of any trends. Are you usually flat when you have to make a big leap from a lower note to a higher one? Are you sharp when you’re singing a descending line? Are you only out of tune when you start a song?

Start practicing

Exercises like slides, arpeggios, and scales are all helpful when identifying and working out intonation issues because all of those things exist in actual songs. Make sure you are using proper breath support and sing with a track or piano to keep yourself in check. Another aspect of singing practice that is sometimes set aside is ear training. If you know what a minor seventh sounds like, your chances of hitting a leap of a minor seventh are much higher. Understanding chords and, in turn, identifying the chord tone that you need to sing is also vital.

Be kind to yourself

Many people shudder when they hear someone sing out of tune, or when they hear their own singing voice, but let’s get one thing straight: nothing bad happens if you or anyone else sings a note, or even a whole song, out of tune! It’s not the end of the world if you have one “pitchy” practice session or performance. Have you ever heard of a tragedy occurring because of Jane Doe’s severely out-of-tune rendition of “99 Red Balloons”? Me neither. Imperfections are a part of life, a part of learning, and definitely a part of singing. Plus, lack of confidence can seriously affect pitch! If you are afraid to start a song because of how you might sound, it’s a sure bet that your premonitions will come true. If you know you’ve got it because you worked on it, you’re golden. Identifying your problem and working on your singing will send you in the right direction, guaranteed.

ShannonF.

Shannon F. teaches audition prep, music theory, and singing in Gambrills, MD. She studied music at George Mason University and University of North Texas, and has been teaching students since 2007. Learn more about Shannon here!

 

 

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How Easy is Singing, Really? Here’s the Truth

616364090_2ef7771272_bLooking for easy songs to sing for beginners? The truth is, even the easiest songs take some work to perfect. Learn more in this article by Hicksville, NY singing teacher Kimberly F...

 

 

As an opera singer, I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard: “Why are you going to grad school for singing? Isn’t singing easy? What could you possibly be learning all day?”

Well, let me tell you. Singing is a lot harder and a lot more complex than it seems.

Even the easiest songs for beginners require a good amount of vocal technique and stage finesse to effectively perform. Here are just a few things that a singer must master in order to perform successfully:

  • Breath Control: Good breathing technique allows the singer to create a smooth and consistent sound. It requires a good amount of practice. Not only must a singer learn how to breathe correctly for singing (called “diaphragmatic breathing”), but he or she must also build up the muscles that control the breath.
  • Diction: Singers need to enunciate their words if they want the audience to understand the lyrics. This involves learning how to correctly produce audible consonants and clean vowels.
  • Posture: Without the correct alignment of the spine, breath and tone are compromised. Some singers study Alexander Technique for years simply to learn correct posture and how to release the involuntary tension from their body that interferes with good singing.
  • Healthy Technique: Without correct technique, a singer can easily injure him or herself, or quickly wear out the voice. This is how vocal nodes and other medical problems arise.
  • Stage Presence: A performer’s ease and confidence onstage can make or break a performance. Singing in the practice room won’t matter if you clam up in front of an audience.
  • Emotional Connection: A real performer knows how to relate to the song he or she is singing and how to convey those feelings to the audience.

These are just a few of the basics. If you are pursuing a career in a more specific type of singing, such as musical theater or opera, there are even more components to master. A classical musician must learn music theory, music history, ear training, and various foreign languages to name a few things. Broadway singers must perfect their dancing and acting skills, as well as keep their body in prime shape.

Singing is, for all intents and purposes, an athletic endeavor. It involves the entire body. Your body is your instrument and it requires just as much, if not more, maintenance as any other instrument. Rest, exercise, and good eating are a few of the obvious ways that you can care for your body.

So the next time you hear a singer on the radio or attend a live show, you’re witnessing the product of many hours of intensive practice and study. You’re experiencing many different fine-tuned aspects at work simultaneously.

Don’t take singing— and singers – for granted. A great way to learn some of these skills is to work with a local teacher. He or she can provide a safe learning environment and show you the ropes of good singing.

Because behind every great singer is a great voice teacher.

KimberlyF.

Kimberly F. teaches singing in Hicksville, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Performance from Hofstra University, and her Master of Music from Bard College. Kimberly has been teaching students since 2007.  Learn more about Kimberly here!

 

 

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4 Steps to Prepare For Voice Lessons In Your Home

4371854812_aaac067150_bSo you’ve signed up to work with a professional teacher for your vocal training — congratulations on taking that big step! If you’ve opted for lessons in your home, how should you prepare your space beforehand? Here are some tips from Hayward, CA teacher Molly R...

 

Your teacher may have the ideal set up in his or her studio when you attend your voice lessons, but if the lessons are in your home instead, what sort of things do you need to do to help with your progress? Here are four steps to help you prepare for voice lessons in your home:

1. Dedicate a space

This is important: you want a section of the house where you have enough room to move comfortably, and enough room for a music stand, keyboard, and other materials. You definitely want to be singing in a place where you won’t be disturbed… or disturb anyone else, for that matter!

2. Check with others

Singing can get LOUD. If you live in an apartment, you may want to let your neighbors know that you’re a singer, and ask if they may have any set times they’d prefer there be no loud noise (a child’s nap time, for example). If you’re in a house with other family members to consider, simply ask that you work out a family schedule so that you can use your space at a set time.

3. Set up

The exciting thing about vocal training these days is that we use a lot more technology. You may need YouTube for some of your karaoke tracks, so make sure your Internet connection is secure and that your screen is angled so you can comfortably see it without straining. There are also many good mp3s to use as supplemental materials, so make sure you have a good pair of speakers!

4. Buy (and organize) your music

Teachers may have extensive libraries of vocal repertoire, but you need your own for contests, performances, etc. These days it’s extra convenient to go to sites such as Musicnotes.com to get an instant digital download! You should always be on YouTube looking for new repertoire, too — especially if it’s your first lesson and you want to give your teacher an idea of what kind of music you like. Although your teacher will offer you guidance in song selection, ultimately it is up to you to come in with clear ideas of what you’d like to sing.

Also, divide your sheet music, lyric sheets, and sound files into the right folders and playlists so you can avoid shuffling around looking for things during your lessons and practice sessions. Categories may include “choir music,” “school music,” “audition songs,” and so on.

 

You and your voice teacher work together as a team to help strengthen your voice, so make sure you do your part by working hard outside of your lessons, too! By implementing these four important things into your routine, you and your teacher will be super pleased with the strides you’ll make in your vocal training!

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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Tips for Singers: How to Make Your Own Music Video

make your own music videoHave you ever wanted to make your own music video? Here, voice teacher Liz T. shares the steps for creating your first video…

 

With technology today, making videos for your personal website or platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Vine can be a great way to share your music with the world!

I have released several videos to my original songs, and want to help you create your first music video. Follow my tips for creative inspiration!

1. Visualize Your Music

So you’ve recorded a great song — now your task is to sit down with a notebook and visualize your music. What is the story or scenes you want to depict in your video? Jot down as many ideas that come to you. Think of characters, places, props, scenery, costumes, and so on. Look in your lyrics and melody to help with your brainstorming! Really get creative, and don’t be afraid to explore. You want your video to be original, so don’t try to copy another person’s vision!

Once you have your ideas, this will be your visual storyboard that you should give to your videographer and actors involved in the music video. There are many acting websites online (and even Craigslist) where you can advertise for people to act in your music video. Some will want pay, but some will do this for free to build up their acting reels! You can also recruit family and friends — you may be surprised how many of your friends will want to participate!

2. Find a Videographer

Find a videographer who has a decent camera and knows how to work with actors and musicians. He or she should also have a knowledge of editing music and putting it to film. I suggest asking to see some of their work before you hire your videographer. Also, consider your budget; I personally would not spend more than $1,000 on your music video if you are an indie artist. You can often find film students and videographers who are just starting out and may even volunteer their services to build their portfolio.

Once you’ve hired your videographer, send him or her your music, lyrics, and visual storyboard ahead of time so that everyone will be prepared when it comes time to filming! You should also scout out locations ahead of time. You may want to select a place where you can shoot for free, such as your neighborhood street, the subway, parks, or a church. You can also reach out to local businesses and offer them promotion and advertising in your video. I’ve filmed many scenes of my videos for free at local restaurants, bars, music stores, and schools to help advertise their company, and they love it!

3. Filming

Now that you have your visual storyboard, videographer, actors, and set locations, it’s time to film! Make sure you allot several hours for filming. Some people prefer to shoot all in one day, while others may want to break it up over time. Just remember: filming always takes twice as long than expected. Weather, traffic, and noise can factor into your shooting time.

When you shoot your video, you can either lip sync or sing along with your track. Either way, it should look real and authentic. It’s best to have your song playing near you while you’re shooting the scene, either on your iPhone or on a set of speakers.

4. Editing Your Final Product

It’s important that your videographer takes multiple shots, or takes, of the scenes you are doing. He or she should also film you singing the entire song, so that you will have enough footage to use. Most music videos are between two to five minutes long, and you will need a lot of footage to choose from for your video. You may want to ask your videographer for a rough draft of the video, and also ask him or her what a realistic timeframe is for the completed video. It’s not a bad idea to have a contract in writing of both your expectations.

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to make your own music video that showcases your work and your talent. Now get out there are start filming!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. 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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Singing Lessons for Kids: 10 Ways to Support Your Child

6483343947_a87833baa7_bIf your son or daughter loves to sing, a private teacher can teach him or her how to sing correctly and stay excited about learning! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares 10 ways you can support your child throughout the journey…

 

Kids are simply made to sing. In most of the lessons that I teach, no matter the student’s age, I inevitably find myself teaching her how to be a kid in some way. Shaking out tense muscles, dancing to the beat, making animal sounds, keeping it simple, opening your heart — these are things that kids do naturally all the time. That, in turn, makes it easier for most children to learn how to sing correctly and well.

Be that as it may, it can seem difficult at times to find ways to support your young singer effectively. Here’s a list of 10 ways to support your child.

1. Say positive and encouraging.

Humans, especially children, will desire to live up to the qualities that are expected, or even simply named to them. Telling your child that you’re proud of him simply for choosing to take voice lessons or calling that song that he’s been working on “beautiful” can make his entire week. On the other hand, one harsh, overly critical word could make him want to quit altogether.

2. Encourage healthy speaking habits.

What we call “the voice” is really a group of different muscles and tissues working together to create sound. They may be fairly resilient in adults, but in children they can be easily damaged, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Encourage your child to learn and practice healthy speaking habits:

• No whispering
• No screaming
• No vocal fry (a phonation that sounds like popcorn popping)
• No straining or belting (unless being trained by a specialist)

Listen for swelling of the vocal folds — uneven vocal tone, breathiness, roughness — and ask your child to go into “low voice” mode for a few days, where their voice is warm, but low in volume.  She could pretend to be talking to a secret fairy or a bug right in front of her nose.

3. Provide a healthy diet.

“Healthy diet” means something different to everyone. One that’s supportive of singing (and staying well-behaved in a voice lesson or choir practice) includes lots of non-dairy fluids for hydration, raw vegetable and fruits to combat inflammation in the vocal folds and surrounding tissues (especially apples and dark, leafy greens), and fish for focus and concentration. Now, as a parent, I understand how impossible this diet can be at times. But what’s great about highly nutritive food is that even a little bit can make a difference.

4. Help with home practice.

Sit down with your child, look at her schedule, and plan out practice sessions. They don’t have be very long (15 minutes a day is fine) but they should be daily. Set a timer, encourage gentle warm-ups, like humming or lip bubbles, and let your child sing his assigned songs in as much privacy as you’re willing to give. Feeling self-conscious affects a singer’s voice more than anything, so try to give some space. That is, unless your child invites an audience!

5. Experience live music together.

So much of the music that our children experience these days is from a phone or tablet. Give your child the special gift of experiencing live music with you. This gives you the chance to talk about it together: What did you like? What didn’t you like? Was the music fast or slow? Loud or soft? Getting your kid thinking critically about music, even if you’re not a musician yourself, is so important in keeping music interesting and fun.

6. Load fun music games onto your devices.

Look for apps like NoteWorks or Juno’s Piano. They’re fun, educational, and easy to learn.  Your little one will know her musical alphabet by heart in no time.

7. Get a keyboard.

Even keyboards that aren’t the full 88 keys are beneficial for singers, especially young ones.  The voice is a musical instrument that essentially is the human body itself, so being able to go to an outside instrument for reference and support can be really helpful.

8. Play “animals”.

Getting kids to understand vocal language like “space” or “registers” can be tricky. Pretending to be specific animals, like an owl to demonstrate an open, floating, and well-supported sound, can be a lot of fun and supports what your child’s teacher is teacher. Consult your child’s teacher for more exercises.

9. Eliminate secondhand smoke.

If you or someone in your household smokes, then consider smoking only outside or in the garage. Secondhand smoke is harmful in many ways, most notably to the voice.

10. Be there.

Be the parent who attends the big recitals and concerts. Knowing your mom and dad are in an audience means the world to a kid.

 

You, as a parent, could be the single most important part of your child’s vocal education. The trust and confidence that your child places in you every day is so precious. Use it wisely to motivate, nurture, and guide your young singer, and she’ll learn much more than just how to carry a tune.

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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The 2 Most Important Things Singers Always Forget to Do

8547219923_9545d72a24_kMaintaining your vocal health is incredibly important if you want to go far with your singing! It’s easy to forget the basics — so check yourself with these two tips from Glendale, CA teacher Ben M

 

As singers, we’re very sensitive about the way our voices feel. Even the slightest change in the strength, tone, or comfort of the voice is detected by a singer and can lead to an array of concerns about vocal health. But so often when students report problems with their voice, such as vocal fatigue, hoarseness, difficulty singing, and a rough, gritty feeling, they haven’t given much thought to the two single most important factors to maintaining a healthy voice: sleep and hydration.

1. Have you REALLY had enough water today?

Let’s be honest – the answer is probably no. But understanding why hydration is so important to maintaining good vocal health may encourage you to drink that extra glass of water.

Have you ever seen a video of vocal cords at work? If not, go to YouTube and do a search for a “laryngoscope.” One of the first things you’ll probably notice about the vocal cords is that they are slippery and wet – they have to be, in order to vibrate freely and create a smooth, healthy sound. How do you think the sound and feel of your voice would change if your vocal cords weren’t quite as hydrated? Well, think about your skin when it becomes dried out. Instead of appearing supple, smooth and glowy, it becomes tight, uneven, and dull. The same is true of your voice. Hydration works from the inside out – replenishing your entire body so that your tissue is healthy and flexible.

Remember – hydrating the voice is not like applying a topical medication! You can’t just take a big swig of water before a long performance and expect your cords to stay hydrated. The only way to hydrate vocal cords is to hydrate your entire body – and that means drinking a lot of water each day. Individual needs vary, but it is recommended that women consume 2.2 liters of water a day, while men need 3 liters.

2. Did you get enough sleep?

Think of it this way – your voice is a muscle, just like any other in your body. Each time you lift weights, do yoga, or go for a run, do you notice that additional tone right away? Probably not, unless you imagined it, because your body first has to go through a reparative process in which it rebuilds the muscle tissue you broke down during the workout.

The same process – albeit on a much more delicate level – happens to your voice each time you use it. And without that extended period of rest after a vocal workout, your voice doesn’t have time to repair itself and reap all the benefits of your training. This is where the sleep comes in. According to findings from Harvard Medical School, “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” So, if you’re looking to gain any sort of endurance (for those long live sets or strenuous studio sessions), the first step is giving your body plenty of time to recoup.

The National Sleep Foundation concedes that there is no “magic number” for sleep. Sleep and hydration needs are as individual as vocal needs – they vary from person to person, and it’s up to each singer to determine what is working the best for him or her.

Once you have implemented these two important staples into your daily routine, you can begin improving your voice with a teacher who can identify areas of improvement for you. Vocal exercises, posture, breath support, proper technique – these are all important to learn and implement. But first, let’s make sure you are setting yourself up for success by preparing your body to be a platform for success.

Ben

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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Should I Take Voice Lessons in My Home or at a Studio?

learn to singReady to learn to sing with a professional teacher at your side? Many teachers offer in-home lessons as an option, so you may need to decide between that or going to their studio. Read on as Hayward, CA teacher Molly R. offers her advice for making your choice…

 

So you want to learn to sing! You’re searching through TakeLessons to find the perfect voice teacher for you, and see that a few teachers offer the option of lessons in their studio, or lessons in your home. Which option will work for you?

Everyone’s needs are different! Some of us lead more hectic lives than others, and sometimes your personality and goals may be a factor. Here are some things to consider when deciding between the two options:

  • Logistics are an important matter. There are students that have transportation concerns or major time constraints, and would prefer to learn to sing from home. Or you may have physical limitations and would be more at ease taking lessons at home. In that case, you definitely want to find a voice teacher willing to travel to you. Do note that some teachers will charge more to account for travel time.
  • Should you choose in-home voice lessons, you’ll need to have the right set-up and equipment. Many voice teachers prefer that you have a tuned piano (or quality keyboard), so this is yet another important thing to consider! You must also make absolutely sure that there is a room where you can work without distraction; family members and pets need to be out of your way so you can make the most of your lesson time.
  • On the other hand, there are those who will prefer taking voice lessons at a teacher’s studio. Some of the reasons may include better access to professional materials (piano, sound equipment, sheet music, etc.), lack of distractions, and perhaps a lower lesson rate. Plus, some students just like getting out of the house for their activities and like a change of scenery!

In short, there really is no “right” or “wrong” when choosing between in-home or in-studio voice lessons. Do what feels right to you — the only way to find out is to try a voice lesson out for yourself!

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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5 Brilliant A Cappella Covers to Brighten Your Day

In the past decade, with the popularity of shows like “The Sing-Off” and hit movies like “Pitch Perfect”, a cappella groups have found their heyday.  Once relegated to college campuses, many a cappella groups have also gained momentum with the help of the YouTube era. Musicians are going viral for creative covers, and fans are devouring these videos! If a cappella interests you — or if you simply want to check out some creative tunes — here are five covers to brighten your day (and maybe inspire you to sing your own).

Nick Pitera - This is Halloween


A cappella groups don’t need to be groups at all anymore, with this “Nightmare Before Christmas” cover by Nick Pitera being a perfect example of the “solo group” concept.

Heather Traska - One Woman A Cappella Disney Medley


Aside from obvious talent and thoughtful arrangements of beloved songs, one way a cappella groups (or solo artists) stand out online is through visual creativity. Heather Traska takes this to the next level in her Mariah Carey-inspired Disney medley, which she filmed over the course of 86 days. Arranging 13 main songs and another 13 “quoted” songs entirely by ear, she recorded herself performing in several different hair and makeup looks, and spent an entire month on editing alone. The result is a visual and aural trip down memory lane for any Disney fan and a worldwide showcase for her talent and creativity.

Best of all, if you like this medley, Part Two is only a click away!

Peter Hollens feat. Jackie Evancho - Hallelujah  


Of course, if you want to sing a cappella, you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can actually form your a cappella groups with people you’ve never even met!

That’s exactly what Peter Hollens did for his cover of “Hallelujah”, adding the face and voice of Jackie Evancho. While it would be easy to be intimidated by a song written by Leonard Cohen and famously covered by Jeff Buckley, Peter and Jackie find new meaning in the legendary tune.

Pentatonix - Evolution of Music


This medley charts a course from 11th century Gregorian chants to “Call Me Maybe” with notable stops in each decade of pop music along the way — proving that a cappella groups can be just as comfortable covering Beethoven as they are Freddie Mercury, all within the same four-minute song.

The members of Pentatonix won the third season of “The Sing-Off”, but were dropped by their label shortly afterwards. Undeterred, they started a YouTube channel that is currently the 42nd most-subscribed in all of YouTube.

UMass Amherst Doo Wop Shop – Disney Medley


Not all a cappella groups need to have carefully edited and recorded video presentations! This group gets by on nothing but coordinated outfits, charm, and endearing vocal talent as each member takes a solo in front of a hand-drawn logo on a blackboard.

 

Uniquely personal with no instruments other than the singers’ own voices, a cappella groups are so much fun to be part of. If you can sing (or want to learn), there are no expensive instruments to buy or rehearsal space to rent. So why not give it a shot? Pick a song and get to singing!

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Self-Conscious About Your Singing? Try These 3 Tips

6291582952_f0ae794686_bWondering how to get over stage fright when singing? Or even just feeling comfortable with singing in front of a small group? Check out these helpful tips from North Hollywood, CA teacher Jackie B...

 

As a lifelong musical theater performer — and owner of a big, brassy voice — I often hear people complain to me that “they wish they had talent” or lament the fact that they are “tone deaf” and therefore unable to enjoy singing. While I can appreciate the fact that people are born with varying degrees of musical ability, I firmly and truly believe that everyone can put together a winning performance and find a way to love singing.

Think about it: how many times have you been bored to tears hearing someone with a beautiful voice give a limp or perhaps overly self-indulgent performance? And how many times have you leapt to your feet over a pitchy-but-rousing karaoke number? The honest truth is that confidence and preparation trump lifeless but talented any day. So the real trick is knowing how to get over stage fright when singing and overcoming your self-consciousness enough to give the performance of a lifetime every time. While they may not substitute for a Juilliard education, here are three key tips to get you out of your shell and onto the stage:

1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I cannot stress this enough. If you are so focused on Julie’s vibrato or Karen’s comic timing, you are missing out on the important opportunity to find your own value and strengths. I often tell students that pretty blonde girls with killer voices are a dime a dozen. In fact, I think these talented bombshells actually have more competition despite their genetic gifts. Instead, focus on what makes you special. Maybe you aren’t the next Julie Andrews, but would being a Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch, or Bea Arthur be so bad?

2. Find A Personal Connection

The best antidote to a dull performance is a connection to the material.  I once had a student who wanted to sing a classic Disney song for a cabaret performance, but was struggling with nerves. I asked her what the song meant, and she dutifully paraphrased the lyrics. When I asked her instead what the song meant to her and asked her “Why would you sing this to someone? How would these lyrics change someone’s mind about something important?”, tears began to stream down her face as she found an immediate connection to a beloved family member in crisis. When she sang the song again it was personal, confident, and beautiful.

3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Notice I did not use the standard p-word (“Practice”) as it implies a more rote and repetitious exercise. By “prepare,” I mean: focus on delving into the story and the performance. Where are there opportunities for a varied dynamic? Are there places that can offer unexpected comic relief? Of course you should always take the time to memorize the lyrics and work on vocal technique, but a strong performance requires work outside of your class time where you can really let the story sink in. Practice and repetition are also important — once you have the story down, try it out in front of as many people as you can. It is one thing to sing a song confidently in the shower, and another to sing with the same enthusiasm in front of your mom and her reading club, but I urge you to do it. We only have one life, and it is such a shame to waste our passion on an unresponsive showerhead, don’t you think?

If you use these tools in combination with a technique and a coaching-oriented vocal instructor, you are well on your way to giving an honest, unique, and fantastic performance. Now get out there and sing!

JackieJackie B. teaches singing and acting in North Hollywood, CA. She has worked with singers of all ages and experience levels who want to improve performance, vocal expression, and range. Learn more about Jackie here!

 

 

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6 Definite Signs That You Were Born to Sing

8175644926_e2931331d3_hDo you love to sing? Check out this list below by St. Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L. and find out if you were meant for a lifetime of music — or perhaps even a singing career…

 

Sometimes, you think you may want to try. Sometimes, you’re not really sure. And sometimes, you just know that you were born to sing. Now, while Justin Timberlake (according to Mama Timberlake) may have been singing harmony to commercial jingles when he was two years old, the signs are not always that early, or obvious, for the rest of us. But there are signs. Here are six signs that you were born to sing and may have a singing career in your future.

• Singing makes you feel euphoric.

Singing can be so emotionally and mentally elevating that it feels as though you’re on another plane of existence, or outside your body, as you sing. At other times, you can feel very much “in” your body, mindful of every sensation and movement. Sometimes, it can make the singer feel both. There will always be the occasional day when singing does not mean euphoria. You’ll be tired, or under the weather, or burned out. But if you feel pure joy when you sing 90% of the time, then you know that you’re meant to do it.

• Lessons and practice are really, really fun.

A sure sign that perhaps you weren’t born to sing is that you daydream during most of your voice lessons or practice sessions about being, well, anywhere else. Now, to be clear, this might also be a sign that you’re not singing the repertoire that you want, or that your teacher is not a good fit for you. But even then, if you were born to sing, then even your most monotonous singing routine should feel really, really fun.

• All you want to do is sing.

An old friend once told me that singing is the kind of thing that you should choose as your life’s work only if it’s the only thing that you want to do. I’m not sure that I agree with that completely, but singing is such a very special thing. It requires hard work, dedication, and an open heart. Often that means long hours and strenuous study, leaving very little time for other pursuits. For born singers, that’s not a problem.

• Singing doesn’t feel like work.

When you’re born to sing, then singing even in the crummiest of circumstances or settings never feels like a job. And if you’re getting paid for gigs or have a full-blown singing career, you’re thrilled, because you’ve had so much fun anyway.

• You can take constructive criticism.

This is tough for most of us. And perhaps, being able to take constructive criticism (positive, encouraging diagnosis of vocal problems) about your singing is more accurately a sign of your maturity than it is of your being born to sing. But if you’re a natural singer, then you’ll be more than happy to get better at it, even if it means someone’s telling you what’s wrong with your singing.

• You have raw, teachable talent from the start.

Please note that I specifically did not say that having a polished, perfected sound from the start is a sign. Often, having a polished sound before you begin to study voice and hone your skills with a trusted mentor, coach, or teacher means that you’ve imitated another singer or singers.  Those singers may be very good, but it’s still imitation, and with imitation comes poor technique, tension, and a habit of ignoring your own body. As a student of voice, you must be willing and able to be open, honest, and vulnerable with your teacher or coach, presenting your raw, this-is-what-my-mama-gave-me voice. Being “teachable” is so important, too. I’ve had dozens of students over the years who were tremendously talented, but seemed to put up walls at every turn. They questioned every book, song, and method, or they simply didn’t want to learn anything new. Remember, even the best have somewhere to go.

Born singers are those who know how utterly fun singing can be. They also know how difficult and tedious it can be to learn to sing correctly, and decide to do it nonetheless. It’s not so much about talent as it is about attitude. Forget requiring a huge range and perfect vibrato when you’re 10. If you were born to sing, then you’re willing, able, and ready to go the distance.

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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