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The Real Secret to Improving Your Band’s Sound

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Do you want your band to sound even better? (Who doesn’t?!) Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares her secret for improving the group’s sound as well as your individual musical skills…

 

Do you think a metronome is just a personal preference for some musicians? Are you one of those musicians who KNOWS your time is perfect and unmatched? Well I’ve got news for you — it probably isn’t as spot-on as you think.

Most fights in bands are due to someone being off-time, and unable to accept that it is them. The truth is that most people honestly believe they are on time. As a drummer, I learned a long time ago the only way to know for sure how good your timing really is, is to use a metronome.

I’m not suggesting that you always play, practice, and perform with your metronome — not all music calls for that. What I am suggesting is that you take your musicianship to a whole other level, and take your power back! There is no greater feeling than knowing 100% where each note, beat, lick, and fill fits in the time and space of the song.

Singer-songwriters and guitar players… I’m calling you out. I challenge you to use a metronome when practicing and learning songs. I have played with so many amazingly talented musicians, guitar-playing singer-songwriters who performed and sounded fantastic alone, but when it came to a band setting, they were like complete beginners. Don’t let this be you.

Here are some ideas on how to get comfortable with the metronome as you’re singing or playing guitar with your band:

1) Listen to your songs against the “click.” This will help you to see where everything really lines up, and how much time you actually have to do whatever you want to do or play.

2) Devote at least 10% of your practice routine to practicing with the metronome. I recommend more like 50-90% but baby steps are fine for people not used to practicing with the metronome.

3) If you’re in a band, have “The Talk.” This will hold everyone equally accountable for doing what they can to improve their personal timing, which will improve the band’s time as a whole. Also having a group practice where the drummer listens to a click is helpful too. It instantly builds trust and competence. (If there is a problem member that can’t admit or see their faults, it may be helpful to have some practices where everyone can hear the click through the speakers, to shine light on what needs extra attention.)

4) Be humble. Learning that your timing sucks can be a hard realization, especially for sensitive musicians. This can bruise the ego and come out as anger. Remember the point is not to be “right” or make someone feel defeated. The point is to improve your band’s sound, as well as individual sound. The metronome is the Truth, and sometimes the Truth hurts.

5) Slow down! The best way to really lock down any song, riff, groove, fill, or solo is to slow way down. Take the tempo down to half or 3/4′s of the original tempo and practice in slow motion, to let your brain and muscles learn exactly where everything fits. Do this until your muscle memory learns the movement of the piece. Then when you speed back up, do it gradually in increments of 5 or 10 bpms until you arrive back at the original tempo. Then push past 10 or 20 bpms so you truly have it mastered. You never know when you will need to play it faster or slower, but with this practice, you will be prepared no matter what the speed.

These are just a few ways to incorporate the metronome as you’re playing guitar, singing, or whatever part you play in your band. I hope this is helpful — and remember, it’s about taking baby steps. This is not something you just want to brush off. Being a master at time will make you a more valuable musician, and more confident in your skills too. It may be tough at first, but anything worth learning is.

Go easy on yourself and/or your band. It is challenging, but I know you can do it!

Maegan WMaegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!

 

 

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Do Singers Need Metronomes?

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As a vocalist, should you practice singing with a metronome at your side? Read on for St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L.‘s advice… 

 

Metronomes are devices that produce sounds in regular, pre-chosen rhythms. Many years ago, the only metronomes were simple gadgets. Though the first one that’s even similar to what we now think of as a “modern” metronome was invented in the 19th century, the kind that most adults are familiar with is a mechanical, wind-up metronome. It makes a sound like someone knocking on a small door. Nowadays, nifty electronic metronomes are manufactured on their own, or in a small device combined with a tuner, and they can now even be found online and on your smartphone as an app. They are utterly customizable, and I’m not talking just about the time signature, but even the sound itself.

Pros and Cons of Using a Metronome

So many musicians use a metronome all the time, but there’s always been a lot of debate on whether or not they’re even effective. Supporters of its use say that it helps to encourage an internal sense of rhythm, it helps to keep musicians playing at a constant speed (if they tend to have a tendency to speed up or slow down), and because you can set it to a composer’s indicated tempo marking, you can get a true idea of the speed he or she wanted the piece to be played. Opponents of the metronome claim that it simply creates mindlessly mechanical musicians, devoid of music expressiveness. Over the last decade of teaching piano, I’ve used a metronome sparingly, fearing that students would go insane if I played it incessantly. But recently, I’ve found it more and more useful. Overall, I’ve come to believe that pianists, especially those in the beginner and intermediate stages, need a metronome. But do singers need a metronome?

Using a Metronome for Singing Practice

I taught a voice lesson this morning to a 65-year-old female student. She is a complete beginner who has a lot of promise. Because it’s so important that all of my students learn to sight read, I made sure that I got an intensive session in for her today. In the middle of sight reading melodies, she suddenly asked, “Why is that dot round and without a stem?” She was asking what a whole note is. As I explained note rhythms, and specifically that a whole note is one that’s sung or played for four beats, I realized how much I needed a metronome in that moment. I would’ve played my guitar, the metronome would’ve sounded its steady beat, and my student would’ve heard that steady beat in the background as she sang. As she sang that whole note, she could’ve heard four beats go by. That would’ve reinforced her learning aurally.

Sure, I was able to strum and tap my guitar side to get a similar effect, but what happens to my student tomorrow when she goes to practice singing on her own? She doesn’t play an instrument. And even if she did that doesn’t mean at her beginning stage that she’d be sure to stay consistent in her rhythms.

Yes, music is a living thing, and living things naturally slow down and speed up. Music is a living thing that lives inside us, not on a written page. That page is a guide, a map that shows us the way. But it’s not the way. Rubato, for instance, is an Italian term that means literally “to rob,” and musically, it means to slow down and take time away, so to speak, only to “give it back” and speed up later on. It’s a beautiful thing. But metronomes don’t know rubato. They are faithful, true, and dependable, which is exactly why they’re so important for your musical studies.

Other Ways a Metronome Can Help

Singers need metronomes. A lot of composers and even songwriters include very particular, and even not so particular, tempo markings in their works. These markings go from vague, like “with movement,” to an exact number of beats per minute, like 132. Unless you know just what 132 beats per minute sounds like, when you see that 132 on your page of music, you’ll just be guessing. And have you ever slowed down or sped up in song, without even knowing it? Me, too. Metronomes help.

Think of the last time that you sang with another musician. Did you find yourselves having to take a few minutes to talk about exactly what tempo you’d play? Did you get a little frustrated when someone sped up on his own? A metronome would’ve helped.

In the end, the metronome becomes a trusty friend, there whenever you need it. But someone doesn’t have to be your roommate to be a trusty friend. And your metronome doesn’t have to be a nagging, annoying, or constant companion. You can be simply friends, and what a great friend it is to have.

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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Amazing Dad Learns to Sing for Unforgettable Wedding Song

What’s something you always thought you couldn’t do? What would it feel like to have a breakthrough and discover that there’s really nothing holding you back?

John Butcher, age 50, always thought he was tone deaf until he took voice lessons to perform a surprise song at his daughter’s wedding. After six months of private voice lessons, Butcher was able to deliver a touching and tuneful performance. This video, which was featured on the UK’s Daily Mail website, shows this incredible dad’s wedding reception song performance of “You Were Always on My Mind”. 

Is there a specific wedding reception song that you would love to be able to sing? Or if singing’s not quite your cup of tea, is there a piano piece or guitar song you’d like to learn? Find a teacher near you who can help out!

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Your Vocal Music Binder | How to Organize Your Sheet Music

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Is your music binder a mess? Here are some tips from New York, NY voice teacher Chelsea F. for keeping things organized…

 

Imagine you are gathering your go-to items for your audition or lesson when you grab your binder filled with every piece of vocal sheet music you have ever owned, and suddenly the binder slips from your hands. In a split-second all your music flies into the air and is now scattered and disorganized all over the floor… That’s a sure sign it’s time to get organized, especially if you’re regularly working with an accompanist.

Avoid this scenario — and keep your accompanist happy — with these easy steps:

• Start from scratch! Throw away torn and crumpled copies and make new ones, and use white hole reinforcements for extra security in the binder.
 Buy a new binder that is not falling apart! Start with a one-inch or two-inch binder, since it is easier to transport a thinner binder in a bookbag or tote. If the binder is too big and overloaded with music, it may not rest comfortably on the music rack on the piano.
• Make sure your name and phone number are visible either on the outside or inside of the binder in case you misplace it.
• A binder with pockets in the front and/or back is extremely helpful to keep extra headshots, resumes, and any other loose music.
• Eliminate the shiny paper protectors! The glare is difficult for pianists to play with. If you really want to to use the paper protectors, make sure to get the non-glare ones!
• If you sing a variety of genres, color-code the binders. For example — Black: Classical Binder; White: Musical Theater Binder; etc. This way you can grab it easily! You could also make a specific Audition Binder that has a little bit of everything in it!
 If you’re using ONE binder for all of your vocal sheet music, use dividers and labels for each section: Musical Theater, Classical, Art Song, Contemporary, etc.
• Consider adding a “Table of Contents” or “Table of Repertoire” at the front of the binder, so your accompanist can easily find a specific selection in your binder if needed. Then add tabs with labels on the right hand side so the pianist can easily flip to the aria or song. This makes it foolproof!
• If you are set on specific music selections, you can spiral-bind your audition materials in one small booklet, which can be done at FedEd Office, Staples, or your local paper store. Having all of your music in one easy booklet makes it super convenient.
• When putting vocal sheet music in your binder, make sure it is double-sided and none of the accompaniment is cut off at the bottom! You don’t want the pianist to omit something because a copy was cut off or hard to read.

Make your binder your own! Though it maybe overlooked, an organized binder for all your sheet music will take you far!

ChelseaFChelsea F. teaches singing, piano, and music theory in New York, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. Learn more about Chelsea here!

 

 

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5 Great Songs to Sing at a Wedding

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Want to impress your friends or family — or perhaps your future husband or wife — with a wedding performance? Here are some ideas for songs to sing at a wedding from Hayward, CA teacher Molly R...

 

I have worked with many singers who have been asked by a friend or family member to sing at a wedding. It’s a great honor, but it can also be nerve-wracking! While some have been asked to sing a specific song, others need some suggestions on what to sing.

Here are five songs to sing at a wedding, from a wide variety of styles:

1. “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert

This song has been used for years for good reason. Its vocal line is just plain beautiful! In its original classical adaptation, sung in Latin, it’s a solid option for classically trained voices. There are also pop versions available in various keys, as well as various languages!

2. “All I Ask Of You” from “The Phantom of the Opera”

This is a really great option because it can be sung either as a duet as written for the show (for baritone and soprano), or it can be a more pop-like solo.

3. “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts

This contemporary ballad is ideal for weddings in more casual settings. Country singers need their options, too! Here is a solo version sung by Carrie Underwood.

“When I Fall in Love”

This classic piece is ideal for jazzy voices, beginner/intermediate singers, and more mature voices.

And last, but certainly not least…

“The Wedding Song (There is Love)” by Paul Stookey

This simple but very moving song has been a staple at weddings for almost 45 years! It sounds lovely with guitar accompaniment as well.

Do you need help finding the perfect song to sing at a wedding, or making your chosen solo perfect? There are so many voice teachers that would love to help you. He or she can help you with your diction, phrasing, and overall confidence to prepare you for a marvelous performance on the big day!

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 Audition for Solos in Choir Songs in 5 Steps

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Ready for your time to shine? Get ready for your upcoming choir audition with these tips from Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R

 

Choir songs are all about group mentality. Singing as part of an ensemble, working on blend and teamwork, is very rewarding. But there are also opportunities to get in the spotlight once in a while, and those can be rewarding too.

Choir songs with solos provide singers with a chance to sing alone – a very different experience than singing as part of an ensemble. If you are thinking about auditioning for a solo in choir, here are a few steps you can take to prepare.

1. Determine if it’s a Good Fit

When solos in choir songs come up, it’s natural to jump at the opportunity. But the truth of the matter is that not all solos will fit your voice.

The first indicator is your voice part in choir; a tenor solo probably isn’t fit for a bass, for example. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, since plenty of people can sing higher or lower than they are called on to do in choir.

Do you think you may be a good choice for a solo? Try singing through it, using a keyboard or piano to help you hit the right notes. If the solo feels too high or too low for you, you have your answer. If it feels comfortable, it’s time to go on to Step 2.

2. Learn the Words

Once you’ve decided to audition, take a break from singing and look at the words. Are they in English? If so, read through them and make sure you understand them. If not, look up a translation. You can also read up on the background of choir songs, as well as the context of the piece as a whole, to help you get a better idea of how to sing the solo.

3. Learn the Music

Next, learn the music itself. To make the process easier, learn the rhythm first. Pay attention to the time signature, and try clapping through it. If there are tricky parts, jot down reminders for yourself. When I encounter difficult rhythms in choir songs (or anywhere else), I write the beats in above the staff.

When you’ve mastered the rhythm, play through your part on the keyboard (it’s OK if you aren’t comfortable with the piano as long as you can find your notes). Be sure to note the key signature and play sharps and flats when present.

4. Bring it to a Voice Teacher

A voice teacher can help you sing the solo well by coaching you on phrasing, breaths, and other technical details. Many voice teachers are also well-versed in languages and may offer coaching with pronunciation. To really master solos in choir songs, enlisting professional help is a must.

5. Have a Mock Audition

Do you get nervous about auditions? Join the club! To help assuage your nerves, ask your voice teacher to conduct a mock audition. Practice walking into the room and singing the piece as if you were in an audition. Your teacher will give you feedback to help you look relaxed and sing well, even under pressure.

If you have the opportunity to audition for a choir solo, remember these five steps. See if the solo fits your voice, then learn the words and music. Take the solo to a voice teacher – and conduct a mock audition – for maximum preparedness. This process fully prepares you for the audition so that you can do your best and, with a little luck, enjoy singing your well-earned solo.

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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Singing Competition Secrets: Are They Really Worth It?

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Thinking about auditioning for a televised singing competition like American Idol? Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares what could be an even better idea…

 

For years, we’ve tuned into our favorite singing competitions, voting for our favorites each week, and hoping they win the coveted record deal at the end of the season. We’ve watched as the juggernaut American Idol – a derivative of Pop Idol from Europe – gave way to others like The Voice and X-Factor. Many other worthy (and not-so-worthy) opponents have aimed to get a slice of the reality singing competition show pie. Yet, one thing many of us aspiring performers and singers don’t realize is that local and regional singing competitions are actually a much better start than trying for a television show as your first venture into stardom.

It’s First A TV Show

I first tried out for American Idol at 17 years old. I was wide-eyed, eager, and willing to do whatever it took to get the smile from Paula, the fist pump from Randy, and the tepid accolade from Simon. What I soon realized over my two-day endeavor was that this was about 85% TV production and faux-reality, and only 15% singing competition and talent search. The Voice and X-Factor are no different. That does nothing for the kid who makes it to the round right before getting on television as their first foray into competition. While that didn’t deter me from the performing life at all, it very well could spell doom and gloom for the less-than-strong yet incredibly talented performer. These shows are perfect launching pads, but serve the seasoned performer with an established fanbase that’s larger than their circle of family and friends much better.

Utilize Local and Regional Singing Competitions As a Launching Pad

The best launching pad for the novel performer taking lessons and improving every day is local and online singing competitions. Here in Southern California, a great competition to get your start is the SoCal Icon Annual Solo Vocal Competition. Last year I had a student, Autumn Carter, place second in the Riverside competition, and I will have three others compete next year. In fact, Autumn is readying a callback audition for The Voice this December! Additionally, the YOBISING competition, the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, and the Singist Vocal Competition are all launching pad-type competitions to help you along the path of becoming a performer.

National Television Singing Competitions Are Still Worthwhile

With all of that said, it is still a worthwhile endeavor to try out for American Idol and The Voice. These shows have established fanbases, solid-enough ratings to warrant new upcoming seasons, and possibilities for stardom that cannot be slighted. However, the best way to maximize your return on these television shows is to come in seasoned with a fanbase ready to be unleashed to propel you to the top.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Find a local TakeLessons instructor today and bring these tips to your first lesson as you and your teacher cultivate your plan to take flight on your dream!

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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How to Transition from Classical Singing to Pop | Exploring Genres in Singing

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There are so many different styles and genres to learn to sing, from classical singing to jazz to Broadway-style. Read on for some tips from St. Augustine, FL Heather L. for exploring pop music, even if you started out with classical training…

 

This article, however instructional, is a very personal one for me to write. After studying opera and classical singing exclusively for 10 years, I finally admitted to myself that while I still loved to sing, I no longer loved to sing in that style. And while that part of my journey gave me the knowledge and confidence to find my life’s work, teaching music, I wanted to return to the kind of music that inspired me to start singing in the first place: pop.

As my longest and most impactful voice teacher once told me, the only real difference between classical music and pop is that in classical music, the music is more important than the words, and in pop, the words are more important than the music. Understanding this notion has helped me greatly in my own path from the world where the most gorgeous aria could be about a tree, to the world where a simple, unfulfilling melody is matched with profound lyrics about civil rights. This is an important principle that could begin your process of transition. Here are the rest of the steps.

• Start listening to a lot of (quality) pop

You’ve really got to feed yourself with pop music is order to familiarize yourself with the style. Many classical singers who’ve crossed over to pop are critiqued, as the results are sometimes unsuccessful. They sound silly because the singer, however fantastic and admired in his original genre, never really “got” the elements of the style — the dips, the scoops, the combination of straight tone and vibrato. These are best learned through lots of listening — but be careful not to mimic, and try out many different, quality pop singers, preferably recorded before auto-tuning took over pop. Try early Mariah Carey, early Whitney Houston, early Sinead O’Connor, Boyz II Men, former musical theater singer Adam Lambert, folk singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, and maybe the finest example of a non-classical voice, Eva Cassidy. Perhaps the clearest way to hear a truly non-computerized voice is live, indie concerts or open mics, or indie folk albums. By listening to non-classical music sung without tons of filtering and mastering, you’ll get a sense of what a pure voice sounds like in a pop context.

• Loosen up

I mean this literally and figuratively. Classical singing may require the most free and unencumbered musculature and mentality, but pop music by its very nature will ask you to tighten up. Contrary to popular perception, classical singers are the most open and tension-less, and often pop is the most controlled and constructed, so to speak. That means that you should be prepared by being extra stretched and loose. Pop singing also calls for a loose approach to what voice teachers and classically trained singers call “placement.” How your registers feel and sound will change as you transition to pop, so be open.

• Get quick

As a classical singer, you may or may not have specialized in singing especially fast musical passages sung on a single syllable, known as melismatic singing. And you could very well sing pop music without learning it. But with it, you can gain so much more versatility as an artist. Often in pop music, we hear it in what are called “runs,” most often in descending scales and usually at the end of a line or major section. The best place to learn melismatic singing for pop is the gospel world. Listen to Mahalia Jackson and Yolanda Adams to get a feel for it.

• Learn about belting and floating

In pop singing, we often have a choice between belting our high notes, and floating them in what I call “faux falsetto,” an intentionally weak sound. This latter option is probably not how you are used to approaching high notes as a classical singer. We may be taught to “float” as a means to let go of tension, but in pop singing, I have long suspected that this light, weak, and feathery sound is used either to establish a sense of vulnerability or to create a sense that the note is so utterly high that the listener should be impressed. Either way, it’s an essential stylistic tool. Belting is another element altogether. It’s really a way to sing and yell at the same time. In my professional opinion, it should only be put into your regular bag of singing tricks under the guidance of a teacher who specializes in musical theater or Broadway singing. The bottom line is that singers aren’t forced to choose one over the other all the time. Belting can be used during heavily emotional and empowered moments, while floating, or the faux falsetto, can be used during a tender and brokenhearted moment.

• Start practicing your English

Okay, so for most of you, English is your first language. But for many of us, English was not the only, or even primary, language that we studied in our voice literature. I think English is a wondrous and fun language, but it’s not exactly the most conducive to classical singing. It’s cumbersome, feeling almost chunky in the mouth. Italian, on the other hand, is rolling and fluid as it falls out. Singing pop music in English is all about being a little conversational and a lot more intimate sounding. Conversational diction — and not “Mary Poppins diction” — is a major part of what makes a pop singer sound like a genuine pop singer.

My final suggestion is to have a lot of fun. This transition from classical singing to pop singing may get frustrating at times, but just remember that you already are a singer. You’re not starting from scratch. You’re simply taking a slight bend in a long and winding road.

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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High Notes & High Fashions: What to Wear to Your Next Audition

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Stumped on what to wear for your next audition? Dress for success with these tips from New York, NY voice teacher Chelsea F...

 

You’ve practiced, studied, taken countless lessons, and you are now ready to go on some auditions… but the night before your audition you peer into your closet and realize, to your horror, you don’t know what to wear!

This is a topic that many students don’t ask their voice teachers about because, let’s face it, in a 45- to 60-minute lesson there is a lot to cover!

On the day of an audition there is a lot to think about, such as your song choice, dealing with nerves, remembering to bring specific materials (headshot and resume), hoping the pianist plays your piece to your liking, memory issues, and, of course, how you look and feel. Having one or two “go to” audition outfits lets you have one less thing to think about on the day you have that really important audition. Looking and feeling great is just an added bonus to having a successful audition! Here are some helpful tips on choosing what to wear to an audition…

Tips for Women

Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life… Well, a pair of shoes can make or break your audition! Make sure your feet feel comfortable and that you can sing comfortably. Keep in mind that adding four-inch heels can change vocal posture. Be sure to practice in your shoes before your audition!

Say Yes to the Dress! When choosing a dress, make sure you feel comfortable enough to sing in it and you have plenty of room to breathe! It is a good idea when buying a dress to breathe deeply in the dressing room before you buy it, and also make sure it complements your body type. Black is always in style and is slimming to every body type. Things to avoid include large prints and extremely bright colors (which can distract a judge), and a dress that is either too tight or too short.

I wear the pants… For those who sing operatic mezzo roles, consider a classic blazer, solid-colored dressy blouse, and black slacks. When wearing this type of audition outfit make sure your pants are ironed and/or dry cleaned to avoid wrinkles or looking messy.

• Good hair day: Please keep your hair off your face! There is nothing worse than watching someone brush their hair away from their face constantly during a song. Great options include wearing your hair half up, a bun, or a fancy ponytail.

Maybe it’s Maybelline… Makeup is just another part of putting a look together. When applying makeup for an audition, make sure it is natural and that you still look like your headshot picture!

Put a ring on it: Jewelry is a personal choice and statement. If you choose to wear jewelry with your outfit, make sure, again, you feel comfortable in it. Also remember that less is more. Things to avoid include jewelry that feels heavy on the neck or ears, long dangling earrings, very sparkly necklaces, and earrings that could distract the judge. If you’re wearing bracelets, avoid ones that have charms that make noise. You want the judge to be focusing on the beauty of your voice, not your bling!

Tips for Men

Check your fly: When choosing a suit, make sure it is tailored to your body type! Choose a dress shirt and/or tie that complements the color of the suit. If you’re wearing a three-piece suit, make sure the vest and pants have plenty of room so you feel comfortable enough to sing and breathe! If you have gained or lost weight make sure to take your suit in for the appropriate alterations.

Dressy/casual: Not wearing a suit? A great pair of jeans, dress shirt, and tie are sometimes all you need! Just make sure the jeans are in great condition — jeans with holes look sloppy and unprofessional, and could potentially give an air of not caring about the audition.

Shoes are a girl thing: Though this may be true, a pair of great dress shoes can really complement a suit. Be sure the shoes are not too tight and are comfortable to stand and sing in! There is nothing worse then putting on shoes that are too tight. When wearing dress shoes make sure to wear a nice dress sock that is pulled up.

Happy shopping & happy singing!

ChelseaFChelsea F. teaches singing, piano, and music theory in New York, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. Learn more about Chelsea here!

 

 

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How to Identify Voice Types & Subtypes

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Are you a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass? Learn how to determine your voice type in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R

 

So, you want to figure out your own voice type. You probably just want to know whether you are a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass. Unfortunately, things are a little more complicated than that. The good news? It doesn’t matter as much as you think.

Before you rush to the keyboard to try to figure out your voice type, keep two things in mind. First of all, how old are you? If you are under 20 (or under 22 or so if you are male), your current range is still in progress. It will likely continue to change as you get older, so you can’t figure out your voice type for a few more years.

Second of all, have you had any vocal training? If not, your vocal range can change drastically as you learn how to use your voice. I can’t tell you how many times women have come into my studio insisting that they are altos, only to unlock entire octaves of range they didn’t know they had!

That being said, here we go!

Voice Types and Subtypes

There are five broad categories of voice types: two for women and three for men. I’m using operatic voice types here, because they are the most specific than other classifications, but I’ve given pop examples of each voice type as well.

  • Soprano

Soprano is the highest voice type. Even the lowest types of sopranos can sing C6 (6th C on the keyboard, counting from the bottom,) or “high C.” The highest sopranos can sing well above that. Pop music sopranos include Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, and Ellie Goulding. These voices have a lighter tambour and easy access to high notes.

These are the operatic soprano subsections, in order of highest to lowest. If you listen, you’ll see just how much variety there is under the one title of soprano – and the other voice types as well.

• Coloratura soprano (example: Lucia Popp. And me.)
• Soubrette
• Lyric soprano (example: Renée Fleming)
• Dramatic soprano (example: Christine Goerke)

  • Mezzo-Soprano

Mezzo-sopranos are women with lower voices. They are referred to as altos in the choir world. Some women with extra-low voices are referred to as contraltos.

Some mezzo sopranos can sing C6 (and rarely even higher), but most of them top out before C6. In popular music, singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Adele are mezzo-sopranos. The mezzo-soprano subsections, in order of highest to lowest, are:

• Coloratura mezzo-soprano (example: Isabel Leonard)
• Lyric mezzo-soprano
• Dramatic mezzo-soprano
• Contralto (this is actually a separate category, but I’ve combined it here because of its rarity. Example: Larissa Diadkova)

  • Tenor

Tenors are high-voiced men. They can typically sing up to a B4 in full voice; some of them can sing higher. Examples of tenors in popular music include Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, and Adam Levine – look for easy high notes and some falsetto.

There are more subsections for male voices than female voices, so here are some of them (highest to lowest):

• Countertenor (this is also technically a separate category for men who sing predominantly in head voice, but it is rare. Hear it here.)
• Leggero tenor (example: Luciano Pavarotti)
• Lyric tenor
• Spinto tenor
• Dramatic tenor (example: Giuseppe Giacomini)

  • Baritone

Baritones are halfway between tenors and basses. Even the highest baritones typically can’t hit a C4, or ‘high C,” but they can sing down to a G2 or lower. Examples of baritones in popular music include Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Here are some of the more common baritone types (highest to lowest):

• Lyric baritone (example: Mariusz Kwiecien)
• Verdi baritone
• Dramatic baritone (example: Juan Pons)

  • Bass

Basses are the lowest male voice type. To be honest, I can’t think of a single one in popular music (maybe Louis Armstrong). Looks like it’s high time we had one! Basses can sing down to E2 or lower, and their highest notes are around E4 in chest voice.

In the operatic world, here are some of the subsections:

• Bass-baritone (example: Luca Pisaroni)
• Basso buffo
• Lyric basso profundo
• Dramatic basso profundo (example: Matti Salminen)

Combination Voice Types

You can’t pigeonhole voices very easily, since they tend to be versatile and many of the above voice types overlap in range. In the end, it’s more a matter of the tambour of the voice, what the voice sounds best singing, and what repertoire the vocalist prefers. For example, I call myself a light lyric coloratura – I can sing very high, but I also sing plenty of lower repertoire. Some people just call themselves zwichen fach, which means they fluctuate between voice types.

If you listen to some of the examples above and explore your range using a keyboard and good vocal technique, you may be able to figure out your voice type. Knowing your broad voice type can help you choose music that feels – and sounds – good in your voice. Curious about more specifics? Talk to 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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