learning to read music

Learning to Read Music: An Introduction for Singers

learning to read music

Learning to read music can be a daunting task for beginner singers! Here, Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R. shows you how to get started…


Not to point out the obvious, but as singers, we don’t have keys on our instrument. We don’t have buttons that emit the same pitch every time they are pressed. Most of us don’t have perfect pitch, either. This makes learning to read music quite different for singers than for other musicians.

Not only do singers deal with learning how to read what is on the page, we have to learn how each note feels in our voice. We have to learn to mentally map intervals and translate them from the page to our instruments. We have to stay in tune, even when singing a cappella (not an easy feat!).

But don’t despair! Learning to read music is easy if you separate out the two basic components that make up music: rhythms and pitches.

Feel the Beat

Drums or clapping can keep rhythm because rhythm is independent from pitch. This is helpful, since you can practice the rhythm of a song before you sing a note simply by clapping or speaking it. If you do this work in advance, you don’t have to deal with learning the pitches and the rhythms simultaneously.

Rhythm is controlled by several elements on the page:

• Time Signatures: The time signature usually consists of two numbers, one stacked on top of the other, that come before the first note in a song. The one on top signifies how many beats are in a measure, while the one on the bottom signifies which note gets one beat. For example, 4/4 fits four quarter notes into each measure, 2/4 fits two quarter notes into each measure, and 2/2 fits two half notes into each measure.

• Notes and Rests: Notes have different durations depending on how they look. They can look like round holes (a whole note, go figure), a filled-in note with a stem attached (a quarter note), a note connected to a bunch of other notes by a single line (an eight note), etc. Rests also have durations. Learning note and rest duration helps you with the rhythm of the music.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the different kinds of notes, rests, and time signatures, try to put it all together. Start by speaking or clapping with the time signature. For example, for a piece in 4/4, start by marking time in four (one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, etc.) Then add the notes and rests into the structure of the time signature.

The Keyboard is Your Best Friend

Once you’ve learned the rhythm to your song, you will need to know a little more musical theory to read the pitches. The basic gist of it is simple: the staff is made up of five lines and four spaces. Each line or space represents a specific pitch. A note placed in a particular line or space means that you have to sing that pitch.

Here are some need-to-know terms for reading pitches:

• Treble and Bass Clef: These determine which line and space corresponds to which note. Treble clef is generally used for higher voices, bass clef for lower voices.

• Sharps and Flats: Sharps raise the notated pitch by a half step, while flats lower it by a half step. To illustrate, if there is a note on the lowest line of a treble clef staff, it is an E. Stick a sharp sign next to it and it becomes E sharp. A flat sign changes it into E flat.

As I’ve already pointed out, singers are at somewhat of a disadvantage as compared to musicians with instruments that aren’t body parts. We can’t press a key and expect to hear the same note every time. Therefore, we can’t pick up a piece of music and read it perfectly without a starting pitch.

This is why, for singers, the keyboard is the best tool for learning to read music. Learn your pitches at the keyboard, listening to each one and repeating it in the context of the rhythm of a song.

Learning to Read, Learning to Sing

Of course, it’s important to reinforce learning to read music with learning to sing it. A voice teacher can help you hit those high notes easily and comfortably, create nice phrases, and breathe in the right places. And if you get stuck trying to read the music, your voice teacher is there to help you learn the notes!

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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Voice Therapy for Singers: How to Know When to Get Help


As a singer, your instrument–your voice–requires special care and precautions to avoid injuries. But what if the damage is already done? What symptoms should you watch out for, and when is it time to look into voice therapy? Learn more in this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J...


As singers, we understand that the voice is an instrument all of its own. Furthermore, we should also understand that our voice is a muscle that requires its own workout, and is subject to injury much like other muscles in our body. So, what can we do to prevent these injuries from happening? Read on to learn more about vocal health and vocal therapy.

What is Vocal Trauma?

Vocal trauma is an acute form of stress that comes from the misuse or overuse of the vocal folds within the larynx, or voice box. The vocal folds are thin strips of smooth muscle tissue with a mucous membrane positioned opposite from each other within the larynx. It is the vocal folds that move and vibrate when air passes by them which, when resonated through our vocal cavities (throat, mouth, and nose), creates our vocal tone. When we’re being silent, those vocal folds are open so that we can inhale and exhale more freely. When we begin to speak, our brain sends the neural signal to the vocal folds to snap together in conjunction with the air passing by them to vibrate and create speech.

What Can Vocal Trauma Lead To?

When damage is done to these vocal folds, it can lead to possible bleeding and the formation of blisters known as nodes (paired growths on both sides) or polyps (one growth on one side). These growths restrict the pliability of the vocal folds, keeping them from vibrating and oscillating properly. Ergo, you will not be able to sing.

The most common reason why nodes or polyps form is due to bad singing habits. Failing to properly warm up and continuing to sing when ill or vocally fatigued are the biggest contributors. Hoarseness–when the voice sounds breathy, raspy, or strained and feels scratchy–usually accompanies vocal trauma. If you feel you have been practicing these bad habits, let your vocal teacher know quickly.

When Should I See My Doctor?

If you’ve had vocal or throat discomfort for more than three weeks, especially if you haven’t been sick, make an appointment with your doctor. Additionally, if you’ve been coughing up blood, a feeling of a lump in your throat, difficulty swallowing or breathing, experience pain when speaking, or have a loss of voice for more than a few days, place an urgent call to your physician. If your vocal trauma has been prolonged, your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, or an ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) doctor. This doctor will most likely used an endoscope–a thin tube with an attached camera–to get a better look at your throat, larynx, and vocal folds. They may also put you through vocal exercises to determine voice irregularities. Your doctor is the only one who should be diagnosing you, and will let you know how to proceed. Voice therapy can include relearning healthy vocal techniques (and eliminating bad habits), specific vocal exercises, or even vocal rest for a designated period.

Remember–don’t ignore any discomfort. If you continue to sing while exhibiting the symptoms listed above, you risk doing further damage to your vocal folds.

What Can Be Done to Minimize the Risk of Vocal Trauma?

I cannot stress enough the importance and necessary usage of proper vocal warm-ups. You should not use your voice for singing without having warmed up your voice beforehand. Think of it as stretching before a run or workout; your vocal folds are muscles that must be warmed up for them to operate at peak capacity.

Additionally, in your vocal lessons, your teacher should properly assign your voice type and range so you can operate within your voice capacity, in addition to working on exercises and repertoire that can expand your vocal range safely. A lack of or wrong assignment of your voice type and vocal range could lead to hoarseness and subsequent vocal trauma as outlined above. If your voice teacher has not done so, please let them know you would like to have this information available to you.

I hope this information helps you in your vocal training. Happy singing!

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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Musical Theatre Audition Songs: 6 Great Options for Kids


Does your son or daughter have an audition coming up? Here are some ideas for musical theatre audition songs, courtesy of Hayward, CA teacher Molly R...


It’s not always easy to find the right musical theatre audition songs–and the same can definitely be said when it comes to kids’ repertoire!

Is there a way to avoid warhorses like “Annie” and “Oliver” while finding songs that will excite your young actor and the audition panel? YES! Here are some suggestions that will make your young actor a standout at his or her next audition.

For girls:

  • “I Always Knew” from “Annie Warbucks” – No need to be the zillionth young auditionee with “Tomorrow”. You can show them you’re the perfect plucky orphan with a song from the lesser known SEQUEL–and it happens to be a lovely song!
  • “Gee I’m Glad I’m Nobody Else But Me!” from “Anne of Green Gables” – This is a delightful uptempo number that is hardly overdone–perfect for the young soprano.
  • “Sayonara” from “How to Eat Like a Child” — The right performer can really get smiles and laughs out of the audition panel with this sassy and funny number. In fact, the whole show is packed with great options.

For boys:

  • “When I Get My Name in Lights” from “The Boy from Oz” – This is for the young song and dance man–the extrovert!
  • “My Best Girl” from “Mame” –This is a really effective ballad, and would work especially well if auditioning for a role like the lead in “Oliver” or any other show from the 50s-60s.
  • “Big Blue World” from “Finding Nemo” — Looking for something newer? Look no further–this show is great for young boys to sing from! Because this show is only performed at Disney World, you don’t have to worry about everyone else walking in with this one.

So there you have it! There is so much to explore out there as far as musical theatre audition songs go, but remember that the right material shows off both your voice AND personality, no matter what your age is.

Lastly, remember that working with a voice teacher is the best way to find the song or songs that are right for you.  He or she will have plenty of ideas about repertoire, both classic and new, that will suit your voice! Your teacher can also help prepare you for the big day and help you gain the confidence you need to really sell your song. And most voice teachers are knowledgeable about upcoming auditions in their respective communities, so they can help you or your child find local opportunities you may not normally hear about. Break a leg!

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 Sing While Breaking a Sweat: Tips for Triple Threats


John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones are just a few of the Hollywood celebrities known for being “triple threats”–skilled in singing, dancing, and acting. Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares his tips for reaching their superstar status…


So you’ve decided to take vocal lessons to learn how to sing better, but the buck doesn’t just stop there for your own ambitions. You have your eyes set on the stage and the screen, and you won’t stop until you’re there. You may be doe-eyed and eager to learn, but you’re sure of where you want to end up. Your guide is nigh–just remember The Three P’s: Preparation, Practice, and Performance.


That first wonderful step is taking vocal lessons. (And if you haven’t started those yet, what are you waiting for?! Book lessons with me, or find a teacher near you!) Finding a vocal teacher is very important in order for you to understand how to use your entire vocal cavity–not just how to sing. Taking vocal lessons will indeed improve your speaking and recitation voices as well.

Next, taking acting classes and workshops will allow you to put those new speaking and singing tools you’ve acquired into action, all the while improving your cue, marking, beat, and improvisation skills. From there, taking dance classes will start the third leg of your Triple-Threat race. Taking dance lessons will help you continue improving the skills you’ve picked up in your acting classes while adding in rhythm, technique, ensemble and solo routine, and vocal/dance incorporation.


You’ve heard the old adage time and time again–Practice Makes Perfect. It’s been around so long because it’s true; the best way to improve yourself after you’ve acquired the tools is to cultivate them into skills. After your vocal lessons, it’s important to do your daily vocal warm-ups and exercises to continue building strength in the muscles of your vocal cavity. After your acting classes and workshops, continue to run lines, blocking, and scene rehearsing. Visualization with a virtual stage at home can help to put all phases of your scene together. And after your dance lessons, continue doing your daily stretches and routine practicing in order to polish them up for the next class and, ideally, the eventual performance. P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!


After the preparation, and after all of the practicing, the payoff draws near–the Performance. With your vocal lessons, seek out vocal opportunities either solicited from your vocal teacher or elsewhere. Community choral groups are a wonderful place to learn how to sing with others and cultivate your musical score reading skills. As a solo singer, your local coffee shop, bar, or music store may lead open mic nights for you to pop into and sing a few selections you’ve been working on for an audience.

For acting, look into your local community theater companies for audition opportunities. Check the audition dates (usually on their website or the theater box office) and ask your acting instructor for input on audition pieces if you haven’t already.

Lastly, for dancing, dance showcases are the perfect opportunity to strut your stuff. If you’re attending classes at a dance studio, chances are they’ll have a showcase coming up. If not, actively seek out showcases you can audition for–try your city’s Park and Recreation department, or other local dance studios. These organizations are always looking for new undiscovered talent or new dancers to join their ranks.

Preparation is the first step, Practice makes perfect, and the Performance is the goal. Now that you’re set with The Three P’s, you’re on your way to becoming the Triple Threat you know you can be! Break a leg!

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 Long Does it Take to Learn to Sing, Really?


Gearing up for your first voice lesson, and wondering how long it will be until you’re singing like Whitney Houston? Find out the truth in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R


How long does it take to learn to sing? Exactly ten months and three days.

If you think that sounds fishy, you are right. Some people are born with very little vocal ability, while others are naturally gifted singers. But everyone, from the most self-conscious shower singers to professionals, can always learn more about singing.

Lifelong Learning

Instead of thinking about how long it might take to learn to sing, think about this: how long does it take to learn to play a sport? Let’s use tennis as an example. There are some people (such as myself) who cannot play tennis at all. There are other people, like Serena Williams, who are incredible tennis players with years of experience. But even Serena Williams has a tennis coach. She is one of the best tennis players in the world, but she is not finished learning.

That goes for singers as well. Even famous opera singers have voice teachers. Singers are constantly learning, especially as the voice changes over time. Doing so allows us to stay sharp and constantly improve our technique.

The Genetic Lottery

I could no doubt eventually learn to play tennis, but it would probably take me a very long time. I have two left feet and no hand-eye coordination. In other words, I am not a gifted tennis player.

Serena Williams, on the other hand, was probably born with amazing natural gifts that she then honed through years of hard work. People probably said “She’s a natural,” even when she was just a child on the tennis court.

Hand-eye coordination doesn’t make great singers, but there are traits that give certain people an advantage. These talents include:

  • The ability to match pitch
  • A “pretty” or pleasant voice
  • A wide vocal range
  • A sense of musicality
  • A natural ability to use the voice well

People with more of these gifts may be able to sing well and impress audiences even without lessons. However, in order to unlock their true potential, they still need lessons too. Where would Serena be if she hadn’t started taking tennis lessons?

For people who aren’t naturally gifted, there is plenty of hope. Those abilities that you didn’t win in the genetic lottery can be developed with practice. Even those who believe themselves to be tone deaf can often improve vastly with voice lessons.

Learn to Sing at Your Pace

If I started tennis lessons, I wouldn’t expect to go pro in a year. In the same vein, if you have difficulty matching pitch, you probably won’t sound like Whitney Houston in a year. But you can get a lot better, no matter what level you are at now.

You may have figured out at this point that there is no set time for how long it takes to learn to sing, and that’s OK. Among my students, there are singers with beautiful voices, large ranges, and impeccable musicality. There are also people who, despite not having a lot of natural talent, want to learn to sing. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with a little talent and a willingness to learn.

I am proud of all of my students and am impressed time and time again with the results that voice lessons–and a little practice–can achieve. It doesn’t matter whether you are the next Pavarotti or can barely squeak out a few notes. All you need to benefit from voice lessons is an open mind, the diligence to practice, and a love for singing.

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 Tips: How to Sing Into a Microphone

Tips On How To Sing Into A Microphone Best As a vocalist, there are many core techniques to learn in order to excel at your craft. From proper breathing and support to tone, range, and pitch, mastering the art of singing takes practice and dedication.

One of the singing tips that is frequently overlooked is microphone technique. All of your hard work can be undone if you’re not comfortable with microphone technique. The moment you sing into a microphone your acoustic voice becomes an electric instrument. Even with the best vocal technique, you will need to practice singing into a microphone in order to really shine. Here’s how to get started…

Step 1: Finding the Right Microphone for Your Voice

Microphones are a lot like the human voice; they are all different and have their own unique personality. If the personality of the microphone doesn’t complement the timbre of your voice, you might tense up or try to adjust your voice to fit the characteristics of the microphone. The best strategy is to experiment and find a microphone that works for you.

In general, for live performances you should be looking for a good dynamic microphone. There are many different manufacturers to look into, such as Shure, AKG, and Neumann. Go to your local music store and ask to try a few. If your voice is higher-pitched, look for a microphone that will reproduce but not emphasize the highs in your voice. Instead, look for something that accentuates the mid-range and lower end of your sound. By the same token, if your voice is lower and more full, a microphone that emphasizes the high end will eliminate muddiness and help you project your voice over other instruments or a loud audience.

Step 2: Learn How to “Play” the Microphone

The best way to approach working with a microphone is to think of it as an extension of your voice. Rather than “projecting” your voice like you would in an acoustic setting, let the microphone do the work and focus on your delivery, pitch, and emotions. Here are some key singing tips to keep in mind when developing your microphone technique:

1. Practice your angles. Every microphone has a “sweet spot” where it is most effective. If you sing into the microphone at the improper angle you may lose important tonal characteristics from your performance. Always sing into the center of the microphone, never the side or top. It takes some practice, but once you understand your microphone, it will pay off in a fuller, richer sound!

2. Hold the microphone properly for best results. Always hold the microphone by the shaft. While it may look cool to hold the microphone by the head, it can muffle your sound, or worse, create ear-shattering feedback from the PA.

3. Proximity effect is your friend! Most microphones used for singing live are subject to something called proximity effect. This means that the distance you sing from the microphone affects the timbre of your voice. Singing closer to the mic, for example, enhances the lower frequencies. This can be a pleasant sound, but if you find your vocals too “boomy,” try moving an inch or two back from the microphone.

4. Experiment with different vocal effects. Working with a microphone allows you to use various effects to enhance your voice. Try singing and adjusting the airflow through your nose, opening your throat to provide more resonance, and working on your glottal attack, enunciation, and vibrato. By working on these different techniques in front of the microphone, you can develop the muscle memory needed for performance. Treat using a microphone like any other vocal technique–practice it often!

As a vocalist, you have to practice many techniques in order to use your instrument well. If you study with a private teacher, he or she will be able to help you, as well. If you are ever planning on performing in front of an audience, practicing with a microphone can make the experience less stressful, more enjoyable, and will go a long way toward your personal and professional growth as an artist!

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Broadway sheet music

4 Awesome Resources for Finding Broadway Sheet Music

Broadway sheet music

Looking for Broadway sheet music to add to your repertoire? Learn where to find all the classics, as well as contemporary hits, in this guest post by Corona, CA teacher Milton J...


So, you’re thoroughly enjoying your vocal lessons with your wonderful TakeLessons teacher, and you’re ready to embark on your own to find new music to learn, preferably Broadway musicals (those power vocals of yours need applicable songs, of course!). Where should you start? Well, there are a few really wonderful services to find both computer-based and physical sheet music of some of your favorite Broadway selections. Below is a detailed list of these services.

1. Scribd.com

Scribd is a digital library, featuring an eBook subscription service that includes many free and paid books, magazines, and yes, Broadway sheet music. The service is available for iPhone/iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets, as well as on the web at Scribd.com, all for a monthly fee of $8.99 (or $3.99 with 12-month commitment). Scribd also offers a completely free one-month trial, which you can use to browse for music first. Use the search parameter “Broadway music” to sort through the different selections that you can save into your library. From there you can save the files to your computer or device, or even print it all out then.

2. Ultimate Theatre Music Resource for Singers

A student of mine came across this well-versed, purely educational-use-only Tumblr blog. Within this blog, links to PDF sources of sheet music, mostly Broadway sheet music, are provided for free. The links are highlighted and underlined within the blog comments itself, so take a look around and read some of the posts to understand how the links to the sheet music are provided.

3. Musicnotes.com

Musicnotes.com is an online marketplace that allows you to purchase and download computer-based sheet music, which you can either keep digital or print out. They offer many selections from Broadway, plus pop, holiday, and power ballads as well! Prices range from $4-$8 depending on the arrangement, which is quite reasonable if monthly subscriptions aren’t your thing.

4. Sheet Music Plus

Sheet Music Plus is another online marketplace that allows you to purchase both digital print and physical print sheet music. They stock both individual selections as well as multiple Broadway selections in songbook form. Since there are usually many songs within the same songbook, this can be a very cost-effective way to get several Broadway standards in your hands at a good price. You can usually find songbooks reserved for certain voice types (Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Soprano 2, or Soprano 1 voice types most commonly).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Excavating the Song: This website was set up by choral director Prof. Neal Richardson from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, for use with his own students. Even though he has now abandoned the online project, the website’s content–including some great tips from singers, songs from the 20s, and more– is still available for free.
  • IMSLP: The Petrucci Library with the International Music Score Library Project is usually used when searching for classical music, as it’s the archive of music for free public domain music. Since I am a classically-trained singer, I use it a lot and often sing its praises. If you decide to expand your genre scope, start here before you buy any classical music.

I hope this list helps you get started on finding Broadway sheet music for your lessons! Happy practicing!

MiltonJ Milton 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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Singing Tips for Seniors: Taking Voice Lessons Later in Life


Think it’s too late for you to learn how to sing? Here, Hayward, CA teacher Molly R. explains why it’s actually a fantastic time to start up lessons–as well as some helpful singing tips for making the most of them…


“I’m 70. Is it too late for me to learn how to sing?”

As a voice teacher, I get inquiries from singers of all walks of life. It’s actually pretty surprising to me that more people think it’s normal for a 3-year-old (!) to take private voice lessons, yet it’s completely out of the question for someone 60 or older.

Many older people may find themselves retired and looking for a new hobby, so singing lessons are a wonderful choice. One 72-year-old gentleman I work with is excited to finally have this time for himself, and has even joined a community chorus! Another senior lady tells me she loves her lessons because she gets a chance to revisit the songs she loved while growing up–including many by the “great crooners.”

Are you an older adult thinking of taking voice lessons? Good for you! Know that you are definitely NOT “too old” to sing. Here are some helpful singing tips for older vocalists:

- Keep a positive attitude, no matter what anyone else may say. There are plenty of super seniors out there who are still singing! Look at musicians like Sir Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, and Dolly Parton, to name but a few. They clearly love what they do! If you enjoy the process of creating music, that is really all that matters.

- Consider taking regular weekly lessons, even if you don’t have performance aspirations. Why? It’s good for your whole body!   Singing has been proven to fight depression, and even assists with certain ailments, like high blood pressure and asthma.

- Work with your teacher in finding the repertoire that is right for you NOW. Your voice may not be as strong as it was in your youth–but what is? All muscles lose some elasticity as we age, but please don’t let that hold you back. Men may find that their voices are higher, and women may find that their voices are now considerably lower, due to drastic changes in hormones. Embrace the changes. There is plenty of compelling music for you to sing!

- Take it easy on yourself, as far as practicing goes. Since you are doing this for your own personal enrichment, you don’t need to worry about daily practice sessions. And if you can’t commit to weekly lessons, you can easily make progress even if you attend two lessons a month, and vocalize three to four times a week.

And finally…

- Consider using your voice as a way to make friends, and even perform! Many older people may find themselves bored and a little lonely. A few of my older students have made community choruses a part of their lives, now that they finally have the time to pursue more of their passions. Some are even trying karaoke nights for the very first time! As a older adult, you have had more life experience, and that alone will make your performances that much more compelling. Isn’t that what great singing is about, anyway?

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 Practice Singing: Practical Tips for Memorizing Lyrics


Need to memorize lyrics–quickly? Take a look at these helpful tips from Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R


For many people, memorizing words is easier if the words are set to music–that is why songs are often used in education (there is even a song that lists all 50 states!). That being said, trying to memorize a song on a deadline is not fun. Not many people know how to practice singing lyrics effectively, and singers often need to learn multiple songs on short notice.

If you are struggling to memorize lyrics, you are not alone. Plenty of people have trouble memorizing lyrics to songs. Memorization becomes even harder if the song in question has lots of words or is strophic (has a repeated melody with different words each time). Here are some tricks that will help you learn how to practice singing the right words in just a few days.

Memorization Methods Without Singing

Singing a song over and over while looking at the music can help you memorize, but it can also tire your voice out. Here are some memorization methods that don’t involve any singing at all.

1. Speak or mouth the words: Try reading a passage from the song, then repeating it without looking at the words. Keep doing this, making the passages longer and longer each time. Eventually, you will be able to speak the whole song without looking at the lyrics. If you need to save your voice, try mouthing the words instead of saying them.

2. Write the words out: This exercise is similar to the previous one. Read a short passage from the song, and write it down without looking at the lyrics. Continue doing this, working your way through the song and making your passages longer and longer as you memorize more. Remember to write with a pen or pencil and paper; physically writing has been proven to jog your memory better than typing.

3. Listen to the song: If you have a recording of the song available, great. If not, make a quick one featuring yourself–it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sound perfect, as long as you get all of the words right. Listen to the recording, singing along with it mentally. You can do this anywhere you want as long as you put the recording on an iPod or smartphone.

4. Run through the song in your head: Even if you do not have a recording available, try running through the song in your head, taking care to think each word as you go. If you find you can’t remember a particular word, look at the lyrics and try again.

How to Practice Singing Lyrics

Of course, singing the song is another great way to memorize the lyrics. Here are a few memorization techniques you can use that involve singing.

1. Sing the song without looking at the lyrics: Even if you think you aren’t ready, try singing through the whole song without looking at the words; you may surprise yourself. Take note of difficult parts and double-check the lyrics before you try again. You can also alternate between singing while looking at the lyrics and singing without looking at them.

2. Sing along: Play a recording of the song and sing along. If you falter, the singer on the recording will fill in the words for you. Pay careful attention while you do this–otherwise, you may go on autopilot and not remember the words.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you know how to practice singing the words to a song, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. For any of these techniques, whether you are singing, speaking, or simply thinking the words, the key is to practice every single day. If you have very limited time, you may even want to go over the words multiple times a day. Put in the time, and your brain will do the rest. Happy memorizing!

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 Lessons for Kids: Does My Child Have “It”?


Singing lessons for kids are the perfect way to support your little one’s interest in music. But while you know it’s important to encourage him or her to dream big, how can you be sure your investment is worth it? Learn the answer in this guest post by Grand Rapids, MI voice teacher Kelsey P...


As a voice instructor, I am often asked by the parents of my students, “Does my child have ‘it’?” Not always in so many words, but when a young ambitious student declares that they want to be the next Katy Perry in the first lesson (this has happened on more than one occasion), parents want to know how long to encourage their child’s dreams, and at what point to steer them in a different direction.

While I understand the desire to have a professional tell you where your child’s skills really lie, my response is usually not what they want or expect.

This is not American Idol. I am not Simon Cowell. I teach singing lessons for kids with various levels of skill and talent. Some of them may actually find careers in music, most of them probably won’t. My point of view is–that’s not the point of taking music lessons.

Let me explain. Most of my students are young –like 10 years and under. They don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. Even if they want to be Katy Perry now, they may change their minds five more times before they actually are old enough to really make that decision, so it wouldn’t do any good for me to judge them so harshly and force them to make that decision prematurely. My job is to help my students have fun learning how to get better at singing. If you’ve ever worked with children you know that they are usually learning the most when they are playing. So, we play singing games, music games, and we sing songs the kids are interested in. I allow them to have guided fun, and encourage them to practice so they can get better. Any instrument gets more fun when your skill improves, so practice is key to having fun!

Not only are kids learning about music in their singing lessons, they’re also learning about setting goals, work ethic as they practice, and how hard work can actually be enjoyable. Not to mention all the studies that show how music education improves math skills and can help students with so many other areas in life.

So don’t worry so much about whether your kid has “it” or not. Let them develop naturally as little musicians without the pressure of a career hovering over the both of you. Investing in music education is always a good choice for your child’s development.

KelseyPKelsey P. teaches singing, songwriting, and guitar lessons in Grand Rapids, MI. I have a Bachelor’s in Music from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI and I have been a full time working musician for two and a half years. Learn more about Kelsey here!



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