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


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


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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audition tips

Audition Tips: 4 Things You Need Besides Talent

audition tips

So you’ve been preparing for an audition for a few months, and the big day has finally come. But even if you have the talent to back up your performance, there are a few things you’ll need to remember to get on your potential director’s good side. Read on as St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. explains…


Auditions can be the most unpleasant part of being a performing artist. But with great preparation and forethought, they can also be the most valuable and exciting part. Auditioning shows us clearly and quickly where our strengths and our challenges lie, and they can be opportunities for us to “put our face out there,” in other words, to showcase our talent within our communities and within the small world of the performing arts.

But talent alone rarely gets us the gigs that we seek. Here are four audition tips that go beyond bringing that talent of yours.

1. Arrive on time.
This might be most important of all of the audition tips. I’ve known performers who forgot sheet music or the words in their monologue to pass performance exams and get coveted roles, but I’ve never known a person to be late and to have a successful audition. First, it puts you, the auditioner, into a harried and stressed state. An acting teacher once taught me that a performer should come into the space in which he’s to perform 10 to 15 minutes beforehand. This allows you to get used to the feeling and energy of that space, to focus and to visualize an amazing audition. Secondly, it shows the director or audition team that you’re responsible, dependable and that you take the production seriously. They want to know that you’ll be at rehearsals and performances on time, too.

2. Be tremendously confident.
A vocal coach of mine once told me a personal story of hers to teach me a lesson about the importance of self-confidence. She flew from Virginia to New York to audition for the graduate program at the Manhattan School of Music. When she arrived at the college, she found that the administration hadn’t reserved a room for her in which to warm up, a standard accommodation at that level. The accomplished singer ended up singing vocalises in the women’s restroom. When she got to the stage to sing her prepared audition, she was so frustrated that she almost felt as though she didn’t care whether or not she got the spot in the illustrious school. She sang with such confidence and resolve that immediately upon ending the audition, the panel offered her a full scholarship on the spot. This timid and soft-spoken woman then told me, “You have to be almost cocky.” Please take note of the work “almost.” You own the stages on which you audition for the time that you’re given. Smile, then use that smile to show that you’re not only competent, but passionate about exactly what you’re doing.

3. Bring your listening ears.
So many otherwise great performing artists that I’ve known have had poor auditions because they just can’t seem to listen well to the judges or their crew, like the choreographer. You might assume that every audition and every dance is easy and every director is the same. Or you might not be able to stop talking and goofing off with the other performers. Either way, you won’t make a great impression, no matter how good or experienced you are. Instead, focus and be respectful. Being mostly quiet will also be an outstanding help to running an internal monologue and tapping into your emotions.

4. Be a team player.
This audition tip is meant to balance the aforementioned one about being tremendously confident. Make sure you are willing and open to almost anything. Believing in yourself and your gifts doesn’t mean being unwilling to perform small roles, for example, or singing something other than what you prepared, or reading cold with an actor that you don’t get along with. Performing arts auditions can be strange and spontaneous events. Successful, happy artists learn to go with the flow.

Every director and audition panel is different, but most tend to look for talented performers who are also responsible, focused, and radiantly confident. Stories abound in the opera world of young, beautiful divas found screaming at another performer backstage or showing up to auditions late or even plucking hairs out of director’s heads, then being given starring roles in the most opulent opera houses around the world. But those days are over. Production teams now want to work with people who are willing to work hard with others, those with a balance of humility and self-assuredness. With these audition tips, your best audition may be ahead of you.

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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4 Reasons Why Every Singer Should Own a Keyboard

11181163924_e27098defe_kWhen you’re learning how to sing, having the right tools is essential. Among those should definitely be a keyboard or piano — continue reading to find out why in this guest post by St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L...


I’ve met singers over the years coming from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of ideas of what being a singer really means and what tools it takes to stay good. Opera singers, rappers, folk singer-songwriters and everyone in between have crossed my path. I can say with certainty that the most successful of them owned keyboards. That doesn’t mean that all of them studied or even played the piano. It simply means that they had easy access to a keyboard where they lived or created music.

As a teacher, I’ve encountered quite a few students who wish to take voice lessons with me, but have no piano knowledge or background at all. I almost always end up teaching a bit of basic piano fundamentals in these lessons. It is virtually impossible, except for those rare few singers who possess absolute pitch (formerly called perfect pitch), to learn and practice singing at home without using the keys.

Now, some will say that a guitar or a harmonica works just fine, and for some, it does. But the piano has some distinct advantages over most other modern instruments in terms of ease of sound production, being an aid to both sight reading and songwriting, relative ease of maintenance and tuning, and being a great “warm-up buddy.” Here are the specific reasons that having a keyboard or piano is so great to have around as you’re learning how to sing.

1. Ease of tone production
Compared to other instruments, like the trumpet or the clarinet and even the harmonica, the piano is easy to create sound with. The sound is created simply with a heavy arm. A little muscle and joint warm-up is all you need to prepare to play. There’s no need to work tirelessly on creating a clear, pure tone. It’s there at your disposal, which is perfect when all that you need is a starting pitch.

2. Aiding music reading and songwriting
Music theory can be seen so much more clearly and in such a more linear fashion using a keyboard. Notes that are adjacent, or as I like to describe to my students, “right next door to each other,” in written music are also adjacent to each other on the piano. This helps to make learning sung music easier. In a similar way, that same set up facilitates writing music with both melodies and chords, something almost impossible on the guitar. Having a keyboard is the easiest way for a singer to deepen his or her theory knowledge.

3. Relative ease of maintenance and tuning
As opposed to a guitar, for example, which sometimes needs daily tuning and monthly string changes, pianos need a yearly or twice-yearly tuning. Keyboards will sometimes need an electronic calibration, but that’s very occasional. Plus, either one will get its own spot in your home. Unless you’re gigging out and taking your keyboard in a case, then there’s no need for daily storage like there is with a guitar.

4. Being a great “warm-up buddy”
The keys are a tangible, simple group of notes are your fingertips, a very useful tool when it comes to warming up and exercising the voice at home and backstage. Sure, singers can get by with their voices alone, but it can be tough, especially if you’re studying a particular book of vocalises or sight singing melodies. You’ll need that tangible, simple group of notes on the keyboard.

These are the best, albeit not all, reasons to own a keyboard as you’re learning how to sing. Singers will find its user-friendly nature makes it the ultimate companion instrument to the voice.

I want to thank Dave Isaacs of Music News Nashville for his insight into this topic. Please read more at his blog.

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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How to Start Singing Professionally: 3 Tips for Networking

Tips On How To Sing Professionally When you’re an aspiring singer, sometimes it feels like getting your foot in the door is an impossible task. Understanding how to start singing professionally can take some time to figure out. But in reality, if you have the skills, information, and knowledge, you can make your way into the music industry more easily than you think! You might not start at the top, but like any profession, you can work your way up.

One of the key elements to landing any job is networking. You’ll often hear things like “it’s all about who you know”— and in many cases it is. Networking is about subtly selling yourself without becoming overwhelming. It’s about paving the way to future opportunities and potential jobs and auditions. It is essential, because most people like to work with someone they know and trust.

In today’s digital age, there are endless singers hoping to make it by promoting themselves with videos, blogs, and social media.  While those things are tools that can be helpful, there is nothing more important than face time. Face time makes us more memorable, and it can give you a chance to create an unforgettable conversation that allows people to get a glimpse of who you are, and more importantly, remember who you are.

Think of networking as a job in itself. You want to present your best attributes—in other words, behave professionally.  Nothing says more about you than giving your word, and sticking to it, even in the music industry.  Remember, the life of a professional singer might seem glamorous, but it is hard work as well. Networking can be a way to prove to people you’re capable of showing up on time, putting in the hours, and are willing to work hard and help out.  Below are a few tips that can get you out there and singing professionally.

Tip 1: Volunteer or Intern

Nothing says you want something more than offering to work for free. Music festivals are a great way to start — they can also be the catalyst that lands you a job in the music industry. Festival jobs often involve things like taking tickets, directing people, or staffing an information booth. Volunteer regularly and perhaps you’ll get more advanced assignments and meet more important people, especially if you earn some good referrals. Contact various festivals in your area and ask what opportunities they might have, and how to apply.

Other volunteer and intern opportunities exist with community theaters. This an excellent option if you’re interested in a career in Music Theater. It’s also perfect for finding out how it all works.  The more familiar you are with the behind-the-scenes process, the better you’ll interview/audition in the future. It also gives you insight into what it takes to make it big!

Interning can come in various forms. It might be a specific period of time with a major label, where only a very limited number of people are chosen. Other internships can be created — try calling or talking with industry professionals or local labels and asking about the possibility of an internship. The music industry is a place where you’ll hear the word ‘no’ a lot, but don’t take it personally. Pick yourself up, and move on. Networking is about persistence (but again, subtle and not demanding). Also, keep your eye on resources that let you know where the opportunities are. This can include music industry websites, magazines, or even Craigslist.

Tip 2: Get an Entry-Level Job

Work on your resume and/or audition, and get out there searching. Entry-level music industry jobs are things like concert runners, singing with a local choir, small parts in local theaters, managing a small band, or working as a karaoke host — find anything that has you working with music. Contact venues, continue your vocal lessons and practice auditioning, attend local concerts, and talk to managers and bands. Do everything you can to open the door to more possibilities.

Tip 3: Get Your Voice Out There

Even if you’re networking just to get to know people in the music industry, don’t forget to put your voice out there as well. Open mic nights are a fantastic way to perform. Take advantage of social media, join or start a band, and continue to do things that allow you to be actively practicing your passion while getting your voice out there.

Professional Singing Careers

What kind of singer do you want to be? Before you start networking, this might be the most essential question you answer. Are you interested in musical theater and opera, being a lead vocalist, backing vocalist, member of an international choir, composer, or lyricist? Fine-tuning your vision will help you determine what types of networking to pursue. While you make your way and learn how to start singing professionally by taking it one step at a time, remember to keep up with your training and lessons — and more importantly, keep dreaming. Good luck!


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How Do You Sing with Vibrato? Tips for Beginners


How do you sing with vibrato? Find out how to develop your technique in this guest post by Hayward, CA teacher Molly R...


One of the main things beginning singers tend to worry about is lack of vibrato. “How do I make it happen?” they ask… sometimes at the first lesson.

I usually make it very clear right away that you cannot force vibrato! If you do, you can easily damage your voice or create a very ugly “wobble.” Vibrato is something you have to LET happen. Here are some tips on how to sing with vibrato:

1) Just like with your finances, you must first check your balance! Are you standing or sitting up straight? Head and shoulders level? Weight in the balls of your feet? Good — you’re ready! Make this a habit every time you sing. Step #2 can’t happen without having the body ready first!

2) Pay attention to your breath! Are you keeping your breathing tension-free? Think of your breath as circular. Vibrato will not develop if you hold onto your breath for any reason as you’ll be trapping your sound!

3) Don’t forget support! We breathe low in proper singing, but we must also SUPPORT from below! A helpful exercise to practice is to sing (anything!) while resisting against a wall or a flat surface. This engages the lat muscles and deters you from taking a shallow breath. All of this is strength building with your core muscles, which will also help you learn how to sing with vibrato.

4) Practice really does make perfect. But patience is also key. Don’t expect to learn how to sing with vibrato overnight. Your body must get used to these new habits — it’s all a part of muscle memory.

The muscles you use in singing are no different than any other muscles you train. Make time for consistent, proper practice and you will eventually develop vibrato in your voice! Do not overdo it, as enthusiastic as you may be about singing. Listen to your body!

Lastly, study with a good voice teacher! If you feel you are trying all of these things and nothing seems like it’s working just yet, you probably hold some sort of tension you’re unaware of. Another set of eyes and ears is the ticket to pinpointing the issue and helping you free your natural voice!

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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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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