Music Theory Homework.

What Other Musicianship Skills Do Singers Need?

Music Theory Homework.

Are you a singer who wants to be a more well-rounded musician? Here, Hayward, CA teacher Molly R. shares what you should be working on beyond the necessary vocal techniques…


When you sign up for voice lessons, you have certain expectations about the things you’ll learn: how to breathe, get better high and low notes, etc. You’ll also likely learn more about selecting repertoire, and how to be an effective performer!

But… is this enough? Singers often get a bad rap for not being real “musicians.” Often this is the case because some don’t bother to sharpen other skills that are necessary — the skills beyond vocal technique! Here are some suggestions on what you can do (beyond singing!) to make you the complete musician:

1) Study music theory! This can’t be stressed enough, Music theory is the language of music. If you’re able to speak it, you can work much more effectively with conductors, instrumentalists, and of course fellow singers.

Don’t let music theory intimidate you. You can find courses at community colleges, or invest in a few books that take you from the very beginning, such as this excellent resource from Alfred Publishing. You can also find wonderful music theory teachers at TakeLessons, of course!

2) Study ear training! This works hand in hand with music theory. You can develop a good ear with lots of practice, and making the process enjoyable helps. I recommend the “Challenging Patterns” collection in the amazing Funky ‘n Fun series by Kim Chandler. You’ll find yourself walking around humming intervals without even thinking about it…. where was this series when I was a student? Ear training teachers can also be found with TakeLessons.

3) Study another instrument! Really, you can never know enough. Don’t limit yourself if you’ve ever had any sort of inkling to learn something else besides voice. The instrument that perhaps makes the most sense for a singer to learn is piano, as it makes learning your songs a lot easier. However depending on your style, guitar may be the answer for you! By studying another instrument, theory and ear training will also become a lot easier for you.

The more skills you have make you much more desirable as a vocal soloist, ensemble member, and as a music instructor… so be sure to consider training beyond basic vocal techniques if you are really serious! Talk with your voice teacher, and he or she may be able to customize your lessons so that you are learning a variety of valuable things beyond just how to sing.

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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4 Duets to Sing for Beginners (Plus Tips to Shine!)

What are the best duets to sing for beginners? Check out these suggestions from Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T...


From Sonny and Cher to the Carpenters, duets can be very fun — and challenging! Selecting the right duets to sing with a partner can make the song sound more colorful, and add an even stronger vocal sound. If you are interested in learning some duets, here are some male and female songs I recommend, and also tips for becoming a successful duo!

1. “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher (1965)

This is an easy pop song that most people are familiar with. It’s fun and flirty, and showcases both male and female voice (and makes the audience feel good too!).

2. “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” (1987)

This very romantic upbeat ’80s rock song makes you want to dance right from the beginning! It’s best for a male bass and a soprano or alto; each singer has his or her own verses and then you sing the chorus together.

3. “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” (1992)

This beautiful Disney love ballad by Alan Menken can be sung in either gender, although it’s best if a tenor and a soprano sing this song. It has beautiful lyrics, and is great to perform at a coffeehouse, karaoke night, or school recital.

4. “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent” (1996)

This fiery love song between two women from Jonathan Larson’s musical “Rent” is a strong belt song. It shows lots of attitude and emotion, and is very fun to sing! It’s definitely a good one to work on those Broadway chops!

And as you’re practicing these duets to sing, keep the following tips in mind:

- Pick a song you both like. There are many duets out there, ranging from contemporary R&B love songs to country ballads, and showtunes to classical pieces. Pick a song that will showcase both your voices, whether singing male and female, female and female, or male and male. Also, if you feel it is appropriate, don’t be afraid to try a song that was meant for the opposite gender — sometimes these are the best duets!

-Practice your parts alone, then together. First work hard at learning your vocal part on your own, and then practice and perform with your partner. If both of you are trying to learn your parts at the same time, if you are singing in unison or in harmonies, it’s going to be more difficult. It is best if you are both feeling solid and comfortable on your own parts before putting them together. Also, explore different duet combinations — some voices blend more than others, and if the duet is not working for some reason, it could be because your voices are clashing. You and your partner should be working as a team.

- Add parts together and harmonies. Now that you have practiced both of your parts individually, it’s time to put them together! Do it slowly at first. Take each part section by section, and slow it down if you need to. While you should be listening to your duet partner, try not to let their part distract you. Duets can be sung in different ways, by two people singing different verses, and the same chorus, or completely different lyrics at the same time. Choose a duet that is right for you, and that you are passionate about. Once you have mastered your duet, I encourage you to add some interesting harmonies — your audience will love this!

I wish you all the best in working with your duet partner, and if you feel like you need more help, schedule a voice lesson with me through at TakeLessons!


LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal Performance and currently performs and teaches all styles of music, including musical theater, classical, jazz, rock, pop, R&B, and country. Learn more about Liz here!



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Grand Bend, Ontario - Winter Carnival Children's Talent Contest at Oakwood Inn

Should Parents Observe During Voice Lessons?

Grand Bend, Ontario - Winter Carnival Children's Talent Contest at Oakwood Inn

Should you sit in on your kid’s singing lessons? Here, Hayward, CA teacher Molly R. tackles the commonly asked question…


When parents sign their child up for voice lessons, naturally they want to be sure of a few key things:

  1. Does the teacher know what he or she is doing?
  2. Is the teacher a good match for my child?
  3. Is my child making progress?

One of the easiest ways to be sure of all this is to observe a lesson and see for yourself, of course. However, this may not always be the best route for a few reasons — although some situations are certainly different. The following is what I have found works best for me in my voice studio.

At the First Lesson

I always welcome parents to sit in on their child’s first singing lesson! This way they know what I am about and what they are paying for. It’s tough to start singing for someone that you have never met, and having Mom or Dad there can be a bonus. For some kids, singing comes naturally at lesson number one, though, and they may prefer their parent NOT be there! I let the parent and child decide among themselves in this instance.

After the First Lesson

Going forward, I prefer students attend lessons on their own. The reason why many voice teachers prefer to work one on one with students is because it’s likely the young student will not open up to the teacher with two adults in the room. That can be stressful and take the fun out of singing!

Not only that, some parents have the tendency to play armchair critic when it is solely the teacher’s job to offer vocal advice during lesson time. It is crucial that parents be respectful of the teacher and do not overstep their boundaries.

Naturally there are unique situations to consider. For example, I work with some very young (six and under) students, and having a parent in the room is very helpful to get them to focus and also to encourage them. There may also be times when a young student has physical or mental limitations, and having a parent there is necessary.

My Studio Policies

I’ve found that it’s good to retain some flexibility, but to remain firm about general studio policies, and this certainly includes who can attend voice lessons. As long as you remain open and consistent with communication, I have found that parents are fine with my arrangement. They can measure their kid’s singing progress in other ways (practice time, performances, etc.).

To find the best teacher for your child, you may need to sit in on a few voice lessons… and ask a lot of questions! You will find that the time spent doing this is well worth it once your child gains skills and confidence as a singer.

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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6 Tips for Assembling a Christmas Caroling Group


The holidays are a great time to gather a group of fellow singers and perform! Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares some tips to keep in mind as you assemble your crew and select your Christmas carol songs…


Some of my favorite Christmas childhood memories are caroling with my family around our neighborhood, at nursing homes and at hospitals, because of how easily and joyfully it brings people together. People might not carol quite as often as they used to in generations past, and I, for one, think that it’s time for a renewal of the traditional pastime. Just like trick-or-treating on Halloween, Christmas caroling could be one of the few times that we, in this era of indoor activities, long hours at the office, and working from home, meet and connect with our neighbors and our communities at large.

With very little effort, even a small group of people can have a positive impact on their fellow citizens during a time that can be tough on a lot of us. Most of us know that how fun and rewarding it can be, but maybe not how exactly to get a caroling team together. Here are my tips for assembling a Christmas caroling group.

• Choose the right nights.

You may never get all of your neighbors home on the same night, but there are definitely those evenings when most folks will stay in, like Christmas Eve or even the night of the 23rd. Check with your local paper or city website to be sure that there aren’t any large events going on the night (or nights!) of your planned caroling, like a Christmas parade or a tree lighting.  Otherwise, you may find yourselves singing to a lot of empty houses.  And if you plan to sing at nursing homes or local hospitals, call each of them to check on their rules and available dates and times for visiting groups like yours.

• Recruit your singers.

Print out simple, festive fliers announcing an open call for singers and post it at your local high schools, colleges, churches, and community centers. List your email address and the dates that you plan on caroling. For safety reasons, be careful not to list too much personal information, like your home address or full name. Of course, if you have a family, a group of neighbors, or church members who already want to form a group, then you have a core team. But why not recruit more singers? I have a feeling that the phrase “the more, the merrier” came from the Christmas caroling tradition.

• Plan a couple of rehearsals.

On those nights mentioned above where there’s a big local event and most people are out and about, plan your rehearsals. You may not be able to get every singer to every rehearsal; just do your best. Christmas caroling isn’t about a perfect choir sound, it’s about spreading joy. So these get-togethers should be easy, simply a chance to bring your sound together.

• Decide on your set list.

Focus on choosing Christmas carol songs that most of your singers know well by taking a survey at your first rehearsal. You wouldn’t want to turn your fun, laid-back rehearsals into sight singing boot camp sessions where everyone’s struggling through the music. Simple and happy is the name of the game. You shouldn’t even have a formal order of songs.  A leader of the group should choose songs moment by moment and venue by venue, depending on the vibe. That might mean bright and vibrant carols at a children’s hospital, and mellow and reverent songs at a veteran’s home, or vice versa!

• Assemble and distribute music.

Print out copies of the Christmas carol songs that you’ve chosen and place them into small, inexpensive binders. Everyone could highlight his or her part in the music (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) and any solos.

• Bring scarves, a pitch pipe, and tea.

If you live in a region of the world that experiences cold temperatures during Advent and Christmas, then before your Christmas caroling group heads out, be sure that every singer brings a scarf to keep the old voice boxes warm. The skin that covers them is thin and delicate. Tumblers of chai tea, which is full of anti-inflammatory power to keep vocal swelling down, are a fun option.

Never forget that your primary focus is spreading good cheer and good will to your community. While we should always strive to do our best, the only way to ruin your caroling adventures is to take the whole thing too seriously. Keep calm, and carol on.

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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5 Popular Holiday Songs That Will Get Everyone Singing


Ready to get into the holiday spirit? Here, Hayward, CA singing teacher Molly R. shares her top picks for popular songs to sing, and where to find Christmas sheet music to find additional ideas…


It’s that time of year already! We voice teachers just love it as so many of our students want to take a break from their usual repertoire and sing holiday music. There are so many fantastic ones to choose from, classic and current. Here are a few ideas of some songs to consider that will get you in the holiday spirit! So, get the Christmas sheet music ready and start singing!

Here are a few ideas of some songs to consider that will get you in the holiday spirit!

1) The Christmas Song

Originally performed by Nat King Cole, what’s not to love about this one? This song is a true crowd-pleaser and its medium vocal range is appropriate for a huge variety of voices, young and old!

2) Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Brenda Lee was the first to sing this VERY fun, up-tempo song! This is yet another one that would suit a wide variety of voice types. I dare you to try to be still while singing this. You can’t!

3) It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The late Andy Williams really shined when he performed this song. It was one of his signatures! It’s so easy to get into the holiday spirit with this song that singers of all ages just love to sing.

4) The Christmas Song

Now don’t get confused! This “Christmas Song” is a completely different one, made popular by Alvin and the Chipmunks. This is a top choice of the kids I work with!

5) All I Want for Christmas is You

Mariah Carey introduced this big, showy number 20 years ago and we’ve all been singing it ever since! This is consistently the top choice among my students every year. Bring out your inner diva (or divo!) and have a blast with this one.


Whether you want to polish these songs for performance or just sing for the sheer joy of it, ask your voice teacher what other great Christmas sheet music may suit you! He or she is likely to have lots of great ideas. Also, the temptation may be to take a break from voice lessons during this hectic time of year, but the truth is that holiday music is a wonderful stress reducer. So make time for lessons this month if you can — there are too many great holiday songs to sing!

You can easily find these great songs and many more on or Sheet Music Plus. These sites make it super easy for you to buy and print digital downloads of your Christmas sheet music instantly –so you can get to singing and spreading holiday cheer!

MollyMolly 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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Vocal Competition

How to Train Your Voice for Competitions

Tips On How To Properly Train Your Voice For Competitions Whatever your views may be on singing competitions, they are a scary but helpful rung on the ladder to the next level of understanding how to train your voice. And whether you’re participating in a local festival, trying your luck on a television show, or participating in a major international competition, the rules for preparation and how you conduct yourself are pretty much the same.

Types of Competition

  • Local festivals – These can be an excellent first stage for aspiring singers and their teachers to check not only on their personal progress, but on their progress in relation to others at a similar level. When considering how to train your voice for local festivals, make careful note of any set pieces that you may have to learn, and talk to others who have participated in past years.

  • Television shows – With the rise of shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent, it can be very tempting to throw your hat into the ring and try your skills in front of a celebrity panel. However, be warned: television talent shows are as much about what makes good television as they are about talented participants. If you have a thick skin and can manage your nerves, go ahead. Otherwise, perhaps investigate smaller, local competitions instead.

  • Auditions – Although not strictly competitions, auditions can become a more rewarding experience if you view them as such. You may find that how to train your voice for auditions is different compared to how to train your voice for competitions. You may, for example, have more freedom with repertoire, or be auditioning for a specific part. Successful auditions aren’t necessarily always ones where you get the job, either — “winning” an audition is best viewed as one where everything with regard to your preparation went right, and you sang as well as you could for your current stage of development.

  • College and other competitions – If you’re following a classical training path, you will almost certainly have to take part in competitions while at college, both internally and externally. You may have to prepare specific arias, and panels will be paying close attention to your stage presence and use of language as well as your singing.

How to Prepare

You may have heard the “Five Ps Rule” in relation to studying for exams, but it also rings true when preparing for competitions: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Here are some pointers that will help with proper preparation:

  • Never enter a competition without asking your teacher – You’ve put your trust in a professional to know best how to train your voice, so making decisions about your level of vocal development and how to measure it should be run by them first.

  • Consult your teacher and vocal coaches about what repertoire to sing – Popular repertoire for competitions is popular for a reason, but does it show you off well? The right aria for you is the best thing to sing, not the crowd-pleaser that you can’t quite manage, and certainly not under pressure.

  • Don’t be too clever – Having said that, be wary of choosing anything too obscure. If any part of the final judging is audience-led, you may find that something completely unfamiliar loses their interest, and therefore their vote for you.

  • Tackle your nerves (if you have them) – Performance nerves aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so don’t view them as the enemy. Learn to work with them; analyze how your nerves affect you, and work through every step of your physical fight-or-flight response with practical solutions. For example, if you feel slightly sick, carbonated water may help.

Work closely with an instructor you trust and who will give you the confidence you need to succeed, and you’ll feel much more comfortable heading to that competition. Good luck!

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Easy Ways to Build Up Your Breath Support | Tips for Singers

5911763928_d19d1d5654_bMastering breath support — and continuing to improve it as you progress as a singer — is crucial to your success. Here, Toledo, OH teacher Elizabeth B. shares a helpful exercise to try…


As a young singer I had no idea how important breath support was to singing. I would stab blindly at a phrase and hope that I had taken in enough air. Most of the time, I was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until I finished my master’s degree that I had any kind of understanding of how to sustain my air. Now that I’m a teacher, this is one of the most important things I focus on with my students.

I start every voice lesson with breath exercises; I have my student inhale for eight counts and hiss out (I use the snake metaphor) for as long as he or she can and I keep track of the time. I also notice what happens naturally when he or she takes in air and then expels it. Often, my students are not inhaling using all of their lung capacity and when they exhale they are letting their ribs collapse. Some things I encourage my students to think about after doing this exercise are:

  • When inhaling, think about filling up your lungs all the way around, not just the front.
  • When exhaling, think about staying lifted in the rib cage — there should be little to no movement in the shoulders when you exhale

After discussing these things with my students I have them bend at the waist, as far as is comfortable, and take in a few breaths, really focusing on breathing into the back vertebrae (or as I call it, the “Jet Pack of Air”). Then I have them repeat the exercise as before. More often than not, their ability to sustain their breath is doubled!

Another exercise you can try at home is breathe in for eight counts, remembering to fill the lungs completely, and hiss out for 20 counts — you’ll notice that you have plenty of breath left at the end. You’ll then breathe in for six counts and hiss out for 25; again you should still have some breath left. Continue and breathe in for four counts and hiss out for 30, and finally breathe in for two counts and hiss out for 35. This exercise, especially the last two, will be difficult at first, but as you learn how your body responds to proper inhalation and controlled exhalation it will become easier. You’ll also learn to not let all of your air escape in the first eight counts, which is often what happens.

The last thing I tell my students is to breathe when the music allows you to do so. If you have a rest in the music, breathe! Don’t hold onto a note too long and short yourself on your much-needed breath before that mega-long phrase.

I hope these ideas help build your breath capacity and bring your singing to the next level!


Elizabeth B. teaches Broadway singing, opera voice, and music performance in Toledo, OH.  She has a Bachelor of Music from Grand Valley State University and her Master of Music from Chicago College of Performing Arts. Elizabeth has been teaching students since 2011. Learn more about Elizabeth here!



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singing Italian

The Spaghetti and Meatballs of Singing in Italian

singing ItalianAs a singer, you’ll come across songs in Italian or other languages that are great to practice and perform. Here, Pittsburgh, PA teacher Jennifer V. shares her tips for tackling songs as you learn to sing in a foreign language…


Imagine walking into a voice lesson and your teacher casually places a book on the table that reads “24 Art Songs”. You open the book to see where the pretty pictures of paintings are and… you see a bunch of unknown words. Your teacher gives you a big smile and says, “Let’s try singing in a foreign language this time!”

You freeze. Visions of ninth grade Spanish and French class whirl in your head. There is no WAY you can do this.

Well, I’m here to tell you, as a person who used to believe she’d never learn to sing in one language, let alone four, there is always a way! Like any other subject, you simply need a game plan to learn the nuts and bolts of a song. And your voice teacher will be there to help you every step of the way! All you need to do is take a deep breath and follow these steps:

1. Find out what you’re saying. This can usually be done by going to websites like The LiederNet Archive. There you can type in your song and – bam! – a translation is born.

2. Keep in mind that many art songs are about things we know about. “Caro Mio Ben” is about someone who is dear to us. “Vittoria mio core” means “Victorious my heart is!” Usually the plots and ideas aren’t too far from our daily lives. I also suggest my students highlight the main words and meanings, so there is no confusion. Colored pencils can be purchased with erasers and can make a big difference in learning. Sometimes all we really need is to see the differences.

3. Speak the words slowly. Have your teacher say them for you, one sentence at a time. Then try it yourself! If you stumble it is no big deal. Everyone does and that is how we learn. After saying the words, have your teacher record them for you on your phone or recording device. Another excellent thing to do is go through your vowels, which can help with pronunciation of the Italian words. An example of this is: a as in “father” is how you pronounce an a in Italian. Same with as in “close.” It takes a little practice, but you will get it!

With my students I begin by saying the words like poetry, giving them a rhythmic feel. I then have my student say them with me and, if needed, I say the words while I play the song, so they can understand how the rhythm and sentences work together.

The next step is when everything begins to come together. We use our musical skills and add rhythm. Counting the measures, beats, and words help make the piece of music not sound so foreign and weird. It’s finally just becoming another piece of music!

Finally, the last step is my favorite! After practicing the words, pitch, rhythm, and translation, it’s time to learn to sing the song! But so we don’t go crazy too fast, maybe start singing the piece on la, and slowly adding the words. When we learn a habit it can be very difficult to fix, so it’s better to go nice and slow.

Singing in a foreign language can be very intimidating. To this day I take a deep breath and have to go through the steps myself. But the truth is, these wonderful composers from vibrant, foreign lands and cultures were simply just telling us a story in their own language, and asking us to keep a story alive for years to come. They are stories of falling in love, losing a beloved, or slaying a enemy in battle. Even things as simple as the beauty of a flower. With patience, love, and some elbow grease, anyone can learn to sing in a foreign language.


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



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What Will My Child’s Voice Lesson Be Like? | Tips for Parents


Has your young son or daughter been begging you for voice lessons? Find out what to expect in kids’ singing lessons in this guest post by Saint Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L


A voice teacher walks into a living room and puts her guitar case down. She takes the guitar out, and as she tunes it, she asks the student in front of her about general music classes at school, hoping to incorporate the concepts being taught into the private instruction. Beginning on a comfortable pitch for the student, the teacher begins warm up exercises — singing a five-note scale on silly, nonsense syllables. Both the student and the teacher laugh. The lesson continues with the do-re-mi syllables, known as solfege, accompanied by their reinforcing hand signals. Voice techniques and concepts are taught in playing games. Phrasing is discovered in pretending to ride a roller coaster. Dynamics (how loud or soft a musical sound is) are understood in terms of powerful, large animals and delicate, small animals. Lip trills are blown and dancing is choreographed.

This is the voice lesson of a five-year-old child. When I began teaching kids’ singing lessons, what surprised me the most was how similar adult and child voice lessons are. Make-believe, movement, and imagination are an inherent element of all of my voice lessons. Granted, there are some really important distinctions, too. Just as there are similarities and dissimilarities between coaching a Little League team and the Boston Red Sox, voice lessons of adults and children share some things and not others.

Staying Focused, Staying Healthy

To begin, children do not have the physical stamina or mental focus of most adults. Their instruments are extremely delicate. It should be made clear that not every music educator agrees that children under 10 should even take voice lessons, and agree or not, not every voice teacher or music school accepts singers who are that young. I, myself, was once told as a high school freshman by a well-respected choir director not to take any voice lessons until I turned 20. What he did not understand is that kids’ singing lessons do not have to be damaging. In fact, it can prevent poor singing and speaking habits and, even more, permanent vocal damage.

Teaching the Fundamentals

The primary purpose of my voice lessons for young children is the establishment of fundamental musical and technical understanding, with the goal of a lifetime of healthy singing. Basic note reading, with an emphasis on sight reading and solfege syllables, basic diction, and basic voice maintenance and care are the three pillars of every student’s individual curriculum. Especially considering the popularity of automated sounds in music today that are made to sound like human singing, it’s so important that children learn the truth about their own voices before they start to imitate computer sounds all the time.

I do not, as a principle, believe in condescendingly “dumbing” concepts down for children. There is a way, though, to explain almost everything in an age-appropriate manner. I admit, though, I do get stumped sometimes, especially when I find myself having to describe how a diaphragm works to a first grader. But there’s always a way.

Creating a Positive Environment

After all of the education-specific talk, perhaps the most important thing to me as a teacher is positive and compassionate encouragement of where the student is today, musically speaking. Embracing and in turn teaching the child to embrace his singing right now is the surest path to a lifelong pursuit of great singing.

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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3 Timeless Songs to Sing to Improve Your Technique

14323383901_89e829ce0d_kMove over, Top 40! In this guest post by Newport Beach, CA teacher Patricia S., you’ll learn three songs to sing that are both timeless and can help you work on your singing technique…


You don’t need to repetitively practice dull vocal exercises in order to learn good singing technique. And you don’t need to completely eliminate vocal style from your singing in order to train your technique. Technique and style can coexist in the training process, and are best developed simultaneously.

The Rules & Guidelines

• Anything you sing can be used as a vocal exercise.
• A vocal exercise can be treated as though it were a song.
• A song should be learned by breaking it into bits of technique and bits of style, and reassembling it as both, separately. Then fuse the two into your finished product.
• Your technical song and your stylized song will sound completely different from each other.
• Just as there is efficient and less efficient vocal technique, there are efficient and less efficient ways to apply vocal style.
• Technique without style is a dull performance.
• Style without technique is an incomplete performance, and can lead to vocal deterioration.
• Technique enhances style. Style informs technique.

The following three timeless and enduringly popular songs to sing are particularly well-suited to developing sound singing practices. And they can be stylized in a variety of ways.

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Weiss, Peretti, and Creatore

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Weiss, Peretti, and Creatore is one of the best songs to sing for learning to release long notes. Singing a long note while maintaining clear and even tone quality is one hallmark of good singing. When singing diphthongs, as in the word “my,” you’ll want to be sure to separate the two vowel sounds to keep from supporting the sound with your jaw or tongue, or overly supporting with your abdomen. Maintaining that true tone quality as the melody moves stepwise up or down is also important. The song covers the range of an octave plus two notes. Singing the song in two or three keys is a great way to work on intonation throughout the voice range, as well as learn to negotiate the breaks or register shifts that sit in the middle of the main melody.

“Unchained Melody” by North and Zaret

The ever-popular tune “Unchained Melody” by North and Zaret is excellent for making interval maneuvers up or down with clear tone quality and rhythmic accuracy, and keeping every note in tune. For extra fun, try singing the Italian version of the song, “Senza Catene”. The pure Italian vowels are conducive to good singing. You don’t need to speak Italian to sing in Italian. Singing in another language can actually help turn the focus of your practice to technique, over performance. A singer who is unable to emotionally detach from the words of a song in order to do the detail work of simply making it sound good, and who can’t separate performance style from technique, might benefit from this approach.

“Ave Maria”

A vocal selection that emerged in recent times and gained popularity is the “Ave Maria” written by Vladimir Vavilov in the 1970s and erroneously attributed to Baroque composer Giulio Caccini. The long lines in this song require a centered tone, coupled with well-managed breath and support. While the song might appeal more to classical singers, the simplicity of the tune and chord structure could lend themselves nicely to an R&B rendering, or a light jazz setting. Adventurous popular genre singers take note: you might have something unique to add to the mix.

It isn’t what you sing that matters. It’s how you sing what you sing that matters. Establish a primary technique that you can count on and that you can fall back on as your mainstay if some of your vocal stylings fail you. But don’t let go of the stylistic singing that makes what you do what you love to do.

Patricia SPatricia S. teaches piano, singing, music performance, and more in Newport Beach, CA. Patricia S. has taught voice for Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), Gold Coast Theatre Conservatory, Crestmont Conservatory of Music, and the California State University Dominguez Hills Music Conservatory. Learn more about Patricia here!



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