21 Powerful Tips to Refuel Your Passion for Singing

how to stay motivated as a singer

Struggling to find singing gigs? Not feeling inspired? If your passion is dwindling, it’s time to take action. Don’t give up singing just yet! Read on as Sacramento, CA voice teacher Kevin B. shares his advice…

 

Let’s face it — when you have a job or any kind of regular commitment, there are going to be some days when you just don’t want to do it. This goes for everyone — even musicians who couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t freak out. Don’t think that you’ve become jaded or depressed, or that you don’t care about your art anymore. The fact that you’re willing to resist the call of the TV, put on the big-kid pants, and go do your craft just shows how much you do care, and it sets you apart from thousands of musicians everywhere.

But here’s where the problem lies: being a singer, much like being an actor (or any other sort of entertainer for that matter), is not a job where you get the luxury of being able to lack enthusiasm. You’re front-and-freaking-center, and when you don’t want to be there, it shows. So suck it up kid, and put on a smile!

Or better yet, refuel your passion. Here are 21 ways to do so.

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1. Re-envision your dreams – and be specific about them!

I’m willing to bet that you remember the experience that set you on this path. Whether it was that musical that made you cry, or that singer that blew you away with his skill and presence, you haven’t forgotten what makes you hit that practice room when it’s time.

Much time has probably passed since then, and you’ve got a good grip on your skills, your strengths, and what you bring to the table. So now is the time to turn your dream from an ambiguous entity into a concrete goal: is there a certain part you want to play? An ensemble you want to join? A venue that you dream of performing in? Whatever it is, you’ve been working hard, and you’re well on your way to achieving that dream! That ought to put a smile on your face.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

2. Leave the student behind – just for a bit

Whatever you’ve been learning in your voice lessons, chances are you’ve taken it with you in your everyday music listening. When you listen to music, your head is probably racing to apply everything you’ve learned: “Oh, he’s totally singing with a high larynx in that part!” “Oh man, she was not in tune on that belt!”

This is normal, but turning off that part of the brain also has its benefits. You enjoyed music before you started taking lessons, and enjoying music with that same blank slate that you used to have can help you remember why you started doing this in the first place. Give it a try!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

3. Apply what you’ve learned to a new genre

Most of us, I’m pretty sure, have thought about singing multiple genres before. And one of the things I love about studying voice is that so much of it applies to many different genres, or even all of them!

Sure, you loved how you got that perfect vibrato going on your Italian art song, but what about using that same technique on the classical crossover song you love? You’re really nailing the breath support with your music theater repertoire, how about seeing how well that support works on that old jazz standard your grandpa used to play? You’ve worked hard on improving your instrument, you deserve to play around with it!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

4. Challenge yourself

You should feel challenged in your lessons. If you don’t, that’s definitely something you should take up with your voice teacher. However it can also feel empowering to challenge yourself on specific things.

After all, no matter how much your teacher gives you to work on, you only have them for a certain amount of time each week, and there’s bound to be more things to work on than just what you’ve talked about in your lessons. Just think of how much fun it will be at your next lesson when you get to say “Hey teach, look what I can do!”

Keep Your Singing passion alive

5. Learn from the pros

Sometimes it takes a pro’s touch to get your spark back. Fortunately, there are many opportunities available to learn from the best! The queen mother of all such opportunities is a master class: if you have the chance to attend – or better yet participate in – one of these, be there. Period. In the absence of such an opportunity, you can also find interviews or master classes on YouTube to help you stay motivated and get back on track.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

6. Keep a practice log

When I was seeing a personal trainer to keep in shape, he told me to write down all the workouts I completed. That way each time I went to work out, I would see what I did the previous week, and I could decide whether to do the same thing or try something more challenging.

For many vocal students, practicing can be the same way. In terms of keeping your passion on track, the benefit it has is that you get to look back and realize how far you’ve come.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

7. Go to a concert

This probably seems like an obvious one, but it always strikes me as odd when musicians spend all their time practicing their craft, and no time watching it! Seeing someone up on the stage doing what you love might just make you wish you were up there, and then – BAM! There’s your motivation to keep singing.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

8. Focus on finding that music job you’ve been wanting

Sure, you’ve thought about how wonderful it would be to get paid to sing. Perhaps, though, you didn’t think about how empowering it would be. When people pay you to sing, to do what you love, it boosts your confidence, and confidence is a singer’s bread and butter.

If you don’t know where to start, ask your voice teacher. They’ll be able to tell you if they think you’re ready for such a thing, or at the very least how to get you ready. For those interested in being a professional singer eventually, this is an important step!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

9. Switch it up!

When it comes to practicing, repetition is the quickest way to kill enthusiasm. There’s no more effective way to kill a piece of repertoire than to work on “that one phrase” over and over again. If you haven’t learned to spare yourself from this kind of torture, now you know.

Instead, work on “that one phrase” for a while, then switch to another piece of rep, or at the very least a different part of the song. Singing should be hard work, but there’s no reason it has to be boring work!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

10. Try on a new hat

No, not literally. What I mean to say is try a new role in music. If you haven’t tried your hand at songwriting or composing yet, you might be surprised to discover how empowering it is. If you’re not the creative type, try learning a new instrument or even learning to dance. Not only might this give you a new perspective on your singing, but it’ll help you beef up your resume!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

11. Absorb the arts – namely the ones that inspire your music

There’s a reason that they talk about painting, architecture, and literature in music history classes. It’s because the different schools of the arts influence one another. The lyrics to art songs come from poetry, and many pieces of music correlate to paintings and other art. So go to an art gallery, a poetry reading, or a play! As a student of the arts, you are a part of a rich, vast, and diverse culture, and that is something that should be celebrated!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

12. Take on a new project

Singers should have voracious appetites. You should want to get involved as often as you can with as many different projects as you can. If you’re feeling particularly unenthused about your studies, maybe you just haven’t found the project that really fuels your passion yet. There are an abundance of talented musicians out there, so go find them!

If you’re worried about the time it will take out of your week, stick to something small. Find a pianist who can pick up music really fast, practice with him or her once a week, and then just like that you’ll have another project under your belt.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

13. Make a lunch date with a teacher or mentor

The best teachers I know are the ones who will do anything for their students. If you’re struggling with how to stay motivated (or anything else related to your singing), your teacher or mentor will likely have advice for you. They’ve probably experienced what you’re going through at one point! If nothing else, you’ll get to spend a lovely afternoon with someone who cares about you!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

14. Take a break!

Perhaps your problem is that you’re just working too hard! One of my favorite pieces of life advice I ever got is: “Music should be inspiration for life, and life should be inspiration for music.” Musicians should be happy people who live a fulfilling life. So make time to do what you love, and you might just end up falling in love again with what you do!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

15. Go kill it at karaoke

As I’ve mentioned before, confidence is a singer’s life’s blood. So if your compliment reservoir is running low, go and fill it! Pick that perfect karaoke song, have a couple drinks with friends, and soak up any compliments you get from the experience.

If you’re under 21, see number 12 and find a duet partner to do open mic nights with you. Often these places are filled with lackluster musicians, so if you put even a little effort into your performance it’s bound to get noticed.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

16. Invest in your future – even if it’s something small

Sometimes in the midst of all our hard work, our destination can seem so far away. To stay motivated, find a way to bring home the reality of the next big thing in your singing life.

Have a recital coming up? Go buy the dress you’re going to wear! Have a rock show coming up? Maybe it’s time for a new mic. You’ll have to do these things anyway, so why not do it now? Spend the afternoon daydreaming and getting pumped… and then go practice, so you can nail the performance!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

17. Add to your collection

Another investment that you can make to fuel your enthusiasm is in the form of books and DVDs. Singers should have large collections of repertoire books, as well as DVDs of live performances to model their craft after. If you need an enthusiasm boost, maybe it’s time to beef up your collection. It can only help you grow!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

18. Discover something new

The best singers are curious people. So, get out there and be the first among your group of friends to discover an opera or musical that nobody has ever heard of. The music that can give you your new inspiration could be out there, but if you don’t seek it out you will never know!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

19. Research one of your favorite singers

In keeping with number 18, be curious about the people who have helped you get where you are. If you have an idol, you should know where they grew up, how old they were when they first got signed, who their first record label was, and so on. If you haven’t figured out from reading so far, I believe in learning from the pros!

(Editor’s note: You can also learn what not to do from watching famous singers!)

Keep Your Singing passion alive

20. Network

Sometimes the answer to how to stay motivated won’t come from a mentor or a professional singer, but someone a little closer to your level.

If you’re in college, you’ve got it easy – join the local chapter of a music fraternity and you’re instantly connected with individuals just like you. If you aren’t in college, go to lots of shows and network there. If you get enough musician friends, perhaps you could even start a weekly meet-up, and get fuel for your passion every week!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

21. Summer programs

There are a million reasons to look into summer music programs, one of which is that there’s nothing quite as motivating as spending a few weeks continually working and improving your voice, surrounded by individuals who are doing the same. Summer programs are often expensive, but if you can spare the dough, the rewards will be more than worth it.

 

The most important thing to remember is that you have to make time for these ideas. That might mean skipping hanging out with your girlfriend on Tuesday night so that you can rehearse with your duet partner, or taking a night to watch a recorded master class when you would normally watch Netflix.

To become a singer, you need to have a fire in your heart for it; neglecting that element of the music is just as bad as singing off-key, breathing in the middle of a word, or any other technical mistake. So go get your passion on track, if it isn’t already… and then rock that practice time like the awesome singer that you are!

Readers, how do you stay motivated and make sure singing remains a passion? Leave a comment with your own tips and advice!

 

TakeLessons Teacher Kevin BPost Author: Kevin B.
Kevin B. is a private singing instructor in Sacramento, CA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music at California State University, Sacramento, and has performed in many musicals and operas in Sacramento. Learn more about Kevin here!

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12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs - top music apps

12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs (2015 Update)

12 Addictive Apps Every Musician Needs - top music apps

Since the invention of the app store, aspiring and experienced musicians have been finding inspiration, practicing their skills, and immersing themselves in their craft — all with the help of some of the top music apps!

There are so many noteworthy apps that can benefit all musicians, from guitarists to singers and songwriters. Whether you are looking for something educational or creative, this list will benefit your collection of apps. And best of all, they are all fun to work with… and pretty addictive, we might add!

Here are our picks for top music apps…

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Songwriter’s Pad

Songwriter’s Pad is the ultimate songwriter’s tool. It contains powerful idea-generating tools to inspire creation while making lyric-writing easier than ever. Everything you need to write music is packed into this one application. Finally, an app to defeat writer’s block once and for all!

Download: iOSAndroid

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Songsterr Tabs & Chords

Songsterr Tabs & Chords was featured in the Wall Street Journal as, “one of the best apps for learning to play music.” With a huge catalog of 500,000 accurate tabs and chords, all musicians can learn something with this app. Most songs have tabs for individual instruments too, including the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Download: iOS, Android

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)GarageBand

Do you need a full recording studio on the go? If so, this is the app for you. GarageBand turns your phone into a collection of instruments, including piano, organ, guitar, and drums. Guitarists can even plug their electric guitar in and play through classic amps and stompbox effects!

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)My Note Games

This is a fun music game that teaches music theory and instrument mastery, including lessons for saxophone, piano, guitar, recorder, trumpet, violin, viola, and cello, plus vocals and whistling. The app actually listens to you playing your instrument, checking your tone, pitch, and accuracy.

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Beatwave

With Beatwave, you can make unique music just by tapping on your screen! No musical skills are required, and you can create songs anywhere from your phone. In minutes, you can make complex songs with multiple layers of instruments and sounds — and then share them on social media!

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Ear Trainer

Ear Trainer is an educational application designed for beginner to advanced musicians, music students, and anyone interested in improving one’s musical ear. There are more than 260 individual exercises covering intervals, chords, scales, relative pitch, and melody.

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Sing! Karaoke by Smule

Are you ready to take karaoke to the next level? With Sing! Karaoke by Smule, you can sing your favorite karaoke songs and show them off to the world. Record yourself, add audio effects, and share with the app’s global community!

Download: iOS, Android

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Polyphonic!

Polyphonic! is a simple interface app for creating your own complex layers of music, even without any prior musical ability. Each square represents a different sound and each color represents a unique group of sounds. This app is perfect for anyone interested in music creation.

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Hum

Hum makes note-taking and audio recording of song ideas easier than ever! Every aspiring songwriter needs this tool in his or her arsenal. Hum keeps your lyrics and song ideas organized and sortable so you never lose anything again.

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Lyrics Pro

With this app, you get access to the lyrics of millions of tracks, straight from your phone. You can search by artist, song name, or the lyrics themselves. It also has a cool auto-loading feature that delivers the lyrics to any song that is currently playing!

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)Figure

You now have the ability to create awesome music in minutes! Simply open Figure and start by creating a beat, then share it with your friends. Whether you are new to music production or are a seasoned veteran, this app is super fun to use. All musicians can use it to improve their rhythm and expand creativity.

Download: iOS

 

12 Addictive Apps Musicians Will Love (2015 Update)SongPop

Do you know everything about music? Test yourself against friends with SongPop. As you play, you’ll listen to song clips from thousands of original artists in more than 300 genres, and the idea is to guess the artist or song faster than your friends.

Download: iOS, Android

 

Readers, what top music apps are missing from this list? Let us know in the comments!

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Songwriting Tips 11 Helpful Examples Revised

Songwriting Tips: 11 Helpful Examples From 7 Hit Songs

MO - Songwriting Tips 11 Helpful Examples Revised

Writing a catchy song that delivers a strong message can be quite difficult. Here, voice teacher Emmanuel N. shares the songwriting tips you can glean from several famous singers…  

 

When it comes to lyric-writing and songwriting, nobody can really teach you how to do it – it’s better to show by example. Whether you’re simply writing lyrics to a song you will one day sing (or someone else will sing for you) or you’re songwriting to a musical piece you found or created, you will have your own unique style. Songwriting and lyric-writing are some of the few artistic skills that are difficult to truly teach.

There are some songwriting tips and suggestions that can be very beneficial, but there is no real “by the book” way of writing lyrics for a song. So, the next best thing is offering examples of great songs by some very talented artists and songwriters. Although the artists listed below may not be the top singer-songwriters of all time, they represent a range of genres, including R&B (my specialty).

Listen to the lyrics in the tunes below, then check out my notes on what you can learn from each.

“Looking At Her” – Paul McCartney [written by Paul McCartney]

  • Matching the melody of the vocals with the melody of the song is not a bad thing. Don’t be afraid to do what Paul did at [1:40] in the bridge where his vocals match the main melody of the music (“Doesn’t she know…”).

 

“Nobody Ever Told You” – Carrie Underwood [written by Carrie, Lindsey, and Laird]

  • When writing a song with a positive message, making it personal gives the song a stronger meaning. Carrie does this in the first verse as she talks about how beautiful she is despite what society says. At [0:21], for example, she says “…Don’t be shy, don’t be scared…” when pertaining to showing your real self.
  • Using similes in a song makes the lyrics more beautiful and poetic. Carrie does this at [0:51] and [2:20] with her chorus and bridge to give the listener a more vivid picture of just how beautiful they are (“You shine like a diamond, glitter like gold… you’re free as a bird… just like a flower growing wild.”)

 

“Looking In” – Mariah Carey [written by Mariah Carey & Afanasieff]

  • Similar to Carrie Underwood’s song, you’ll notice that getting personal in a song makes it that much more emotional and powerful. At [1:23] Mariah continues her second verse describing some girl by using “she,” yet not telling us who it is. She ends the verse by revealing this “she” was Mariah herself all along (“…and hides herself inside of me”), making it very personal.
  • Don’t be afraid to be passionate, emotional, and show your frustration. The bridge at [1:51] is short but straight to the point; Mariah exclaims her frustration on the lack of people understanding her pain and where she is coming from (“Don’t say she takes it all for granted… Please understand”).

 

“You Said” – Keri Hilson [written by Keri Hilson]

  • Having each line in a chorus start off the same is a good way to grab someone’s attention – and it makes the song catchy. Keri’s chorus at [0:48] starts off each line with “Thought you said…” to capture that feeling of annoyance we get when we’ve been lied to repeatedly.
  • The bridge of a song is the perfect place to get real and just say it like it is – and if you’re going to repeat it, add some harmonies like she did. At [2:11] Keri gets to the point and tells her boyfriend he lost her trust (“…now I can’t believe a word that comes from you”).

 

“Cry” – Mariah Carey [written by Mariah Carey & James Wright]

  • When the music gets stronger and more powerful, let loose and let those emotions out. During the bridge, as the piano chords get stronger, Mariah gets dynamic as she lets those emotions out at [3:06]. “…So naked…” is extended vocally to let the emotions sink in, in between emotional lyrics.

 

“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga [written by Gaga and Laursen]

  • Adding a message in the intro of a song has a good chance of capturing the listener’s attention. Lady Gaga does this in the beginning of her song with, “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M…” to provide a sort of prologue to the song.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the title of your song throughout the entire song itself. Lady Gaga mentions “born this way” in the intro, first verse, chorus, bridge, and outro several times to truly stress that we really are born this way (regarding what makes us different, so that we learn to love ourselves and each other).

 

“My Everything” – Ariana Grande [written by Ariana et al.]

  • Use a specific theme to give your message more dimension. At [1:10] Ariana uses the theme of distance and time to show the strain that distance has on her relationship. With “I know you’re not far… can’t handle all the distance… you’re traveling with my heart… temporary feeling,” you can see the theme play out nicely and poetically.

 

So there you have it, some examples that showcase how creative you can get when writing songs. I have written more than 100 songs and I learned by listening to songs that inspire me or make me feel something. Hopefully these songs help you in your endeavor of creating masterpieces and will lead you down the path to becoming a successful singer-songwriter!

Editor’s Note: Want even more examples of great songwriting? We love this resource by Robin Frederick, detailing the strategies behind several hit songs, including the lyrics, structure, and melody of each.

Emmanuel NoriegaPost Author: Emmanuel N.
Emmanuel N. teaches online Spanish and singing lessons. He earned his B.A. in psychology from California State University, Fullerton and has been teaching lessons since January 2015. Learn more about Emmanuel here!

Photo by Roger Blackwell

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15 Fabulous Songs for Male Jazz Singers

15 Fabulous Songs for Male Jazz Singers (Listen Here!)

15 Fabulous Songs for Male Jazz Singers

Guys, ready to explore the world of jazz? There are so many good jazz songs to sing and talented jazz singers to check out! Here are some top picks from voice teacher Molly R...

 

For beginner vocal students (or ANY vocal student, for that matter!) nothing beats a jazz standard! Even the rocker guys I work with agree that mastering a classic can do absolute wonders for improving your voice.

Jazz songs are great for singers for so many reasons: phrasing, musicianship, improvisation, strengthening your middle range… sold yet? Then why not consider one of these 15 great songs for male jazz singers? There is a huge variety here: you’re bound to find a few that you’ll love to sing!

1) “Fly Me to the Moon”

What a fun one! You can swing the rhythm like Frank Sinatra, or sing it “straight.” That’s why jazz is so great — you’ve got choices!

2) “Hello, Dolly!”

While I don’t suggest you try to emulate Satchmo’s signature scratchy sound, this song is swinging! Fun fact: it became a #1 hit that booted the Beatles off the top of the charts in 1964.

3) “Embraceable You”

A beautiful Gershwin standard! It’s sweet, slow-paced, and sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Here’s Nat King Cole singing it in his smooth style.

4) “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?”

This is another uptempo jazz song that is witty and just sheer fun! This is performed by the legendary Dean Martin. Although it’s often performed with a full band, don’t let the big sound fool you. This is always a treat sung with just a piano, too!

5) “Misty”

Numerous singers have made this heartfelt ballad their own — and can you blame them? It’s easy to improvise and the lyrics are just lovely. Here it is performed by the gentleman who made it most popular, Johnny Mathis.

6) “All of Me”

Again, Mr. Sinatra shows us how you can make choices in jazz. Here, he swings the rhythm. Although you also have the choice of singing it slower and more in the style of a ballad. Either way, this is always a solid choice!

7) “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”

I love this song because of the clever and memorable lyrics. In this video, Harry Connick, Jr. gives this classic song his cool flair.

8) “A Foggy Day in London Town”

The Gershwins did such an amazing job of painting a picture of a place with their music. Here’s further proof of that with Michael Bublé’s version this wonderful number.

9) “I Won’t Dance”

This sassy song by Jerome Kern is sometimes sung as a duet, but it’s also sung as a solo jazz piece. Legends such as Sinatra and Tony Bennett are among the many who have sung it, as well as movie star Fred Astaire, seen here.

10) “It Had to Be You”

Does anyone have a jazzier tone than living legend Tony Bennett? He’s one of the greatest male jazz singers of all time — just listen to how simply but effectively he delivers this uplifting classic!

11) “All the Way”

This standard has one grand, sweeping melody. It’s the perfect tune to show off emotion as well as how well you can build a phrase.

12) “Stardust”

This one was made for intimate jazz club settings! It’s especially beautiful with nothing more than simple piano accompaniment, as heard here with Harry Connick, Jr.

13) “The Girl From Ipanema”

Like many of the jazz songs in this list, there have been countless versions of this piece. This was even a Top-40 hit in the 1960s! Many have given this a Latin feel, but note how Nat King Cole gives it a slightly more traditional sound.

14) “When Sunny Gets Blue”

Smooth… cool… and yet very emotional at the same time. Ah, that’s why we love vocal jazz! Mel Torme, the “Velvet Fog” himself, sings this so beautifully, with impeccable phrasing and diction.

15) “New York State of Mind”

Billy Joel was no doubt inspired from great songs of the past when he wrote and recorded this favorite “new standard” in the 1970s! Many of the greats have put their own stamp on his salute to the Big Apple. Wouldn’t this be a great number to either open or close a show with?

 

So there you have it! Fifteen fantastic jazzy standards that are perfect for male jazz singers of all ages. (Ladies, check out my list of popular jazz songs for females here!)

Of course, the best way to determine the perfect songs for you is by working with your voice teacher. He or she can easily help you find what is best for your vocal range and musical abilities. If you don’t already have one, TakeLessons can help you find your perfect match for either online or in-person voice lessons.

Happy singing!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly 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!

Photo by Eva Rinaldi

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15 Fantastic Jazz Songs for Female Vocalists!

15 Fantastic Jazz Songs for Female Vocalists

15 Fantastic Jazz Songs for Female Vocalists!

When it comes to jazz, incredible female singers are not hard to find. Here, vocal instructor Molly R. lists some of the top popular jazz songs that are sure to get your foot tapping and your soul singing…

 

As a voice teacher, one of the genres I am consistently suggesting that students give a try is jazz singing. Why? A few reasons! One reason is that learning a jazz standard really helps you get stronger with your vocal phrasing. It’s also great for singers because it allows for more freedom in your musicianship: you can play more with tempo, try some scat, and so on.

Please don’t think that jazz is best suited for low, smoky voices, though! Opera diva Renee Fleming, a soprano singer, is a huge fan of jazz. In fact, she made money performing jazz at night while studying classical voice during the day as a young singer.

So ladies, read on for my suggestions for the most popular jazz songs to sing. And remember, all of these songs have been sung in every imaginable key; this is by far one of the most customizable of musical genres!

1) “’Round Midnight”

This sultry and mysterious tune was written by the great Thelonious Monk. Contraltos will really shine with this piece! Here, we see the legendary Ella Fitzgerald with her interpretation.

2) “The Man I Love”

There have been many fantastic renditions of this simple but heartfelt song written by the Gershwins, but this version by the great Lena Horne is particularly inspiring!

3) “Why Don’t You Do Right?”

Perhaps the most memorable performance of this jazz song was done by a cartoon (Jessica Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”), but the legendary Peggy Lee gives it a different kind of sass in this video!

4) “Crazy He Calls Me”

This charming 1949 classic is great pick for a singer who really wants to show off her strong middle range. Here, the fabulous Billie Holiday owns the song in her own way.

5) “The Man That Got Away”

Do you want a jazz ballad with some serious pain in it? Well, this song will do the trick! We all know this as one of Judy Garland’s big hits, but part of the fun of being a singer is seeing what YOU can do, even when you’re singing a cover song.

6) “Summertime”

Those Gershwins sure could write a memorable jazz tune! Although originally an aria in an opera (“Porgy and Bess”), most of us know this as a laid-back jazz song sung in a lower key. Here, modern day jazz chanteuse Norah Jones sings her rendition.

7) “Autumn Leaves”

Talk about haunting and gorgeous! This song may be short, but it’s so fun to sing. Here is proof that all voices can sing jazz: the Wagnerian soprano Helen Traubel sounds just as fabulous singing this as she does opera.

8) “Come Rain or Come Shine”

This mid-tempo standard has attitude AND heart in it. Here is yet another opera diva and jazz singer, Eileen Farrell, really selling it.

9) “Send in the Clowns”

Yes, technically it’s another musical theatre piece, but many theatre songs have turned into standards that are fit for a jazz club! This is definitely one of them. Take a listen to see what Sarah Vaughn does with the vocal line and tempo here to make it more jazzy.

10) “Someone to Watch Over Me”

Simple, sweet, and we all know it and love it! This is a marvelous song for beginners of all ages. Here, listen to the late, great Amy Winehouse giving it plenty of heart.

11) “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”

Marilyn’s performance may be truly iconic, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have fun with this song — and it’s all about the fun factor. Here is the great Julie London, NOT Marilyn, singing it.

12) “Black Coffee”

It’s jazz, but with really blues-y lyrics! This is a rainy day jazz classic that’s good for showing off your vocal range. Here, Sarah Vaughn gives it the perfect amount of emotion.

13) “I’ve Got a Crush on You”

Flirtatious yet not overtly, this is a wonderful jazz song for females that’s hardly overdone! In the video above, the versatile vocalist Linda Ronstadt sings it soulfully and beautifully.

14) “Take the A Train”

This one is best left for jazz singers with a bit more experience, as you REALLY must know how to scat to sell this swinging number! Here’s one the best scat singers of all time, Ella Fitzgerald, thrilling us with one of her best-known numbers.

15) “Cry Me a River”

Very dramatic — this song would be an excellent closer! Like with all jazz songs, it’s all a matter of what you choose to do with the tempo and the words. Here, modern day jazz diva Diana Krall gives a lovely rendition.

 

These are only 15 of a countless number of popular jazz songs for girls to sing! (Guys, check out my list of songs for male jazz singers here!) Another fantastic resource for jazz standards is your voice teacher. He or she will know your voice and abilities well and can work with you in finding songs to sing that really let you shine!

If you don’t yet have a voice teacher, no worries! You can find a voice teacher near you with TakeLessons. Have fun exploring the jazz genre!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly 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!

Photo by Bruno Ballaert

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songwriting strategies for singers

10 Must-Read Tips for Aspiring Singer-Songwriters

What does it take to be a successful singer-songwriter? If you want to try your hand at writing your own tunes, you’ll want to read the following tips for how to be a singer-songwriter, shared by teacher Liz T...

 

So you’re a singer who’s always wanted to dabble with songwriting, but maybe you’re not quite sure where to start? Here are some pointers on how to kick off your songwriting career!

Getting Started With Songwriting

writing lyrics - how to be a singer-songwriter

1. Find your inspiration
Look into your own life, your surroundings, and people that you look up to in order to find your muse for writing lyrics. Find a subject you are passionate about, whether it’s set to a love ballad or an uptempo dance song. Think about what kind of music really speaks to you, and what other listeners will relate to.

I encourage you to listen to other artists and different genres of music, but stay true to yourself and be original! Never copy another singer-songwriter’s style or lyrics.

2. Write everything down
Once you have found your inspiration, keep some sort of journal. You never know when lyrics may come to you — you could be on the subway, at a park, or in school, and you don’t want to forget what comes to you!

Also, I suggest having some type of recording software to record what comes to you, such as with the voice memos on your cell phone, or with GarageBand on your computer. If you keep singing a chorus or melody line over and over your head, record it as soon as you can so you don’t lose it!

3. Shape your song
Now it’s time to start crafting your song! Most successful songs have 2-3 verses and 2-3 choruses. Anything less or more than that may be a challenge.

Make sure there is a story in your song, and that you have some sort of point coming across. What do you want people to feel and think when they hear your songs? While there is no absolute right way to write a song, many people start out with writing meaningful lyrics, and then putting chords or melody to the words. Or you can do it the other way around, writing a beautiful melody and chord progression, and coming up with the lyrics last. Either of these approaches is acceptable.

Refining Your Songwriting

how to be a singer-songwriter

4. Test your songs out live
So, you think you have your song completed and ready to put out there? I suggest performing your song live — at an open mic or a talent show — to get all the kinks out, and to see how an audience reacts to it. Or you may want to start out simple by playing it for your friends and family, since performing original material in front of a live audience can be nerve-wracking!

5. Try recording your song
After you’ve been performing the song for a few months, it’s time to record your song! First, decide if you want to book a session in a recording studio or take a stab at recording in a home studio with the equipment you have. With technology today, it’s easy to record your own songs with the right computer software and a quality microphone.

Having a recording of your song, even if it is just a demo, will open many doors, especially if you want to become a singer-songwriter for your career. You can publish your song on YouTube, iTunes, or Soundcloud so potential fans, other artists, and established people in the music business can have access to your songs.

Establishing Your Songwriting Career

singer-songwriter

6. Collaborate with others
It’s fun to collaborate and write with other musicians! Sometimes writing lyrics may be your strongest skill, while it may be a weak point for someone else who is better at writing the instrumental part. Many famous singers collaborate in this way, including Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and Ashford & Simpson.

By collaborating with others, you may find someone that truly understands your music perspective and where you want to take your music, which can be an important asset for you in your career as a singer-songwriter. Of course, make sure you discuss splitting any profits 50/50 or come to an agreement in writing if you plan to distribute your music professionally.

7. Copyright your music
Getting a copyright for your music is crucial as a songwriter, and should not be overlooked! I recommend registering your song as soon as you have the final version of it written and recorded. You can do so easily online here at the U.S Copyright Office.

For a small fee you can register any songs that you have written, by submitting lyrics and a recording of your work of art (can be a demo). Once you have paid the fee and submitted your original materials, you then own the copyright to your song, and no one can use it without your permission. If you don’t register your works with the U.S Copyright Office, someone could steal your lyrics or your melody line, and make a whole new recording without your permission or having to pay you any royalties.

8. Look into Performing Rights Organizations
Once you have submitted your works to the U.S Copyright Office, I recommend joining a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI are organizations that will collect any monetary royalties on your behalf and distribute them to you in a fair and organized way.

You may be earning royalties if you have songs on the radio, TV, YouTube, Spotify, or iTunes. Each time your song plays in a public place you are entitled to royalties. Some PROs are free to join while others have a joining fee, so do your research to see what’s best for you.

9. Consider writing for others
Being a songwriter doesn’t mean you have to write songs just for yourself. Some of the best singers in the world prefer to write songs for others. This could mean writing a song for the opposite gender, a song in a different language or a different genre, or a song that is too high or low for your vocal range. It’s perfectly normal to be a songwriter for other artists: Lady Gaga, Sia, and Bruno Mars all started out this way!

10. Pitch your music
Once you are confident in your original song, it’s time to pitch your music to the industry! This is not easy and won’t happen overnight, but with technology today, you do have an advantage of getting your music heard and seen by important music industry professionals.

One way is by submitting your music online to a music catalog. Many TV shows and commercial companies will look through these production libraries to find songs for their needs, and yours could be exactly what they are looking for! Do your research with these, as some have fees associated with signing up, while others are free. In major cities, there are also major networking events where artists can pitch their songs in person to companies like MTV and VH1 for a small fee. New York City’s “Spony” is a great opportunity for this.

 

Being a singer-songwriter myself (I’ve produced my own original songs and written jingles for companies), I hope that these strategies will help you create your songs and bring them to life for yourself and others to hear!

If you need help structuring your songs, or want even more advice on how to be a singer-songwriter, I’d love to work with you. Good luck!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Photo by Fredrik RubenssonThomas HawkJanetandPhil

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Disney Live auditions

4 Insider Tips For Your Disney or Nickelodeon Audition

Disney Live auditions

Want to perform with Disney, or another popular production company or cruise line? Learn what to expect at Nickelodeon and Disney singing auditions — and how to put your best foot forward –in this guest post voice teacher Liz T...

 

Have you ever thought of auditioning for a job with a Disney or Nickelodeon production? Well, there are a few things you should know before your audition! As a performer myself with Disney Live, Radio Disney, and Nickelodeon at Sea, I am here to give you insight into what these types of companies are looking for at their performer auditions.

Here’s what you need to know about Disney singing auditions and the like…

Don't ever pay money for an audition - Tips for Disney singing auditions

Don’t ever pay money for an audition

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams out there that convince families to pay large advances to so-called “agencies” to get your kid seen in front of a Disney or Nickelodeon Casting Director. This is not the way to approach landing a role. If someone is asking for money just to give your child a chance to be seen, their promises may not be true.

Also, you should never pay an agent any money upfront — most deals end up at only 10-20% if they actually help you get contracted work.

Presentation is everything - Tips for Disney singing auditions

Presentation is everything

For the actual audition, Disney and Nickelodeon hold many casting calls each year in Orlando, New York City, and Los Angeles. It’s common for them to list auditions on websites like Playbill, Backstage, Walt Disney, and Feld Entertainment. Sometimes there are workshops in these cities where you or your child can participate in a master class with a casting director.

Remember: from the moment you walk in the audition room or send your headshot for review, you are being considered for a part! Both Disney and Nickelodeon look for actors who are positive and confident. They don’t want to see you walking in the audition room with your head down and a sourpuss face (even if you are auditioning for a serious role). They want to see a smile, an upbeat personality, and someone who can hold an intelligent conversation!

I suggest wearing a nice, bright-colored outfit to your audition to show you care about your presentation (also, make sure your clothes are free of logos). Imagine if you were meeting a friend’s parents for the first time — you want to make a good impression right from the start! They also want to see that you can work well with others and do not give off a diva-like impression.

Maintain a position image - Tips for Disney singing auditions

Maintain a positive image

If you are lucky to get a job with Disney or Nickelodeon, you will be in the public eye. This means that many kids will look up to you as a role model, so it’s important that you lead a healthy lifestyle.

Disney and Nickelodeon want to give off a positive, clean, healthy image to kids. They also do check-ins constantly, so even after you are hired, you still have to maintain a healthy lifestyle while performing. They are very strict with this, and do not tolerate bad behavior at all. Many well-known actors have been dropped from their TV show contracts or record labels for not maintaining these lifestyles.

Choose an appropriate songs and monologue - Tips for Disney singing auditions

Choose an appropriate song and monologue

To work for companies like Disney and Nickelodeon, you also need to have great energy and high spirits! So, it’s important to show this in your audition. Pick an audition song that is appropriate for your age and range, and make sure it doesn’t include any offensive material.

You can sing a Disney song or use a monologue from one of their movies or TV shows for their audition, but I also encourage you to change it up! Research some old, classic musicals, or even use some new and currently popular material for your audition. Most audition panels love funny material, and they love to laugh! They want to see big personalities, and that you would be a fun, lovely person to work with.

How Do Disney Auditions Work?

There are many different ways you can audition for Disney or Nickelodeon. For example, I made an audition video and sent it into Disney because I was not able to attend an audition in person. In my video I included some clips of past singing, acting, and dancing performances.

I finally received an email almost six months later, asking to do some more interviews and auditions over Skype. After another month, I was finally offered a role with the company! So, it paid off being patient and making that video, because you never know what opportunities are in store for you.

How Do Nickelodeon Auditions Work?

For Nickelodeon, I attended an audition in person. The audition was a very positive experience, and they took a lot of time getting to know me as a person and not just as an actor.

I spent about an hour with the panel, and they asked to hear me sing, read from a children’s script, and learn and perform a new dance combination. This is very rare for auditions, as most only last about two minutes. At the end of the audition, they offered me a job right on the spot, which started in two weeks! I was very lucky, as this is not particularly common.

I happened to be at the right time and right place for both these auditions. A little luck may have been on my side, but it would not have worked out without my hard work, determination, and practice for many years.

How to Get Singing Gigs with Disney and More

Looking for more? Check these resources out!

Other TakeLessons tips:

Elsewhere online:

These companies are very professional and look for the best of the best — hard-workers who are serious about performing. I suggest not going to your audition until you are extremely prepared and confident.

It’s a good idea to build up your experience with other auditions first, and then try out for these major companies when you’re truly ready. And of course, working with a voice teacher or acting coach is a great idea — your teacher can help you choose the right song and monologue, and teach you how to present your best self at the audition.

Good luck with your Nickelodeon or Disney audition, and let me know how it goes!

Photo by Ricky Brigante

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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The 8 Weirdest Questions Voice Teachers Get

10 Weird (but Common) Questions Voice Teachers Get – Answered!

The 8 Weirdest Questions Voice Teachers Get

As you’re learning to sing, you’ll likely have a lot of questions. And don’t worry, that’s what your voice teacher is there for! Once you’ve got the basics down, though, you might realize some of your beginner questions were a little…well… silly! Here, teacher Elaina R. answers some of the common questions and lays some rumors to rest…


As a voice teacher, I get asked some pretty weird questions about singing. In fact, I get so many that I decided to write an article about it! Here are the weirdest questions students ask voice teachers – and the answers you may have been wondering about yourself — that can help you become a better singer.

 

Doesn’t Hunching Over Help You Sing From Your Diaphragm

Let’s start with this eye-opening question. First of all, I hate it when people talk about singing from the diaphragm. Steve Martin reportedly popularized the phrase “sing from the diaphragm” in his comedy sketches, and he isn’t exactly an authority on the voice. There are three major muscle groups involved in breathing, and this statement discounts two of them.

Secondly, hunching over definitely does not help with proper breathing! Hunching over collapses the torso, reducing the volume of air that you can breathe in. Here’s a helpful infographic on proper breathing and posture.

 

Is That A Hashtag

No, it’s a sharp. Learning the basics of reading music (including key signatures, note values, and the two basic clefs) makes you much more flexible as a singer. Check out my introduction to reading music to get started!

 

Are You A Tenor

Nope. Women can’t be tenors, but I don’t blame you for getting confused. Voice types are hard to define, and the many subsections and qualifiers make it a convoluted topic. The two basic voice types for women are soprano and mezzo-soprano (known as alto in choral settings). Check out this introduction to voice types to learn more.

 

Doesn’t Stretching My Neck Up Help Me Reach High Notes

No, it doesn’t. Tilting your head up actually strains your neck, making it more difficult to sing. Go ahead and stretch your head up, then try talking. Do you hear how strained your voice sounds? That’s exactly what happens when you try to sing in this position.

 

Should I Fast Before Voice Lessons

No, no, no! I’ve had students get faint during lessons because they didn’t have enough to eat beforehand. I’ve actually had to feed one student during a lesson! While it’s true that the stomach is right under the diaphragm (an important breathing muscle) and that going to a buffet immediately before a lesson isn’t a good idea, please don’t starve yourself.

 

How Can Such A Tiny Person Sing Opera

My small stature (I am five feet tall) has made me a target of the “you have such a loud voice for such a small person!” comment ever since I can remember. But in actuality, just like the general population, opera singers come in all shapes and sizes. Singers of my voice type (coloratura soprano) are often my size.

 

Why Does Singing Make Me Burp So Much

Remember how the stomach is located directly under the diaphragm? Deep breathing compresses many of your organs, including the stomach. This causes some people to burp. To avoid excessive burping during your voice lessons, don’t drink anything carbonated on your way to class.

 

The Many Weird Questions About Head Voice and Chest Voice

These questions get their own category because I have gotten so many of them. Here are some of the strangest ones:

  • Is singing in head voice bad for you?
  • Is head voice “fake singing”?
  • Does chest voice come from your chest?

Head voice and chest voice are just the two main registers of the human voice. They both come from the vocal cords, not the actual head and chest (names can be deceptive). And no, neither of them is bad for you.

Bring On The Weird Questions

Don’t worry: weird questions about the voice are good! There isn’t a lot of reliable vocal information out there, and airing out your strangest queries can help you learn about your voice. So don’t be afraid to ask your voice teacher about any of your vocal musings; the answers may help you become a better singer!

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by U.S. Army

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How to Get Started Singing Coloratura

Intro to Coloratura Singing | Exercises & Examples

How to Get Started Singing Coloratura

Interested in opera singing? You may run into the word “coloratura” in your studies. Here, vocal instructor Molly R. will give you the inside scoop on what the term means, and what you need to know to get started with the technique…

 

Coloratura! A fancy word for a very fancy vocal device. Coloratura is ornamentation done in classical singing: think trills, big leaps, and intricate melismas (also known as vocal runs). The most intricate coloratura singing involves cadenzas, which are improvised vocal flourishes. There’s even a very special voice type, the coloratura soprano, who’s expected to be a vocal virtuoso who sings well above high “C” (C6)!

An Example of Coloratura Singing

Certain opera composers, such as Mozart and Rossini, are known for writing music that contains coloratura showpieces. Perhaps one of the best examples of powerhouse coloratura singing is one of the arias the Queen of the Night sings in Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”

These arias can be quite daunting to the novice singer! However, the key to mastering ANYTHING is starting small. There are plenty of vocal exercises and songs that will prepare you for more advanced repertoire later on in your studies.

How to Sing Coloratura

Singing requires many skills beyond controlling your breathing and hitting the right notes. Here are the first steps to take when learning how to master the art of coloratura singing.

1. Become REALLY well-acquainted with your lower support muscles.

In order to sing good, clean, and accurate coloratura, you must “sing where you laugh.”
The best vocal warm-up for this is a simple staccato exercise, which will strengthen your core and increase overall flexibility throughout your vocal range. Here’s an example of an exercise to try:

2. Practice intervals and pitch accuracy.

Accuracy is key so that your notes are dead-on and not sloppy or out of tune. A really fun “go-to” in my studio is Kim Chandler’s series called “Funky ‘n Fun.” Although geared for non-classical singers, her exercises that focus on intervals are tremendously helpful for the ear AND the voice!

3. Get some “old school” books written by vocal masters.

There’s a wealth of information on coloratura singing written by experts who are well-versed in the practice. Having resources to reference to will aid in your practice and understanding of valuable singing techniques. Here are a few of my top picks:

  • Mathilde Marchesi’s “Bel Canto” – This book’s exercises start small, with simple two-note “shakes” and three-note “trills”, building you up for more elaborate ornamentation as the book progresses. These exercises can easily be played on the piano by a novice!
  • Estelle Liebling’s “Vocal Course for Coloratuna Soprano” – Estelle Liebling is a student of Marchesi and teacher of one of the finest coloratura sopranos, Beverly Sills. These exercises start simply and build in complexity. Liebling, like Marchesi, stresses clean, pure-tone, and rock-solid lower support. These are indeed the two main things a singer must master to sing coloratura!
  • Estelle Liebling’s “Coloratura Cadenzas” – This book is for later in the coloratura soprano’s studies. It provides various options for cadenzas a soprano may insert into many famous arias. Do note that these arias are not to be studied until a student has mastered the basics — but it may be a good idea to have this book on hand to see what musicality is necessary for singing a cadenza.

What Are Some Songs for the Coloratura Soprano?

At this point, you may wonder what some popular but simple coloratura songs sound like. Below are a couple suggestions for  repertoire that may be helpful for beginner coloraturas before they build up to coloratura opera arias.

“Poor Wandering One” from “Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan

This is the place to start! It’s short, in English, and has a section that will definitely get a soprano on the right track for singing good, clean high notes.

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s “Messiah”

Handel oratorio arias are excellent preparation for florid singing. It’s also wise for a soprano singer to learn “Messiah”, anyway — it’s a staple among classical music repertoire and chances are you may be asked to sing it at some point in your career. Many of Handel’s operatic arias are must faster, but the slower tempo of this piece allows your voice to really get the hang of the trill.

Final Thoughts

Coloratura singing is NOT one of those skills you can learn on your own. It’s very important that you have the eyes and ears of a trusted voice teacher guide you through it, and most importantly, assess when you’re ready to tackle more advanced repertoire.

There are many fantastic vocal instructors on TakeLessons.com. If you don’t have a teacher already, browse around to find your ideal instructor and get started now!

 

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly 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!

Photo by Baldwin Wallace University

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15 Awesome Facts About Your Voice

15 Awesome Facts You Never Knew About Your Voice

Vocal health for singers is an important topic. After all, as a singer, your voice — and, actually, your entire body — is your instrument! It only makes sense to fully understand how it works, and how vocal health really affects your performance.

Here on the TakeLessons Blog, we’ve shared tips for improving your tone, strange (but effective) ways to protect your vocal cords, and how posture affects your singing. We’ve debunked the myth that drinking milk is bad for your voice, and that not all lozenges and sprays marketed to singers are created equal.

But there’s even more to learn about your instrument. Check out the infographic below to learn awesome 15 facts!

Awesome Facts About Your Voice and Vocal Cords

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Vocal Health for Singers – Additional Resources

Want to learn more? Here are some articles to check out to get your voice in top shape:

Editor’s Note: Joanna from The Voice of Your Life blog pointed out a few things that we thought are worth adding in:

Lung capacity is important, but not as important as training to MANAGE the outflow of air. I agree that swimming is a great exercise for singers, because it requires both. Many people I see with damaged voices have tried to push out (expel) too much air; this is the opposite of real breath support. 

Also, recent acoustics research resonators are mainly in the throat, even though we experience them in nose and face. 

Thanks Joanna! 

Readers, what other resources have you found helpful for vocal health tips? Let us know in the comments!

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