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fastest way to learn spanish

6 Science-Backed Study Hacks for Learning Spanish [Infographic]

fastest way to learn spanish

Learning a second language can be a difficult task. However, with the right study habits and a drive to succeed, it can become a much easier, quicker, and enjoyable process. To help, we’ve rounded up six study hacks that will prep your mind and body for learning Spanish more easily. Check out the tips below for ideas on the fastest way to learn Spanish.

1) Write your notes by hand.

We know you’ve heard this seemingly outdated tip before, but it’s one of the best and simplest Spanish study hacks that exists. Studies suggest that you are more likely to recall information if you hand-write the information, because your brain has to focus on writing out the actual words. So, ditch your keyboard or your iPad, and resort to an old-fashioned pen and paper. If you feel like you have to type your notes in lessons in order to keep up with your teacher, rewrite them by hand when you get home to help you study and retain the information.

2) Exercise.

This might sound like a weird tip, but a 2009 study showed that physical activity can improve brain function, learning, and memory. Try combining the two when you can by listening to a Spanish language podcast while at the gym. Instead of watching TV during a study break, take a jog around the block. Leading an active lifestyle will help you recall Spanish better.

3) Chew gum while you study.

A recent study showed that those who chewed gum while they learned had higher accuracy rates when recalling information than those who did not chew gum. There is also a potential link between level of focus and gum chewing. So, the next time you’re struggling to concentrate, pop in some minty-fresh gum, and get back to studying!

4) Immerse yourself in the language.

A 2012 study shows that students who immerse themselves in the language instead of only learning in a classroom setting are more likely to absorb it. Furthermore, the study suggests that immersion can help the brain process the language like a native speaker. Try speaking and writing in Spanish whenever possible to better immerse yourself in the language!

5) Say it aloud.

This study shows that people who say information out loud are more likely to remember it than people who read everything silently. This study also suggests that our brain likes to remember oddball information, so you should choose to say aloud the information that is most important, not all of the facts that you have in front of you.

6) Don’t stress; get some sleep.

Even though cramming for an exam or your trip to Spain might seem like a good idea, studies have proven that sleep is more beneficial than extra hours of studying. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep in the days leading up to your exam or trip will help you to better recall information.

Here’s a recap of all these Spanish study hacks in one handy infographic:

6 Science-Backed Study Hacks for Learning Spanish

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So, what’s the fastest way to learn Spanish? You’ll find by using these study hacks, alongside the expertise of a qualified Spanish tutor, you’ll learn the language quicker than you might think! Good luck!

Ready to start learning? Search for a tutor near you!

 

Photo by kathryn

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3 Summer Activities And How They Help Your Child Grow (Piano)

3 (Fun!) Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

fun summer activities for kids

Summer is here! With school out and the temperatures rising, no doubt your kids are excited to play. But beyond the summer camps, sleepovers, bike rides, and water balloon fights, stealthy parents know how to encourage activities that can actually help kids grow and learn!

Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean workbooks or summer homework. We’ve got three fun summer activities in mind that kids will be excited to participate in, and ones that will build confidence at the same time.

  • First up? Music lessons! If your son or daughter loves to sing along to songs when you turn on the radio, music lessons are a natural fit. And there are so many different lesson types to consider, from piano to guitar to saxophone.
  • For the more introverted or bookworm types, learning a language — like Spanish or French — might be a great choice. Of course, your child won’t become fluent over the course of one summer… but it can be a fun introduction to new cultures! Plus, it’s easy to find fun games and apps that support language learning.
  • Finally, if your child can’t stop moving, sports like soccer and softball are a great way to keep him or her busy. They’ll never know they’re actually improving their teamwork and goal-setting skills!

Here’s a recap of all the surprising stats you need to know about these fun summer activities for kids.

3 Fun Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

Whether your child is athletic, musically inclined, or interested in learning another language, summer is the perfect time to enroll them in classes and nurture a new hobby. And knowing your son or daughter is also growing and learning, you can sit back and relax this summer — just as the season was intended for.

Ready to get started? Search for fun summer activities, classes, and lessons near you!

Photos by Philippe PutDark Dwarf, and l. c.

 

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Difference between Spain and Mexico Spanish Header

Spanish in Spain vs. Mexico: What’s the Difference?

Difference between Spain and Mexico Spanish Header

If you are learning Spanish using books, apps, and other materials, you may have noticed some slight discrepancies in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The reason for this is the difference between Spanish used in Mexico and Spanish used in Spain. The following are several distinctions that you should be aware of when you communicate with Spanish speakers, no matter what proficiency level you’re at.

1. Vocabulary

Learning the difference between Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish vocabulary will ensure that you are understood. Here are a few important words and phrases to remember:

  • “Glasses” in Mexico are lentes but in Spain are gafas.
  • “Car” in Spain is most commonly coche, whereas in Mexico, you can use cochecarro, or auto.
  • The word for “computer” in Mexican Spanish is very similar to the English: computadora. However, in Spain the word is ordenador.
  • If you notice peaches for sale in Mexico, they will be labeled as duraznos. In Spain, the same fruits are melocotones.
  • “Potato” in Spain is patata and in Mexico papa.
  • “Remote control” literally translates to the Mexican Spanish control remoto. However, in Spain, the same object is called mando a distancia.
  • “Pen” is bolígrafo in Spain but pluma in Mexico — the same word as for feather.

2. Pronunciation

One of the most basic aspects of learning a language is developing the correct pronunciation, and it can be quite confusing to hear the same words pronounced differently by native speakers. One of the biggest pronunciation differences between the two languages are in z and c before an i or e. This sounds like s in Mexico, but “th”in Spain, for example, Barcelona. Additionally, Spanish from Spain tends to be more guttural, due to its Arabic influences, whereas Mexican Spanish is softer.

3. Vosotros/Ustedes

In Spanish, there are two forms of the second-person singular — formal and informal. The formal second-person singular uses exactly the same conjugations as the third-person singular.

In Spain, there are also two forms for the second-person plural: vosotros for informal and ustedes for formal; however, in Mexico, there is no second-person informal — you always use ustedes. Kids learn vosotros in school but never use it for more than understanding things like movies and literature from Spain. This is good news if you are learning Mexican Spanish, as you will have little need for vosotros. However, if you want to speak with people in Spain, you should learn the additional Spanish conjugations.

4. Past Tenses

One last difference between Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish is the use of the past tenses. Mexicans use the past and present perfect tenses much the same as you use them in English. However, the Spanish favor the present perfect and use it for all recently completed actions.

Here’s a handy cheat sheet for some common differences in Spanish vocabulary:

Difference between Spain and Mexico Spanish

Of course, the best way to avoid confusion when it comes to the difference between Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish is to learn with a private tutor. A qualified teacher can guide you along the way and provide study plans that can clear up any any doubts you may have. Good luck!

 

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Map the Music

Feeling Stuck? Try This Fun Piano Exercise [Printable]

Map the Music Piano Exercise

Struggling with a particular piano piece? Don’t stress. It may just be time to take a step back and get your bearings. Read on as Spring Lake, MI piano teacher Val L. shares a piano exercise to try…

 

So you’ve been trying to learn a challenging piece of music for an upcoming piano recital or event, but there are still some parts that just seem to fall apart. If you are following the typical routine of playing it over and over, and making the same mistakes over and over, why not try a new approach?

Think of your song as a map. You have to get from point A to point B without any wrong turns that could result in you getting hopelessly lost and giving up! It’s time to take a step away from the keys and get out your markers, colored pencils, and a nice big piece of paper. It’s time to map the music!

Let’s give your brain the clues it needs to make it through the dense, foggy areas and avoid the potholes and pitfalls. Every piano song has its challenges – that’s what makes it interesting! Creating a visual tool, like a map, will help you navigate your way through a challenging piece of music.

As an example, here’s what my student came up with when we mapped out “Wonka’s Welcome Song” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (sheet music here).

Wonka's Welcome piano exercise

Following the steps below, this piano exercise will bring out the most important elements of the piece, helping you remember the details and internalize the melody and harmony. But the most fun part of the exercise is that you have the freedom to get creative! Your drawing may be similar to my student’s example above, or it may not — it’s up to you!

Now Let’s “Map the Music”!

First, you’ll want to make a copy of your music. This is legal if you bought it and are using it only for your own study. Next, answer the following questions before you begin:

  1. Is there an intro? A bridge? Transitional measures? A coda preceded by a cadenza?
  2. Have you identified the main theme? The secondary theme?
  3. Are there sections that repeat?

This will give you a basic understanding of how the music is laid out and an outline to follow as you work through the piece.

Map the Music – Draw the Melody & Harmony

For each section you will want to identify the important details. Use different colors to draw the melody, the harmony, and the chord progression.

Draw a treble clef to show where the right hand plays. Use a different color to draw a bass clef that shows where the left hand plays. Think of these symbols as road signs in your sheet music to alert you to a change or a new pattern. This is especially helpful when the hands switch clefs.

Drawing the melody is as simple as doing a “dot-to-dot.” Draw a line that follows the same pattern as the melody – just connect the dots! Use your finger to trace the notes before drawing it on your map. Pay close attention to the following:

  1. Are there skips?
  2. Is there a sudden change in the direction of the pattern?
  3. Does the pattern repeat anywhere else in the song?

Start by writing the letter name of the first note (keynote) and then draw the line going up if the notes step up, down if the notes step down. Use an X to represent skips and draw longer lines for bigger leaps. If there are groups of notes that repeat, draw a line with a number above it showing how many notes repeat. Using different colors for melody and harmony will show parallel and contrary patterns.

Map the Music – Mark the Details

The next step in this piano exercise is to hunt for the obscure details that are easily overlooked

  • Time Signature – Is it cut time? Does it change anywhere in the piece?
  • Key Signature – How many sharps/flats? Does it change anywhere in the piece?
  • Accidentals – Don’t forget to mark the most common culprits for tripping you up!
  • Rhythm – Where are the rests? Don’t ignore them!
  • Note Values – What is the shortest note value? (Eighth notes? Sixteenth notes?) Use them to establish your steady rhythm! Take the time to write and clap the rhythm.

Map the Music – Extra Tips

  • Focus on the tricky measures – Make note of the measures that have been the most difficult.
  • Color code – Use different colors to circle or highlight the details. Maybe it’s the rhythm, or an accidental, or a fingering that has been giving you trouble.
  • Illustrate – Use your imagination to draw the melody or use a simple picture to sort out the fingering.

Ready to try it with your own piano music? Here’s an even-simpler breakdown:

Map the Music Piano Printable Worksheet

Want to download the printable version of the worksheet? Get it here: Map the Music Printable PDF

 

By simplifying the music and creating a visual that makes sense to you, the process of learning and/or memorizing will be much more manageable. The goal of this piano exercise is to give your brain a “snapshot” of the piece so you can easily recall where you are at if you get lost. Be creative, use your own ideas, and consult your piano teacher to make stronger connections with the music. Good luck!

Val LPost Author: Val L.
Val L. teaches piano lessons in Spring Lake, MI. She earned her Associate of Arts degree from William Tyndale College and has been teaching piano for more than 10 years. Learn more about Val here!

Photo by m kasahara

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Visual Intro to the Keyboard

How to Read Music Faster: A Visual Intro to the Piano

Visual Intro to the Keyboard

When you’re new to playing piano, you might feel overwhelmed by all the keys! But here’s a secret: those 88 keys can be reduced to just seven piano notes, and a few essential patterns. Easy, right? Here, teacher Nadia B. shares a super-easy visual introduction…

 

Did you know the keyboard of a piano is full of tricks and secrets? Music is full of different patterns, and as you become more familiar with them, you’ll learn how to read piano music faster, while playing confidently and correctly. If you want to learn how to read piano notes quickly (and improve your sight-reading skills), knowledge of these basics is essential. Following along with a YouTube piano tutorial might be fun, but it’s not going to help you progress as a pianist.

So where do you start? Some of the main building blocks of music that come in handy with piano are half steps and whole steps, the chromatic scale, enharmonics, and flats (noted as ‘b‘) and sharps (notated as ‘#’). Here’s what you need to know…

Half Steps

Just like the structures of chromosomes make up the whole of a DNA strand, half steps make up the whole of the keyboard. A half step on the keyboard is going from one key to the next one directly above or below it, without skipping any keys. A half step could go from a white key to a black key (for example, G to G#), a black key to a white key (e.g. G# to A), or a white key to a white key (e.g. E to F). See the image below for an illustration of these examples.

Half Steps

You will find half steps in both major and minor scales. For example, in the C major scale, E to F and B to C are both half steps.

C Major Scale Half Steps

Familiarizing yourself with half steps and being able to rapidly recognize them will allow you to decode music more easily, as you’ll be able to see the same patterns of half steps in written music.

Whole Steps

Whole steps are the big sibling to half steps. Two half steps make a whole step, and whole steps are what make up major and minor scales, in addition to half steps. An example of a whole step is from F to G on the keyboard; in between F and G we have two half steps — F to F# and F# to G.

Whole Steps

An example of a whole step in a major scale is from F to G in the F major scale. Similarly to half steps, recognizing whole steps and understanding their function allows you to read piano music faster and also learn how to create major and minor scales using a set pattern of whole and half steps.

Chromatic Scale

Now that we’ve covered the building blocks of any piano scale, we can cover a scale that relates directly to half steps: the chromatic scale. Composed entirely of consecutive half steps (that is, not skipping any keys from the beginning to the end of the scale), the chromatic scale is most often practiced by starting on any note, reaching the same note one octave higher, and then descending back to the original note. For example, we can start from F in one octave, play up to F in the next octave, and return back to the original F.

F Chromatic Scale

A sequence of notes may start on one note and end on a different note — it’s the pattern of consecutive half steps that distinguishes it as chromatic.

Enharmonics

Another fundamental concept of the keyboard is that one key can have multiple names. This can cause a great deal of confusion, but once you understand how it works, you’ll find it pretty simple. ‘Enharmonic’ is the name for this concept. For example, F sharp, which we find by identifying F on the keyboard and then moving up a half step, can also be called G flat, which we find by identifying G on the keyboard and then moving down a half step. We arrive at the same note, F sharp/G flat (F#/Gb).

Enharmonic Notes

It’s good to recognize the dual names of enharmonics because you will sometimes see both names within one piece as the key modulates. Enharmonics allow us to travel to different keys seamlessly and logically.

Sharps and Flats on the Piano

Going right along with harmonics is an understanding of how sharps and flats work. Sharps always indicate a movement up in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the right), while flats always indicate a movement down in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the left). It’s important to understand them because you will see flats and sharps in the key signature and as accidentals throughout the music, and you’ll need to apply them correctly throughout the music.

The key to applying sharps and flats correctly is knowing that you are always moving in half steps. A flat indicates a half step down, while a sharp indicates a half step up. Knowing this, you can also apply double flats and double sharps properly. If you see a double flat, that means you should move downward two half steps from the original note, while a double sharp indicates that you should move upward two half steps from the original note. An example of this would be D double flat: by moving from D to D flat and then again from D flat to C, we arrive at D double flat (which is the same key as C).

Double Flat

Using half steps as a means of applying flats and sharps is an infallible method, and you’ll be moving around the keyboard easily once you learn this method.

To recap, here are the four building blocks on one handy infographic:

How to Read Piano Music Faster - Visual Intro the Piano

How to Read Music Faster & Improve Your Sight Reading

Understanding these basic structures at the piano will help you to read piano music faster, especially when you’re sight reading. Viewing a phrase, you will no longer see each note as a separate entity — rather, you’ll see the relationships between them (whole steps, half steps and larger intervals), as well as patterns that make up scales like the chromatic scale or the major scale. Knowing how sharps, flats, and enharmonics work means that you won’t be stymied by an unusual flat, like C flat. Instead, you’ll easily translate it to B natural in your mind. With these tips, you should be sight reading more fluently and accurately than ever before.

Now that you understand the patterns of the keyboard, don’t hesitate to try to find examples of these in your piano music! You will discover a unique language that is logical, organized, and creative all at once, and decoding it will result in many hours of delight making music at the piano.

Need some extra help? A private piano teacher can lead the way! Search for a teacher near you here.

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Photo by mararie

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Off the Keys

How to Practice Piano: Tips for Exercises OFF the Keys! [Infographic]

Off the Keys

We all know how important practicing is for aspiring piano players! But sometimes it can be a challenge to fit into your schedule. Luckily, there are ways to practice your technique while you’re at work, in the car, or practically anywhere else! Continue reading this guest post by Spring Lake, MI piano teacher Val L. to find out how…

 

As you practice piano, taking the time to think about rhythm and technique is a huge challenge! You should always include scales and exercises in your piano practice routine because they are the tools that will provide the muscle development and coordination needed to improve. But what should you do if you’re pressed for time? If you have a tight schedule, you’ll want to use every precious minute you have at the piano to work on your songs. Fortunately, there are also ways you can practice your piano technique… even when you’re not in front of your instrument!

Off the Keys — Piano Practice Tips for Adults

Listening – This one is obvious but easily overlooked. Find a professional recording of each piano song you are learning and make a playlist you can listen to in the car, around the house, or at work. You will reinforce tricky rhythms, changing tempos, dynamics, pedaling, and so on each time you hear it played accurately.

Hand Shape – You should already know the importance of playing with a rounded hand shape, free from tension. If you have a squishy ball on your desk at work, pick it up right now and look at your hand shape. You should be able to see all three knuckles. Each knuckle has an important part to play in good hand shape, but the knuckle closest to your fingernail is the most important. As a rule, that knuckle should never wiggle or collapse. Here are some ways to reinforce hand shape while away from the keys:

  • After observing your hand shape while holding the ball, put the ball down but keep the same hand shape. You should be able to touch the desktop with all four fingertips and the side tip of your thumb. Be sure your wrist is lifted.
  • With that good hand shape, leave your fingers touching the desk and use a little pressure to push into the desk. Release without lifting away from the desk and push in again without letting any of the knuckles wiggle or collapse. Do this without allowing tension to build up in your hands by allowing the pressure to transfer to the fingertips.
  • Now try tapping fingers individually without letting the knuckles wiggle or collapse.
  • For a greater challenge, widen your span so that the thumb and pinky are fully extended, as if playing an octave. Slide the three long fingers toward your palm until only the flat ends of the fingers are touching the desk. Tap those three long fingers on the desk without letting the knuckle wiggle or collapse, together and individually.

Eliminate Tension – If you typically feel like your muscles are all knotted up after you finish a practice session, you are probably allowing tension to build up without even knowing it. Being aware of how tension feels and where you feel it, as well as when you feel it the most, are the first steps toward eliminating it. Wherever you are right now, take a moment to evaluate the tension in your own body.

  • Spine – Start here and think about your posture. Are you hunched over or leaning to one side? With your feet resting flat on the floor, center yourself by straightening your spine from the bottom up. If you are near a wall, stand and let the back of your head rest on the wall. This will establish the feeling of good posture. Go back to your seat and sit quietly for 10 seconds with this corrected posture. With consistent reminders, your posture will improve!
  • Shoulders – Breathe in deeply and exhale. Did your shoulders drop? Do they feel more relaxed now?
  • Elbows – Are they suspended away from your body, causing your arms to ache and fingers to stiffen? Drop those elbows and let them rest at your side.
  • Wrists – You should be able to lift your wrists up and down with a beautiful fluid motion. Rest your forearms on the arms of your office chair and let your hands hang from the wrists. Slowly raise your forearms, bending at the elbows and keeping your hands relaxed, letting them dangle from the wrists. You can practice this while on the phone, reading emails, or during lunch!

When you do return to the keys, incorporate these important piano practice tips into your routine. Eventually your body will form natural, healthy habits that will greatly enhance your musicianship! (See also: The Healthy (& Happy) Pianist: A Guide to Stress & Injury Prevention)

Here’s a visual to recap these tips…

How to Practice Piano... Off the Keys - Adults

 

Off the Keys — Piano Practice Tips for Kids

Kids can be even more resistant to piano technique exercises — but the more fun the exercises are, the better kids typically respond! Here are some of my methods…

Rhythm – Keep rhythm instruments handy (claves, djembe, bongos) and try to change it up from week to week. Move away from the piano and sit at the table, couch, or even outside, and play rhythm patterns together.

Parents can be involved with rhythm practice at home. Lots of household items make good percussion instruments. Try taking two plastic bottle caps with some “Sticky Tack” inside. Little fingers can develop fine motor skills by tapping the bottle caps together. Buy a set of rhythm flashcards and tap two to three rhythm patterns each day. Or let them create their own rhythm pattern, record it, and then try writing it. At their next lesson, their piano teacher can listen and give feedback on how accurately they wrote the rhythm.

Eliminate Tension – Young students will understand the meaning of tension by using a squish ball/animal. Kids can use them to practice a relaxed, rounded hand shape. The rubber animal face expands and contorts when they squeeze, which makes them giggle and helps them understand how much our muscles dislike tension! When they relax, the animal face returns to normal and the student remembers the feeling of the relaxed hand shape versus the tense hand shape.

Additionally, here are some ways for children to become aware of tension in other areas of their body:

  • Spine – Student should stand near a wall, letting the back of their head rest on the wall. This will establish the feeling of good posture. Have them return to the bench, facing away from the keys and sit quietly for 10 seconds with this corrected posture. Be sure their feet are resting flat on the floor or on a stool of proper height. It helps to show them 10 seconds on a timer before they begin so they know how short this resting time will be!
  • Shoulders – Student should breathe in deeply and exhale. Did their shoulders drop? Do they feel more relaxed now? Have them pretend their tummy is a balloon and after they inflate the balloon, they let out all of the air. It’s fun to actually blow up a balloon while they breathe in and let it deflate when they exhale. But some children will be more distracted by the balloon and may not focus on the breathing exercise. If time is available, demonstrate with the balloon first and then put it away.
  • Elbows – Student should lay their fingertips on the closed lid of the piano or a table of about the same height and check to see if their elbows are suspended away from their body or if they are lowered and relaxed at their side. Many students love to imagine a monkey swinging on their elbow. Let the monkey swing two or three times and come to a resting position.
  • Wrists – Students often struggle with the concept of bending their wrists, but this should be developed during the early years of learning piano. Try having your students use their three long fingers to “paint” a group of three black keys. (They may even want to choose a color.) Have them “paint” those three keys with a smooth, slow stroke – curling the fingers as they slide from the back to the front of the keys. Encourage them to lift their wrists up and down with a beautiful fluid motion. Demonstrate first!

You can also try this fun “zombie” exercise…

Have students face away from the keys and do a “zombie pose” (arms straight out in front, hands dangling from wrists).

Do a “zombie wave” (flop hands up and down).

Now have them lower their arms and bend at the elbows, continuing to do the “zombie wave.”

Next, have them drop their hands like dead weight, and then let their wrists lift their arms back up while hands continue to dangle.

Have students focus on their wrists at all times. It’s important that they don’t get so caught up in the zombie fun that they miss the point of the exercise!

Pedaling – Student should turn away from the keys and read through their music doing only the pedaling. They could also listen to a recording of their music while practicing just their pedaling. This can be done from any chair — or for an element of fun, lying on their back with their foot on the wall! Beginners can simply practice keeping their heel on the floor while lifting their toes up and down. Isolating and practicing these simple movements is the first step toward developing their musicianship!

To recap…

How to Practice Piano... Off the Keys - Kids

Val LPost Author: Val L.
Val L. teaches piano lessons in Spring Lake, MI. She earned her Associate of Arts degree from William Tyndale College and has been teaching piano for over 10 years. Learn more about Val here!

Photo by rhodesj

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How to divide your singing practice

How the Best Singers Structure Their Singing Practice [Infographic]

singing practice infographic

You love to sing… and you know how important it is to sing every day… but is all that practice really helping? Here, Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T. shares how to make the most of your singing practice routine…

 

If you’re not sure how to balance your singing practice routine at home, you’re not alone! Many vocal students get overwhelmed trying to figure out how long to spend warming up, working on vocal technique, and running through songs. While your voice teacher should be your first resource for determining your specific practice routine, I’ve outlined some tips below to get you thinking.

Let’s look at a one-hour voice practice, typically for a high school or college student who is serious about pursuing music, broken into three 20-minute sessions.

20 minutes: Warm-ups

It’s very important that you start your practice singing session off right away with warming up your voice. Just as an athlete warms up his or her muscles and joints before a game or practice, singers need to warm up their vocal cords, tone, and range before a performance or practice. There are many different warm-ups a singer can do, including ones that work on:

  • Breath Support
  • Low Range/High Range
  • Arpeggios
  • Diction
  • Vibrato
  • Head voice/Chest voice

20 minutes: Song study

Use this time to work on that song you are trying to make performance-ready. This time should be spent on:

– Learning the melody and rhythm
Memorizing lyrics, and working on good diction and pronunciation
– Mastering the vocal style and genre of the song, and making sure you are using the appropriate vocal tone
– Making the song your own by incorporating your own musical interpretation and acting technique

20 minutes: Vocal technique

Just as ballet dancers focus on their body technique, by perfecting footsteps, singers must work on their vocal technique by practicing different musical techniques. There are several ways to help you improve your singing, which will require studying and an open mind! These techniques include:

  • Improvisation (learning how to scat and sing a blues scale)
  • Solfege
  • Ear training
  • Harmony
  • Sight reading

Many singers do not take the time to learn these techniques, but the sooner you learn them, the easier they will become. If you can improvise and use solfege in your sight reading, and are proficient in ear training and harmony, you will be at the top of your game!

Are you more of a visual learner? Check out this handy infographic to learn how to break up your singing practice routine for maximum efficiency:

How to Plan Your Singing Practice

Finally, I would suggest taping or recording your voice with an iPhone, computer, or tape recorder, to hear how your voice is progressing each week, month, year, and so on as you’re learning to sing. I hope you take these tips into consideration during your next vocal practice — and if you would like more help on balancing and managing your time, book a vocal lesson with me online today through 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/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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Tips for Singers - What to Pack in Your Gig Bag

Singers, Don’t Forget These 9 Items In Your Gig Bag!

Performing in front of a live audience is an amazing feeling! But to ensure a smooth, no-stress gig, preparation is key. If you’re looking for tips for your first gig — or just need a refresher — check out this advice from Saint Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...

 

For the performing singer, there’s nothing quite like having practiced your butt off for three weeks, spraying your throat every five minutes with that throat spray for singers, and running through your customized voice exercises, only to realize as you walk through those venue doors that you forgot your microphone at home.

As the lead singer of two Saint Augustine, Florida bands, I know that I’m part of a team. But I also know that I need to be responsible for my own stuff, and what exactly we need as performing singers, whether you’re a solo act or in a group, can get pretty specific. Whether it’s your first gig or you’re an experienced performer, you need to be prepared. Here’s my list of what every singer needs to pack in his or her gig bag.

What to Pack In Your Gig Bag

Throat Coat Tea and Honey (single-serve packets)
You might be skeptical of special teas and potions for the voice, like I once was. But trust me, after singing in a dry room for two hours, you’ll be thankful for the lubrication!

Great Microphone
My microphone is a Shure product. It’s not expensive and sounds great. What’s important is having your own, especially if you ever put your mouth on it. Germs, anyone?

Wind Screen
This is super important for protecting the investment that is your microphone. Strong wind, a drop on the floor, or even blowing air into it can cause damage. Your wind screen can prevent this.

Your Phone
OK, so you might not need to pack this in the gig bag, but be sure to take it. If you’re running late, you’ll want to let the venue know.

Mic Stand
Even if you’re the kind of performer who runs all over the stage with a cordless mic, you’ll need to keep that mic in a safe spot between sets. There might even be a song you’ll want to try with the mic in its stand!

Water
Even though I personally recommend drinking tea with a thicker consistency than water during performances, water will hydrate the body before and after you sing.

Potato Chips
I was skeptical about this one for a long time. But a music producer recommended them, and now, I always pack them in my gig bag. The salt reduces mucus, the oil lubricates, and the crunch helps relieve stress.

Your Merch
If you have any merchandise for your act, like T-shirts, CDs, cards for free downloads of one of your songs, or even just business cards, you’ll want to pack them in your gig bag. You never know who you’ll meet at a show, or what fans will ask for!

Extension Cord
Recently, my band had to make a really stressful and last-minute run to the local hardware store 20 minutes before show time, because our cords weren’t long enough for the new venue. Be prepared with a 50-foot extension cord. Oh, and make it an outdoor one, in case it rains!

Not There Yet? Here’s How to Get Gigs

Word of mouth is said to be the best way to get gigs for bands and musicians. But since the Internet is where so much is communicated nowadays, word of mouth means having a great social media presence. Make sure that you have a fresh, updated Facebook page with videos, reviews (even from teachers and fellow musicians), audio, and lots of photos of rehearsals and formal band photos, too. Make sure that you have a YouTube channel, so that potential clients and fans can watch you perform. Even if you only post great band practices, people can still get a feel for your sound! You can also make your own website for free at Wix.com, where you can post past and future gigs. (Here’s a great post from Wix about setting up your music website.)

Next, search your local paper or Google local open mics — these are a great way to get exposure and meet other musicians! You can also build a profile for free at websites like GigMasters and GigSalad. They’ll send leads for gigs right to your email and charge a small fee. Here’s a great round-up of those and other websites for finding gigs.

Tips for Your First Gig

Gearing up for your first gig? Congrats!

  • First, get as many details as possible from your gig contact, who’s probably the person who scheduled or hired you. Make sure that you know exactly what you’ll need to bring, what the venue already has and is willing to share, how early you’re allowed to set up your gear, how long you’re expected to perform, and a number for your contact at the venue on the day of the event, just in case you get caught in traffic or tied up, and you need to call ahead.
  • Second, if it’s possible, go to the venue yourself to check it out. How much room is there? (This’ll also help you feel more comfortable when you actually perform in the space.)
  • Third, rehearse as much as your schedule allows, and try to practice in the same physical set-up that you’ll be in the venue. Here’s a handy checklist for preparing for a gig.
  • Fourth, relax, but not by telling yourself not to be nervous… instead tell yourself that the nervousness is only excitement. It really is all about perspective and attitude.

All this considered, the most important thing to bring to a performance should be so big, that you couldn’t fit it into any gig bag. That thing is your amazing self-confidence. Remember that excitement you were feeling earlier? One of the best tips for your first gig is to use that excitement as extra energy. Because, let’s face it, you could drink all of the finest teas in the world and own the best microphones, but if you don’t believe that you belong up there, singing, you’re toast.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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how to be a better singer

Infographic: Check These 8 Things to Become a Better Singer

How to Be a Better Singer - The Singer's StanceAs you’re learning how to be a better singer, proper posture is bound to come up! Who knew so much could be affected by the way you stand when you sing? Take a look at the basics in this infographic by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R...

 

When you hear the word “posture,” what do you think of? A ballerina poised for action, or a military officer standing at attention, perhaps. Be warned: neither the ballerina nor the military officer has a good singer’s stance.

The word “posture” has so many negative connotations that I don’t use it with my students. Instead, I use the word “stance.” Singing stance is actually the healthiest possible way to stand. It lines your body up in the most comfortable and efficient way, reducing tension and maximizing your ability to breathe and phonate. By honoring your body’s construction in your stance, you gain the freedom and flexibility you need to improve your singing.

How to Be a Better Singer - The Singer's Stance

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Standing like this will feel weird at first. Use a mirror or ask your voice teacher to help you, since what you feel and what you are actually doing are often completely different. I tell my students to practice standing well whenever they remember: while waiting in line, cooking, or talking on the phone, for example.

As you get used to your singer’s stance, you may find that you feel more relaxed and better in general. That makes sense, since this is the way your body was meant to stand. Great posture is just one of the many wonderful benefits of voice lessons as you learn how to be a better singer; you will likely look taller, thinner, and more confident just by standing this way. Embrace your singer’s stance and welcome a more relaxed, poised, and musical you.

Elaina RElaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

 

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jobs for spanish speakers

30 Excellent Career Options for Spanish Speakers [Infographic]

jobs for Spanish speakers

You know the benefits of being bilingual, but how should you put your Spanish skills to the best use? Here, Jason N. shares several jobs for Spanish speakers to consider, from careers in health care to government positions to tourism coordinators…

 

Let’s start off with good news! If you are bilingual in Spanish and English, you probably aren’t struggling to find employment! Being bilingual clearly makes you a more desirable candidate in the workforce.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the number of Spanish-speaking people in this country continues to increase by the day — and businesses are learning that they can target a wider audience and serve more people if they expand their services and products to the growing Spanish-speaking public. The health sector in particular is realizing that an entirely monolingual English-speaking staff does not adequately serve the health needs of many Spanish-speaking populations.

Your command of Spanish makes you more hirable and qualified for higher-paying jobs in many industries. After showing you a bird’s-eye view of jobs for Spanish speakers, I will go into more detail about specific sectors that are currently on the prowl for bilingual hires.

jobs for Spanish speakers

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Jobs in the Health Care Sector

As the country’s Spanish-speaking population increases, the need for bilingual professionals rises. Conversational fluency is a key for this field, particularly because medical conditions and treatment often require specific and scientific language. The subtleties of meaning can be ‘lost in translation’ if the speaker cannot convey and understand the message.

Knowing the language also implies knowing certain cultural norms. Being of Hispanic origin or living in a Hispanic country for an extended period of time can offer insight into the family situations and everyday concerns of patients you will be dealing with regularly. As patients grow comfortable with the people they count on for their care, their quality of care increases.

Jobs in the Law and Law Enforcement Sector

Many Spanish-speaking immigrants need to work with law firms for immigration and other issues. If you speak Spanish, you instantly double the number of people you can represent, help, and serve. Law enforcement also addresses how people in public relate to each other. For instance, when residents cannot converse with local police, fear and resentment can develop between certain parties. This makes areas less safe for residents and the job of patrolling it more difficult for police. Predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhoods need bilingual officers to attend to both the English- and Spanish-speaking portions of the population regularly.

Jobs in Interpretation or Translation

Most industries need skilled translators who can communicate in Spanish to target a wider population and “spread the word.” Many translators have governmental jobs (Spanish is one of six of the official languages of the United Nations), or work freelance, with ad agencies, or with schools. Many courthouses employ translators and bilingual court reporters. In many cases, the job you already have may find you even more valuable if you become fluent in a second language — some companies are even willing to pay for schooling to learn Spanish!

Jobs in the Journalism Sector

With a growing Spanish-speaking public comes a need to deliver news and information in the primary language of a given community. Because they can speak to both the Spanish and the English public, bilingual reporters and writers have an advantage over the competition and subsequently increase their profitability, desirability, and marketability. With specialized Spanish-speaking networks and publications on top of the many English media outlets across the country, the need for bilingual journalists is greater than ever before.

Jobs in the Hospitality Sector

Hotels, restaurants, spas, bars, and any other places tourists frequent on vacation or for business require professionals who can communicate both with locals and international travelers. Specific areas where there are a higher number of Spanish-speaking residents — such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, and Miami — require Spanish skills more than others. This is an additional plus to pursuing a career in the hospitality industry, since these are also some of the most attractive and warmest parts of the country.

 

Polishing Your Spanish-Speaking Skills

As you can see, there are many jobs for Spanish speakers to consider! The benefits of learning Spanish are vast — not only for your career path, but when it comes to your personal life, too. Learning Spanish can help you make new friends, stay mentally sharp as you age, and even save you money as you travel.

Already started learning? You’re well on your way to all these benefits. Need some extra help? Search for a Spanish tutor near you here!

JasonNJason N. tutors English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

 

 

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