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6 Practical Ways to Make Money Playing the Drums

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Want to make money doing something you love? Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares her tips for making your drumming a career — or, if nothing else, a lucrative side job…

 

What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend/boyfriend? Homeless! OUCH!! Funny but all too often true.

This is not just a common stereotype from the general public that drummers are known as “broke musicians,” but one I often hear drummers harshly labeling themselves as. I know because I used to do it myself — and in fact, I used to be one myself!

Not anymore, though. I made a decision that I would no longer settle for playing for free drinks or gas money. I made it my mission to find all the ways I could to get paid for playing the drums. I am fully self-supported through the money I make playing, teaching, and writing about drums, and I even wrote a book that became a #1 Best Seller called “Drum and Grow Rich” — so I guess you could say I am qualified to give you some helpful pointers on the subject.

Here are six ways, other than landing the dream gig and touring the world, to make money playing the drums.

1) Teaching

You may think that teachers don’t make much money, but I assure you that you can make great money from teaching the drums. Depending on your skill level, experience, and confidence, you can make anywhere from $30-$200 an hour — and even more if you’ve played with big bands or have the right clientele. Most teachers bring in about $60 per hour, which means even working part-time you will make between $2,400 and $4,000 while still having time to play gigs at night.

2) Online Lessons

Similar to above, if you have the right experience, creating online lessons is another great option. You can film once, then create passive income from them over and over. This is becoming a very popular avenue for many fields, and is widely accepted as a reliable source of education. There are a lot of other drummers doing this, but don’t let that stop you. You have something unique that no one else has, and there are plenty of students for anyone who wants to teach.

3) Corporate Gigs, Weddings, and Parties, Oh MY!

This is where the big money is at, and you would be surprised how easy they are to get. As with any gig or drumming job, make sure that you are offering something of quality. You need to take pride in order to make the big bucks. The more songs you know, and the tighter your band is, the more gigs and referrals you will get, and the more you can charge. I have booked and played gigs that I charged more than $1,000 for that lasted less than two hours. Not bad! I have also been hired for other gigs where all I had to do was show up and know the songs, and I got paid $200 for an hour.

4) Musicals, Cirque Du Soliel, and Shows

Ah, who doesn’t love the theater? Playing for musicals and shows is a great way to make money and have a more steady lifestyle. These types of gigs almost always require above-average reading skills, but that is no need to worry. The way I see it, even a drummer at a beginner level of reading can grow his or her skills to above average (musical or show-ready) in less than a year if there is a serious effort to do so. Learning to read music efficiently will be one of the greatest investments of your time that you can possibly make. Even gigs like playing for Justin Timberlake or Lady Gaga require reading skills.

The best way to steadily improve is to read at least one piece of music each day. Even if you cannot practice or play it, just mentally reading through the form will dramatically improve your reading skills. Practicing hits, time changes, and odd meter is also imperative for these types of gigs.

5) Writing

Ok, so this one is not directly playing the drums, but it takes experience and knowledge of playing them to be able to write about them. Writing about drums has allowed me to grow my reach to drummers all over the world and educate in new ways I never thought possible. You can make great money from writing articles, books, and blogs about drumming, but the bigger picture to see is that writing makes you an expert. I have been fortunate enough to have success from writing about drums and it has opened doors that I never imagined. Plus, you can do it when you want, where you want, and how you want, all while helping people and tapping into another aspect of your creativity.

6) Playing Local Shows

Here is the catch with this one: If you are going to make any real money playing local shows or even touring on a small to medium level, you need to have a back end. In other words, you need to have stuff to sell. You can play shows and get paid $20-$75 on average, but this can be a lot of hard work for little pay-off. The key is to have CDs or T-shirts to sell to keep fans engaged and coming back for more. Now, you may be thinking this sounds shady or like it isn’t “about the music,” but if you don’t make money then you can’t keep making music. It is your responsibility to figure out how to make as much money as possible from each and every fan (ethically of course).

This goes back to giving value. Ask yourself and your band, how can we give our fans the most value? If this is genuinely your focus, you will come up with all sorts of ways to give them more, and make great money for doing it.

 

These are just six ways out of thousands to make money playing the drums. I hope these are helpful and inspire you to use your gift as more than just a hobby. Don’t give up! I was ready to give up completely on making a living from playing the drums, even though it was my dream, until I made a decision to keep on. It wasn’t always easy, but as soon as I committed to making it happen, everything changed. You can do it too, you just have to believe, be creative, and be committed.

Maegan-WMaegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!

 

 

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Science-Backed Rituals to Calm Your Nerves Before a Piano Recital

Tips On How To Calm Your Nerves Before A Piano PerformanceDo the butterflies in your stomach seem to turn into bats before each and every piano recital? You are not alone. Millions suffer from performance anxiety, or “stage fright,” from actors to professional athletes. But you don’t have to let this anxiety prevent you from letting your talent shine for the world to see!

Is anxiety affecting you before your piano recital? Look for these signs:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Trembling limbs or voice
  • Dry mouth or difficulty speaking
  • Cold, sweaty hands
  • Nausea or feelings of unease
  • Vision changes
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating at school or at work
  • Irritability

If you recognize those symptoms, you’re not alone. But you can calm piano recital jitters with these scientifically proven tips:

Lean on a friend.
Phone a friend for a laugh or support before your piano recital. Multiple studies have shown social interaction boosts relaxation and decreases stress, helping you feel more confident and calm by enhancing your feelings of social stability and belonging.

Warm your ticklers.
A Yale study showed that wrapping your hands around something warm, such as a cup of tea, increases feelings of calm. Why? Stress triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, drawing blood and heat from your limbs to your core and sending signals to your brain that are interpreted as a sign of distress. Warm them up to switch the signal — and increase feelings of safety and comfort for your piano recital. Bonus tip: Black tea was found by a University College London study to lower cortisol more than placebo brews.

Exercise.
The endorphins produced during exercise are proven calm-inducers, according to research from Harvard Medical School. Bonus tip: Exercising outdoors in nature before your piano recital can boost that serenity.

Cut the clutter.
Physical clutter equals mental clutter. A Princeton study showed cutting clutter and organizing your surrounding environment boosts your sense of calm and order. All that clutter in your visual field overloads your brains neural pathways, increasing stress.

Don’t overlook the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep affects not only your physical health, but anxiety and stress. Too little and it can make subsequent nights of restful sleep difficult to achieve, creating a vicious cycle of sleep problems. Make sure to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep for a few nights before your piano recital.

Smile.
Smile, even though your heart is racing… Research suggests smiling and laughter can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Ditch the donuts.
Research suggests sugary and processed foods can increase symptoms of anxiety. Kick your cravings and opt for nutrient rich foods, especially those packed with Vitamin B, which improves mental health; omega-3s, which help reduce depression and anxiety; and whole-grain carbs, which help regulate the “feel-good” hormone serotonin.

Be prepared.
Since most fears involve making mistakes, one of the best ways to beat piano recital anxiety is by knowing your material inside and out. In addition, prepare yourself beforehand by laying out clothes, keys, and any other necessities to prevent any additional anxieties associated with running behind schedule.

Tune in.
Research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden showed that music lowers blood pressure and stress hormones. However, not every song is a cure-all, so find the tunes that resonate best with you to reap the greatest rewards.

Meditate.
Scientists have discovered meditation increases grey matter in the brain, essentially rewiring the body to stress less. Meditation has positive effects on anxiety, mood, and stress symptoms, helping us analyze how our mind generates stressful thoughts and distance ourselves from them.

Goof off.
Kids and animals can easily play without ruminating on the things they “should” be doing. Playtime is not frivolous –in fact, experts say a variety of playtime activities can reduce stress.

Go silent.
Alarms and interruptions of all types, as well as persistent, even low-level noises can boost stress levels. Completely disconnecting from the radio, TV, alarms, cell phones, and internet (gasp!) can have a dramatic effect on stress and anxiety, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Don’t let your nerves run away with your piano recital. Rein them in with these proven tips, and you’ll be well on your way to performing and having a blast!

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The Best Piano Competitions for Young Pianists in 2015

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Are you considering entering your budding pianist into a piano competition? There are an array of competitions to choose from across the U.S., many offering the opportunity to compete against top performers from around the globe.

All-Ages Piano Competitions Across the U.S.:

Seattle International Piano Festival & Competition – Seattle, WA

Competing in May (preliminary) and October 2015 (finals) at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, pianists from all over the world are encouraged to freely select piano repertoire for this bi-annual competition. Numerous cash and non-cash awards will be distributed. Updated information for the 2015 competition is expected to be posted in January, so keep this page bookmarked!

The American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition – New York, NY

In May 2015, students are invited to participate in this competition at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Prizes include scholarships, cash, and special awards. Past winners have been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show. But hurry — mail or online applications and DVD/CD recordings are due no later than January 27, 2015.

Alexander & Buono International Piano Competition – New York, NY

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, winner’s recitals will take place in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie following this annual competition. Application deadline is April 13, 2015.

Piano Competitions for the Younger Crowd:

Cleveland International Piano Competition – Cleveland, OH

May 12-21, 2015, pianists ages 12-18 will compete at Baldwin Wallace University and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium. Room and board is provided for contestants and cash prizes will be awarded at the end of the competition. The application deadline is December 1st, however late applications will be accepted through the 14th with an additional fee.

Dallas International Piano Competition – Dallas, TX

Pianists born after March 14th, 1980, are invited to this competition hosted by the Dallas Chamber Symphony in partnership with the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. Prizes include cash and a subscription concert engagement with the Dallas Chamber Symphony for the first-prize recipient. Online applications are due December 15th, and the competition takes place March 11-14, 2015,

The First Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition - Fort Worth, TX

Pianists ages 13 to 17 can participate in this new competition on the campus of TCU, which has held adult competitions since 1962. (The Fifteenth Annual Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for ages 19-30 is scheduled for May 25-June 10, 2017.) The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will perform with each of the three finalists. Competition performances will be webcast live June 21-28, 2015. Online applications and submissions of recital videos are due January 9, 2015, so don’t delay!

Kaufman Music Center International Youth Piano Competition – New York, NY

Competing June 2015, pianists ages 7-17 worldwide are invited to compete for cash and prizes, in addition to the opportunity to perform at New York’s prestigious Merkin Concert Hall. Printed applications and auditions via YouTube link are due by March 1, 2015.

Wisconsin Youth Piano Competition – Milwaukee, WI

June 12-15, 2015, The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and PianoArts invites pianists ages 10-16 to compete opposite the PianoArts North American Competition for pianists ages 16-20. Cash, the opportunity to perform with the MSO and its musicians, as well as an array of learning experiences are offered as prizes. Application and CD submission deadline is April 20, 2015.

2015 International Young Artist Piano Concerto Competition – Chicago, IL

June 12-14, 2015, pianists under 20 will compete for cash, classes, and performance opportunities with The New Millennium Orchestra on Chicago’s finest stage, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center. Application deadline is April 1, 2015.

Need More Time? Plan Ahead for These 2016 Piano Competitions:

United States Open Music Competition – Oakland, CA

The application deadline has passed for this competition, in which local, national, and international pianists of all ages can compete for scholarships, cash, and prizes at the Mormon Inter-Stake Temple in Oakland, California. However, you can plan ahead using this year’s guidelines, and keep the page bookmarked for updated information.

Virginia Waring International Piano Competition – San Bernardino, CA

This competition hosts pianists ages 12-18 at California State University’s Palm Desert Campus. Host-family lodging and local transportation are provided. Thousands of dollars in scholarships and performance prizes will be awarded. Though the application deadline for this year’s competition passed in October, those wishing to participate in the 2016 competition are encouraged to review this year’s application requirements.

The 7th Bosendorfer and Yamaha U.S. ASU International Piano Competition – Phoenix, AZ

Pianists ages 13 and up are invited to compete for cash prizes and a number of concerto performances with The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in this event. Though the application has passed for the 2015 event, it’s never too early to start thinking about your YouTube audition and application for the 2016 piano competition!

Hilton Head International Piano Competition – Hilton Head, SC

Pianists ages 13-17 can take part in this three-round competition awarding scholarships and cash prizes. Deadline for the 2015 competition has passed, so start prepping for the 2016 competition now.

Tips for Piano Competitions

No matter what event you’re entering, remember that rules are rules, so it’s important to pay strict attention to them when applying for your piano competition! Be mindful of application deadlines and what’s required, such as a preliminary CD or video. Other common items required include proof of age (birth certificate or passport), an application fee, photo, biographical material, letter of recommendation from your piano teacher, and parent permission forms. The first time may feel a little overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask your piano teacher or parent to help you through the process – that’s what they are there for!

Ready to apply for what could be the performance of a lifetime? Don’t be afraid to come out of your shell – the world is waiting!

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The Real Secret to Improving Your Band’s Sound

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Do you want your band to sound even better? (Who doesn’t?!) Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares her secret for improving the group’s sound as well as your individual musical skills…

 

Do you think a metronome is just a personal preference for some musicians? Are you one of those musicians who KNOWS your time is perfect and unmatched? Well I’ve got news for you — it probably isn’t as spot-on as you think.

Most fights in bands are due to someone being off-time, and unable to accept that it is them. The truth is that most people honestly believe they are on time. As a drummer, I learned a long time ago the only way to know for sure how good your timing really is, is to use a metronome.

I’m not suggesting that you always play, practice, and perform with your metronome — not all music calls for that. What I am suggesting is that you take your musicianship to a whole other level, and take your power back! There is no greater feeling than knowing 100% where each note, beat, lick, and fill fits in the time and space of the song.

Singer-songwriters and guitar players… I’m calling you out. I challenge you to use a metronome when practicing and learning songs. I have played with so many amazingly talented musicians, guitar-playing singer-songwriters who performed and sounded fantastic alone, but when it came to a band setting, they were like complete beginners. Don’t let this be you.

Here are some ideas on how to get comfortable with the metronome as you’re singing or playing guitar with your band:

1) Listen to your songs against the “click.” This will help you to see where everything really lines up, and how much time you actually have to do whatever you want to do or play.

2) Devote at least 10% of your practice routine to practicing with the metronome. I recommend more like 50-90% but baby steps are fine for people not used to practicing with the metronome.

3) If you’re in a band, have “The Talk.” This will hold everyone equally accountable for doing what they can to improve their personal timing, which will improve the band’s time as a whole. Also having a group practice where the drummer listens to a click is helpful too. It instantly builds trust and competence. (If there is a problem member that can’t admit or see their faults, it may be helpful to have some practices where everyone can hear the click through the speakers, to shine light on what needs extra attention.)

4) Be humble. Learning that your timing sucks can be a hard realization, especially for sensitive musicians. This can bruise the ego and come out as anger. Remember the point is not to be “right” or make someone feel defeated. The point is to improve your band’s sound, as well as individual sound. The metronome is the Truth, and sometimes the Truth hurts.

5) Slow down! The best way to really lock down any song, riff, groove, fill, or solo is to slow way down. Take the tempo down to half or 3/4′s of the original tempo and practice in slow motion, to let your brain and muscles learn exactly where everything fits. Do this until your muscle memory learns the movement of the piece. Then when you speed back up, do it gradually in increments of 5 or 10 bpms until you arrive back at the original tempo. Then push past 10 or 20 bpms so you truly have it mastered. You never know when you will need to play it faster or slower, but with this practice, you will be prepared no matter what the speed.

These are just a few ways to incorporate the metronome as you’re playing guitar, singing, or whatever part you play in your band. I hope this is helpful — and remember, it’s about taking baby steps. This is not something you just want to brush off. Being a master at time will make you a more valuable musician, and more confident in your skills too. It may be tough at first, but anything worth learning is.

Go easy on yourself and/or your band. It is challenging, but I know you can do it!

Maegan WMaegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!

 

 

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What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming a Musician

how to become a musicianWhen you become a musician — whether you’re playing the guitar, the drums, or another instrument — you’ll notice a pattern when others find out about your skills. Read on to learn what they don’t tell you about becoming a musician, in this guest post by Brookings, SD teacher Carl S…  

 

Every musician has his or her own story. Some people play as a hobby and may play the occasional gig. Others are gigging frequently or perhaps teaching music. No matter what type of musician you are, you should ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself, and whatever your answer is, well, that is just fine. What don’t they tell you about becoming a musician? At some point, you’ll be a music teacher of some sort.

Surprise! You’ve learned one song on the guitar — now people identify you as a guitarist. If somebody you know decides that they want to learn guitar, they will likely come to you for advice on how to get started. What do you say to them? If you haven’t experienced this scenario to some degree yet, you will.

Early in high school, I decided to be a multi-instrumentalist. Saxophone has always been my “primary” instrument, but I play and teach many instruments. Like many 15-year-olds, I had the desire to try my hand at guitar. Having had solid experience with another instrument, it came to me very quickly, albeit self-taught. One day, I was in our high school music room playing a song I’d figured out on the guitar, and one of my friends heard me playing. “I didn’t know you played guitar!” he said. This was immediately followed by a request to join a garage band, help him with his bass playing, and write songs together.

Whoa! Am I even capable of this? Well, I went for it, but as soon as I said yes, I felt the overwhelming anxiety of not being as virtuosic as I was falsely perceived to be. At this point, I had learned everything that I knew about guitar from a Walmart poster. I’m serious. Poster + guitar = now offering advice?

I needed to learn some things and quick! I immediately started thinking, “Who do I know that plays guitar well?” Seeing a pattern here?

No matter when we decide to give making music a try, someday, you’ll teach somebody something about music. Don’t be afraid of this; rather, rise to the challenge and let this be your inspiration to submerse yourself in thoughts and ideas that will in turn push you to the next level.

For example, I’ve always been sort of a hobbyist in regards to guitar. I teach music for a living at a university, so guitar has always been an outlet instrument for me. I teach big bands, so now I have college-level jazz guitarists coming to me for advice. The best way for me to teach them was for me to pick up my guitar and put myself in their shoes. I’ve had great success teaching them, and they go on and on about how much more things seem to make sense. I’m just having fun playing guitar with them!

Music is an art. This art of how to become a musician is passed down from generation to generation via friends, family, and mentors. On behalf of music teachers everywhere, welcome to the club!

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 

 

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Grease

How to Sing While Breaking a Sweat: Tips for Triple Threats

Grease

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

 

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

Preparation

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

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

Practice

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

Performance

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

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

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

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

MiltonJMilton K. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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Singing Tips: How to Sing Into a Microphone

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

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

Step 1: Finding the Right Microphone for Your Voice

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

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

Step 2: Learn How to “Play” the Microphone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Select the Best Songs to Sing at Open Mic

3407029143_48c0537645_bWhat are the best songs to sing at an open mic? Here, online teacher Liz T. shares her best tips for selecting a song and impressing the crowd…

 

If you’re a singer looking to get more experience performing your songs in front of a live audience, attending a live open mic is a great way to start! Open mics are becoming very popular these days, and you don’t have to live in a major city to sing at one. Many local restaurants, coffee shops, and colleges host open mic nights to build a music community and are very supportive of live music at their establishment.

Get to know the live music venues in your city and ask about their open mic nights, and how you can be a part! Keep in mind that some places will be free to play, but you will not be paid to play – or you actually may have to pay $10 or $15 to play one song. If you need piano or guitar accompaniment there may be a small fee for that as well.

Once you’ve found a good spot, it’s time to take the stage! Here are some tips for selecting the best songs to sing at open mic:

1. Pick a song you know. My advice is to pick something that you are very comfortable with singing at first. You might be nervous performing at a new space, and the crowds may vary from 2-3 people to 100 people. The best songs to sing are ones you know like the back of your hand. If nerves do start to kick in, you’re less likely to forget the melody or the lyrics!

2. Choose a cover song. Choose a song that another artist has made popular, a song that the audience will be familiar with already. Some of my go-to favorites are “Natural Woman” by Carole King, “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys, “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye. The crowd will really get in the mood, encourage you, and perhaps even sing or dance along.

3. Be yourself. There is no particular right or wrong style of music to sing at an open mic. Even when doing a cover song, try to be unique and individual as yourself. Just like on YouTube when you hear covers, you don’t want to hear them sing the song exactly like Alicia Keys. Give it your own interpretation, or if you are accompanying yourself, change the style or tempo of the song. You could do a country song maybe with an island/reggae feel for summer, or try doing a rock ballad a little more pop, with swing.

4. Perform an original Song. If you are a songwriter, open mics are a great place to start showcasing your original work, and to test if it works in a live setting. You can feel free to experiment at open mics, just make sure you are comfortable with the song before you start experimenting. Open mics should be fun, low stress, and truly for your and the audience’s enjoyment. It should be laid-back, but you still want to look professional on stage. Also, open mics singers usually perform with one instrument rather than a full band, either you and a guitar player or piano player, or you can accompany yourself. You can also use a background track, but then that tends to sound a little too much like karaoke.

So have fun, and enjoy performing for a live audience. Once you get comfortable singing at open mics, start keeping a book of different songs you could perform in the future. Good luck! You never know who might be in the audience; this could be your big break!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. 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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5 Things That Singers Should Never Do on Stage

singer on stage

Ready to hit the stage? Read on as Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. reviews 5 rookie mistakes you should avoid during your next performance…

Singing on stage and in front of an audience is really special. Some estimate that only two percent of the world’s population will ever sing on stage by themselves. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Those challenges can seem bigger than our confidence performing. Perhaps the easiest way to feel confident singing on stage is have a short list in your mind of what not to do. As a 20-year veteran of the stage, I’ve created a list of what not to do when you’re singing on stage.

1. Stop singing
I’ve experienced it a dozen times. You’re singing just great, you feel good, then you get to the second verse, and your mind goes blank. You forgot the words. It happens. If you’ve rehearsed well enough with your bandmates or accompanist, then you can relax knowing that they’ll “come back around,” so to speak, and pick up at the moment that you dropped out. If they don’t, or if you’re performing with a recording, then you could still find a way to sing “la, la, la,” or you could even repeat the first verse. As silly as those might sound, they’re a lot better than dead air. Even a heckler or other distraction might make you think about calling it quits. Don’t stop singing.

2. Scratch
This is a tough one that I learned as a choir kid years ago. Even a singer in a large group scratching his face on stage can be really distracting to an audience. In a way, it can take away from the show. So just imagine how much less polished a solo singer must look. Now, let’s be realistic. Don’t torture yourself. If you have an unbearable itch on your face, then so be it. But do your best to wait until a song is over, or at least until the verse is over.

3. Apologize to the audience
I once heard a fellow singer at a church where I served apologize out loud to the congregation after what she perceived to be her mistake, in the middle of the song! Truly, no one probably would have ever noticed. But by saying sorry and bringing attention to it, she not only distracted the audience from the song’s message (which is why we sing in church in the first place), but also made them feel uncomfortable. In my book, a singer’s first job is to get and keep an audience comfortable, not disengaged.

4. Keep your eyes closed
While recording, I close my eyes sometimes. I even close my eyes while I perform for an audience, in moderation. But I can think of several singers whom I’ve heard perform beautifully but kept their eyes closed for a song’s entirety. In fairness, they might have had stage fright. But it doesn’t make you look cooler or make the song more meaningful. It closes you off to the audience. It impedes upon your ability to share. The singer and the audience have a relationship. In any relationship, there’s only so far that two can go together without sharing. Imagine meeting a person with whom you’d like to develop a friendship, but then telling her, “I want to be good friends, but sorry, I can’t tell you my full name, and I can’t have you over to my place.” Your potential friend might ask, “Okay, so what exactly can we do?” Don’t let this happen to your relationship with that crowd of yours. Remind yourself to open your eyes regularly. If it makes you nervous to look at people’s faces, then look at the back wall. The audience won’t know the difference, but they’ll still be able to see your eyes and their unique expressions.

5. Argue with your fellow musicians
Musicians are not always known for being even-tempered. Even famous performers like Tina Turner and Elton John have been known to argue on stage. But even between sets or songs, it’s unprofessional, distracting, uncomfortable, and frankly, childish. I’m not asking singers not to argue at all. I’m asking singers not to argue on stage while the audience is sitting right there.

Remember, the moment that you take a stage, it belongs to you until you leave it. You essentially own it. That also means, however, that you own what you do up there. Your show could be polished and professional. With a few simple reminders for ourselves of what not to do, what to do might just come naturally when it comes to singing on stage.

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in Saint 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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So You Want to Become a Singer? Here’s How to Get There

become a singer

Private lessons? Check. Big dreams? Check! But there’s one more part of the equation that’s integral to become a singer and reach your career goals. Find out as Monclova, OH teacher Carrie A. explains…

I can’t tell you how many students over the years have come to me saying they wanted to be on TV or Broadway. While those are great aspirations to go after, it really isn’t the place to start to become a singer. What I have found is a great way to get started is to look for opportunities to perform right in your own community. It is seriously a huge long shot to go from never performing at all, to being chosen for some sort of reality show. Without preparation and experience, it can really be a recipe for disaster.

I have performed in front on thousands of people numerous times, including once at Carnegie Hall. I, however, did not start there. I participated in lots of community theater, performed at weddings, did gigs at coffee shops, and performed at other small-scale venues before I had more distinguished opportunities. I understand the desire to perform in front of large audiences, but I strongly encourage my students to take advantage of every opportunity they have to perform, whether big or small. Every performance is an opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun. I’m going to give you some suggestions that I have given to my students that have opened lots of doors for them.

First, get a set list together. Whether you are a vocalist or instrumentalist, you need to have at least 10 songs prepared that you can use if someone gives you the opportunity to perform. Don’t be in a hurry with this step. Look for songs that mean something to you and flow well together. Work with your music instructor to find what fits you and go with that.

Second, gear up for rejection. You will be told no, probably multiple times. Don’t stop until you get a yes! I’m a professional singer and I’ve had to deal with the same thing. Don’t take it personally, just move on and get excited for when someone says yes.

Third, connect with area charity organizations and ask if they need music at their next fundraiser. It will be a chance to use music to strengthen the community and possibly create more connections for future performances.

Fourth, think of places you can give back and get performance experience at the same time. For example, lots of nursing homes will jump at the chance to have you come and entertain their guests.

Finally, don’t look down on any opportunity that comes your way. Remember in the beginning it’s all about getting yourself out there and letting people know you are available, and honing your skills at the same time. If that means you start by singing the national anthem at a local high school basketball game, so be it. One of my students did that very thing and now is invited by major car racing events to do the national anthem where she sings in front of 30,000 people and the event is televised. Bottom line – in the beginning nothing is too small if you really want to become a singer. Enjoy where you are and build to a great future in music!

CarrieACarrie A. teaches guitar and singing lessons, and tutors in various subjects, in Monclova, OH. She has a BA in music and business, and has been teaching and performing professionally for over 10 years. Learn more about Carrie here!

 

 

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