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singing with an accompanist

5 Tips for Singing with an Accompanist

singing with an accompanistGearing up for a singing performance and need a piano accompanist? Check out these tips to make your (and your accompanist’s!) life easier in this guest post by Corona, CA voice teacher Milton J...

 

Singing with a pre-recorded track for a performance, audition, or singing competition has its advantages with on-demand accompaniment and less resources needed, however, using an accompanist can make that performance or audition even better. Here are some tips on how to practice singing with an piano accompanist.

Sheet Music Preparation

Make sure all sheet music is copied in its entirety with no cut off pages. This is an oft-overlooked issue, as we’re always in a hurry to get things done. Pay close attention to make sure any copies are a direct replication of what’s from the song book. Additionally, use a highlighter to clearly mark the staves for the piano part and any tempo or dynamic changes so your accompanist can easily identify them. Also make sure to clearly mark any changes to the published sheet music you are making in your vocals.

Tempo Matching

Sing a few lines a cappella for your accompanist so he or she can understand the beat pulse you’re going for in order to match tempo together. By providing the pulse you have practiced your vocals with or how you want the tempo to pace the song in your performance, this will alleviate one of the pitfalls of an audition or performance — the dreaded drag and juxtaposition of tempo between the vocalist and the accompanist.

Song Interpretation

Have a clear and direct interpretation of the song or piece you are performing to give your accompanist some musicality to parse from to enhance his or her accompaniment. If you deliver an uninspired or otherwise incorrect interpretation of the piece, your accompanist will not able to derive the emotion or the story you are trying to convey to the audience. The accompaniment serves to help you tell this story or convey this emotion to your listeners — it is important to already have an idea of what and how you will deliver your vocals.

Discuss Audition Plans

If you plan to use the piece you are practicing with your accompanist for an audition, openly talk about your performance plans: how you will indicate you are ready to begin, where you will stand in relation to the piano if need be, and when and how you will acknowledge your accompanist when you are done are all parts of the performance that should be discussed so you are both on the same page.

Search Out the Best Accompanist for You

The piano accompanists that will bring the best out of you as a singer are the ones who understand balance between the vocals and the piano, and the texture the vocals present in the piece. As a vocalist, these are discussions you should have with your accompanist. Come to an agreement in theory and in practice on what proportion of music will be delivered from you and from them.

I hope these tips help you in your singing lessons as you practice for that upcoming performance, singing competition, or audition! Happy practicing!

MiltonJMilton J. 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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5 Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs to Have

5 Important Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs

5 Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs to HaveWhat does it take to make it in music industry? Learn how to be a professional singer and the five must-have qualities you need in this guest post by Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T...

 

Being a professional singer is a career path you may have been dreaming of your whole life! Even with its ups and downs, it is a very rewarding career choice. Being a professional singer will not happen overnight (no matter how talented you are!), but here are some qualities you should strive for to ensure career success.

1. A “Go-Getter” Attitude

I hear so many singers complain about not getting gigs, not performing, or not writing as much as they should. My advice here is to be proactive! You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you; you have to put yourself out there and go find them!

Be proactive by going out on auditions, sending your headshot and resume to casting directors, and/or writing and recording a demo and sending it to label A&Rs. Stop wasting your time sitting at home, waiting for your phone to ring. Go out there and network! Whether it’s going to hear live music play or participating in a singing competition, you have to be a “go-getter” in this industry, always seeking out opportunities to perform. Every day you should be working on your craft and looking for auditions, places to play or record, and so on.

2. Patience

As I stated earlier, being a professional singer is not something you can just pick up overnight. It is something that you develop over time, with hard work, dedication, and patience. In every talented singer’s career, there have been slow times. Patience is the key to keeping healthy and focused while you are waiting for your career to unfold. You must have patience not only with yourself, but with others that you work with, whether it be musicians, musical director, or composers. If you do not have patience and come across as impatient, needy, or feisty, this may be a big turn-off to people in the industry.

3. Team Mentality

In this business you will be working and collaborating with many different people in different roles, such as other singers, writers, instrumentalists, producers, and technicians. No matter who you are dealing with, you must always stay professional. You have to be a team player, and work efficiently with others. Some of my best friends are also well-known industry artists/musicians, and this is because we have collaborated so well when working together in a musical environment. Sometimes, you may come across someone in the industry who is not pleasant to work with, and this may be very hard for you, but always remember that being a team player will always lead to success.

4. Eager to Learn

Having enough knowledge about your craft is important for singers. Knowing the repertoire you can sing, your vocal limits, and familiarity with other artists/composers is going to help you in this industry. It is a major turn-off in the industry when a singer knows nothing about their art or proper vocal technique. Spend the time and money working with a vocal coach and studying your craft to become the best possible singer you can be, as well as studying what’s happening currently in the music industry. Educate yourself!

5. Openness

As a singer, it will help for you to remain open when auditioning and working with other musicians. Don’t limit yourself by saying something like “I only sing classical music” — experiment with jazz, Broadway, R&B, and everything else. You never know what musical possibilities are in store for you. It’s also important to remain open to any feedback you may hear from an audition or someone just listening to your demo or performance. Everyone has their opinions, and you may not agree 100% with their critique, but being receptive to their ideas may give your voice and career a fresh new element.

I wish you all the success as a professional singer!

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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2015 Online Singing Contests to Check Out

The Best Online Singing Contests to Show Off Your Skills

2015 Online Singing Contests to Check OutCan’t make it out to the next American Idol or The Voice audition? That’s alright! You can still show off your vocal skills and compete for recognition in one of the many online singing contests put on across the country. Below are several worth checking out!

  • The Hal Leonard Vocal CompetitionThe only vocal competition for all of North America aimed at young singers ages 23 and under, this is one of the first legitimate online singing competitions created. There is no entry fee, making it accessible to all qualified North American singers. Video auditions are all submitted through YouTube. Prizes include cash and gift certificates.
  • The Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition: For the under-30 crowd, this international solo competition focuses exclusively on oratorio singing (lengthy musical pieces that tell a story and are typically religious in nature). Initial entries and rounds are online, however finals are held at Carnegie Hall in New York City with substantial cash prizes are awarded.
  • YOBI.tv: YOBI.tv offers singing competitions for those 18 and older, and those between 13 and 17 who have parent permission. The site is free to all who join, and all competitions are free as well. Competitions are divided into 40 weekly rounds, organized into five sets of seven semifinal weeks and concluding in an eighth week final. Contest winners are member-decided, with large cash prizes upwards of $10,000.
  • Singist: For those 18 and up, Singist offers monthly online singing competitions. You can audition to be entered in the monthly contest for free, or sign up for a “Performer Plan” at $4 per month and enter yourself. Video submissions must be original, featuring any song or genre you choose, and not posted on any other site (such as YouTube). Registered Singist users vote on a monthly winner, and social media sharing is encouraged. Small cash prizes in the $5-25 range are awarded to monthly winners.
  • MacroDazzle: MacroDazzle accepts a cappella, karaoke, sing-along, and even self-accompanied singing from contestants of all ages. Competitors over 18 are eligible for cash prizes, and minors are eligible for gift certificates and non-monetary prizes. A $16 entry fee is required for cash contests.

Tips for Entering an Online Singing Contest

When entering an online singing contest, keep in mind that the devil is in the details. Pay strict attention to application deadlines, application requirements, submission formats (tapes, CDs, YouTube videos, etc.), required music genres, and rules to avoid being disqualified or forced to wait until the next competition. Also, be aware you may need all or many of the following items to complete you submission: proof of age (birth certificate or passport), application fee, photo, biographical material, letter of recommendation from your voice instructor, and parent permission forms for minors. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask your singing instructor for help!

Preparing for Your Online Singing Contest

While singing in the shower is a great start, your most essential prep tool for an online singing contest is a great voice teacher. A skilled voice teacher can aid your performance in many ways, teaching you about proper breathing, improving your tone quality and vocal range, and more. Don’t have a singing instructor? It’s never too late. Find one in your area today and you’re sure to see your abilities rise exponentially!

Ready to put in a ringing performance? Court the judges with your singing talents in an online singing contest today!

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5 Websites for Finding Singing Gigs Near You

5 Best Websites for Finding Singing Gigs

5 Websites for Finding Singing Gigs Near YouLooking for singing gigs near you? Here are the best websites to check out, rounded up by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R..

 

Are you a professional singer in need of gigs? Or do you and your band have newly formed money-making aspirations? Whether you are a seasoned expert or just starting out, there are oodles of websites for finding singing gigs. Here are five good examples.

GigSalad

Best for: Local Gigs

GigSalad is one of many pay-for-premium-service websites for finding singing gigs. Free users can receive quotes and communicate with clients via the website. There are several paid subscription levels available for users who want more.

The best perk of a paid subscription, which costs $15-$40 per month, is that singers can communicate directly with clients via email or phone rather than through GigSalad. Other benefits include increased visibility and larger deposits.

Backstage.com

Best For: Musical Theater

Backstage claims to be the world’s largest resource for performing artists. It lets singers search for auditions using criteria like location, age, and gender. Online subscriptions range from $12-$20 per month, but the site often offers discount rates to new members (around $10/month).

Although Backstage requires payment to use, it’s easy to use the search feature to find auditions and look them up elsewhere on the internet. For singers searching for big-time gigs, though, this may be worth a subscription.

YapTracker

Best for: Classical

Geared toward the classical crowd, YapTracker supplies unlimited access to audition alerts for $55 per year. Compared to services that charge by the month, that’s a steal – the equivalent of $4.50 per month. For an even lower price, get a referral from a friend ($5 off) or purchase a two-year subscription.

YapTracker is imperative for any working classical singer. Many young artist programs, competitions, and other institutions only accept applications submitted through the site. YapTracker also saves personal data to make filling out applications faster.

ReverbNation

Best For: Recording Artists

Another service that offers both paid and free plans, ReverbNation acts as an overall platform for singers and other artists. Artists can create a profile, share it on social media, gain new fans, and sell music as well as find gigs. ReverbNation is, in essence, like MySpace with a gig component.

A basic profile is free on ReverbNation Pro ($20 per month), and Max ($41 per month) get digital distribution on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and other online stores too. For singers who exclusively want gigs, a free profile should be enough. However, to dominate online byways with your awesome new EP, consider a paid plan. ReverbNation has free trials of its Pro plan for new users, so you can try before you buy.

Craigslist

Best For: Everyone

It’s the obvious first stop. Craigslist is free, popular, and effective. Just scan the gigs section for singing-related events, or post your own ad by creating an account. Link the ad to your website or post photos of yourself in performance to increase your chances of getting hired.

While Craigslist is a great way to book gigs, it has a mixed reputation because of some of the wanton and even criminal activities that take place through the site. To protect yourself, never post personal information on Craigslist and use your intuition when replying to ads.

This is far from a comprehensive list; the agglomeration of gig-related websites is impressive and always growing. But using one of these five websites for finding singing gigs can help you go from jamming in your basement to jamming onstage (and getting paid to do it). If I missed one of your favorite gig websites, feel free to post it in the comments section below!

Nervous about being on stage? Book lessons with a singing teacher in your area to get valuable feedback and advice!

Elaina R

Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California, and she is currently working on her Master of Music from the University of Michigan. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

 

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singing opportunities

How to Get Better at Singing With One Powerful Action

singing opportunitiesLearn how to get better at singing by performing at every chance you get! Hicksville, FL voice teacher Kimberly F. shares her ideas for where to look and how to get started…

 

So, you’ve started taking voice lessons and you’ve gotten pretty good. The next step? Performing in front of others!

Performance experience can help you get better at singing in a few different ways. First of all, the more you perform, the easier it becomes. There’s something to be said for “practice makes perfect.” If not perfect, practice definitely makes things more fluid and, in turn, more enjoyable. Secondly, performing for an audience teaches a singer how to connect with the public on an emotional level. A great singer must be a great performer, and that requires the ability to convey the feelings of the song to your audience. This is only learned through experience.

All of these elements combined create stage presence, which you need in order to command the attention of your listeners. Through practice and performing, stage presence evolves and this can make or break a performer. Therefore, stage presence and an emotional connection to the audience are essential skills to cultivate.

If you want to show off your stuff, but you don’t know where to start looking for performance opportunities, fear not! There are plenty of easy ways to get your feet wet.

• Open Mic Nights: Many coffeehouses and restaurants have open mic nights. This is where performers can come and show off a few minutes of their work for a casual audience. Check out your local hangouts and see if they host this type of event. If so, find out when they’re being held and sign up!

• Singing Competitions: Throughout the year, there are singing competitions for every age and experience level. Usually, these competitions are for classical or Broadway music only. However, you can show off your rock voice at a Battle of the Bands event, if that interests you. These are typically listed online, in singing magazines, and in your local paper.

• Talent Shows: These are similar to singing competitions, but they’re more flexible in terms of musical style. Also, they’re slightly less intensive, since you usually aren’t competing for money. This type of venue allows you to sing for an audience instead of a panel of judges.

• Live Music: Similar to open mic nights, some restaurants and coffeehouses host live music for their patrons. This is a more extensive undertaking, allowing you to play an entire set or for an entire night. It’s usually a bit harder to break into, but it has a much bigger payoff.

• School Productions: High schools and colleges usually put on annual shows. If you’re still in school, check out what yours has to offer. Don’t forget to check to see if there are clubs that put on shows separate from the school’s productions.

• Community Theater: Productions of musicals happen all over and they’re usually performed by amateur, but dedicated, individuals. Not only will you get stage experience, but you’ll meet others who are interested in music and theater.

• Local Choirs: Most communities have choirs of different levels of expertise and with varying degrees of competitive admittance. Singing with a choir not only improves your musicality and exposes you to different types of music, but allows for the possibility of singing solos. Some choirs focus on specific genres and others can be found in religious institutions.

These are all great places to start if you want to get better at singing, but don’t forget about the option to make your own opportunities. It’s fun (and not too difficult) to put on your own concerts and open mic nights. It’s even more fun to do it with friends. You can advertise your event in the local paper and online to attract an audience. Once you’ve gained some experience, you can get hired for weddings, funerals, and other types of gigs.

Another great way to find opportunities is through networking. Meeting people who run open mic nights or who perform at them is a good way to get information about openings in the area. Your voice teacher is also another crucial resource for finding new venues for performance. Your teacher might hold a studio recital or have connections with people offering performance time for singers.

Voice lessons are the best way to start your journey toward being a singer and performing is the final step in the process. Get out there and show off your stuff!

KimberlyF.

Kimberly F. teaches singing in Hicksville, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Performance from Hofstra University, and her Master of Music from Bard College. Kimberly has been teaching students since 2007.  Learn more about Kimberly here!

 

 

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Unique Jobs for Singers

6 Unique Jobs for Singers You May Not Have Considered

Unique Jobs for SingersWant to make singing your career? Here are some ideas from Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T. to make a living using your voice!

 

Having the gift of a great singing voice is not something you should let go to waste! While you are out there auditioning and recording, waiting for your big break, there are many performing opportunities that will help you get to the next level of your singing career! Check out these fun, unique jobs for singers that I have personally enjoyed doing.

1. Theme Parks

Theme parks are a great way for young singers to get performance experience. The entertainment is always top quality at parks such as Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Hershey Park, Cedar Point, Dollywood, and of course all of the Disney parks. Theme park shows include many different styles, including country, rock, R&B, and even opera!

If you get a summer gig working at a theme park, be prepared for hard work. Most singers’ schedules are six days a week, with possible shows from 10 am to 10 pm. You have to keep your body healthy during this intense schedule, especially if you are performing outdoors in the hot summer heat. Theme parks can pay anywhere from $400-$1,000 a week, depending if you are equity or not (some theme parks will hire both equity and non-equity actor/singers). Make sure to check if the theme park gig comes with housing, a meal plan, gym access, etc. — some parks will have these benefits for singers, while some will not.

Also, theme parks are a great way to take advantage of the holidays! Many of them have special Christmas or Halloween shows. They may need carolers for their Christmas season, or actors for their Halloween haunted house. Work as much as you can during these holidays, and your bank account will be happy!

2. Cruise Ships

Cruise ships are a great opportunity to perform the music you love, and to travel the world. You might be singing with a jazz big band, a Latin trio, or in a musical theater show. You can find opportunities directly with cruise lines, such as Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America, and Disney; there are also many agencies that you can audition for privately that can place you on these cruise ships.

The perks of working on a cruise ship are that you get free room, board, and meal plan. On board as a performer, you will work pretty much every single day, including holidays, but only for a few hours, usually in the evenings. You will have your days free to spend in port, sightseeing. Performers are treated very nicely on the ships, with many cruise lines giving you special guest privileges to the spa and gym. It’s also a great way to interact and meet other crew members and guests from all around the world. Most cruise contracts range from 3-10 months straight at sea, with no time off, and the salary ranges from $400-$1,200 a week.

3. Churches/Synagogues

Being a musical soloist at your local church or synagogue is a great way to share your musical passion with your community! Often, cantors are needed for masses, weddings, and funerals. Cantors will need to be familiar with classical, gospel, and American music. Compensation may be different for each service. Singing religious music is also a great way to stay in vocal shape and to work on your sight reading! These gigs are also great because they are mostly on weekends, so you can still take other work.

Also if you have piano or musical directing skills, you can become a musical director in your place of worship. This includes putting together the musical liturgy every week and perhaps directing the choir or ensemble.

4. Voice-overs/Radio

These are usually quick, easy jobs for singers to supplement their income. Big organizations or freelancers often need singers to sing or speak for their original recording, which could be a radio ad, jingle, web series, or podcast. I would first approach this as a freelancer, looking in your local entertainment job listings. Make sure you have a demo of your vocal recordings — you can also pitch these to agents and casting directors. You’ll find many jobs if you have a versatile voice, such as being able to record in different accents, languages, and age ranges. Rates for voice-over projects vary depending on your union status, and don’t be afraid to negotiate!

5. Teaching Voice

There’s no better way to share your love for singing than by teaching others! If you have received your training and hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in Music, then you are qualified to teach in most institutions (each state varies). There are many schools looking for choral and general music teachers, as well as artists-in-residence for after-school programs. Also, you can start off being a private lesson teacher to students in your community. This is a great option because you can set up a studio in your own home, as well as set your own rates and times. You can even become a voice teacher with TakeLessons!

6. GB Bands

Creating your own GB (general business) band or cover band is a great way to get out there performing! Your band might perform at weddings, restaurants, or corporate events. It’s a great way to make some nice money and also get comfortable performing on stage with a live band (and audience). These gigs pay pretty well — sometimes you can make up to $1,000 on a weekend! All you need is your own microphone, and the patience to have a few hundred cover songs under your belt! It’s also a good way to develop your own material, and put your own songs to practice. (Make sure you have a nice video reel to send to companies or promoters booking your act.)

As you can see, there are tons of good jobs for singers to look into! You can absolutely make money and do what you love at the same time. Get on out there and sing!

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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how to promote YouTube video

How to Promote Your Music Video: Tips for Singers

how to promote YouTube video

After you’ve made your first music video, how do you get it out there in the world? Here are some helpful tips for how to promote your YouTube video from Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T...

 

So you’re a singer, and you’ve just made a killer music video, but perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to promote your video? Follow these simple steps to make sure your music video gets the attention it deserves!

1. Establish a strong social media presence

In order to get your name, image, music, and brand out there, it’s important that you upload your content onto the various social media channels so people can see and hear you! YouTube is the most obvious, but there are so many more options. I recommend using as many as the social media platforms as you can to promote your video, including:

  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Instagram
  • Vine (Instagram and Vine don’t usually let you upload the full length of the video, but you can do little snippets as a trailer or sneak peak!)
  • We Are The Hits (a network for cover song videos)
  • Your personal website
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Don’t forget other music platforms such as PureVolume, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation, where you can upload your videos too! Of course, make sure your content is original and you own 100% of the rights before uploading.

2. Target your audience

Now that you have your music video on all these great social media sites, now it’s time to start targeting those fans! Think about who you are really trying to target. What age range and demographic would enjoy watching your videos?

Once you have decided on your audience, it’s time to build your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is all about your video content coming up in searches. This may sound scary at first, but it’s really quite simple. To do this for YouTube videos specifically, in Video Manager, under Basic Info, you’ll see a box where you can type in keywords to target your audience. Not many people know about this, but having the right keywords will help people find your music video among the millions of videos on the internet!

Think of adjectives and nouns when you watch your video. With my original music video “Ciao Bambino”, I added keywords that described the video, such as Italian, Boston, Berklee Alum, Breakup, etc. Having all the right keywords may lead you to getting all those views you want!

3. Make your music video/channel stand out

In order to get a lot of unique views, you want to make sure your video is creative. Here are a few tips to help make your video and channel stand out:

  • Include great photos, clips, and art to promote your video. Often, viewers will just see a thumbnail preview of your video, and if it’s blurry or not interesting, they will not click on it.
  • Follow or subscribe to other singers, musicians, and artists! When you show that you “Like” or support their material, they are very likely to follow you back.
  • Add lyrics and links to your other social media platforms, so your fans can follow you everywhere! The great benefit of online media is that you can have fans everywhere in the world, and many sites will let you track this to see in which countries your friends are watching your videos. Go big, and think global!

If you follow these basic tips for promoting your YouTube video, I guarantee you will start seeing more views, likes, and subscribers! It may not happen overnight, but with a little work, you never know who may see your video — songwriters and A&R reps are always on the look-out for new videos on the web. Good luck!

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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6291582952_f0ae794686_b

Self-Conscious About Your Singing? Try These 3 Tips

6291582952_f0ae794686_bWondering how to get over stage fright when singing? Or even just feeling comfortable with singing in front of a small group? Check out these helpful tips from North Hollywood, CA teacher Jackie B...

 

As a lifelong musical theater performer — and owner of a big, brassy voice — I often hear people complain to me that “they wish they had talent” or lament the fact that they are “tone deaf” and therefore unable to enjoy singing. While I can appreciate the fact that people are born with varying degrees of musical ability, I firmly and truly believe that everyone can put together a winning performance and find a way to love singing.

Think about it: how many times have you been bored to tears hearing someone with a beautiful voice give a limp or perhaps overly self-indulgent performance? And how many times have you leapt to your feet over a pitchy-but-rousing karaoke number? The honest truth is that confidence and preparation trump lifeless but talented any day. So the real trick is knowing how to get over stage fright when singing and overcoming your self-consciousness enough to give the performance of a lifetime every time. While they may not substitute for a Juilliard education, here are three key tips to get you out of your shell and onto the stage:

1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I cannot stress this enough. If you are so focused on Julie’s vibrato or Karen’s comic timing, you are missing out on the important opportunity to find your own value and strengths. I often tell students that pretty blonde girls with killer voices are a dime a dozen. In fact, I think these talented bombshells actually have more competition despite their genetic gifts. Instead, focus on what makes you special. Maybe you aren’t the next Julie Andrews, but would being a Patti LuPone, Elaine Stritch, or Bea Arthur be so bad?

2. Find A Personal Connection

The best antidote to a dull performance is a connection to the material.  I once had a student who wanted to sing a classic Disney song for a cabaret performance, but was struggling with nerves. I asked her what the song meant, and she dutifully paraphrased the lyrics. When I asked her instead what the song meant to her and asked her “Why would you sing this to someone? How would these lyrics change someone’s mind about something important?”, tears began to stream down her face as she found an immediate connection to a beloved family member in crisis. When she sang the song again it was personal, confident, and beautiful.

3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Notice I did not use the standard p-word (“Practice”) as it implies a more rote and repetitious exercise. By “prepare,” I mean: focus on delving into the story and the performance. Where are there opportunities for a varied dynamic? Are there places that can offer unexpected comic relief? Of course you should always take the time to memorize the lyrics and work on vocal technique, but a strong performance requires work outside of your class time where you can really let the story sink in. Practice and repetition are also important — once you have the story down, try it out in front of as many people as you can. It is one thing to sing a song confidently in the shower, and another to sing with the same enthusiasm in front of your mom and her reading club, but I urge you to do it. We only have one life, and it is such a shame to waste our passion on an unresponsive showerhead, don’t you think?

If you use these tools in combination with a technique and a coaching-oriented vocal instructor, you are well on your way to giving an honest, unique, and fantastic performance. Now get out there and sing!

JackieJackie B. teaches singing and acting in North Hollywood, CA. She has worked with singers of all ages and experience levels who want to improve performance, vocal expression, and range. Learn more about Jackie here!

 

 

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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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