yamaha p-35

5 Best Keyboards for Piano Players

digital pianos

Sifting through digital piano reviews can be a time-consuming task, but it’s important to find the right fit when you’re purchasing your first piano or keyboard! Here, Powell, OH teacher Sara Marie B. shares her top 5 options to consider… 


Whether you’re a pianist without the space for an acoustic piano, you want something portable, or you just prefer the bells and whistles of a keyboard, it can be difficult for pianists to find keyboards that really fit all of our requirements.

Most importantly, however, as you begin learning how to play the piano, you should have a keyboard that feels and sounds as much like a piano as possible. Some of the requirements to look for are weighted keys, real-size keys, at least 66 keys (but preferably 88), a sustain pedal, touch-tone sensitivity, piano action, well-sampled piano sounds, an adjustable stand, and an adjustable bench.

When the keyboard is not realistic enough (meaning, it is not enough like an actual acoustic piano), your learning may be hampered when performing live on an acoustic piano. And if you do anything in the way of events, recitals, group classes, talent shows, or even playing for fun in the back of a favorite bar, if the acoustic piano feels too foreign then the results will be frustrating. Dynamics will be harder to produce, keys may be missed due to being used to another weight of keys that is unlike an acoustic piano, and tone quality may be poor. Having a keyboard that mimics the function of an acoustic piano is vital.

Here are five of the best keyboards for piano players that I recommend to my students if an acoustic piano purchase is not possible (all are under $2,000 retail price!), with descriptions taken directly from merchandiser websites, in part or in whole:

Korg SP-170s Digital Piano

Korg SP-170s

Screenshot from

The new Natural Weighted Hammer Action keyboard is accurately weighted like a traditional piano, with a heavier touch in the lower ranges and becoming progressively lighter in the higher registers. Three levels of Key Touch Control allow the keyboard response to be matched to nearly any playing style, preserving all of the subtle expression of the original performance.

Yamaha P35B 88-key Digital Keyboard

yamaha p-35

As the entry level to the hugely popular P-Series digital pianos, the P35 brings together everything an aspiring pianist needs to develop: high-quality AWM (Advanced Waveform Memory) samples, an easy to understand interface, and a slim 88-key graded hammer action for maximum portability. Sheet music stand, power supply and pedal/footswitch are all included.

Yamaha YDP-V240 Arius 88 Key Digital Piano

Screenshot from

Screenshot from

The Yamaha YDP-V240 is an ensemble console digital piano featuring 88-note Graded Hammer Standard weighted Action. It has the authentic look, feel and most importantly the sound of an expensive acoustic Grand piano. Its 88-key graded hammer action keyboard delivers all the expressiveness, depth and subtle nuances to satisfy even the most demanding pianist, from developing student to seasoned professional.

Kawai KDP-90 Digital Piano

Screenshot from

Screenshot from

The Kawai KDP-90 Digital Piano is designed using its Advanced Hammer Action IV (AHAIV-F) as an 88-note, “graded” keyboard, formed from extremely accurate stereo “maps” of sections through the entire dynamic range of the original piano. Touch and response authentically reproduce the feel of a grand piano.

Casio Privia PX-850 88 Weighted-Key Digital Piano

Screenshot credit:

Screenshot credit:

The PX-850 is the flagship digital piano from Casio’s Privia line, with big sound and amazing tones. The PX-850 has the advanced AiR sound set providing an additional level of realism including grand piano lid simulation and sympathetic resonance. This 88-key digital piano also has a dual 20W speaker system and a cabinet that opens, providing a rich concert sound.

Whatever you buy, just remember to make sure that you are able to sit properly at the keyboard (adjustable bench, adjustable stand) and that the keyboard is as similar to an acoustic piano as you can find. You probably won’t be able to find these at your nearby big-box stores, so take a trip to the music store nearest you and begin exploring the quality keyboards available for pianists of all levels!

Looking for additional digital piano reviews? Check out some of our favorite resources here:

SaraSara Marie B. teaches piano, singing, songwriting, music theory, and more in Powell, OH, as well as online. She has been teaching music lessons since 1992, and has been involved in music and performance since 1983. Learn more about Sara Marie here!



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5 Weeks to Success: Your GMAT Study Schedule [Infographic]

Prepping for the GMAT? You probably know better than to procrastinate – perhaps you’ve read our GMAT study tips, downloaded some practice tests from the Internet, and marked the test date in red on your calendar already. But how do you put your plan into action? What should your GMAT study schedule look like? Check out this handy infographic from online tutor Natalie S. to make sure you’re on track…

GMAT Infographic for TL.ppt

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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dance class

Dancing for Beginners: What Can I Expect at My First Lesson?

dance class

Ready to give a “dancing for beginners” class a shot? Here, teacher Liz T. shares what to expect, and how to set yourself up for success…


So you’ve signed up for your first dance class – excellent! Whether you are pursuing ballet, jazz, tap, modern, ballroom, salsa, or Zumba, here are some things to expect at your first lesson and tips to help you succeed in your dance training!

Decide Between Private Lessons or Group Lessons

Some dance classes, such as ballet, jazz, and tap, could have anywhere from 10-20 students in the dance room, all learning from one teacher. When you’re in one of these larger dance classes, as opposed to a one-on-one dance lesson, you must be able to learn in a group setting. If you are short, try to get a space in the front so you can see the instructor clearly; you don’t want to be doing the steps wrong because you were standing in the back and couldn’t see the teacher!

If you’d rather learn in a more one-on-one setting, or perhaps with just a partner and your teacher, many teachers offer private dance lessons. Do your research before you book your class, and decide what fits you best!

Expect Fast-Paced Lessons

Most dance classes range from 45 minutes to two hours, and there is so much to learn in so little time! The dance class will likely be fast-paced, usually starting with a warm-up, bar work, floor routines, and then working on a choreographed dance. At first, this may be overwhelming, but do your best at staying focused in the class, and try to pick up all the choreography as best you can. If you can’t get it the first time, don’t worry about it; this will happen over time, and that’s why you are taking dance classes! But just be prepared that the class may move very fast.

Be Open to Learning New Things

A lot of new dance moves and terminology (mostly in French for ballet training) will be thrown at you all at once. This may be intimidating and uncomfortable at first, but if you go in with an open mind, willing to try it, then you will succeed! If you are negative and say “I will never be able to dance like that” or “I can’t do this step” then you never will be able to. Instead, stay positive and be open to learning the new steps. You don’t have to be perfect or a Master of Dance; the point is to learn, have fun, and just give it your best! You never know until you try!

Set Your Own Personal Goals

In any given “dancing for beginners” class, there will be other dancers with all types of backgrounds. Don’t compare yourself to others in the class, although I’ll admit it is hard not to do. Set some goals for yourself personally, and don’t compare your progress to another student’s. We all have different learning techniques and paces. Set targets and realistic goals for yourself, whether that’s to be able to perform the combination at an upcoming recital, or to work on a split, or be on pointe at the end of the semester! Set goals that you can look forward to, and put in your best effort during each class!

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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r&b singing

How to Sing R&B | 4 Tips for Beginners

r&b singing

Interested in learning how to sing R&B? Check out these helpful tips from online voice teacher Liz T...


If you’re a fan of contemporary R&B singers today, such as Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, and Rihanna, and want to learn how to sing R&B music, then this article is for you! R&B is a very specific style of music – think pop and rock with an “urban” feel. To get a better idea of how to approach R&B songs, check out these musical tips!

1. Listen to the greats
Start out by listening and studying R&B, also known as “Rhythm and Blues.” Rhythm and Blues started in the 1940s and was popular in African-American culture. Singers such as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and James Brown were some of R&B’s founding fathers. The style eventually progressed to bring out artists such as TLC, Brandy, and Boyz II Men.

2. Practice vocal improvising
R&B music is known for improvising and riffing vocally, so start practicing improvisation and coming up with your own melodies. Find a simple blues scale to riff over, and create your own made-up melody. Or try performing a riff or scatting over a well-known melody. You can also buy many books that come with audio CDs to practice with at Berklee Press; many start right at the beginning with the basics of riffing and vocal improvisation.

3. Start singing
First, I suggest you take a look at simple jazz ballads, such as:

  • “God Bless the Child” – Billie Holiday
  • “Misty” - Erroll Garner
  • “Summertime” – Ella Fitzgerald
  • “Body and Soul” (jazz standard)
  • “At Last” – Etta James
  • “My Funny Valentine” – Ella Fitzgerald

Practice your vocal improvisation and riffing in the solo section. Then try a more contemporary R&B song that you are familiar with. You don’t have to copy the artist exactly, but use their vocals as a guideline.

Ideas for contemporary R&B ballads to learn include:

  • “Fallin’” – Alicia Keys
  • “One Sweet Day” – Mariah Carey
  • “Unbreak My Heart” – Toni Braxton
  • “Ordinary People” – John Legend
  • “All My Life” – K-Ci and JoJo

4. Analyze song lyrics
Find that R&B soul in yourself, and don’t be afraid to show it! Many R&B songs have compelling lyrics about love, overcoming struggle, inspiration, and hope. Find a song that speaks to you, and make it your own. Also, don’t be afraid to try a little writing of your own. Start out with writing a poem, and then put your lyrics to a melody. R&B artist Alicia Keys is notorious for writing and performing her own music – she would not be where she is today if she did not take a stab in the dark at writing her own R&B tunes. This is what makes her such an authentic artist, because what she is writing and singing about comes from her own personal journey and experiences, and truly shapes her as an artist.

R&B music is a unique genre. It’s OK if it doesn’t come natural to you at first, but educating yourself by listening to the greats and practicing specific R&B techniques in your voice lessons will definitely help you become a better R&B singer!

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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falsetto singing

How to Sing in Falsetto: Tips and Exercises to Try

falsetto singing

Curious about how to sing in falsetto? Check out these helpful tips from Ann Arbor, MI singing teacher Elaina R...


If you’ve ever listened to Justin Timberlake, you’ve heard falsetto, the upper register of the male voice. Falsetto is the male version of head voice, something that everyone with vocal cords has. Head voice is very important in all kinds of music, since it allows singers to easily access high notes.

Do you want to learn how to sing in falsetto? Don’t worry – it’s a lot easier than you think. After a little practice, you will impress everyone with your gorgeous high notes!

What is Head Voice?

First of all, let’s discuss how head voice works. Singing in head voice makes a lot more sense if you understand how it is produced.

The vocal cords are controlled by two muscle groups: the thyroarytenoids and the cricothyroids. The thyroarytenoids work to shorten the cords, while the cricothyroids stretch them out. Can you guess which muscles produce head voice? If you guessed cricothyroids, you are correct! Think about the way string instruments work. The thinner and tighter the string, the higher the produced pitch is. The same thing applies to your vocal cords.

Head voice is technically a register of the voice. The other register often used for singing is chest voice, which is thyroarytenoid-dominant (and thus lower than head voice).

Finding Your Head Voice

To find your head voice, try talking like Mickey Mouse. You will find that the sound you make is higher and has a difference quality than your normal speaking voice. To find your chest voice in relation to your head voice, try yodeling. Yodeling involves rapidly switching from chest to head register and back. Do this slowly, and you’ll notice the shift.

Exercises for Success

As with all types of singing, practice makes perfect! Try these exercises to strengthen your familiarity and skill in your head voice range.

1. Relax

First of all, to successfully sing in head voice, you need to relax. Your thinner, stretched-out vocal cords won’t work if the body around them is tense. Find a mirror and look at yourself as you talk in your Mickey Mouse voice. The more relaxed your body is, the easier it will be for you to produce sound in head voice.

Here are some specific areas to check and relax as you make sound in your head voice range:

  • Tongue
  • Jaw
  • Neck
  • Shoulders

2. The Concert Woooo

Have you ever been to a concert and heard someone yelling “Wooooo!” in a really high voice? This exercise comes from that concept. Take in a good breath and do some of these “woo” noises while maintaining your relaxed body. Open your mouth as you go up in pitch. Make sure that you are not pushing; you should feel as though your voice is finding its way up rather than being forced.

3. Ghosty Singing

This last exercise borrows from that spooky “oOoOOOooOO” high voice that all of us are familiar with. Using your breath, practice doing this in your head voice. Remember to stay relaxed!

Open Wide

One last tip for success: your mouth has to be much more open when you sing high notes. Have you ever seen an opera singer singing a high note? Our mouths are wide open! On these notes, no one really cares whether or not they can understand the words; it’s the sound that matters. So keep practicing these tips on how to sing in falsetto, stick with those voice lessons, gain familiarity with your head voice, and let your mouth flop open as much as it needs to!

ElainaElaina 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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guitar accompanist

5 Guitar Tips for Accompanying a Vocalist

guitar accompanist

Thinking about taking your skills to an accompaniment gig - or maybe just jamming with some friends who want to sing along? Check out these 5 helpful guitar tips from Mount Pleasant, SC teacher Christopher A...


Guitar is a great instrument to accompany everything from horns to winds to piano to vocals. Whether you’re backing up a soloist, choir, band, or songwriter, there are a few tips to make the experience memorable for you and more importantly the vocalist or other musicians. Let’s get started by discussing some of my sideman gigs.

I’m an up-and-coming guitarist who’s auditioned for the local jazz quartet. They call me in to play along with the other members in a live setting and I’m given a lead sheet with chords. I read over the sheet and look for tempo markings, key changes, and form. Once I’ve done that and begin playing I remember my place in the ensemble. This is paramount to being a great sideman. You are providing a rhythm and chord structure to a song. It’s imperative to do so without blaring out your part and playing too loudly for the melody to be heard. Finding the pocket, or the main beat of the groove, will allow the soloists greater freedom and give the group a tight, focused sound.

My next step as a sideman comes when I visit an open mic and there’s a vocalist who doesn’t have someone to play her song. I know the tune and volunteer to play for her. As I start into the song I am deliberate with my rhythm changes and tempo of the tune. While I’m backing her up I remember to play quieter than the vocals. That means my chords and picking shouldn’t overshadow the vocals. This may mean turning your electric down or strumming lighter on an acoustic guitar. Your job as a sideman is to complement the vocals by providing steady rhythm and musical dynamics with your playing that reflect what the singer is crooning. I remember watching others back up voice majors in college and sometimes the singers were timid and afraid to sing out. It didn’t help when they had a guitarist beside them playing louder than them with their head buried in the chart, oblivious to the singer’s plight.

That leads to the next point - know the form of the tune. Be prepared to play the intro and make notes of what lyrics come in when you are playing the different sections of the song. The vocal cues will help you provide the best back up for the song and ensure you don’t get lost along the way. Remember that singers are human, too, and knowing the form of the song is helpful should they forget a verse or jump to a chorus earlier than you anticipate. You’ll be able to get to that part quicker with a chart and the knowledge of the song’s form.

That brings me to the most important tip - listen to the singer! I know it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen groups where the singer is laying into a vocal and the guitarist is chugging away on loud chords or playing a screaming solo over the vocals. By not working together with the vocalist you can ruin their instrument, their voice, by making them sing harder than necessary to compensate for your overly loud amp and playing style. This is not something you want to be known for, so remember: if you can’t hear the vocals, you’re too loud.

The last key is to be prepared for anything. Bring a capo along. Sometimes a key won’t work for a singer and capoing up will allow them to sing their song without you relearning the chords. Sometimes words are forgotten and they sing the song differently than you’ve learned. They may come in too early or too late on a phrase. Your part in all of this is to be flexible and make them sound great regardless of what happens along the way. By putting the singer/band first, the song ends up being the main attraction and with any luck you’ll earn the respect of the singer, other musicians, and the crowd. When you play your part and listen to the other parts around you, the music sounds best.

So rock on, it’s time to shine but remember the guitar tips stated above:

  • Know your place in the ensemble
  • If you can’t hear the vocals you’re too loud
  • Know the form of the tune
  • Listen to the singer
  • Be prepared
  • Be flexible and make those around you sound great

Applying these common sense guitar tips to your sideman work will afford you more chances to accompany singers and other instrumentalists. Get out to your local open mic or audition for a band. Respond to the Craigslist ad from a vocalist looking for someone to back them up. These opportunities will help you develop the skill set to be a great sideman and ultimately a better musician.

ChrisAChristopher teaches mandolin, violin, music performance, and guitar lessons in Mount Pleasant, SC, as well as online via Skype and Google Helpouts. He has over ten years of experience in teaching in classrooms and studios, and his lessons focus on providing the budding musician with the tools to become a proficient player. Learn more about Christopher here!



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study skills for college

3 Important Study Skills for College Students

study skills for college

Ready for college? Make sure your study skills are on track with these tips from Honolulu tutor Jinan B...

Doing well in college is often a balancing act: you are learning so many new things, being exposed to new ideas and people, making friends, and having fun. Having good study skills will ensure that you both succeed in your classes and also make the most of your study time, so you also have time to experience the many other facets of life that college offers. As a professor at a large university, here are some tips I offer my students to enhance their study skills for college.

1. Confusion is good.

That’s right, I said it. College is a time of great exploration, and learning requires making errors and experimenting. The key is to use any confusion you encounter as a jumping off point for digging deeper into the material. Welcome confusion as a chance to understand something more profoundly instead of becoming frustrated and giving up. College is an opportunity to develop a true sense of curiosity in learning, rather than simply memorizing material. You can also use confusion as a stimulus to engage and get to know your professor. As a professor, I am always appreciative when students bring me challenging questions with the desire to further their knowledge and understanding. It is also very clear to me that students are deeply invested in learning the material if they visit me during office hours to discuss any questions they have about the material.

2. Make use of all the resources you have.

Colleges and universities offer an incredible network of support to students. This includes librarians, study skills centers, teaching assistants, and other students. Consider these individuals part of your path of learning, and you will reap great benefits from their advice, knowledge, and experiences. If you’re struggling with an assignment, reach out to another student or the teaching assistant in the class to troubleshoot. If you’re studying for an exam and don’t know how to approach the huge amount of material, sign up for a session at the study skills center. Or, perhaps you’re writing a paper and need help finding rich source material; check in with the librarian who may have excellent ideas for how to locate good materials. You can also find a private tutor to help you.

3. Study for the midterm and final from day one of the class.

By learning the material in an organized, methodical way you will be in very good shape when exam time rolls around. Most college students wait until the last minute and then try to cram a few days before exams, but if you put in a few minutes a day of focused learning, you will be much better able to learn large amounts of material. When you are reading the assigned material, make it a point to write down the key ideas. This is one of the best study skills for college students to establish, as your notes will serve not only as a study guide later, but also as a way to concretize your understanding by writing the ideas in your own words. This makes you an active learner rather than simply passively reading the material. If you’re having trouble finishing the reading assigned for all of your classes, consider taking a speed reading class, which may be offered at your study skills center.

Remember, college is a unique experience, so make the most of it by studying efficiently so you can both succeed and have time for extracurricular activities as well. With these tips, you will be poised to learn, succeed, and enjoy the journey!

JinanJinan B. tutors in Life Science in Honolulu, HI. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, teaching various courses including Community Nutrition, Concepts in Nutrition Education, and Advanced Child and Adolescent Nutrition. Learn more about Jinan here!  


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TL shouts 5-27

TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 7/28/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are the shout outs we received this week:

Stacey S. in Covington, KY sent this video of her student Mary C. Stacey wrote, “My young student Mary C. (age 5) plays a lovely Twinkle Twinkle duet with her father. Mary loves playing duets, especially improvisations with her teacher. Mary is a delightful student, with a great ear. I’m very excited as her teacher to see where her natural talents take her!” Thanks for sharing Stacey, and way to go Mary! It’s always great to see young students with so much potential!

Gabriel C. in Fort Pearce, FL sent in a shout out for his former online singing teacher Arlys A. Gabriel wrote, “Arlys is the best teacher! Even though I don’t have much for lessons, she showed me a YouTube page that’s very helpful. I salute her!” Three cheers for Arlys, and thanks to each of our teachers for all that you do!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ to keep the conversation going!


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phone interview

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview & Get the Job

phone interview

Found your dream job? Learn how to prepare for a phone interview and up your chances of getting hired with these tips from Evanston, IL tutor Rachel M.:

Phone interviews are becoming increasingly popular, as the recruiting process is more complicated and congested than ever. Applicants need to be competitive, strategic, and highly adaptable in order to pass from the first stage on to the final interview. Knowing how to prepare for a phone interview is important, as it is inherently different from in-person interviews.

Please always remember:

1. Treat the phone interview as the first chance to make an impression.
The fact that you have progressed to this point means that you have qualifications the Hiring Manager is interested in. Your resume, application, or cover letter has already stood out in a way that distinguishes you from the other applicants. Still, the first interview over the phone can make or break your Hiring Manager’s decision in whether you will continue on. When you prepare for a phone interview with care and attention, you will ultimately make a better decision that will make you the right candidate for the position. Review the traditional interview questions as well as key behavioral questions. Write out your answers and practice beforehand in front of a mirror.

2. Be natural.
Similar to the mantra “be yourself,” being natural is a great way to prepare for the phone interview because this is the first time the Hiring Manager is going to hear your voice. If you sound like you just woke up, you will be doing yourself a great disservice. For this reason, never conduct a phone interview in a dark room. You will sound disoriented and confused over the phone. Sit at a desk or work area so you are completely focused. You will also have the added benefit of being able to look at your notes on the company, refer to your resume, and write down important information all at the same time. Also for this reason, you should try to dress business casual or business for your phone interview. Although the Hiring Manager will not be able to see you, they will be able to hear the added confidence in your voice and they can make a judgment based off of that. Dressing in a professional manner will focus you on the task at hand.

3. Take notes.
Be prepared to write down all key information the Hiring Manager may tell you, such as contact information, names, company information, or details about the position. Also be sure to have your own notes on your skills and experience, including a copy of your resume, cover letter, and references. Once again, your Hiring Manager cannot see you, but he/she is probably referring to the same materials and is working off of their own notes as well.

4. Write a thank you message.
Immediately after your interview, send your Hiring Manager an email thanking them for their time in interviewing you. Keep it short but sweet. Write 5 lines maximum expressing your interest in the position and appreciation for the company’s consideration or your skills and experience. Writing a quick thank you is a standard process that the Hiring Manager will respect. There is only one way this can work against you— if you misspell any words. So be sure not to include typos. Proofread your work, as with anything else in life.

Preparing for a phone interview is so important. Taking the time to do this will solidify your skills and experience, help to endorse a good reputation, and finally help you to stand out amongst all the interviewees. Happy interviewing!

Need help with editing your resume, or assistance in other life coaching areas? Search for a teacher in your area here!

Rachel M.Rachel M. tutors various subjects in Evanston, IL, as well as online. She has an extensive background teaching and tutoring others, especially in ESL, English, French, and special education. Learn more about Rachel here!



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Daniella Alcarpe

How to Improve Your Singing: How Often Should You Practice?

Daniella Alcarpe

Wondering how to improve your singing? While singing lessons are a big part of the equation, the way you practice in between lessons is just as important. Take a look at these tips from Ann Arbor, MI singing teacher Elaina R...


How often should you practice singing? This is a question that, as a voice teacher, I get all the time. The truth is, singers are in a unique position when it comes to practicing, especially compared to other instrumentalists. Here’s the best way for you to learn how to improve your singing with regular practice.

The Voice Is Unique

First, it’s important to remember that the voice is a delicate instrument. The entire vocal apparatus is a part of your body. This is what makes the voice such a personal and special instrument, but it also gives us certain physical limitations. The vocal cords themselves are about the length of a quarter in men and the length of a dime in women – and even smaller in children and adolescents!

While a professional musician with a man-made instrument (such as a pianist) can practice for many hours a day, singers cannot do so. Why? Our tiny little vocal cords are made of flesh, and there is only so much singing that one person can do healthfully in one day. Even Renée Fleming, arguably the most famous U.S. opera singer today, only practices for two hours a day.

Practicing For the Voice

Because the voice is part of the body – and you can’t go out and buy a new one if you ruin it – it is important to practice in a way that benefits the voice. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a vocal practice schedule.

- Practice Every Day: Think of practicing singing as you would exercise. Exercising every day improves your coordination and muscular ability. Using your voice every day improves the coordination and muscular abilities involved with breathing, lifting the soft palate, and relaxing the rest of the body. That goes for singers of any level. If I go on vacation for two weeks, I feel “out of shape” when I come back and try to sing again (I’m sure the same thing can be said of athletes).

Remember, even on those busy days, make sure to do something. As with physical exercise, even a 10-minute warm-up session each day is a lot better than nothing. If you have a commute, you can warm up in the car; if not, ask your voice teacher for a few quiet exercises that you can do while you are get ready in the morning.

- Do Not Practice for Too Long: Other instrumentalists can get away with practicing for hours and hours. Not us. Aim for anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes each day. Stop practicing as soon as you feel vocally fatigued (ideally before). As you get better, your stamina may increase, but it will change every day because of factors like how much sleep you got, allergies, and the like. Always pay attention to your body and listen to what it has to say!

- Practice Singing Healthfully: Singing healthfully – or singing without unnecessary tension or effort – is the main skill that will increase your stamina. Singing well involves the breath, the resonators of the upper face, and the muscles that you use to speak (in the lips, tongue, and jaw). Try looking at yourself in the mirror to make sure you aren’t doing any extra work. Are your shoulders raised? Does your neck look tense? Practicing relaxing while you sing not only feels good, it helps you to increase your stamina so that you can perform for longer periods of time.

The voice, just like other instruments, requires regular practice to master. By practicing the right things every day and not overdoing it, you can improve your vocal ability and stamina. It’s a simple way to improve your singing, and as you get better, you will find that it becomes easier and easier!

ElainaElaina 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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