Singing Lessons – Yoga for the Voice

Gfire When I first began my professional singing career, still in my teens, I was extremely dissatisfied with the explanations I had been given for how and why the singing voice works. I just couldn't make my voice do the things I wanted it to. Admittedly, I had pretty high expectations.

Fortunately, I went to my public library and happened on a copy of "Science and Singing" by the late, great Ernest George White of London, England. After decades of scientific research, White discovered how the voice and vocal tone actually originate in the four sets of sinus cavities in the head, not in the throat/vocal cords, as was previously believed. White taught people to speak who had had their vocal cords surgically removed – just by training them in controlling the air in their sinus cavities.

He explains in his book that the air vibrating in an enclosed space (the head) acts as a musical instrument, similar to a flute or a recorder or even air moving through a keyhole and producing sound. He felt that the vocal cords, or vocal folds as he preferred to call them, merely aided in regulating the flow of breath from the lungs up to the head, where the sound was actually produced.

Unfortunately for me, White had already passed away in 1940, so I began my own attempts at playing with the air in my sinus cavities. After many months of study, pretty much by trial and error, I found that I was actually a first soprano, not a second soprano, as I had thought. I found that it took much less air – and a lot of control – to maintain my high notes, but that I now HAD control. And I really began to develop my own unique singing voice, after years of trying to sound like everyone else that I admired. Wow – even my high expectations had been reached.

When I moved to Austin a few years later, I began teaching singing lessons in Austin (and piano) as my day job. I taught all kinds of people how to sing and speak, from age 8 to age 72. Many of my students found great success with playing with the air in their sinuses – remarking that, although they hadn't had success with traditional exercises, they could now make their voices sound clearer and they could control the voice. There is a lot of joy in learning that what was once a mystery can be placed under control in a fun and musical way.

But what actually ended up putting the true icing on the cake for what I now call "Yoga For the Voice" technique was my study of kundalini yoga, and subsequent training as a kundalini yoga instructor. I found that by incorporating yogic breathing and exercises, and sometimes even chanting yoga mantras, my students and I were able to make even more progress in controlling our vocal instruments. Not to mention the improvements in health, speaking voice, keeping the sinuses free and clear, and gains in personal confidence.

Some of the benefits we discovered:

  • You learn exactly what your vocal range is and why – your vocal range is determined by the shape, number and quality of the sinus cavities in your head.
  • You discover how to create the very best tone your voice is capable of making – when you can keep as many muscles as possible out of the way of creating a pure tone in the head, you have the basis of beautiful, unencumbered musical sound.
  • You feel the difference in your own body – singing feels healthy, beautiful and under your control. If it feels right, it actually is right. The reverse is true as well – if it feels wrong, then there is some work to be done, usually in releasing some tension and muscular effort that is getting in the way of the tone.
  • A side benefit includes keeping the sinuses free and clear – it actually helps your overall health in addition to your vocal health. Ernest G. White's sinus exercises have been used solely for the purpose of keeping the head cavities clear, and can be helpful for people with allergies and other problems which create mucus in the sinuses.
  • White's exercises can be used to improve your speaking voice and your vocal projection – they are excellent for actors, teachers and public speakers as well as for singers. In general, if one is just using the exercises for speaking purposes, the vocal range is more limited and focused on the actual speaking voice than in singing training.
  • For children, I tend to break it down to very basic, easy-to-understand exercises. I think the sinus concepts are too difficult for most children to grasp, so I try to give them exercises they can easily understand and have fun with.

In the beginning stages of vocal training, a typical "Yoga For the Voice" lesson will consist of three parts. First I teach the student two different kundalini breathing techniques that have proven useful to the singing student. We next begin the sinus exercises from Ernest George White's teachings, starting to find what I like to term the "musical architecture" inside the voice student's head, i.e. her/his particular set of sinus cavities. The last part consists of integrating what we have learned into "full body" exercises, which enable the student to start to experience her/his full vocal instrument, from the solar plexus to the top of the head. I sometimes use traditional vocal exercises for this step or, depending on the student, chanting exercises.

If you are interested in exploring "Yoga For the Voice" further, my voice lessons are available privately at my music studio in Austin, Texas. See voice lessons in Austin TX.

ABOUT gfire

gfire is a Kundalini yoga instructor, and a professional singer-songwriter, DJ, voice and piano teacher in Austin, Texas. She has taught literally hundreds of students how to use their voices more effectively. 

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TakeLessons Music Lessons Guide – download a free copy for a limited time

Guide to Getting Started with Music Lessons.

TakeLessons Guide to Music Lessons


TakeLessons Discover Your Music. TakeLessons™ lorem ipsum dolor sit amet  Music Lesson Guide                                                           TakeLessons they learn much more than just how to perform! Benefits of Music & Voice Lessons Older adults find that music lessons are a great way to stay mentally active. Many will resume lessons for an instrument they played in the past to polish up their skills while others are interested in learning something brand new and acquiring a special talent. Music is known to be therapeutic and a great way to keep one's mind young! Did you know that music… When people of all ages take music and voice lessons, Parents find that music and voice lessons for kids not only improve their children's memorization and small motor skills, but strongly contribute to the building of their child's self-confidence. This in turn helps children succeed not only in music, but in school and other outside activities. Both children and their parents find it truly rewarding when a child reaches a pre-set goal or milestone; whether that is learning a new song, performing in front of others or just finding enjoyment in music. Adults in their 20's and 30's see lessons as a creative outlet and something to help them de-stress after a long day. For many, music and voice lessons are the beginning steps of a career in live performance or recorded music. For others, music lessons are a way to express emotion or impress others with their new-found talents through a birthday, wedding, or special event performance. • Helps develop skills needed in today's workforce: critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, teamwork, and confidence • Keeps kids engaged in school and less likely to drop out while helping them achieve in other academic subjects like math, science, and reading • Helps communities share ideas and values among cultures and generations   Finding the right instructor The Instructor It's About Chemistry     For most students, music is about having fun, living your dream, and discovering your music. You'll want to be paired with an instructor that understands where you currently are and can relate to where you want to go. When you begin, you may not even know where you want to go – and that's ok. Your instructor should be able to help you take small steps that help guide you and help you see the picture of what you want to accomplish. The chemistry between the student and the instructor is really important. There should be a natural respect and friendliness between the two. There are many styles of instruction, so find someone that fits your personal style. Some people learn better with a more disciplined instructor that pushes them. Others learn better with a more laid-back, assertive style. Be honest with what works for you. When speaking to your lessons company, express the style of instructor that you think will work better for you. Chris Waldron, Director of Recruiting for TakeLessons Learning Centers, has hired thousands of instructors and says a key to good instructors is not only their musical aptitude, but their attitude as well. "A good instructor will share in your success and help you through the rough patches. He or she will challenge you to get better while giving you insight, tools, and training on the best way to improve. They are there to help you achieve higher skill levels and maximize your potential while providing constructive feedback that leads to continuous improvement.", Waldron says. Remember, however, that private lessons are a two-way street and the relationship should be mutually beneficial. Instructors are not baby-sitters or therapists and they will expect you to uphold your end of the bargain by practicing, trying hard, coming to the lessons prepared. They cannot make you great. YOU make yourself great. They are there to encourage and challenge you, but ultimately, your success is going to depend on your own motivation levels and how much you decide to apply yourself. Here's a checklist of what to look for in an instructor. Your instructor should: • Have passed a criminal background check • Have positive feedback from other students • Have a degree in music, working on a degree, or several years of experience • Enjoy the style and genre of music you wish to learn • Be a good listener • Focus more on you, and less about themselves • Helps you discover your strengths • Help you set high, yet attainable milestones • Be clear on what is expected of you each week • Hold you accountable for practicing and continued growth • Provide you with timely and specific feedback • Use technology to help keep track of lessons and monitor your growth • Offer the option for you to perform at a local concert or recital • Help you get excited about learning and staying involved with lessons • Be constantly growing themselves—musically and as a teacher                                                           Picking the Right Program & Instructor     When moving forward with lessons, it's best to work with an established music learning company. When you call and speak with them, they should be friendly, excited to help you, and focused on what YOU want to learn instead of what they want to teach. Beware of instructors or programs that have an air of arrogance about them. Normally, these
instructors are focused more on what you can do for them instead of what they can do for you. Also, beware of programs that are so strict that the lessons no longer are fun. Your lessons company should also have a documented, thorough application procedure for their instructors. This includes interviews, reference checks, background checks and ongoing quality certifications. They should also require liability insurance for their instructors. Feel free to ask them to see their liability insurance paperwork. If they cannot provide documentation, you are risking a higher liability with the instructor. Finally, working with a lessons company helps ensure your money is safe. There have been many stories from unsuspecting students who write a check or pay cash to an instructor they found online or in a classifieds ad, and that instructor never showing up after the first lesson. Others have paid for a semester or year's worth of lessons, only to find their instructor has left town or shut down their studio.     A Reputable Learning Company   A Reputable Learning Company  • The company should offer several instructors in your area. This way, if the first one doesn't fit your style, you can switch to another at no cost to you. pellentesque:  Checklist • The lessons programs should be focused and tailored around what you want to learn, and the company should provide an instructor that is suited for your style of music and your skill level. Nam vestibulum dolor quis libero.  • The company should always protect your money. If their instructor does not show up, their policy should be to issue you a quick and full refund. • The company should allow you to obtain a refund if, after your first lesson, you do not wish to continue. • Never pay for more than a quarter's worth of lessons upfront (three months). • Always pay by credit card or debit card. This way, if there are billing issues, you have recourse through your bank or card company. • Check the Better Business Bureau to ensure the company treats its customers well. • Check the company's web site for the owners and employees. They should be transparent about who runs the company. Also check for press releases, financial backing, advisory boards, and partners. All of these items help you see if they are an established, reputable company. • Look to see if they have partnered with community organizations such as the YMCA or PTA and if they run programs for private schools after-school programs, or corporate wellness. If they have proven themselves by working with these partners, there is a good probability they are reputable. • Look for a company that has instructor certification processes which includes criminal background checks and ongoing quality ratings. Ask the percentage of instructor applicants that get hired. If it's more than 40%, the company may be accepting anyone who applies and may have a quality problem. • The pricing should reflect your skill level. If you are a beginner, chances are you don't need the instructor with a PhD and 30 years of experience. You'll overpay. Find a company that has a selection of instructors with differing levels of experience and reasonable rates. • Make sure the company has an established online lessons tracking system. This allows you to access your lesson notes from anywhere on the web and creates accountability between you and the instructor. If you are a parent, this allows you to see what your children are working on during the lessons, thus ensuring you are getting your money's worth.     Why Take Lessons? Tak eL essons Discover Your Music. Why Not Learn on your Own? There are a myriad of music self-study courses, books, CD's, and DVD's. Add in the hours of video on YouTube and across the Internet, and you've got an endless supply of information. But information alone isn't the key to having fun and learning. It's the application of the information that makes the difference. When you take lessons with a live instructor, you get added benefits that simply cannot be attained through all the do-it-yourself media. Speed Up Your Learning Curve, Slow Down Your Frustration When you first start with music, it will most likely be a bit odd to you. That's ok. Its normal. It takes some time to understand the fundamentals and mentally digest why notes, chords, and songs sound good together. Working with a private instructor helps you quickly understand the fundamentals while making learning fun. You will learn faster, which helps build your confidence and increases the likelihood of you continuing with your lessons. The First Step is the Hardest With music, there's a phenomenon called the "First Month Hump". During the first month, you're at an important stage that determines whether you keep going or whether you call it quits. Everything is new. Some things make sense—other things do not. And inside, you're trying to decide whether the dream of making music is worth the fear of failing at it. It's at this stage where private instruction really starts to make a difference. With the help of a good program and instruction, you see more improvement, which helps build your confidence and increases the likelihood of continuing. Your lessons are customized around you, so you get to learn the things you're most interested in. This naturally speeds up your learning curve as well. You also have personalized attention that helps you fast-track through the First Month Hump and into the next phase of learning. Staying Motivated Without a doubt, there will be times during the first few months when you feel disappointed with your playing. Perhaps you didn't find time to practice, or you can't quite figure out how to work your left and right hand with the proper timing. Again, that's ok! It's normal. The benefit of working with a private lessons company is that you have the support of your music counselor, your instructor, and a community of other people learning at your level. A good lessons program will help you A.I.M. High! A — Accountability I — Inspiration M — Milestones Accountability Private or group lessons help you become accountable to yourself, to your instructor, and others. As a general rule, we always work harder when we know someone else is counting on us. By telling others what our goals are, we trigger something inside the mind that helps us give a little extra effort. A good program will help you set your first goal and then help you share that goal with others. Inspiration A good lessons program helps inspire you by having people that believe in you. You get to hear stories of how other people are living their dream and can then apply their learning to your own situation. By taking lessons, you'll tap into the wisdom of instructors that have been through your situation before, and are willing to help you get to where you want to be. Milestones Part of the job of private instruction is to help you see yourself living your dream and discovering the music inside you. A good lessons company will understand your current skill level and help you set reasonable milestones for your growth. Using online tools, your music program should be able to help you keep track of your progress with lesson notes and practice pages that can be accessed via the web. They should provide you with candid feedback after each lesson to help you see where you're doing great, and where you need help. “Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work hard to get better. “ -Paul Coffey With music, you'll never hit your target if you don't know what you're shooting for. With a solid lessons program, you'll always know where you're heading. TakeLessons Discover Your Music.   For questions or to find a certified instructor in your area, please contact TakeLessons 1-877-231-8505 TakeLessons 624 Broadway Suite 504 San Diego, CA 92101

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Why Take Voice Lessons?

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Girl-singer Seems like an obvious question – to learn to sing; to become a famous star on stage; to be rich and successful!  I read about an established professor at an Ivy League university who wanted to quit smoking, so he took voice lessons, which launched him into a significant career on the stage in mid-life; a true life experience with surprising consequences.  However, there are many reasons that people take singing lessons and fame is only one of them.

As I’ve observed, people engage in the process of singing for many reasons: to be more confident in life in general; to overcome some of their fears; to fulfill a life-long dream of taking music lessons; to have the opportunity to receive the personal focus and attention that private voice lessons provide; to discover a latent talent that you didn’t know was there; to be more assertive; to speak more clearly; to hear peoples’ comments about one’s beautiful voice; or maybe to have a new life adventure.

In my experience as a voice teacher, I’ve enjoyed watching people discover what happens inside when they confront their desire to engage in the process of performing and singing.  Sometimes a light comes on, or old fears get triggered and need to be worked through.  One of my voice students would finish each lesson with the statement:  “This is so cool.”  It can be an inspiration for a teacher to observe people take on these challenges and come through to a new level of confidence and discovery.

It can also be inspiring to be a part of that process by engaging directly with the voice student when their fears come forward, and discovering creative ways to overcome the fear and emerge on the other side freer and more confident.

Why take voice lessons?  If some of the above lead to fame and riches, great, but maybe the fame and riches can also be internal rather than external and occur outside the spotlights and more in the soul. Both can be important.

Remember, you’re never too old to start singing lessons in your town. You’ll benefit personally and, who knows, maybe you’ll get rich and famous!

– Guest contributor, Richard Fey

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Singing Lessons Help Your Speaking Voice: Training the Whole Voice

I have been a professional actor-singer all my life, it seems.  When I was studying theatre at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County– many moons ago–we had no voice training as actors.  We were often told “I can’t hear you” or “Project!” or “I can’t understand what you’re saying”.  But that was the extent of our training.

Unfortunately, we had to figure out what to do with those criticisms.  I did, however, take singing lessons by a very fine instructor during my university days.  I learned how to use my voice very effectively–as a singer, and occasionally found myself observing that my speaking voice was receiving some benefit from that singing training, too, but I didn’t know quite how.

It wasn’t until I went to graduate school at the Dallas Theater Center that something revolutionary happened to my voice and my attitude towards my use of it–both as a speaker and a singer.  What I discovered was that the focus and resonance I had learned as a singer was no different that what was needed for an effective speaking voice as well.

I discovered that the difference between singing and speaking is one of dynamic range–the highs and lows, the sustention of notes beyond what would be considered as ‘speaking’ is more extravagant, but the training should be the same.  The instrument being used is the same, the most intimate instrument that we play, because it is produced solely from within.  If we begin to think of our speaking and singing voices as one and the same, we can apply all the rich, focused vibrations we learn to produce while singing directly to our speaking voice.

SingBreath does not control the tonal quality of the speaking/singing voice–that is produced by working as if we’re not using any breath at all. Of course, we need a constant supply of breath to create the vibration of the vocal folds, but after that breath stream becomes a sound stream, it’s up to resonance and wave reflection to take over.  The sound is conducted through the bones of the face and head.  So, when we learn to focus that sound stream onto the hard palate, and upwards into the nasal bone, forehead and cranium–we produce a beautiful unforced resonant quality–especially when we also create a more generous open cavity in the mouth.

So what’s to stop us from speaking the way we sing?  Try this experiment:  Create your own little melody in your mid-range for this phrase: “This is the way to feel the focus”.  Focus your voice (by thinking it there!) onto the hard palate as you do this rather slowly.  Then speak the line while maintaining that feel of the vibration on your hard palate, sailing up into your head (hopefully).

Don’t you enjoy that placement, that richness of tone?  It can be yours for the asking–when you have the feel of singing while you speak! So, don’t be satisfied with a singing voice that works one way–and a speaking voice that is lodged in the back of your throat, raspy, or of another sort of poor quality.  Let’s not leave the speaking voice out of the quality equation. Train the whole voice by remembering to always have a ‘little song in your speech, and a little speech in your song’!

– Guest contributor, Nancy Krebs

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Is Learning to Read Music Necessary?

Lennon rehearsing A number of famous musicians have bragged that they can¹t read a note of music – from film composers Danny Elfman, to Broadway composer Irving Berlin, to Rock star John Lennon – not to mention a whole slew of pop, jazz, country, and rock musicians. So, is reading music necessary for music lessons?

Yes, I think it is. Furthermore, I don¹t think it is that difficult to learn. In fact, I question the claims of musicians who say they don’t read music – because it is my belief that most musicians do read music…. it is just that they don¹t read it very well!

You see, music notation is just a graphic representation of music. Every day you can pick up a newspaper of magazine and see graphs: of statistics, financial forecasts, or any number of things. Most everyone can understand graphs and charts in a newspaper or magazine. So, it is not that difficult to understand music notes written on staff lines, just like a graph. When the notes go up, the music goes up. When the notes go down, the music goes down. It is really very simple.

But yes, music reading is a little more complicated than that! For example, there are time signatures, key signatures, flats, sharps, accidentals, and note values, etc. These are further subtleties that make music notation complex. It is my belief that when musicians say they don’t read music, they are saying that they do not fully understand the complexities of more advanced music notation. Or rather, they are just unsure of the many complexities found in notation. This, however, does not mean that they are musically illiterate; it just means that they are insecure with some of the aspects of notation.

It is worth noting: if you want to study music, chances are great that your teacher will assign you music books that involve reading music. Music notation is the preferred method for any course of music study. [One possible exception might be a notation called Tablature, which is special notation for guitar. However, this is still notation.] Therefore, your success in progressing on an instrument will definitely be tied to becoming literate in reading music.

The good news is that most beginning method books (and your teacher) provide excellent progressive information on reading music. Like any learning process, there is a certain effort that needs to be made. However, the rewards are great. Just like learning to read English is a great way to learning just about any subject that can be written about, music notation is the way to learn just about any music in the clearest, concise way.

For further information on reading music, I suggest an excellent book, “The Musician’s Guide to Reading and Writing Music”, by Dave Stuart, published by Miller Freeman Books, distributed by Hal Leonard. Dave is a very humorous writer, and makes learning notation fun and enjoyable.

– Guest contributor, Ernie Mansfield

For Vocal Performers – The Art of Practicing

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How many times have we watched a vocalist stand frozen and expressionless on a stage and been bored by their performance, regardless of how beautifully it was sung? Have you ever watched a singer and felt uncomfortable because you could see how uncomfortable they were?

Vocal students commonly forget one important aspect in their practicing; they forget to practice performing.  While technique such as breathing, resonance, pronunciation and vowel placement are all important aspects of practicing for vocal students, performing or acting their repertoire is just as important.

On stage rocking out
Once a song is learned, it needs to be analyzed.  What is the mood of the music? What do the lyrics say?  Measure by measure, map out a script for yourself.  What expression will you have on your face?  Where will you look?  How will you stand; or will you sit?  What kinds of gestures will you use and where will you use them?

Once you have a game plan, it should be incorporated into your practicing.  So many times I’ve heard singers say they were just going to wait until their performance and let it be an organic experience.  Unfortunately, we all have nerves and 99% of the time this will backfire on us.  By the time you put your song up in front of an audience, the acting or performing should be second nature to you.  You don’t want to have to think about it in the moment.

Practicing your performing will make you a better performer.  When you are a good performer, the audience will hear what you are singing.  They will enjoy your performance without being distracted by your awkward or uncomfortable presentation.

Even the youngest of students can benefit from this.  Would you send a young violinist up on stage without teaching them how to use their instrument?  Probably not!  The singer’s instrument is their body.  It is the entire body, not just the vocal chords.  Teaching them to perform and use their body in an effective way helps them to feel prepared for their moment on stage. Being prepared builds confidence.  Confident singers are effective communicators of music.


Christie By Guest Contributor and TakeLessons Instructor, Christie Lynn Devoe.

with being an instructor for, Christie has an impressive performance resume, as
well.  She spent 7 years as a working actor
and singer in New York City. During her time in New York,
Christie performed in many Off Broadway musicals, several operas, on television
and in film.  She has performed at Madison
Square Garden
at the Original Improv Comedy Club, and was seen at the NJPAC performing “The
Lord of the Rings Symphony” with the New Jersey Symphony.  She studied vocal
music performance at Montclair
State University

under world-famous counter tenor Jeffrey Gall and music education at Asbury
.  She also had the great
privilege to study acting in New York under the amazing Gene Frankel. Christie now resides in Howard County adives singing lessons in Baltimore and the surrounding area.


NAMM’s National Wanna Play Music Week – May 4-8, 2009


NAMM and TakeLessons have joined forces to launch the new Lesson Locator powered by set to debut during National Wanna Play Music Week.

Click here to learn more…

VIBE Magazine Holds Rapping Competiton with Eminem

EminemEminem (via

Urban magazine VIBE will hold its VIBE Verses competition, giving aspiring artists a global platform to showcase their skills and be crowned by rapper Eminem as a finalist in the “No. 1 Stan” contest. Entrants will rhyme for 60 seconds over a specially selected instrumental track and submit video clips of their performance. VIBE will send the Top 10 finalists (determined by VIBE user votes) a second instrumental, which will then be submitted to Eminem for careful review. The two finalists will be flown to a VIBE event and winner will be crowned by audience response and featured in VIBE magazine and on The first round of the competition has been extended to April 30th.

For New York Singers: Free Vocal Screening

When: April 4

New York Eye and Ear Infirmary
Voice and Swallowing Institute
New York, NY

Are you a pro, or taking singing classes in New York? In honor of World Voice Day 2009, MusiCares,
along with the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and KayPentax, is
co-sponsoring a day of free voice screenings for New York-based
professional vocalists. The event will take place on April 4 from 9
a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Voice and
Swallowing Institute. The screenings will be provided free of charge
and are needs-based. Each eligible singer will receive a complete vocal
assessment, including assessment by a laryngologist, a stroboscopic
exam of the vocal folds, and vocal function testing.

Vocalists must be pre-screened for eligibility and schedule their appointments through MusiCares. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 212.245.7840 or 877.303.6962.