Back-to-School, Back-to-Practicing!

Whether you’ve been looking forward to September for a while or are still in denial that it’s here, there’s no denying that back-to-school season means a big change of pace for many people.  Our lives are suddenly more routine-ful and our schedules busier; we have more commitments, more homework, and perhaps longer work hours; and, it often feels, less time.

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to give some thought to your back-to-school routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the additional things that are suddenly in your schedule.  At the very least, establishing a sustainable schedule for basic things like sleeping, eating, and homework will help you to fall into a comfortable rhythm much more quickly.

It’s also a good time to think about your back-to-school practicing routine!  Maybe you kept a good practice routine over the summer, or maybe you took a break from singing; no matter what, your practice routine is probably going to look different now than it has over the past two months.

My practice routine! you think.  That’s pretty much the last thing on my mind with everything else I’ve got going on right  now.

Maybe so.  However, it would behoove you to think about it now, rather than wait until all the other aspects of your life settle down.  Why?

The longer you wait to establish a practice routine, the harder it is going to be.  Think about it – you make a schedule for everything else in your life, and the hours fill up.  Two or three weeks go by, and when you try to add something else in, there’s all of a sudden no time for it.  You try a few times, but you’re so busy that practicing always feels like an afterthought, that thing you don’t really have time for.  Oh well, you think.  I guess I don’t have time for practicing after all.  Maybe I should put my voice lessons on hold.

Noooo!  Don’t do that!

Okay, fair enough, you say.  But I don’t know where to start!

Back-to-School Basics

First, start incorporating practicing into your weekly routine as soon as possible.  Even if you don’t have any lessons scheduled yet.  If you’re really busy these first couple weeks and can only swing 3-4 short practice sessions a week, that’s definitely better than nothing, and is enough to brush up on your skills before your lessons begin.

If you’re struggling to feel motivated, take some time to think about what your goals are.  Why did you decide to take lessons in the first place?  What accomplishments do you feel good about from last year?  What are you hoping to accomplish this year?  Think about something you can address with your teacher, even if it’s just a question you have or something you’re curious about – as long as it motivates you.  Having some kind of concrete goal in mind will give you something to focus on in your practicing.

Get back to your lessons as soon as possible.  This will motivate you to practice more and get into a groove more quickly.  If you wait until mid-to-late September (or later) to reach out to your teacher, her schedule might be full and it may take another week or two to book a lesson.  Even if you do manage to book a time right away, keep in mind that it will take 2-3 lessons to really get the momentum going again.  Do you really want it to be mid-October – at which point the semester is already half over – before that happens?

Once You’ve Started…

Devise a reasonable schedule for yourself.  It’s good to be ambitious, but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.  If you set your sights too high, you could start to feel overwhelmed or burned out.  Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable.

Stick to your schedule as best you can.  Good habits can only be built with consistency.  Sure, there are times when you will fall off the wagon, but if that happens, get right back on.  Don’t use one “failure” as an excuse to stop altogether.  Cut yourself some slack, and re-focus on your goals.

Plan ahead.  I’m talking weeks and, if possible, months in advance.  If you know, for example, that your school musical rehearsal schedule will eat up most weekday afternoons starting in November, make sure you are communicating with your teacher well enough ahead of time about a schedule change for your lessons, and adjusting your practicing routine.  If you do not give this some thought ahead of time, it will be very hard for everyone to adjust once it creeps up on you, and you will suddenly be “too busy” for voice lessons.  NEWS FLASH: you are not too busy.  You just didn’t plan ahead, and now you feel overwhelmed.

Stay healthy.  This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, and preventing sickness inasmuch as you are able.  Remember to be mindful of your mental health too.  Give yourself time to decompress, especially when you’re really busy, and try not to fall into negative thinking.

Back-to-school season can feel overwhelming, but just remember: stay focused on your goals, and be disciplined but realistic with your schedule.  Just keep truckin’, and it will be Christmas break before you know it!

Do You Get Bored During Vocal Warm-ups?

Virtually every singer knows that vocal warm-ups are an important part of any practice session.  Just like the athlete has to warm up his muscles before training, singers need to warm up their instruments in order to prevent fatigue and/or injury.  Hopefully you have a complete, consistent warm-up routine that can get your voice going quickly and effectively; if not, speak to your voice teacher about what your warm-up routine should look like.

Recently, I wrote a post about the purpose of warm-ups: the why’s, the what’s, and the how’s.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so before diving into this post.

Knowing that warm-ups are important and why, you would think that all singers would execute their warm-ups with thought and care all the time.

Sadly, this is not the case.  I’ve taught many a student who just zones out after the first few repetitions of the warm-up, forgetting all my instruction and thus falling short of the warm-up’s intended goal.

Now, in the students’ defense, warm-ups are pretty repetitive.  You sing the same pattern over, and over, and over again, all throughout your range – I get it; it’s easy for the brain to disengage when you appear to feeding it the same information again and again.  It’s like those endless homework assignments your math teacher assigns you: why do I have to do 100 problems, you think, if I’ve proven I’ve mastered the concept after doing just 5?

Vocal warm-ups are not like those repetitive math assignments, however.  Singing is not a one-skill event, ever.  Unlike a math problem, you cannot just apply the same formulaic approach to every repetition of every warm-up.  Your brain has to be engaged constantly – with the right things – for the warm-up to be effective.

So how can you keep yourself from getting bored and zoning out during warm-ups?

  1. Be mindful of the basics – i.e., posture and breathing.  If you think about nothing else, at least make sure these foundational elements are in place.  If you start singing with a collapsed rib cage, gaspy inhales, or shallow breaths, chances are you’ve gone on auto-pilot.  It could also mean that you’re tired, or concentrating so hard on something else that you’ve forgotten about them.  Whatever the case, back up and reset.
  2. Be mindful of the warm-up’s intended purpose.  What is the goal of the exercise?  Breath management?  Articulation?  Smooth registration?  Every time you sing a new repetition – that’s a single segment of a single warm-up, by the way – ask yourself, “Did I achieve the goal for this exercise?”  If the answer is no, do that repetition again, and again, and don’t move on to until you’ve achieved it.  Yes, it might take forever to work this way, and no, you will not have the time or vocal stamina to do this every day.  But you must do it frequently nonetheless.  This is how we build technique.
  3. Be mindful of where you are in your range, and make technical adjustments accordingly.  It’s easy to go on auto-pilot and, whoops, we’re already in high-note land!  And you haven’t adjusted your breath or your resonance, and so your high notes start to tank.  Again, warm-ups are different from the one-approach-fits-all math problems: different parts of your range require different things from your body, even if it’s all the same pattern.
  4. If your teacher gives you an instruction during your warm-ups, you must assume, unless told otherwise, that that instruction applies to every repetition of that warm-up.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded a student “silent inhale,” and they do it only for that repetition, forgetting about the instruction literally 5 seconds later when we’ve moved up or down one half step.

Building Mental Focus

If you haven’t realized this already, singing involves a lot of mental discipline.  It takes time to develop this kind of focus. 

  • If you find yourself getting mentally tired after a couple warm-ups, take a break for a few minutes, and come back when you feel fresh again.  It’s better to do this than to sing your warm-ups mindlessly with poor technique.
  • Make sure that your practice space facilitates focus.  If it’s too hot/cold/noisy/small/big/depressing/dry/smelly/whatever, and you don’t enjoy being in it, you’re going to have a hard time focusing on your singing.  Make sure your space is comfortable and meets all your needs.
  • Consider minimizing distractions.  Distracted by your phone?  Put it on silent and out of reach – in the next room, even.  Find yourself gazing out the window too much?  Pull the shade down or face the other direction.  Family members getting in the way?  Consider practicing when they’re not home, or request that they stay out of your practice space.

Just remember: be patient and honest with yourself.  Practicing can be tedious at times, but the reward is well worth it!

Training the “Whole Voice”

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of adjudicating the local NATS student auditions.  It was wonderful to spend my day hearing so many talented young singers.  I was impressed at the overall level of preparation, as well as the commitment to the vocal and dramatic choices these young singers made in performance.

A few especially talented singers competed in both the classical AND musical theater divisions for their age group, and some of these even advanced to the semi-final rounds in both divisions.  This is truly impressive, not only because the vocal technique required for each style is very different, but because it also requires meticulous preparation of two sets of competition-worthy rep – in other words, hours upon hours of practice time.

Cross-Training

Cross-training – singing in more than one style – is an important aspect of training the whole voice, especially for the young singer.  While most of us eventually go on to specialize in one style of singing or another, knowing how to sing in multiple styles has lots of benefits.  It makes us more versatile singers; it keeps the various areas of our voice functional and flexible; and most importantly, it ensures that we train every aspect of our voice – not just the parts that are most frequently used for our particular style.

Training the Whole Voice

When comparing and contrasting classical technique with more contemporary styles, one of the first things that comes to mind (or, to “ear,” as it were) is the differences in the voice’s registration – i.e., the use(s) of head voice and chest voice.  While breaking things down into a chest/head dichotomy is admittedly a bit simplistic, it can be a useful starting point for training the whole voice.

In my teaching over the years, I’ve discovered that most young singers have a “dominant register,” similar to how everyone is born with a dominant hand.  Most young singers will default either to head voice or chest voice in particular areas of their range, as feels comfortable and/or natural for their instrument.  Even those blessed with a natural ability to “mix” have either a head-dominant or chest-dominant mix.

Then there are those singers who feel that their “signature sound” is so firmly rooted in one register that they are hesitant to use the other.  I sound really good singing this one way, they think – why do I have to learn to use the other part of my voice?

How Do I Train the Whole Voice?

As singers, we must of course build on our naturally strong register; however, we must also work to strengthen whatever area of our voice is weaker.  For most of us, our weaker register is NOT where we enjoy singing, so we tend to avoid it.  However, it doesn’t matter how much we dislike it.  Ignoring your weaker register is ultimately to your voice’s detriment.

For, example, if you prefer to belt, you must cultivate your head voice.  Why?  It’s a myth that “belting” is just bringing the chest voice up as high as it can go.  High belting is really a chest-dominant mix.  The head voice muscles must be involved to produce a sustainable sound, especially the higher you go.  A good teacher will incorporate some folk songs or classical art song into the musical theater singer’s rep, in an effort to cultivate the head voice.

If you’re a female who prefers to sing classically, you should still exercise your chest voice and your mixed middle voice.  Why?  Because it will lend fuller resonance to your lower notes.  It’s a myth that chest voice is harmful or counter-productive to classical singing.   While classical singers don’t use a chest-dominant sound very often, their lower process can and should be involved if they are singing below or even near the bottom of the staff – those notes will not project otherwise.  A good teacher will incorporate some musical theater of varying styles into the classical singer’s repertoire, to ensure that the lower half of the voice is strengthened.

Getting the Proper Guidance

In order to train all areas of your voice, it’s essential that you find a good teacher and meet with him or her regularly.  Seek out a teacher that specializes in the style you prefer; however, be prepared to explore a myriad of different styles in your lessons, in order to train your whole voice.  In the process, you may even find that you really like a certain style of music that you didn’t before – it’s amazing what can happen when you approach something with an open mind!

If you are looking for a teacher, the NATS teacher directory is a good place to start.  There are also websites like learningmusician.com, takelessons.com, and musiclessons.com.  You could also check out the Find Your Singing Teacher page on Facebook.

And of course, there’s us!  Kim and myself are seasoned, qualified voice teachers, and have loads of experience working with beginners and/or young singers.  If you’re located north of Boston and interested in lessons, contact us!

summer musical theater camp

Why Rising Stars?

If you’re the parent of a theater-loving kid or teen, you probably already know there’s a TON of summer theater programs to choose from.  There are companies that produce full shows; others where teens can intern behind-the-scenes; still others where you can learn the ins and outs of the tech world.  Whatever it is you want, greater Boston has you covered!

Here at Rising Stars Productions, however, we believe that ours is truly one of the most unique summer theater programs around.

So why Rising Stars?

Performance Experience and Skill-Building

Here at Rising Stars, we put the “performing” in “performing arts.”  That means we’re dedicated to two things: a high-quality production, and skill-building.  Over the course of the week, your child will gain not just the confidence he or she needs to shine, but also skills that he or she can take to the next performing venture.

Our program is a musical revue, which means it consists of selections from a wide variety of shows.  This enables us to feature more students than we could in a single show with a fixed cast.  It also exposes the students to a wider range of musical styles, and gives them a starting point from which to explore certain shows further if they want.

We are also dedicated to featuring kids who want to be in the spotlight: if your kid wants a solo, they will get their chance in the limelight.  If they’d rather just be in the ensemble, then that’s perfectly okay too.  But whether your child wants to be a star or just be in the background, he or she will receive the unique attention he or she needs to be a skilled and confident performer.

Unique, Thorough Audition Process

Our auditions are non-competitive, and conducted one-on-one with your child.  This allows us to get to know their voice and personality, and consider what songs might suit them best.  We’re very sensitive to audition nerves, and strive to make the process as un-intimidating as possible!

The song selections are chosen based on the auditions each year.  The result is a unique program custom-made to your child’s needs and talents.

Top-Notch, Professional Staff

Our carefully-vetted staff are all industry professionals with extensive performance experience in their respective fields.  Furthermore, they are all experienced, passionate educators dedicated to helping your child succeed.

Small Program Sizes and Individualized Attention

We keep our camp sizes to 20-25 students.  This allows us to work with them individually or in small groups, giving them the attention they need to build both skill and confidence.  This is very different from many summer theater programs, where your child is just one among dozens.  At Rising Stars Productions, your child is not simply a number in a huge cast; he or she is a key player and will be treated as such.

We also believe that the small sizes help the social dynamic of each camp.  We make it our mission to ensure that every child feels included and valued, both on and off the stage.

 

Open to Students of All Levels

Our summer theater programs are open to all levels, including beginners!  In fact, many students have their first theatrical experience with us.

However, we’ve also had older, more experienced students use our program as a training ground for community theater productions, and even college auditions.  Whether your child is venturing onstage for the first time or is a seasoned performer, they will learn a lot in our program!

Intensive, Immersive Learning Experience

Our students take an entire program from page to stage in just one week!  The rehearsals are very fast-paced, but don’t worry – we go to great lengths to make sure everyone is on the same page (literally and figuratively!).  Our staff are always happy to provide extra help.

Register Now!

Registration is open for all three of our summer programs: June 11-15 in Beverly ($250); June 25-29 in Gardner ($225), and July 23-27 in North Reading ($300).  Our summer theater programs run Monday-Friday from 9:00 am-2:00 pm, with the final performance on Friday at 7:00 pm (7:30 pm in Beverly).  Tuition includes a non-refundable $50 deposit, due at registration.

Click here to start your registration today, or contact us with any questions.  We’re looking forward to a spectacular season!

goals

Back to Basics, Part 2: Vocal Warm-ups

We’ve all done them, or at the very least, heard them before: the endless patterns, scales, and weird noises that singers use as vocal warm-ups. While, to the untrained ear, we may sound like dying cats or like we’re screaming bloody murder, any experienced singer will tell you that warm ups are absolutely essential to a good practice session or performance.

This is true, of course. But why? 

Most young or inexperienced singers will say that warm-ups are essential to “get your voice going.”  While this is perhaps the most basic aim of warm-up exercises, an effective warm-up routine must consist of at least these three goals: 

Goal #1: “Lining Up” the Voice

This initial part of a singer’s practice routine is usually what people are referring to when they say “get the voice going.”  However, the point is not simply to use your voice.  You must execute your exercises with thought, attention to detail, and self-awareness. 

This stage usually begins with some stretches and an alignment check, and then energizing the breath in some way.  (Check out this video for posture tips, and this one for breathing exercises!)

When you begin to sing, choose an exercise that will help to connect breath to sound right away (voiced consonants like z or v are great for this).  As you sing, you want to make sure the various parts of your mechanism are released (throat, jaw, tongue, soft palate, etc.).  Use a variety of vowels, and travel up and down your range, feeling the changes in resonance.  (For a few suggestions, check out this video!)

Goal #2: Technical Specifics

Once you’ve ensured the voice is functioning properly, start to think about specific techniques.  What technical ideas have you been working on in your lessons lately?  What problems have you been trying to fix?  Choose warm-ups that will help you work on these things – perhaps some of the same exercises you did in your most recent lessons.  The main idea here is that every exercise have a specific purpose.

 

Goal #3: Preparing for Specific Rep

What songs will you be working on that day?  If it’s something with a lot of high notes, you should make sure you stretch up there.  If your song has lots of staccato, make sure you include some in your warm-ups.  If it’s got lots of runs, long scales should be a part of your routine.

 

How Long Should I Spend on Warm-ups?

The answer to this question varies depending on the level of the student, his or her vocal abilities, the demands of his or her rep, and other considerations.  In a 30-minute practice session, I would advise spending 10-15 minutes on warm-ups, and the rest on repertoire.  In a longer practice session, 15-20 minutes is fairly standard for more advanced students.

Other Important Considerations:

Your warm-up routine should be consistent, yet evolve with your vocal needs.  In other words, have a regimen of exercises that serve your needs and goals for right now; as your technique grows, you may find that certain exercises no longer serve a purpose or are not stretching you enough.  This is completely normal.  Work with your teacher to find new exercises that will suit your needs.

You should keep your day’s voice use in mind when warming up and practicing, and monitor how your voice is feeling.  You may find, for example, that your voice gets tired on days when you have school chorus.  This means you should consider doing a lighter warm-up that day, so as not over-tax your voice.  Or, if you know you will be singing a lot in your evening production rehearsal, you may choose to scale back your practicing session to save some voice.  In these cases, the primary goal is usually to do what is necessary to get things connected and functioning properly, and then move on.  

If you find that a certain exercise just isn’t working, re-assess how you’re feeling/what’s happening and try something else.  It’s better to abandon something that doesn’t feel good than to keep going and work more tension and bad habits into your voice.  You could just be having a bad voice day.  It’s frustrating, but it happens.

You do not need to warm up to the extremes of your range every day.  You should choose one exercise to stretch your stratosphere (or your basement) a couple times a week, but you shouldn’t sing up there every day, especially if you are young/new to singing.  Singing in these areas of your range too much can be extremely demanding on the voice.  Unless you are singing rep in which these notes are required, it’s not essential to exercise them every day.

In General…

Remember – specificity is key!  It’s better to do fewer exercises – each with a specific goal – than to do more exercises without a purpose in mind.Curious to learn more?  Contact us with any questions, or, better yet – sign up for lessons!

 

voice lessons Reading MA

Back to Basics, Part 1: The Role of the Voice Teacher

 

It takes a village, as they say.

To make an artist, that is.

These days, it’s essential that young artists have their “team:” the voice teacher, the rep coach, the acting coach, the dance instructor… the list could go on.  In addition to comprising a great cheering section, each of these instructors and mentors brings a unique, distinct perspective to the table, helping to create you, the well-rounded artist.

It’s important, therefore, to know exactly what specific role of each of your instructors plays in your artistic life, and for the two of you to be mutually clear about your hopes/dreams/expectations for your professional relationship.  While there can be a bit of overlap among mentors at times, it’s important to recognize that each should have a primary purpose that is distinct from that of the others’.

Let’s talk about the voice teacher, shall we?

I’ve found that young students today have a wide range of expectations and goals when it comes to voice study, from improving their technique to landing more lead roles to just wanting to “sing for fun.”  And many begin their voice studies without any specific expectations at all.  

Now, to be fair, we voice teachers – especially free-lance studio teachers – do wear a lot of hats.  Our jobs are multi-functional because, let’s face it, being a singer in today’s industry is a multi-faceted career.

However, the primary purpose of a voice teacher, before anything else, is to be a vocal technician.

Meaning, her main job is to teach you how to sing.  Anything and everything else comes secondary to that.

 

This means your voice teacher should be teaching you:

  • Vocal function: How your voice works, how to use it properly, and how to keep it healthy.
  • How to practice, including specifics on what and why and how often.
  • How to choose appropriate repertoire.  In other words, guidance as to what pieces might be a good fit for you and why.
  • How to use your technique to facilitate artistry.  Want to float that high note, or having trouble singing with the appropriate registration for your song?  Your teacher will show you how.  In the process, you’ll probably also get some interpretive advice.
  • How to prepare for auditions – both from a musical/vocal standpoint, and from an etiquette/protocol standpoint.  It’s important not only that you sing well, but that you present yourself professionally.  This latter category can include things like what to wear, how to format your resume, how to work with an audition pianist, and other general do’s and dont’s.
  • Musicianship skills, especially if you’re beginner and/or have never had any musicianship/theory training.  Once you’re at the college level though, your voice teacher should not be teaching you musical basics.  Your musicianship training at this point will focus more on specific repertoire styles, with the assumption that you’ve already mastered the fundamentals.
  • Your music, if you’re a beginner, and/or have little musical background.  This is usually done both by teaching the song in the lesson, and giving you the tools/resources to help you continue learning it on your own.  Once you’re more advanced, however, your teacher should not have to spoon-feed you your songs – you should have some skills and a music-learning system in place to learn your music independently.

 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the things your teacher is NOT:

 

A human karaoke machine 

Your teacher’s job is to make you a better singer, not simply to be a live background track to which you sing your favorite songs once a week.  

But can’t I sing the songs I like? you ask.  Yes, you and your teacher can and should work together to find rep that will both help your voice grow and motivate you to practice.

However, singing through *the same songs* week after week, with little to no attention to technique or musical detail, is not going to help you become a better singer.  Instead, you have to keep introducing new rep that presents healthy, conquerable challenges for you, thoughtfully implementing the technique your teacher is teaching you.

Also, bear in mind that, while it would be ideal for everyone to sing only songs that they enjoy, you will also be asked to sing songs that you don’t really care for – both in your lessons and in the real world.

Finally, keep in mind that most voice teachers aren’t highly trained pianists, and that the degree of piano skills will vary with each teacher.  If you are looking for someone to play full accompaniments for your songs, you should seek out a vocal coach.

A trophy-giver

When you’ve conquered some technical hurdle, or met some musical goal, it’s completely appropriate to throw a mini-party in your lesson.  We’ve all been through the process and the struggle, and we know how exciting it is to finally feel like you’re doing something right.

The rest of the time, however – which will be most of the time – your teacher’s job is to address your technical problems.  

Yes, you have technical problems.  Virtually all of us do.  

And your teacher is there to to fix them – hopefully in an encouraging, supportive way.  Even if you already sound pretty good, her job is to make you sound even better, not just to keep telling you how great you are.  Her job is to make you better at singing, but it’s hard for her to do that if all you’re looking for is praise.

If you truly feel like your teacher is mean, or that her style somehow makes you uncomfortable, then that is a legitimate concern you should address with her.  However, if it’s just you being unable to handle constructive criticism, then you have some soul-searching to do.  If what you are looking for is constant affirmation and positive feedback, then you are considering the wrong field, not to mention setting yourself up for many a disappointment in other areas of life.

Your servant

While your teacher is there to serve your goals, in a way, she is not to be told how to do her job.  You are not to demand that she teach you according to your specifications, telling her how she should structure the lessons, what she should be addressing, and how.  

Aside from this attitude being completely discourteous in general, this is insulting to your teacher.  She has spent years practicing, studying, and honing her teaching style in order to help you grow.  She knows more than you – that’s why you are paying her, after all – so you should defer to her professional judgement in all things singing-related.

Furthermore, an entitled, demanding attitude sends your teacher the message that you will be very hard to work with.  In this field, reputation is everything.  People, including voice teachers, talk to one another.  You don’t want them to say the wrong things about you.  

And when it comes to recommendation letters for colleges, etc.?  Teachers are very honest.  So, make sure you give them good things to say.

If there is something you’d like to ask of your teacher, ask, don’t demand.  It’s better to say, “Is it okay that we do a shorter warm-up today, so that we have time to work on all three of my audition songs?” than to say “I need you to shorten the warm-up today so that we can work on my audition songs instead.”

A miracle-worker

A good teacher can do amazing things with a willing student, sometimes even in a short amount of time.  However, the key word here is willing.  The student must be open to the teacher’s instruction and practice consistently in order for improvement to be made.  And even with the best teachers, change will not happen overnight.  

It’s also important to acknowledge that, even with practice and improvement, you will still not land every role and get into every ensemble that you want.  Unless your teacher has literally no idea what she is doing, it is not her fault if you don’t get into select chorus, land the lead in the school musical, or get the solo in your a capella group.  That’s not to say it is your fault, necessarily – remember, there are approximately a million factors that determine audition outcomes.  But simply casting blame on your teacher is dishonest, shows a lack of personal responsibility, and is just plain bad form.

Remember…

Voice teachers, just like any other professionals, have gone to great lengths to cultivate their skills in order to help their clients.  It’s important to know what those skills are, and to respect the teacher’s education and experience.  Remember, voice teachers want to see you succeed, and many are happy to go above and beyond for a student who has the right attitude and work ethic.  

If you have been thinking of signing up for voice lessons but have questions about the experience, contact Kim or Ellen to find out more.  We’re happy to help, and would love to see you in the studio!

sight reading tips

Sight Reading 101

In our last post, we discussed the ins and outs of choral auditions – what to expect, how to prepare, and what directors are looking for.  We discovered that one common aspect of choral auditions is that experience that virtually all singers dread: sight-reading.

What is sight-reading?  

Sight-reading is when you are handed a piece of music you have never seen before and must sing through it then and there, without having spent any time learning it.  You’re usually given a few minutes to glance it over, which allows you to work out a handful of crucial details and gives you a general sense of what you’re up against, but not much more.   Read more

audition tips

How To Ace a Choral Audition

Congratulations – one month of school year down!  Only… 8.5 more to go?  But who’s counting.  

These past few weeks have probably either felt like a time of exciting, new beginnings, or a time of exhaustion and stress.  Or maybe both.  New classes, new teachers, new workload.

Fall is also when many school music programs hold auditions for their various choirs, choruses, and a capella groups.  Since I’ve helped many a student prepare for choral auditions, I thought it would be worth a blog post.  Even if your school’s choirs have already held auditions, remember – senior and junior district auditions are still to be had (November and January, respectively)!  And many select groups hold auditions at the end of the school year for the next academic year.  So you’ve got plenty of time to up your choral audition game, and opportunities to show it off! Read more

singing tips

In Singing, There Are No Shortcuts

Have you ever seen those sketchy-looking Internet ads that pop up on those less-than-reputable websites?  The ones that entice you with titles like, “Get rid of belly fat with this one weird trick!” or “The secret about preventing [health problem x] that doctors don’t want you to know!”

It’s obvious to anyone with even a shred of common sense that these ads are total bunk.  As most intelligent people know, there is no “one trick” to losing belly fat, and doctors are not hiding valuable information about disease prevention from us.  The creators of the ads are obviously looking to make a quick buck on some weird gimmick.  Let people think they have been duped by [whatever/whomever] all along, and they will surely buy into our stuff! Read more

good performing techniques

The Mixology of a Good Performance

Have you ever sat there in the audience, listening to a singer who maybe *sounds* good enough, but whose stage presence is just… awkward?  I’m talking hapless, seemingly random gestures, a deer-in-headlights look, a wild lack of visual focus, and/or an obviously huge emotional disconnect from what they are singing about.  Yes? Read more