Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WHY SING ANYWAY??


I had an interesting conversation with one of my young 12-year-old students recently. She told me that she was going to try out for the school talent show. I asked her what song she was going to use and she mentioned a song that I hadn't heard. I asked her why she wasn't going to use one of the songs she has been working on, or even use the song she sang in her recital. She said she had sung t
hose songs enough and was tired of them. So that opened up a whole new conversation about why we sing. Do we sing just to conquer a new song and then go on to the next challenge? Not necessarily. Basically, we sing for others. God has given us a talent to be shared and this is the way we should look at it.  We pick songs because they speak to us and when we share them, these songs speak to other people. Over the summer, this student learned the song "Hallelujah" and was asked to sing it at summer camp multiple times. She said she really got tired of singing that song, but I told her that was because people loved that song and wanted to hear her sing it again and again. She may as well keep that song on her list because she will probably be singing that song many, many more times in her lifetime. Our songs are "gifts" from us to others. I have sung one song over and over for the last 40 years because people love it. That song has become very precious to me. So, it just makes sense to "try out" for the talent show with a song that has communicated to others in the past, because it will continue to communicate. I hope she looks at her singing in a different light now and that she will continue to find songs bring joy to others.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SINGING WITH YOUR CHEST VOICE OR HEAD VOICE???


For my friends locally, I am posting a series of tips on our "head voice" and "chest voice." Last night in our music practice, our director was making a point about the sopranos using their lower voices so they could have more "power' in their voices.


The easiest way I can explain how to sing with our chest voice (especially for sopranos) is to ask you to sing like you speak. Just say the phrase "How are you today." Now, sing that phrase like you said it but sing it on just one note. If sopranos sing that like they normally would sing it, they would be talking like Julia Child. Remember her--the forerunner of the cooking shows on TV? Don't sing it like that. Just sing it in a natural talking tone. I will be putting a video on my page to demonstrate this. I don't want to overload you with too much information, but I teach that we all have a "chest voice" and a "head voice." You have probably heard of these terms. In between these two distinct voices, we have a "break" in our voice where we transition from one voice to another. I have exercises that I will put on my page to make that transition easier, but these exercises have to be practiced frequently to train your voice. So, please "like" my page and check back for more information. And, thanks for joining me.:)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE SINGING SHOWS

There are many vocal contest on television now.   I ask my voice students to try to watch these contests. If they will pay close attention to what the judges are saying, I think they can learn something. My favorite show is The Voice. The judges are more helpful and informative on that show. I question some of the judges' expertise on the other shows. For the most part, though, these shows are looking for a particular style of singing and if you don't fit their style of choice, they will not choose you. And I notice that they like the people who sing loud and high. Even if one wins one of these contests, this person still has a long road ahead of them. I am sure it helps their career but they need to keep the momentum going after the glory of the win fades. What are your thoughts about these shows and which show is your favorite?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NEW STUDENT


I had an interesting day on Wednesday. I teach a family of 4 children ranging from ages 5 to 15. It is like an assembly line on Wednesday - next. I originally was teaching 3 of them piano and 1 of them voice. One of the 5 year-olds was not doing well with piano. That is a very young age anyway, and it doesn't always work. Well, her grandmother mentioned that she loved to sing, so I took her lesson time to try some singing instead of piano. Turns out she has great pitch for a young singer and now we are into singing lessons. I am really excited about seeing her potential and working with her. One never knows the future, but this may be the start of something great!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good Singers Are Good Listeners

Did you know that good singers are also good listeners? In a choir or group, they listen for the harmonies of the other parts and try to blend well with them. They listen closely to each pitch so they wont go flat or sharp. They also listen to their instructor or coach when suggestions are made to improve. And they remember the instruction as they are singing. If someone has been singing incorrectly (such as not opening their mouth or their diction is incorrect), it takes practice to fix that, just as with any other bad habit. Many times, I say the same things over and over again to my students because they do not remember my past instructions or they are not concentrating.  So, try to concentrate and remember the suggestions you receive and put them to use.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

THE VOICE

I have been enjoying all the music reality shows and one of my favorites is "The Voice."  It seems like more and more musicians already in the industry are trying out for it, so it will be that much harder for a novice with not much experience to make it.  But there are always surprises, right?  It has been interesting to see at least two vocal teachers and coaches try out recently and not get picked.  The first one I saw was an older female singer who was over 50.  I think her mistake was that she tried to do too many riffs and runs and it made her voice sound unstable.  The second one was a young male teacher and he made the mistake of doing Celo's most famous song and of course, it didn't measure up.  So that just goes to show you that these judges are looking for specific things when they are listening to a singer.  It seems they want energy, pretty much singing all the notes on pitch, powerful vocals, attitude, and hearing a good rendition of a tough song.  I hope you are paying close attention to the judges' comments and if you are serious about singing, it would help to take notes during these shows.  It is exciting for me to share my thoughts with my students and see them incorporate these thoughts into their music.

On Friday of this week, two of my students (Heather and Jennifer--two nurses in their 20's) are giving a concert at Elmcroft.  They will each be singing 7 solos and 3 duets.  They have developed into good singers and I know they will do a great job.  Most of their songs are the latest pop and country songs, so the residents probably will not know them.  But it will be good for the residents to listen to what is current.  Some of their songs are (and these would be good for any singers to work on)--

-  Blown Away
-  Safe and Sound
-  The House That Built Me
-  Warwick Avenue
-  A Broken Wing
-  Your Song
-  Jar Of Hearts
-  Skyscraper
-  Mercy
-  American Homey
-  Stay
-  Rumor Has It
-  Someone Like You
-  Leave The Pieces
-  If I Ain't Got You
-  Boondocks
-  Come Together

As you can see, this is a great variety of music.  It will give them the experience of singing a "gig" that they can do again in the future.  I can't wait for Friday!



Thursday, September 20, 2012

MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC!!

Okay, so we are seeing lots of music contests on television lately.  I hope all you voice students are taking notes out there!  There is a wealth of information being given in each show.  Here is a list of factors you should be watching with each contestant:

-  The confidence they are displaying.
-  The talent of the singer.
-  The song choice.  This can make or break a singer.
-   Whether the singer is singing on pitch or not.
-   The energy the singer is showing.
-   The movements of the singer.
-   If the singer "connects" with their audience.  Eye contact is everything.
-   Is the singer believable?
-   Are they pronouncing their words and opening their mouths?  Do they have a pleasant look?

Listen closely to the judges and their critiques of each contestant.  This is valuable information.  Take  notes because you will forget very important factors.  These shows are  a gold mine of information, so pay close attention to everything they have to say.





Monday, May 28, 2012

MY WONDERFUL STUDENTS!



Well, on Saturday we had our Spring Recital at Music Instruction Studio and my students were a hit! I am so proud of all of them.


 I also have another new student who's name is Claire, and she started singing lessons recently. I told her that I had recorded another one of my 7 year olds (Emma Sofia) and she is on my YouTube. So, Claire told me that now she was my newest and youngest 7 year old, so she had to be put on YouTube, also. I told her as soon as she learned "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie", I would put her on YouTube. So, on Saturday, I recorded her. The video is so cute, I want to share it with you. Even her little sister tried to get into the act at the end of the recording.



Saturday, May 12, 2012

ONE OF MY YOUNGEST STUDENTS

I thought I would interrupt my study on music and senior adults by letting you listen to one of my younger students sing her recital piece. We are having a recital on Saturday, May 26th, at 2:00 at Hixson United Methodist Church and you are welcome to attend if you live in the Hixson area. She is singing "Castle On A Cloud" from "Les Miserables" and she performs it beautifully. I hope you enjoy it and know that one is never too young to start singing. Emma just turned eight years old.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

HOW MUSIC AFFECTS OLDER ADULTS AND THE DISABLED


Music can affect every aspect of our lives.  I cannot imagine what this world would be like without the God-given ability to produce music.  And probably every one of us has a loved one in our lives who is either a senior adult or someone who is disabled.  Studies have shown that the following statements have been proven to be true.  Just keep these things in mind as you interact with the people you know and love.

- Music is one of the activities that involves the whole brain.
- Music heals. They are finding that it can be used in pain management.
- Music therapy is used in hospitals from during childbirth to complement the use of anesthesia during surgery.
- Music serves as a distractor.

- Music causes the body to release endorphins to counteract pain.  

- Slow music relaxes a person by slowing their breathing and heartbeat.
- Music reduces blood pressure.  Playing classical, celtic or raga music every day can significantly reduce high blood pressure.
- Music is good for your heart.  It is the tempo that helps.  The steady beat is good for the heart.
- It speeds post-stroke recovery.  Verbal memory and attention span can improve.  I know a person who had a stroke and cannot verbally communicate at all.  But when we sing, she can sing and say the words.  It  is amazing to see her sing along with everyone else.
- Music enhances intelligence, learning and IQ.  
- Music improves memory performance.  Mozart’s music and baroque music, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates the left and right brain.  The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information.

Stay tuned for more valuable information as to how music can have a positive affect on our lives, no matter what our age.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

HENRY REMEMBERS HIS MUSIC

This video is self-explanatory.  My link below will take you to my Facebook page where you can see the video.  

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p.s.   If you cannot play this video, please just go to YouTube, then go to Search and type in the words "Henry memory music".  You must see this video!

MUSIC AFFECTS ALZHEIMER'S IN A VERY GOOD WAY

Yesterday, I was invited to speak at our local Alzheimer's conference here in Chattanooga. I work part time at Elmcroft Assisted Living as an Activity Director and I see first hand how this dreaded disease can affect a person. Alzheimers affects each person differently. No two people think and act the same. But one thing is for sure--loss of memory function is at the top of the list. At this symposium, I spoke of ways that music can be used to help the caregiver bring a better quality of life to their daily routine as they care for their loved ones who have Alzheimer's. First, I want to talk about how music can affect all of us--and especially older adults. 


 - Music is one activity that affects the whole brain. 
- Music heals. They are finding that it can be used effectively in pain management.
 - Music therapy is being used in hospitals during childbirth to complement the use of anesthesia during surgery. 
- Music serves as a distractor. We know that, when caring for people with Alzheimer's, at times we have to use something to distract them from a certain behavior. 
- Music causes the body to release endorphins to counteract pain. 
- Slow music relaxes a person by slowing their breathing and heartbeat.
 - Music reduces blood pressure. Playing classical, Celtic and raga music every day can significantly reduce high blood pressure. 
- Music is good for the heart. It is the tempo of the music that helps. Music's steady beat is what is good for the heart. 
- Music speeds post-stroke recovery. Verbal memory and attention span can improve. I know a person who has had a stroke and now she cannot say her words to formulate a thought. But when we sing, she actually says the words and can even sing! It is amazing to see her sing along with everyone else. 
 - Music enhances intelligence, learning and IQ. We all have seen this in teaching music to children. It also happens throughout our lifetime.
 - Music improves memory performance. Mozart's music and baroque music with a 60 beat per minute pattern activates the left and right brain. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information. 


 Well, this is my first post of talking about how music can help a person improve their memory even if they have Alzheimer's. In my next post, I will talk about how music can stimulate and help a person with Alzheimer's remember their past and be able to reminisce, which is very good for the soul.  If you can think of more ways music can help a person with Alzheimer's, please share with us here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

NEW SERIES "BRINGING MUSIC TO SENIOR ADULTS"

In the next few posts, I will be bringing ideas to those of you who are caregivers to senior adults in your home.  Even if you are not a caregiver, you may know someone who is and can share this with them.  


 I know that, at times, you can run out of ideas and activities to do with them to make their lives more fulfilling.  I am here to say that MUSIC can add so much to an adult's life in their later years, especially if they have the dreaded disease of alzheimers.  So, please check back for my future posts.  I will start them tomorrow.  My first tip is to purchase an iPad.  So, stay tuned . . . . . . 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ANOTHER BREATHING EXERCISE

I hope you have been practicing the breathing exercise I posted this week. I also have another one for you. First, breathe in and count to 4 as you are breathing in. Make sure you have taken in all the breath you can when you are on 4. Then breathe out as you count to 4. Make sure you have emptied out your lungs on the 4 count. Now, that was easy. Do that 4 times in a row. 


 Next, do the very same thing, only count to 8. Then, exhale and count to 8 at the same time. You will now have to start measuring your breath as you inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale your breath evenly and fill and empty your lungs as much as you can. Practice this 4 times. 


Next, do the same exercise only this time, count to 12. This will be much harder. Practice this 4 times also. You will learn to control your breathing as you practice this exercise. Don't forget to breathe deeply using your diaphragm. This is an exercise that our choir practices and it is very effective.

Friday, April 20, 2012

DEEP BREATHING EXERCISE

Breathing is another important factor to improve your singing.  There are effective exercises to improve your breath support and being able to hold out phrases longer.  In this post, I am going to review a very simple exercise you can do.  


All you need to do is take a deep breath and count as you exhale this breath.  So, inhale as much breath as you can, and while you exhale that breath,  count as high as you can until your breath is all exhaled out of your body.  Do it again and try to count to a higher number.  Normally, you can count to 25 or so, but if you practice you can count to higher numbers.  The more you practice this, the higher your numbers should go.  Don't breathe just with your shallow chest breathing, but take deep breaths using you diaphragm and your whole upper body core.  Work on getting your numbers higher and you will be able to increase your amount of breath you can use to sing.  This exercise can be done anytime, so try it.  It can only help you and deep breathing is good for your body, also.  It adds more oxygen to your blood and makes that blood flow better!

Monday, April 16, 2012

SINGING WITH AN OPEN THROAT

I am posting a video of myself singing with an open throat and sustaining notes.  I am singing to a song with "ah", "oh" and "eee".  If you feel you don't sing with an open throat, you can practice by singing along with me and get the feeling of an open throat.  I will demonstrate the wrong way, too, so you can tell if you are just singing with your throat.  You don't want to sing with only your throat.  It produces a thinner tone and you can damage your vocal chords when you just sing with your throat.  If you have any questions about this, please comment and I answer your questions.  Thanks!


SINGING ON PITCH WITH A PURE TONE

Singing on pitch is an important part of developing your singing voice. When I start teaching a new student, many times they slide up to the note, strain their voice to sing the note, or sing the note with no support of their diaphragm. They don't realize the importance of singing each individual note on pitch. Try this exercise to see if you can sing a note on pitch without scooping up or down first. Play a note on your piano, keyboard or smartphone piano app and try to match that pitch. Now, play another note and match the new note. Don't scoop up or down to the note--just sing it dead on to match it. Just think of a bull's eye and hitting the center of it.  This takes practice. Most of us will sort of hit the note, then we adjust it. This is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to sing the note without adjusting or wavering our tone, and it is hard to do. It takes concentration. And the higher or lower the note is for us, the more we need to concentrate. 


 Scooping is a real problem in singing. We may think it sounds good to scoop, but to really does not. (Once we learn to sing our notes perfectly, then we can learn to scoop like the professionals. ) And when more than two notes are involved, most amateur singers just slide down the notes. Each note should be sung as individual notes--no running them together. This takes practice--over and over and over. The best way to hear if you are singing on pitch is to record yourself as you exercise. And when you sing those high notes, do not forget to use your diaphragm when singing the pitches. You will never match them correctly if you don't. When you are singing a 1-3-5-3-1 exercise, watch out for the 5 note! It will be flat if you do not concentrate. Try to imagine that you are an instrument. When played, most instruments hit the note as a pure note. When I am singing (especially in a group or choir), I try to picture that I am a clarinet or an oboe when I sing--especially when we are singing a section where blending is important. Just like an orchestra blends all the instruments together for one unified sound, so should we blend our voices together in the same way.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

THE "MINI EPIDEMIC" - BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR VOICE

Just like any other part of your body, you can damage your voice. Lately, we have been hearing all the stories of how our celebrity singers are having vocal problems. I have heard it called a "mini epidemic". Adele, Keith Urban and John Mayer all come to mind recently. Our vocal chords are not made out of steel or indestructible plastic and cannot be replaced. I have been paying attention to the contestants on American Idol and The Voice lately. I am thinking of one female contestant on The Voice this past week. When I heard her growl, scream her perfect pitches and just abuse her voice as she was singing, I couldn't help but think that her career will be cut short if she keeps singing like that. It is like overdoing anything with your body. You can only exercise and work out and run so much before your body starts breaking down. Everything needs do be done in moderation. And when one does not sing properly (such as singing and straining with your throat instead of using your whole whole body), the throat problems will just come faster. That is why, when starting out, a singer needs to be taught to sing properly by opening up the throat to use the core of the body to sing instead of singing just with the throat. That is where your voice teachers and coaches can help. Just like any bad habit, this bad habit of singing needs to be re-learned and it won't happen overnight. It has to be practiced over and over. I have been singing for over 60 years without throat problems because I sing with an open throat. Just listen to some of my songs I sing on YouTube and you will hear my technique.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

If you want to improve your vocal technique, you must practice every day. For those of you who remember singing in school choir (maybe you are still in school choir), remember those vocal exercises that your music teacher would use to "wake up" your voice? You need to remember those exercises. Find a piano app on your phone or iPad and play a note on it as a starting point. The best situation would be if you have a piano or keyboard at home. But if you don't, the phone app works, too. Sing up and down the scale three to five notes at a time. Keep going higher and lower as you sing. It is hard to describe this, so just search YouTube for some vocal exercises and you will know what I am talking about. Maybe I will do a video of a couple of exercises for you so you can follow them. Yes, I will do this for you and play them on the piano. Most people can sing from one octave (which is 8 notes) to 1-1/2 octaves (12 notes). Your goal is to get to 3 octaves (24 notes). This will take awhile and lots of practice. Exercising will also help your pitch placement which is so important.   Look for my exercise video coming soon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

MAKING THE SONG YOUR OWN

When a new student sings a popular song for me, many times they try to copy the artist singing the song. Most of the time, this does not work. Some artists have a style that is unique to them. When someone else tries to sing that style, their voice does not fit the style, and the song ends up sounding unnatural. If a song has low notes that you cannot reach, you need to change the notes to higher notes found in the chord. Also, do not scoop your notes. This only ends up sounding like you are singing wrong notes. This is why people need voice teachers and vocal coaches. Your voice sounds very different to someone else than it does to you. Another problem is when someone sings along with the artist and not by themselves. The singer gets a false sense of security because they think they are sounding just like the artist. But nothing could be further from the truth. That is why shows like American Idol want the person trying out to sing accapella. They can tell right away if the singer is singing on pitch and there is nothing for the singer to hide behind, like the accompaniment. So, my point is that when you want to sing a song, only sing along with the artist until you learn the song. After it is learned, then you need to find backing tracks without the artist singing and sing in your own style and not the artist's style. You need to make the song your own.

Monday, April 9, 2012

USE YOUR IPAD----A VERY IMPORTANT TOOL!

I received a wonderful gift from my husband at Christmas. He gave me an IPad and I have been able to incorporate it into my music business. And you can use it for your music, too. Here is a list of how you can make yor iPad work for you musically. 


 1. Connect with iTunes to download backing tracks to use for your songs.   Most are less than $1.00 to download, as you know.


 2. Buy some speakers to pump up the volume on your iPad. A good set can cost as little as $25.00 at Walmart.
   
 3. Your iPad can even be plugged into a large speaker and can be used when performing.


 4. Record yourself singing your songs. You can do it on Soundcloud or use your camera in the video mode under your
 "Photography" section.


5. My best tip is going to YouTube and typing in your favorite song and add the word "karaoke" at the end of the song and search YouTube for it. There are thousands (maybe even 10s of thousands) of songs to choose from. Start practicing these songs. If you don't feel comfortable singing them alone, just search YouTube for the artist's version and sing with that until you feel comfortable singing by yourself. 


 6. Take these songs with you to your vocal lesson and sing for your teacher. 


7. When you feel comfortable with your songs, video yourself and put it on YouTube!  Use your Smartphone or Iphone with speakers
to play the music as you sing and record yourself with your iPad.


8. I have recorded every student video that is on my YouTube with this iPad. It is so portable--you just need to have a Wifi connection wherever you go. You can even record in McDonald's.


 You can do all this with your iPad. You can even start a blog on your progression. I am typing all this on my iPad at this moment! If you can think of more ways to use your iPad musically, please comment and share here. I would love to get your feedback. I only have one comment so far and would love to have more. So let me hear from you.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

LEARN TO USE YOUR DIAPHRAGM

When singing, most people who have not taken lessons sing only with their throat and their upper body. It is much like they are talking. But we know that when singing, we need more volume than just our speaking voice. That is where our diaphragm comes in. It is located below our rib cage. There is one exercise I want you to try so you can "feel" it. Just say the word "hey" several times. Don't be shy--say it loudly. Can you feel that tightness under your ribs when you say it? That is your diaphragm tightening up.
 Now, take a deep breath, and you will also feel it. We use our diaphragm for breath control and pitch control. When singing a high  note, a deep breath and tightened diaphragm will help you reach that high note easier. A vocal teacher will help you achieve this. For now, just practice saying "hey" so that you will begin to notice your diaphragm when you sing. Then, when singing, try to get the same tight feeling when you increase your volume and sing those high notes. This is one step in the process of learning to sing well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE VERY FIRST THING

Well, I see you are definitely interested in learning more about the singing voice from your views yesterday. Thank you so much for visiting my new blog and I hope I can give you some pointers to help you improve your singing voice. When I first start teaching a new student, the very first thing I do is find their vocal range. For instance, what is the lowest note you can sing? The lowest note does not have to be with the best voice quality, but it needs to be sung solidly. And then I find out the highest note that you can sing. Again, the quality does not have to be perfect, but the note has to be hit on pitch. It is good to have a piano or keyboard handy so you can find out what the lowest and highest note is. If you don't have either, did you know that you can download free apps on your phone, iPad and computer that will play the piano notes? I usually take the student up and down the scale to find these low and high notes, one note at a time. I play the notes chromatically, so I play every note and have them sing as i play. Then, I can also find out where they sing the strongest. Some people have low singing voices, some medium range, and some have high voices. Usually, a beginner can sing at least an octave (which is 8 notes)and sometimes some will sing more than two octaves (which is 16 notes). When someone takes piano lessons, they always have a lesson book to follow. That is because the piano is always the same and never changes. But have you ever noticed that there aren't too many voice lesson books out there? That is because our voices are all unique and each voice has different strengths and weaknesses. So, teaching vocal singing is is definitely a one-on-one learning situation. I don't want to write too much in each blog because I don't want to confuse anyone. However, if you have any questions about this post, please don't hesitate to ask me in a comment. I will be happy to respond.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MY YOUTUBE CONNECTION

I have been singing since I was 5 years of age, majored in music in college, 20 years of experience as a choir director and have been teaching voice for 10 years. If you would like to view my YouTube Channel, just click on some of my students' videos in the upper right hand corner of this blog. There you will find several videos of my singing and also videos of my students' singing.   I will be posting more of my students on my YouTube channel frequently. I have an IPad and it has been a wonderful tool in my music. In posts to come, I will be suggesting ways that you can use it when you sing.

MY VERY FIRST SINGING TIP

Lately, much emphasis has been placed on vocal singing.  There are many contests out there on television as well as the internet and we also have Youtube where people can post videos of their singing.  I am here to help improve those voices.  I have made a video of the easiest way to improve your singing voice.  It is as simple as opening your mouth.  Do not forget the little words like "a", "the", "and", etc.  These words are just as important as the main words.  In my video, I sing a couple lines from a popular song the wrong way (not opening my mouth very wide) and then I sing it the right way (opening my mouth).  You can immediately see a big difference.  I am not doing anything different with my voice--I use the same technique both times.  I just don't open my mouth very wide the first time.  If you have any questions about my post, please comment and I will answer your question.

video