Wednesday, December 11, 2013

'Tis The Season To Be Singing!

Today's singing tip - 'Tis the season to be jolly and also 'tis the season to get sick. Many singers, including myself, have gotten a cold or sinus infection during this season and it has made singing very difficult, if not impossible in this time of "much singing." I have found a few helpful tips to try to avoid getting sick.

1. First, wash hands at every opportunity.
2. Avoid touching face during the day.
3. Use hand sanitizer frequently and if you 
     Have a sore throat, gargle with salt
     Water and keep lozenges handy.
4. Take elevated doses of vitamin C and
     don't sit next to anyone who is coughing,
     Sneezing or blowing their nose.
5. Drink plenty of water all day long.
6. Hot drinks, such as tea with honey and lemon.
7. If you do get sick, go to the doctor and get on a Z Pack and it will help
    You sing through the symptoms.
     Sometimes we need something  like this to get us through,
     Especially if we have a solo or special performance.

If you have any other suggestions, please post them.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Well, I have something disturbing to report in the music industry. CeeLo Green performed at our Riverbend Festival on Saturday evening and News Channel 3 reported this morning and they said "It is safe to say that he will never be invited back to Riverbend again." This is a family festival and people have told me  he was 45 minutes late, that he used foul language throughout his performance, no one could understand what he was singing, he was drunk and he mooned the crowd at the end of the performance. Now I ask you, should this person have the honor of being a judge on one of our most popular shows on television -- THE VOICE?? Is this a person we should respect and emulate?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


The following is an article explaining exactly how I feel about what American Idol and the other singing contests have done to change music of today. As a singer, I can identify with Harry Connick, Jr.   I am 66 years old and  someone who sings the standards all the time.  Singing has gotten so  complicated with all the runs and riffs added, and there is no longer a simple melody sung.  The words and feelings are lost among all the added notes.  Let me know what you think about the following article.

 Those of us who grew up in the 1950s and '60s got to constantly hear — on radio, TV and vinyl — the Great American Songbook sung by the likes of Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Sarah Vaughan. ... The list goes on. These were singers who belonged to our parents more than to us. Still, they set a high bar for crooners, even if we didn’t fully appreciate it when we were kids. Besides having intonation, perfect pitch and beautiful voices, these artists respected a song, its melody and lyrics.

They made singing sound easy, which it isn’t.

My favorite singer as of this week is Harry Connick Jr., but not for his vocal talent. As a guest mentor on Wednesday's American Idol, he did something I’d never seen done on that show — and it was long overdue. He made it clear why, despite the impressive vocal abilities of the four finalists — Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb and Kree Harrison — they probably will never be truly great singers in the mode of those who came before, like Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Vic Damone and Billy Eckstine. Again, the list goes on.

Idol's theme on Wednesday was “Then and Now.” Each contestant was asked in the first hour of the show to perform a current hit song. They chose newly released tunes by Pink, Bruno Mars, Rihanna and Carrie Underwood, who won American Idol in 2005. In the second half, they were asked to sing a classic from the Great American Songbook.

During the mentoring sessions, Connick would listen to the singers perform the songs they had chosen and advise them how to do it better. He was a kindly coach throughout the "Now" portion of the show, teasing, praising and hugging the contestants. But when it came to the “Then” segment, the joking stopped. His demeanor changed.

Songs of the past are an essential part of Connick's repertoire. He loves, respects and understands their exquisite craftsmanship. He knows how to make them sound “now” without losing what they were "then."

As Amber started to sing Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” Connick stopped her. He asked her what the song is about. "What does it mean, 'Your looks are laughable?'" he asked her, or "'Is your figure less than Greek?'" Amber looked blank — she had no idea. She struggled for words. He told her to go do some research on the lyricist, Lorenz Hart, a physically diminutive, closeted homosexual who died of alcoholism at age 48. Before singing the song, Connick sternly told Amber, you need to understand what Hart was writing.

Kree also got stopped shortly after she launched into Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather.” She was singing in a loose, bluesy manner, like she said she'd heard Etta James do the song. But for Kree to do those fancy runs, Connick said, were diluting the meaning of the lyrics. The woman in this song, he explained, is sad and depressed; she's lost her man. “You don’t sound depressed,” Connick observed. He wanted Kree to do it more like Lena Horne, who introduced the song in 1940. No frills needed.

Not one of the contestants took Connick's "Then" advice when they got on stage. Substance was thrown out the window for pyrotechnic vocal tricks. Angie sang Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” an ode to vulnerability, in full-power voice. She hardly came off as “a little lamb who’s lost in the wood,” as the lyric says. More like a John Deere tree cutter. 

The judges loved Candice’s version of Billie Holiday’s “You’ve Changed,” giving her a standing O. Not Connick, whose tip to "Keep it simple" went completely over her head. “One of the worst things that can happen in a relationship is when the other person starts to drift away from you,” Connick told Candice. She needed to express that feeling. Her blaring version had no poignancy. 

Connick squirmed in his front-row seat during the “Then” performances. I haven’t seen such facial contortions since Linda Blair got anointed with holy water in The Exorcist.

His breaking point came when Randy Jackson implied that Connick's advice had hindered Kree’s vacuous rendition of "Stormy Weather," which none of the judges liked. He thought she should have sung it more like Etta James, as she had wanted to do. As it turned out, her rendition was neither Etta nor Lena, nor even Kree. It lacked any personality or feeling. You could see Connick about to pop his cork. That's when Keith Urban went into the audience, took Connick by the hand and brought him to the judge’s table. Taking a seat, Connick proceeded to school a very defensive Jackson in the art of singing standards. The point Connick tried to make, which Jackson didn't want to hear, was that the show’s contestants didn't know these classic songs well enough to take liberties with their melodies and lyrics. In doing so, they were murdering the music.

To me this made an even bigger point. Since its debut in 2002, Idol has always put value on over-the-top vocal performances. Subtlety and intimacy gets you the boot. If minimalists like Peggy Lee or Billie Holiday were to compete on Idol today the judges would eat them alive. 

I was friends with Hal Schaefer, a famous vocal coach who died last October. He’s credited with teaching Marilyn Monroe to sing. I once asked him what he thought of Barbra Streisand. “When she was a teenager she came to my apartment on Riverside Drive to see if I would give her vocal lessons,” said Schaefer, who was then living in New York. “I was blown away not just by her voice, but her knowledge. She knew who every composer and lyricist was. She knew the entire American songbook. I told her after she sang for me that I would not work with her. She didn’t need me. But I told her she had to promise me never to take vocal lessons from anyone, because what she did was completely right. Once in a while that kind of talent comes along.”

On a recent NPR interview Streisand talked about how, when interpreting a song, she never violates its melody or lyrics, even when putting her own distinct spin on it. That’s why she's so great. And that's why Connick got so frustrated with the Idol contestants.

He listened to them, but they wouldn't listen to him.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Today's tip: if you are working on a song and you have to go from your chest voice into your head voice ( over your break), try to sing the song the same way each time and "train" your vocal chords to deal with the break transition in the same way each time. Don't sing it one way one time, and then change to your head voice on another note the next time. The transition will become easier to deal with the more you practice it the same way. Hope this makes sense. Any questions, just ask.
(Don't forget to exercise every day. :) )


When a student quits piano or voice for starting a sport, it makes me sad. I know athletics are important, but you can only play softball, etc. for so long. My dad is 89 years old and do you think he plays any sports? No, but he is still singing every day and still loving it! He has joined a wonderful community chorus where he lives and has a 3 hour practice every Monday night. They also perform several times a year. I also have a friend who comes to the assisted living home where I work once a month and plays the piano for the residents. She is in her 80's. Both she and the residents enjoy her concerts. And I am no "spring chicken." I am still teaching voice and piano in my retirement and will continue to as long as my fingers and vocal chords still work. :). So, you can see how performing and loving music can bring you joy all your life. What a wonderful gift God has given us. So, next time you hear a young person talk about giving up playing their instrument or singing, please show them the "big picture." Maybe they will reconsider their choices in life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Recently, I have been working with some of my vocal students who have higher voices (i.e., sopranos) and I have found that they really don't know the difference in the FEELING of singing in their head voice vs. singing in their chest voice. Most higher voices starting singing in their head voice on the notes D and E above Middle C. An alto will go into her head voice around notes A or B. (And there is a "Middle Voice" --combining the head and chest voice--that can also be developed, but that is a whole other subject.) I actually go into my head voice on note B above Middle C. Unfortunately for sopranos, it is not popular these days to sing in their head voice. All the female pop and country singers sing mainly in their chest voices, so sopranos must figure out how to sing in their chest voices. I have several exercises I use when I work with my students, and it definitely doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice. And from lesson to lesson, my soprano students slip very easily right back into their head voices. If you have any questions about this, just let me know. Or, if you would like to be able to sing in your chest voice and easily go back and forth at will, you could take some lessons :)

Sunday, February 17, 2013


For those of you who like to sing along with the radio or your cd's, don't think that you are becoming a better singer if you are singing along with the artist. It is so sad to see these contestants try out in reality shows and think they have a great voice. Just because your friends and family say that you are a great singer doesn't mean it is so. The true test is to bring your favorite song up on YouTube and sing it with just the background music or "karaoke." Then have someone listen to you who is not partial and ask them to give you their unbiased opinion. Or, you can come to Music Instruction Studio and take your first lesson (which is "free", by the way) and I will tell you. You can then decide whether you would like to take more lessons to improve. I very rarely let my students sing with the singer--I ask them to sing it solo. That is the true test.


For my friends locally, I am posting a series of tips on our "head voice" and "chest voice." I have posted this in the past, but don't think many of you have seen it. Lately in choir practice, our director has been making a point about the sopranos using their lower voices, or chest voices, so they could have more "power and fullness" in their voices instead of a thin soft sound.

The easiest way I can explain how to sing with our chest voice (especially for sopranos) to 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 vocal chords and muscles. So stay tuned for more. . .

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I watched most of Idol last night and was pretty disappointed with what I heard group-wise. Yes, some of the voices were outstanding, but the harmonies weren't there for the most part. These days, I just wonder how this younger generation is learning music theory. Most of the schools no longer teach it. Actually, the only place we can learn to read music is either in the church choir or by taking voice and piano lessons. (I remember singing in church when i was young and trying to learn the alto part out of the hymnbook. When I mastered the alto part, i went on to the tenor part and learned to sing tenor. And if I could reach the bass part with my voice, I would even try that.:) ) And, yes, we also have the performing arts schools that are keeping it alive. I have an adult vocal student who is learning to read music. She sings in her church choir, but she wants that one-on-one help from an instructor. I love the sound of three-part and four-part harmony, but I often wonder how our young singers are going to learn it. I feel it is my job to teach this fast disappearing musical training as often as possible.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I am so excited about the happenings at Music Instruction Studio! We are expanding into the next space which is even larger than the space we are in now. This will allow me to do many new things with my voice students.

- I will have a larger studio.
- We will have a large room where we can have General 
Music Classes.
- We will have a mic and speakers set up in the large 
room so I can work with my students on stage 
presence,how to use a mic in singing, and 
Incorporating choreography into the music. 
- Also, the possibility of developing show choirs and 
even a Seniors choir.
- Working with formed groups of girl and boy bands.
- And, the possibility of students doing a professional
Recording demo and/or video. 

Just so many new possibilities! We will be moving in by next week. Jon is on a fast track of getting this space finished.

Monday, January 21, 2013


As I teach voice, I hear more and more that people are going to these reality show music auditions to try out for their show. Usually, they are going before they have any vocal instruction whatsoever. I guarantee that unless you have that one-in-a-million voice, you will need some kind of vocal instruction before you decide to try out. And you need more than a couple of weeks of instruction. Just like you cannot pick up a clarinet and start playing without instruction, so it is with the voice. There are so many techniques to learn and most of them do not come naturally. For instance, your diaphragm needs to be used when you sing. How would a novice know how to use their diaphragm in singing without some kind of instruction? And that is just one part of learning to sing well. And, if you like to produce a lot of volume when you sing, you could very easily harm your voice if you only sing with your throat and not your whole body core. You don't have another voice to replace the one you have if it breaks. So, if you are thinking of going to these auditions, plan ahead and find some good instruction before you try it. Currently, I have about six voice students who are working towards this goal. I would love to add you to my list and I know you would enjoy it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Here we are into the new year and our lives are returning to our normal schedules. Maybe you have made a New Year's resolution or two. If you are a singer and especially if you are taking voice lessons, one new resolution you should make is to practice, practice, practice more! When I give my students lessons, I can definitely tell who practices and who doesn't. It will not be enough just to come to your voice lesson and sing. I can tell you that your vocal journey will be much slower if you don't practice every day. Try to devote at least 30 minutes to one hour each day to practicing--about 15 minutes for vocal exercises and the rest of the time practicing your song or songs. I usually give my students about three songs to work on and these are at different stages of development. With today's technology, it makes it easy to practice. Whether in your car or at home, iTunes karaoke songs make it very easy to work on your songs. You can bring these songs up on your cell phone in the car or your ipad or computer at home. And I give each student a practice cd that they can play in the car as well as at home. So there is really no excuse not to get your practice sessions in daily. So, start practicing and you will see a definite improvement right away!