Category Archives: musician

What a voice lesson looks like!

Ever wonder what your voice lesson might be like? Here’s a sample of my lesson notes from a 60 min free mini-lesson given this week. Have you set yours up yet?

NAME: xxxxxx
3/13 Vocal Evaluation & mini-lesson:
Vocal Evaluation determined beginning range to be: Undetermined at this time.
Possible Choral Alto/Choral Mezzo Soprano
Range at first lesson : C3 – G5

Lesson Goals:

  • Intro to vocal mechanics 
  • The vocal registers and range
  • Chest voice, head voice, whistle voice, falsetto, vocal fry
  • Breathing for singing
  • Recognizing and dealing with tension

Foundational exercises 

  1. Isolating outer muscles of the larynx to gain control and free the vocal cords 
    1. Bubble exercise – placing finders on cheeks where teeth join to produce a loose lip pucker. Sing through the low end of your range to the high end with minimal effort without tripping over the ‘breaks’ in your range. Remember to control breath support. Avoid letting all the air escape all at once.
    2. This foundational exercise should become a daily routine. The action of the lips frees up the vocal cords by releasing unwanted outer larynx muscles and setting the larynx up for correct speech-level position. Paying close attention to all the sensations in the vocal apparatus will help you isolate the healthy vocal function needed for beautiful, free singing.
    3. What to remember – learn to recognize vocal cord adjustments by how they feel. 
  2. Working towards Pure Tone
    1. Vocal fry – vocal cord vibration with no tone.
    2. Positions the vocal cords for optimum connection thereby producing a pure clear tone with minimal effort. Also foundational. While most exercises such as the Bubble, are only part of a vocal workout or warm up routine the vocal fry will remain part of how you sing.
    3. What to remember – expect progress over time with good practice habits.
  3. Good breathing for singing
    1. Diaphragmatic breathing – using the diaphragm to draw air into the lungs rather than ‘filling up the lungs’ from the top down.
    2. Making this part of a daily practice routine will build the support you need to move you toward controlled phrasing and support steady well placed tone while maintaining pitch control.
    3. What to Remember – Breathing for singing is different than breathing for speech. 
  4. Tension busters
    1. Relaxing in the jaw and mouth. (see blog for exercises to release jaw and tongue tension)
    2. Open relaxed jaw and mouth for better volume/diction

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Filed under Lead Worship, Music Education, musician, Singing, Speech Level Singing, Vocal Lessons, Vocal Tips

Practice Makes Perfect?

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It occurred to me the other day that it is very common for some vocal students to skip the necessary daily practice routine prescribed. Frankly, this is a difficult thing for me to accept since my days are filled with vocalizing to practice. After all,… If a student wants to make any serious progress they will need to get serious about their craft.

Communicating the need to practice is certainly not lacking as the dutiful teacher regularly reminds said students, by email and during lesson times, how and how much to practice. Still the reminders go unheeded, for the most part, and the result has been evidenced by a lack of noticeable progress in the student.

All that said, I ask myself, “Why?”

Why don’t most voice students practice?

Perhaps there is something in the communication on the teacher’s part that has not given the student enough reason to make the commitment. On the other hand man is lazy by nature, and prefers to indulge the flesh, and practicing is not always the most enjoyable thing to do .. unless of course the student is making significant progress and is experiencing some victories over bad vocal habits. That’s when practice becomes less work and more, as the singer experiences breakthroughs toward pure vocal freedom and the mastery of their instrument, fun.

The voice is not completely subject to the law that practice makes perfect. The interesting thing is the vocal student will find that, given the necessary talents, the student of the guitar may count with certainty on acquiring the mastery of this instrument. But for the vocal student this is not necessarily true.

Now, let me just say that there are many cases in which practice in singing does not bring about technical perfection. Just singing through technical exercises is not enough; it is crucial that the exercises be sung with specific correct vocal technique and through a series of specific voice productions that build upon one another with the intent to strengthen and clarify the voice.

So, if the student was to make the effort and practice, there is a specific way to handle the voice in the process. If the voice is exercised in this way, it will improve steadily as the result of practice. Progress will continue until perfect technical control of the voice is acquired. But if the student fails to hit upon this particular way of handling the voice in practice the voice will improve little, or not at all. In such a case perfect vocal technique will never be acquired, no matter how many years the practice may continue. Hence the need for an instructor. But the one without the other will, inevitably, lead to no progress at all.

Finally, let me come full circle and say this, . . . A singer sings, when practicing like the guitarist who picks up the instrument to play, through a series of exercises emphasizing good technique with the goal of accomplishing freedom and perfect mastery of his instrument.

So let me ask you this,…

Have you practiced today?

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Filed under integrity, musician, Singing, Speech Level Singing, Vocal Lessons, Vocal Tips

“Serious” Listening Skills Needed

What I'm Listening To Now....

What I’m Listening To Now….

Lots of blogs talk about what the blogger is listening too “right now.”  I went through a phase a few years ago where I only listen to Shane and Shane, particularly their “Upstairs” CD which had me totally captured.  Since then it’s been kinda nominal as far as obsessively listening to certain music or musicians.

That’s actually a bit out of my character since I have been known to obsess about things in spurts.  I might be stuck in a “thing” for a while and then get bored and look for the next obsession to brood over.

Then a while back I watched a movie.  Nothing unusual about that since I watch lots of movies. It’s a great film and I would recomend it do anybody who enjoys history, pirates, and the commraderie of men.  The film was Master and Commander and the film score features Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach.

Now I’ve had Yo-Yo’s cello playing Bach Suites in my CD Player before the movie came out but something about the two of them together triggered a note in me and I’ve craved the music obsessively ever since; especially the prelude in G major.

I listened this morning again and found myself in such awe and amazement at the simplicity and complexity of the piece.  Bach was truly inspired.  There’s this dual sided kind of expression in the piece, with large intervals that speak to me of the contrast between what I want and what God wants for me.  A kind of struggle of the heart that I identify with.  Like Paul in Romans, willing but weak to perform good and deny the flesh.   And so, I am brought to tears as I listen and the more I listen the more I hear in the piece.  It’s only 2:22 minutes long and leaves me wanting more each time.  So, I put it on repeat in my iTunes and hide in the piece as the Lord speaks to me in every note ultimately, like the music, finding joy in the end.

Thank YOU LORD for the talent and gifts you bestowed on Johann Sebastian Bach.  I’m so glad that he acknowledged his life and music were a gift from you.

SDG – Soli Deo Gloria
J S Bach appended these initials at the end of each of his Cantatas scores.
  Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone,
they signified his deep devotion and desire to serve God through his music. (ref)

SDG

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Filed under Check it Out!, Creative Worship, Devotion, Latest Music Binge, musician

Sight Reading Music

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Some of us worship musicians are timid about reading music.  It’s a bit daunting if we aren’t used to it but Monica on InTune at the MusicNotes blog gives some great pointers to help us learn to sight read better.  Her article suggests tips for piano, keyboard players and vocalist, but the techniques work great for guitar players too.  

Remember, sight reading is just another part of being a musician.  Tackle it with confidence and watch your skills improve.

 

Get Christian Sheet Music at MusicNotes.com

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Bob Bennett~ new songs in the future

Bob Bennett

Recently I received an email from Bob Bennett.  Bob’s been a fixture in the worship and christian music circle since I can remember.  His ability to put words down and give you “pictures” in your mind is uncanny.  With songs like Come and See,  Still Rolls the Stone and Mountain Cathedrals.  

So, like I said, I received an email from Bob.  He wrote these words,

“the first few sprinkles of creative rain have fallen in my life … perhaps the long song drought is over and I can begin walking out of this desert.  I’m cautiously optimistic about that.”

I’ve been looking forward to hearing what he’s been up to and was glad to find that he’d posted a demo of a new song he’s been working on.  He reminded me that it was only a demo, “not a final ‘anything’ about except, maybe, the structure of the song itself (music and lyrics).” 

Bob’s granted permission to post a link to the demo but he’ll be taking it down after the 15th of January so be sure to listen before it’s gone.  

I decided to include this video of Bob from a few years back…..  Enjoy!

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Singing Question of the Week: Can I improve my tone quality?

There are a lot of worship leaders that really care about their vocal instrument. (If you haven’t already had a chance, read an e-conversation on how I overcame vocal damage and can sing better, longer and higher today than I did when I was “in my prime.”)    How we use our voice can mean the difference between a long lived vocal ministry or a short one.  Here’s a tidbit from Brett Manning on tone quality.

 

Q.  Can I really improve my tone quality?

A.  “Tone quality improves when the correct musculature is engaged in the singing process. Feel underneath your chin with your forefinger and slide it inwards to the point where your neck meets the muscles under your chin.  Now swallow.  Notice how your larynx (Adam’s apple) raises up and the muscles under your chin tighten up as you swallow?  These muscles that are engaged in the swallowing process are opposed to those engaged in the singing process.  The use of these muscles while singing creates a myriad of problems that can take years to correct if left unchecked.  For good tone quality, you must learn to sing without the outer muscles of the larynx.  Doing so will set free your natural voice, drastically improving tone quality and ease of use.  Naturally, the Singing Success program contains techniques that will help you do this.”

 

 

If your voice is tired after a worship set and you feel like this is a question you might ask, or you are interested in improving your vocal tone and want to get some great vocal instruction, read more about Singing Success and Brett Manning.

Thanks Brett, for all you do to give us the tools to find our own Singing Success!

 

Permission to print by Brett Manning and SingingSuccess.com

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Filed under Music Education, musician, Speech Level Singing, Vocal Tips

Guest Worship Artist….

This past Sunday my husband and I were graced with the generosity of some annonymous friends and sent to a marriage retreat in La Quinta, CA.  The weather was sooo hot, 115℉, but so beautiful!  If you’ve never see the beauty of the California desert you’re missing a wonder of God’s creative touch.

As you may have guessed, since my husband is the pastor and I’m the worship leader in our little fellowship, we had to get last minute replacements.  The Lord was faithful and brought two anointed servants.  Pastor Dan Finfrock delivered the message and Bob Bennett led in worship and shared some of his original music.

Our hearts were blessed to have some precious time away and to have some great friends whom God used to cover for us while we were away.

 

Thanks Dan and Bob for your hearts to serve the Living King and His people!

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