Tag Archives: Courses and Lessons

Words

Learning notes has always been easy for me. I have the proverbial ‘ear for music’. I can follow and pick up a melody, even predict a harmony to a certain extent, with little to no trouble. Uniting music and words together in memorization is what challenges me!

A singer's best tools: score, pencil, cue cards, and memory.

A singer’s best tools: score, pencil, cue cards.

Separating text from music gives us a deeper insight into the structure of a piece or song. In most cases, the words existed first in the form of poetry or a libretto (the words of an opera). In an oratorio, the story is usually taken from a religious (Christian) context.

When you have experienced German art song (Lieder) spoken as poetry, the true beauty of the language shines through. Poets like Heinrich Heine, Eduard Mörike and Wolfgang Goethe were masters of the written word and inspired multiple composers’ Lieder. I have participated in several programs in Austria where poetry written in German was studied, translated, recited, sung, and performed. It gave me a wonderful insight into the beauty of the words and the environment in which they were written.

The next time you are listening to a favorite song –  no matter what the genre, find the words and read them out loud to yourself. See if it changes your experience of the song.

What was the writer trying to say? Does it change when removed from the music?

If you feel inclined to compose, try to set the words to a new melody.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Did you experience words and music any differently after reading this?

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Consistency

What does consistency mean for you? Do you think of food? Do you think of behaviour? How about chemistry? Music? Art?

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Art work for sale at Intrigue Winery in the BC Okanagan. Sadly, in the original photo I took, the glare made the artist’s name impossible to read.

Consistency is one of my Three Words for 2014. I think for me it has been the hardest one to keep present in my mind and in my day-to-day actions. Routine is different from consistency. Routine is your daily schedule that you perform as you move throughout your day. Consistency in that routine is what moves you forward. Incidentally, it also creates good habits!

In Three Words for 2014, I wrote:

“The only constant in life is change, therefore consistency in my actions will bring about the changes that will happen!”

 I have started getting up earlier. This consistent action has allowed me to add a few things to my morning routine on a more consistent basis. This includes a short morning meditation, writing this blog, and having time to enjoy my breakfast (most mornings!) before I head to work.

Getting up earlier also means I have to go to bed earlier! So, I have tried to be more consistent in the time I end my evenings. I finish up around 9:30 pm and start to get ready for bed. It’s made my earlier mornings much easier and I feel better overall!

It’s easy to set a routine or a daily schedule, but harder to stick to it. So by being more consistent, (even on weekends), I find I’m not as frequently overwhelmed by everything I try to accomplish in the day. That doesn’t mean I still don’t try to do too much!

Better consistency in my singing practice has also resulted in a more consistent sound and ease in singing. It has been hard to make that part of my routine because although I love singing, I often experience Resistance, that thing we all wrestle with when we have something that needs our attention!

By fighting Resistance with consistency in my actions, I lessen the possibility of procrastinating on the things I’d like to achieve.

Singing every day, in some way, shape, or form is a consistent action that makes me very happy. What makes you happy? What consistent actions do you do that help you move forward? Leave me a comment below or contact me on any social media – I’d love to hear from you!

Review: Three Words for 2014

In January I wrote about my Three Words for 2014. It has been very enlightening reviewing that post and thinking about the past thee months.

Today I’ll review my three words very generally, then over the next three weeks, I’ll take a closer look at each of the words on their own.

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My Three Words for 2014 Word Cloud

My three words were Intention, Choice, and Consistency. Each of those words are informing my life in very different ways so far this year.

Intentions are related to habits. If you are intent on beginning a new habit, then it will form more quickly and more easily than if you don’t have that intention. I am still working on building my intentions for my personal singing practice habits. Sometimes life (or death) just happens and your intentions are skewered for a while.

Choice – we always have a choice of what action (or inaction) we will take. In my case, every weekday when I get home from my morning job, I choose to eat a square or two of chocolate and read for pleasure for about 15 minutes. I choose to get up 20 minutes earlier than last year so I can spend time writing and starting my day.

Consistency is something that can be harder to maintain. I’d like to say I’m consistent in my writing habits, but the truth is, I write (on average) three mornings a week. I want to be more consistent with my personal singing practice, but I need to adjust my choices to make that happen.

I want to draw your attention to a phrase from my original post Three Words for 2014 that has grabbed readers’ attention.

‘The only constant in life is change, therefore consistency in my actions will bring about the changes that will happen!’

In reviewing this phrase, I am struck by how true it is.

But I also want to share that I have learned the following in the past three months:

My choices lead to consistency in my intentions. 

My consistent intention will inform good choices. 

My intention will direct consistent choices. 

It’s this wonderful trifecta of related words that is swirling around my being and guiding me through the year.

Did you set up three words for 2014? It’s not too late! Reflect on the past three months and see if any specific words make themselves known to you. Share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

Motivation

How much do you love to sing? Is it all shiny and new and you sing every day? Do you love choir practice, but find it hard to find the time to practice on your own? How motivated do you feel to practice the things you need to do, in the best possible way?

Yes, it can be terrifyingly uncomfortable learning to practice on your own. The quote ‘Sing like no one is listening’ can be pretty hard to do when you’re first starting to sing.

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Maybe you find some other important things to do instead of opening your score and practicing singing. I know I fall into this category. I have an ever-evolving to-do-list that provides endless distraction when I would be better served by practicing.

There are several keys to motivating yourself to practice regularly. Writer Stephen Pressfield wrote about ‘Resistance’ in a great book called The War of Art. Pick it up, borrow it, read it.

If you don’t have that book at hand, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to help you find the motivation to practice!

Tip 1: Manage your time

Put your practice time in your day planner. That time is sacred time. Even if you just open your music and look at it – that is practice time. You don’t have to be singing the whole time!

Tip 2: Prioritize

This is related to Step 1 above. If you are just starting out on a singing adventure, set aside 20 minutes a day to start – make that time a priority. Done.

Tip 3: Minimize distraction

This is a tough one. Distractions come in many forms, from family members, email, phone(s) ringing, television, the internet! Turn off the computer, turn off your phone, and sit at your keyboard, piano, whatever, and focus for 20 minutes. Set a timer if you have to. I do.

Tip 4: Be inspired!

This falls into the realm outside of practice time, but might be something you do to prepare to practice. Find some videos or recordings of what you’re working on and observe and enjoy them. You can do this anytime and anywhere. I recommend you use headphones to minimize distractions!

Tip 5: Be flexible

Life happens. Sometimes your practice time will be eaten into by other activities. But don’t NOT practice because you didn’t get to it ‘at your time’. Some of the most productive practice I have had has been in the 15 minutes before I have to do something else. Review your music on the bus, hearing the sound of your line in your head. Review it while listening to the recording, without singing. If you record your lessons (which I highly recommend), listen back to them several times before your next lesson. I prefer to do this while walking places.

Tip 6: Have fun!

Remind yourself how much fun you have when you do sing. Go to that fun place and let that motivate you to look at your music with fresh ears, eyes, and enthusiasm.

Do you have any tips for motivation? I would love to hear from you! Hit Reply under the title in this blog and leave me a comment. As always, feel free to share your own experiences. Thanks for reading and see you next week!

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Gratitude

Having been sick for nearly 10 days and barely able to sing for 5 of those, I decided to write about gratitude.

I am grateful that I can phonate again, even if I don’t have my usual energy to sing for as long as I’d like.

I am grateful to be in a place where I can sing and teach singing – sharing something I love and nurturing that same spark in others.

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I am grateful for the joyful reaction of my students when they find new pathways and resonance in their singing.

I am grateful that so much music is available to share between people, in so many different forms.

I am grateful so many musical outlets exist for all types of people.Music in any form is a joy to be shared with yourself, and with others.

I am grateful for music for the fun of it. I am grateful for performing music.

I am grateful to have all of my senses with which to enjoy music.

I am grateful for the variety of music.

I live in a small city where there is an embarrassment of performing arts riches – straight theatre, musical theatre, operetta, improv groups, opera, a Conservatory of Music and a flourishing university music department. There is a well-respected jazz bar, several smaller music schools, and venues for rock and roll bands getting their start. There is a big Fringe festival here in the summer, and a unique solo performing arts festival called UNO. There is a fairly new, medium sized arena where a number of big-time musical acts come to perform. There is a very active Early Music Society. There are choirs to suit every need, performing everything from a capella memorized repertoire, to numerous well attended church choirs, to advanced choirs performing with the Victoria Symphony. For all of this I am thankful.

Have you ever just stepped back and looked at your singing life from a distance? Maybe you’re contemplating singing but haven’t yet taken the plunge into lessons, a choir, or another outlet. The sooner you start, the more grateful you will feel for having taken that step.

And finally, I am grateful to you, dear reader, for reading and sharing these words.

I hope they inspire you to make a record in some way of the things for which you are grateful. Each evening before I sleep, I write down three gratitudes. It’s a nice way reflect on my day and no matter how difficult my day was, I always find three things for which to be grateful.

I would love to hear from you and what you are grateful for. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Permission

Give yourself permission to try. Give yourself permission to fail. Give yourself permission to succeed. Give yourself permission to explore. Give yourself permission to have an adventure!

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The cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Charles Robinson.

Ultimately you are the only one responsible for yourself and your own actions.

Try. Fail. Do. Listen. Do again. Succeed. Do again to reinforce what works best for you.

In the wise words of Yoda, “There is no ‘try’, there is only ‘do’.”

Have a conversation with yourself about what you are aiming for. Singing (training) opens your soul to yourself. If you don’t give yourself permission to explore your soul, you are missing out on knowing yourself better.

Give yourself permission to explore new things. Don’t get caught up in worrying about things you can’t control. When you are singing, think about singing; not the bills you have to pay tomorrow, or the coffee you had with a friend this morning. Take control of yourself and your reactions.

Give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. If you feel like crying one day when you breathe deeply for singing, let it happen.

(I spent an entire academic year falling into tears in my lessons and classes on a regular basis because I was exploring new areas of expression, breath, and voice that I found intimidating. In the end, giving myself permission to go there helped me to become a better singer and a better performer.)

Speak out loud. “I give myself permission to enjoy singing for the sake of singing”.

Seek out a teacher. Explore your voice. Give yourself permission to try something new, scary, fun, and soul-opening. Just sing.

Thanks for reading. Share with your friends and follow if you haven’t already done so!

Singing? I can’t sing!

I am a singer. What does that mean exactly? I love singing and could sing a tune back before I could speak coherent words. I didn’t start formal singing training until my early 20’s, which is quite late if you’d like to have a career as a performer (as I did and still do).

Singing lessons are an exercise in patience, perseverance, but also letting go and having fun. When I tell people that I’m a singer, the most common thing I hear is “Oh, I can’t hold a tune” or “I can’t sing at ALL”. Now that I teach singing, I find that is not true. I have had students who couldn’t match a single pitch when they started, but several weeks later are singing a 5-note pattern accurately. A very small percentage of the population is clinically ‘tone deaf’  http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/tone-deaf-test

I want to tell you something profound right now:

Practically anyone can learn how to sing. YOU can learn how to sing (and enjoy it), and not just in the shower!

If you are sitting on the fence about taking lessons, or you were told as a child ‘please don’t sing with the choir”, “Stick to (insert instrument here)” or some variation of that, then ignore that little voice inside and go and take some lessons.

Singing for fun is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things you can do for your self. Even if you already play an instrument and would like to learn how to sing along with yourself, just go and do it.

Here is your challenge: Find a teacher and register for at least one trial lesson. I will be writing a future blog post about how to find the right teacher, but just take one lesson and see if you enjoy it. If you like that one lesson, register for at least 6 more. Expect to be asked to practice a little bit each day. As with anything in life, 15 minutes a day when you’re first starting out is progress. (I gave myself 15 minutes to write the first draft of this blog post).

Remember: Sing, breathe, and have fun!