Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Singing Lessons Improve Academic Skills

Studies show that students who study voice or a musical instrument, perform better academically.  In musical study, we learn problem solving, perseverance, and are continually using multiple intelligences at the same time.   Artistic creations cause us to try to figure out how to sing or play that phrase with good support or more musically, answer questions such as  ' How would the character in the musical Guys and Dolls react in the situation?'  or 'How can I help the orchestra perform this piece successfully- what is my role and how can I play my part accurate?' Students are consistently being challenged to solve problems such as these.  This helps to develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career (All Catholic Orchestra Program). www.teacherweb.com/PA?AOP/HSArts

In solving problems in music, one learns perseverance and also develops musical intelligence, a separate trait in the 'theory of multiple intelligences' (both to be expanded up in future blogs).  Music study increases the academic (and musical) functions of the brain!

A few specific examples:

Many of the concepts of music and making music are based on math:  time signature, beat, and rhythm are just a few examples.  By learning how to organize the beat into measures and the rhythm within beats, we are teaching valuable mathematical skills.

Most of the instructions given in music are in Italian.  Piano (soft), mezzo-forte (medium loud), Allegro  (quickly).  Understanding their meaning increases our language awareness.  We start to look at the roots of words to find their meaning.  Since our language is devised from Latin as it Italian, students learn roots of words and prefixes which help their vocabulary and may even help in their success in language study.

In voice lessons we also analyze the words of the song thus working literary skills.  What is the poet really saying with these lyrics from the 16th century?  Put it in your own words.  How does the character feel at this part of the song when you say 'I love you although I can no longer be with you'.  How do you translate this line to English from Italian?  Singing lessons go one step further to not only interpret the written word just like you would in English class, but addresses other languages, and how do we communicate those words while we sing?

In voice lessons, we also learn to organize time and dedication to a craft.  Organizing time to practice and attention to detail in what and how we practice carries over into academic organization and improved study habits. 

We study music for the music itself and the joy it brings us, but the academic benefits of musical study are astounding.  Why not encourage lifelong study?  Read more later in the month on how music study helps impact concentration!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Why Should You (or Your Child) Take Voice Lessons in an Independent Voice Studio?

Why should you take voice lessons in an Independent Voice Studio?  What does it do for you? Can’t everyone sing? 

Almost anyone who can speak can learn to sing, but most people don’t use their voices to their full potential. Voice lessons teach singers how to control their breath and find vocal resonance to create a fuller, healthier, and more beautiful sound. Lessons also teach general musical skills and build more confident singers.  
The average singing student needs weekly guidance to establish a solid technique.  Through solid technique you can find the capabilities of your singing voice, not merely imitating those that you hear on recordings.

What we hear while we’re singing just isn’t true, so we are always dependent on someone we trust to take the role of our ‘outside ears’. Renee Fleming 
We don't always hear ourselves as others hear us.  Think about when you hear yourself speaking on your voicemail greeting.  It sounds different, right?  The same is true with our singing voice.  

In an independent voice studio, the student gets guidance on their own individual voice, not the overall sound of the choir. This individualized attention helps develop the voice in a unique and powerful way.  Together teacher and singer explore a variety of styles of music based on what the teacher hears in the potential of the voice, students' interests and how the voice starts developing.  You gain confidence in your own sound.  Also, there is so much music out there than many of us have never heard!  There are also many styles of music which we particularly like which may or may not be suited to our voice type and range.  Exploring your voice from a solo standpoint can help you find your potential and uncover beautiful things!

What about the fun of the choral experience, singing with others?

Add to your choral singing with voice lessons and keep having fun in choir!  Other opportunities arise too which give you more confidence and enhanced singing skills.  In an independent voice studio, the singer not only gets access to a voice teacher and vocal coach, but to the camaraderie of belonging to a group of people who enjoy singing.  Most voice studios provide opportunities to perform musical repertoire one or two times a year.  Some also give the opportunity to work on the repertoire in front of and with others in the studio (please see more information on my studio at www.susanandersbrizick.com).  With more opportunities to share music with others, a student has a higher drive to perfect the craft of singing, builds a higher confidence level in their singing and themselves, and the better music we create!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Yoga and Balance and Why It Works for the Singing Voice

All of that talk about Planks and Pilates got me thinking that we need to visit some Yoga as well!  Our abs engage with the action of planks and we start to align our body better to the action of singing when we work our core and body in general through Pilates.  Yoga helps our singing for many similar reasons.  It calms your breath, nerves and minds, opens up the body to breathe better, elongates your spine for better posture and therefore breath support, it centers our soul.  Yoga creates balance- the words are essentially synonyms for those who do yoga.  But how can yoga and other balance related activities help your singing? There are a myriad of benefits to the singer.  Lets look at the science as to why!

In Make Your Unstable Life Work for You, Claudia Friedlander describes the science of how the balance of yoga can really help your singing!  I was fascinated with how she described what I use often in my studio.  I highly recommend what she has to say!  Let me try to explain it with a few references to her words (in italics):

Stand up and find your balance on one foot, bringing your other foot up to your calf or above your knee, and raise your hands above your head (tree pose).  Feel how you find balance and how your leg, hip, ankle adjust to keep the balance.  It is a series of continuous, incremental adjustments.  Find a sustained phrase from your repertoire that is challenging and sing it while in this pose.  You may find that this passage is now much easier to sing.  WHY?  Finding this balance has put your neuromuscular system on high alert making all motor activity that you engage in benefit.  It cannot lock up like your knees might or stop and start as the breath might because everything is going in to you keeping your balance.  This makes total sense.

As Friedlander states, Singing, like balancing, is a continuous activity.  The more you think about locking up a part of your body to balance, the more possible it is for you to fall over.  The more you think about holding pitches rather than continuing the breath through them, the more difficult they are to sustain.  Find activities that promote stability through continuous movement such as tree pose, walking the phrase, or pretending to throw a baseball with a slow follow through.

Balance and stabilization can:

- Enhance body awareness (improve your mind/body connection to your voice)
- Promotes good posture (free larynx, improve resonance, coordinate better breathing)
- Make you more comfortable and graceful moving on stage
- Stabilize your joints so that you can safely exercise and maximize your stamina (cardio and strength training)
- Teaches your neuromuscular system to create stability through continuous movement that impacts all of your physical activities

Singers should have a workout regimen that includes stabilization training to balance their muscles. Challenging your ability to keep your balance and maintain good posture throughout a series of movements prepares your body and your nervous system to perform movements requiring greater strength and fine motor coordination.  (Fine motor coordination that is essential to quality singing).

How do you do this?

A variety of activities but specifically Yoga, stability ball activities, and functional strength activities (keeping your balance on one foot while manipulating small dumbbells in bicep curls) are a few ways to get started.  As you exercise in these ways, you are challenging your body and brain to stabilize through movement.  This works on the neuromuscular control necessary to develop stability both physically and in your singing.

Secure vocal technique is characterized by stable, consistent tone production.  This requires superb coordination and balance of everything that contributes to singing.  Until you find this, you are tempted to lock up and stiffen things.  Like physical stability, vocal stability is the result of continuous directed movement.  The way to get it is to expose the instabilities in your technique so that you can improve overall balance in the voice rather than gripping.

In other words, use balance related activities and workout regimens to help you truly balance your vocal technique and release tension.  Give it a try, it's pure genius!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Pilates Practice for Singing- Most Effective Exercises

Pilates Practice for Singing and what are some of the most effective exercises?

There are many pilates exercises which are beneficial to singing practice.  We are engaging many of the same muscles with focus on centering, concentration, precision, control, breath and flow which are the 6 Principles of Pilates and often a source of focus in singing study.  Here are a few samples of effective pilates moves for singing practice:



Planks:  Strengthens core muscles and engages abdominal muscles in the same way we should engage abdominal muscles to initiate and stop airflow for singing.  Planks may be done on elbows on floor or ball (as shown) or on hands.



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Chest lift with rotation: Engages and strengthens core muscles for breath control.

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Spine twist and Side Lift : Strengthens side abdominal muscles and stretches vertebrae for good posture and breath engagement

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Corkscrew: Strengthens all abdominal muscles and focus on control and flow of movement.  Slow controlled breath to initiate the movement and throughout the movement very effective for how engaged abs should be while singing a phrase.

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Thread the Needle (Shoulder Stretch):  Opens back and shoulders to increase expansion of ribs and ease of breathing.  So important to singing!

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Side Stretch (Sitting or Standing):  Opens side for ease of expansion for breathing in singing and articulates length of spine from the side.  As you stretch, imagine your spine growing in length by adding space in between vertebrae.  On returning to center, you should feel more space in your spine and side and stand taller with more buoyancy in your stance.  

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Cat and Cow Stretch and Swan Prep:  Work the back extensors and latissimus dorsi and strenghten while articulating the spine.  Eases back pressure and add space in between vertebrae for better overall posture while singing.

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Spine articulations with Spine Stretch (seated) :  This works the separation of the vertebrae in the spine.   While contracting abs, forward motion with arm reach stretches and separates lower spine.  Upon return to upright sitting, a taller and more separated spine. This is excellent to undo the crunch we put on our lower spine with sitting.  
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Bridge: In bridge work, you are contracting back and abdominal muscles simultaneously.  The initial bridge opens the back vertebrae and lowering bridge you can articulate each vertebrae coming down one at a time and separating to release tension.  At the same time, you work the glutes and hamstrings for a tall energized stance for singing.  The more agile the spine, the better for singing.  

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Many of these poses come from a paper on Pilates and the Classical Singer https://d3a512p2kajs89.cloudfront.net/media/paper/-pilates-and-the-classical-singer.pdf


In Pilates we work to free the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders and work on strengthening the core stabilizers (abdominal muscles).   We reduce outside tensions and open the resonating chambers of the body, creating a more resonant (freer) singing voice.  We establish more core awareness and stability in connection with making a resonant sound and help to build the foundation of a strong and resilient singing voice.  Some basic Pilates study will help you find strength from within your own body to enhance the beautiful singing you know lies within you.  Imagine the freedom you get in your singing voice when your posture is wonderful and your core muscles are truly connected to your sound!  Let me know how this impacts your singing!