Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What things affect our singing voice throughout our life?

Illness, Fatigue, Stress- All of these things impact our muscles, muscle memory, posture, and our singing voices.If we are sick with a cold or respiratory illness, our tired lymph nodes and neck muscles want to help out since our lungs are not feeding air to our sound the way we are used to.  If you have a stomach bug, the acid from your stomach irritates your throat and vocal cords.  The body tries to fight for itself and may forget some of our singing technique.
The same thing happens if we are tired.  Our posture is poor.  This impacts how our breath flows through the body.  Our breath support is affected because we are not as in tune with our body.  We may be suffering from lack of sleep and need to find a time to catch up.  We may be dehydrated and need to drink lots of water to help the body recuperate. 
If we are stressed, we are often tired and more susceptible of getting sick.  Plus, most of us carry tension in our jaw, neck, or upper back.  Yet again, this affects air flow and posture.  This added tension also impacts our singing.

We can sometimes identify these differences in our bodies, but often times need direction as to how to fix things with our singing when it is impacted.  This is the job of a voice teacher or a vocal coach. The outside eye and ear of a voice teacher can help you to identify poor posture and lack of adequate breath support that results from being ill, stressed or tired.  Moral of the story:  Take care of your body and your mind!
All of these factors lead to one conclusion, voice lessons should be a constant in a singer’s life.  Just as a tree continues to grow and change through the seasons, so does the human voice.

What are your experiences with stress, fatigue, and illness and singing?  Tune in for information on hormonal affects on the singing voice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why do you take lessons for an extended period of time? Muscle Memory

Practice for Singing Works the Same Way
How Long Should Someone Expect to Take Voice Lessons?  Why do you take lessons for an extended period of time?
There are many components to learning to sing.  Since your body is your instrument, you have to deal with muscle memory, times of illness or fatigue, outside influences such as stress, an adjustment to hormonal changes such as puberty if you begin study young, and the fact that you hear yourself differently than any other human being.  Therefore, voice lessons should be an ongoing process in a singer's life.  Let's explore a few important things!
Muscle memory- Just like learning to run a marathon, we train our muscles to sing well.  If you work at it bit by bit, you slowly improve the quality and stamina of your body to run the distance.  If you don’t spend the time to train, our body suffers and when we try to run the big race we cannot! 
We do the same thing with your singing in voice lessons.  Your body learns what to do to create a free, relaxed singing sound that is beautiful to the ear.  It gradually remembers what feels good and what to do.  The best avenue to do this is through warm-ups that a teacher gives you.  Here is an example of my teaching in which I am teaching the student how to sing a more legato (smooth) line using warm-up exercises.  Through repetition of the pattern and guided imagery, she learns how to smooth the line and sing ‘as if the sustain pedal is down on the piano’.  Her muscles remember what to do to create the desired sound and she can replicate it on a variety of pitches. Teaching Clip of Warm-Ups
In voice lessons, we then address similar muscle memory actions in repertoire that the student is singing.   Your muscles will begin to remember what to do to create the desired singing sound.  They remember what feels good and right if you take the time to train them.  Then the voice builds up stamina to sing a 3 hour opera role or lead in a Broadway show.(Similar to training for a marathon)  Baby steps of regular training, builds healthy habits and stamina to perform for a long time. 

Since our body is our instrument, it is not truly a constant, unless we take care of it!  Read more next week about how Illness, Fatigue and Stress can affect how you sing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How long should someone take voice lessons? It depends on a few factors...


Teacher and Lessons: 

Study with a knowledgeable teacher who you “click” with.  Not every teacher is for every person. Find a teacher who is receptive to your wants and needs for your musical journey and who will work with you on discovering your path as a singer.  Be open to suggestions as you path may change as you begin study.  You may be exposed to music you never heard before and find that you sing it well!  Your vocal journey may continually evolve as you study. 

Know where you currently stand as a singer.  Do you want to just sing karaoke better, or sing opera, or just to sound better in the bathtub? You should also have an idea of what you need to work on technically. Do you have trouble holding a tune, is your breath support not very good, does your voice get tired quickly?  Communicate this at the beginning of your study and make sure you understand HOW the work and explain things. 

What do they want you to work on during the week between lessons?   If it is not clear, ask.  They will give you an idea of what should be worked on through your current lesson.  Record your lessons so you know what they expect and can refer to the recording to help you to remember. 
Student Drive and Dedication

If you are dedicated to your practice sessions, work on the technical things that the teacher addresses, and diligently make notes on things that were successful in your practice time, you will progress faster.  If you as a student are prepared to show what you worked on in your practice time, you will have more productive lessons.  If you never practice then you will make little or no progress. It is the work that you do on a daily basis at home that speeds up progress.  Just learning to play the piano or to get good at a sport, dedicated practice is essential to the progress of a student.  For tips on Effective and Efficient Practice for Voice Lessons and Singing Success , visit
Progress comes in two forms. There is the slow, hard way, which is the most usual thing. That is, you learn concepts and practice them and slowly develop your technique, your voice and your confidence. Going this way I would say you can expect to see progress month to month. Then there are those moments when you have a 'breakthrough'. On those rare occasions you can make a great leap forward, if only you can retain what you learn! -Donny at Pecknel Music

Continue to pay attention to what your body is saying as you practice and ask questions at your lessons.  This speeds the rate of progress by telling your teacher what is happening when you sing and you are not together.
Remember , learning how to sing is a slow and sometimes difficult process. Your instrument is your body, and unlike a guitar or piano, you have to deal with fatigue, illness, stress, other emotions, and hormonal changes. On top of that, you have to deal with muscle memory.  You need to make your muscles and your vocal instrument be in the right place, and support your vocal production yourself, unlike a piano, where you plunk a note, and the hammer hits the strings. There are many components to learning to sing and many internal forces that may change how the voice works.

What things impact your singing voice the most?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Summer Musical Theater Series in Voice Studio

Do you want to improve your voice and stage presence?
 Do you love to sing, but afraid to sing in front of others?
 Want to be in the school musical or community theater production?
Are you looking for a fun program for your budding musician?
     Give Singing Lessons a Try!

               Susan Anders Brizick’s Voice Studio
             When:  7 Weekly Lessons June 13-August 3, 2013
                           Plus a Masterclass on either July 22 OR 24
Two Programs:

A. Students Ages 13 years and older
     - Learn a Music Theater Song (or two) and become that character in a performance.
     - 45 minute voice lessons for 7 weeks
     - Masterclass on Movement and Acting
  B.  Students Ages 10-12
     - Find your individual singing voice and perform a song that fits YOUR voice.
     - Explore small group repertoire
     - 1 hour small group lessons (2-3 students)
     - Masterclass on Movement and Acting
**Both Programs Conclude with a Performance for All Students August 3, 2013 and include a professional accompanist for the performance.
* Special Discount with early registration and payment by May 1st.
"I began working with Mrs. Brizick to prepare for a role in a school musical.  Her instructions were focused and clear, and she taught me about parts of my voice I did not even know existed!  I am so thankful for all of her help.  She is a wonderful teacher!" ~Tess Marchant, student
“Thank you for helping my girls. My one daughter performed last night and there was a huge difference. She said you have helped her with her range and she is now hitting notes she never hit before. Her diction was so much improved. She got so much positive feedbacks and a music teacher came up to us and said her pitch was "perfect."  I think her performance had a huge impact on her future. Her accompanist was jumping up and down in excitement after she sang it for her during practice. My other daughter’s director has also taken huge notice of her improvement.” ~ Rita Stern, parent
Call Susan Anders Brizick at 610-344-9079 for registration.  For more information, visit
Masterclass:  Movement and Acting with Susan and Rachel Straley, Theater and Acting Teacher at Wilmington Christian School, Costume Director People’s Light and Theater Company and Shakespeare Festival, Speech Coach for Poetry Out Loud Contests.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How long should someone take voice lessons? How long is it until one sees improvement?

These are frequently asked questions, but there is no definitive answer.  It varies for each person and each person’s goals.  The quality of the lessons, teacher, personal ambition and drive, and whether or not you and the teacher "click", will help you to improve the quickest and the best.  Each person has a different instrument, experiences affecting them, and starts at their own unique vocal place, so length of time to see a marked improvement varies.  Your voice is always changing and you are always able to learn new things as you explore more music!

Do you want a quick answer?  Expect to study for at least 6-9 months. Sure you will see some subtle improvement quickly when starting lessons, but it takes time to get in tune with your instrument (your body) and develop good techniques.  Muscle memory, which is a main component of singing technique, takes time to develop .  In time your body remembers how it feels to sing well.  You don't just take them for a month and expect to be the best singer ever. You need to continue to take vocal lessons.  –Sammy Divenhart   

Singing lessons should be ongoing to continue developing the voice as one gets older and more experienced.  Part of a voice teacher’s job is to help you find the best repertoire for you to sing. Even after one becomes an accomplished singer, he or she should check in with a voice teacher or voice coach periodically to stay on track and make sure that their sound stays healthy.
We hear ourselves differently than others hear us!  Think about it, when you hear yourself on the answering machine or on the recording on your cell phone, your voice does not the same to you as when you speak.  The structure of our bodies, our ears being on the side of our voice, and our resonators (open spaces in which sound bounces around) make us hear ourselves differently than the rest of the world.  This also affects how we hear our singing voice.
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

Biggest Factors that impact how quickly a student progresses are:
-Quality of the lessons and teacher

- Personal ambition, drive, and dedication of the student to practice time

- Whether you “click” with your teacher (how well you understand one another and communicate)

In this three part series, I will discuss these factors in more detail and give examples of why voice lessons are an ongoing study!  Sign up to receive my blog to read the next segment!