Sunday, September 22, 2019

Break it Down Part 2: How to Get in Singing Practice Time While Adjusting to Your FALL Schedule

How do you find time to practice now that you are in the full swing of things?  There are exams to study for, homework to do, other activities, sleep and work or school classes.  Scheduling practice time is essential to quality practice and to actually doing it!  You will notice your progress faster.

-So, MAKE the time!  Schedule it into your planner.  Put it in your mental and physical to do lists!

-WRITE DOWN what you need to accomplish EVERYDAY. Add PRACTICE TIME as a priority on that list and know that it is something you will enjoy.

- Make PRACTICE a BREAK from other things.

        ** If you know you want to study for your math test for 2 hours, schedule a 1 hour study
             session. PRACTICE as a BREAK and then go back to your homework.

        ** Do your English homework and then PRACTICE before going to soccer.

        ** PRACTICE while you are waiting for mom to take you to an activity

        ** Mentally PRACTICE on the long bus ride or before you go to sleep
        (this helps with MEMORIZING music)

Figure out how it works best into your schedule and your lifestyle.  Does it relax you and serve as a wind down to the day? Does it get your brain working better and spawn good studying?  This will tell you when it will be the most productive for you.  Then schedule it at the SAME TIME and SAME LOCATION.  Using practice sessions in this way help you to manage your time.

Scheduling practice time gives you the MOTIVATION to do it.  Set GOALS and a plan of action for each practice session to maximize your practice time.  Now that you have time blocked out to practice, find out how to make the MOST of that PRACTICE time in next week's blog and  in "Practice Makes Perfect" by Michelle Latour in Classical Singer September 2013.

**Keep a log of how and when you get practice in to share next week! 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Break it Down Part 1: Learning a New Song for Voice Lessons: A Step by Step Guide

Its a new school year, and a new time to learn!  Learning to sing a new song is sometimes daunting if you have just started lessons and are learning to read the music, been given a song in a new language or more difficult rhythms, or are singing in a different style than you are used to.  Take a second and break down learning the song into different parts, don't try to do it all at once.  Our brains can process the information to be successful if we take it step by step.   Think of it as a math problem, get the basics down and then add the other components. Here is a simple guide:

1. Listen to a recording of the song (piano recording of the melody or YouTube version)
  *If you play the piano, play through the melody yourself

2.  Listen again and follow along with the notes.  Note where the pitches move up and down.

3. Sing the notes on a neutral syllable such as 'la' or 'do'.  Lip buzz the melody.
  *This way you are focusing on matching the pitches and the rhythms only.

4. Repeat step 3 until you know the melody and rhythms.

5. Look at the words and mark in where you think you should breathe based on the text and how the composer wrote the melody.

6. Sing adding the words to the melody. Repeat it.

7.  Mark where you have troubles matching the words with the melody and work those specific parts.  If you still have difficulty, try it the next day and make a note to ask for help on those spots.

8.  Build on your knowledge of the song with each practice session and you will be able to sing the lyrics with the melody and rhythm soon.  Any trouble spots? Ask for help in your next lesson.


* Longer songs

-Break it down into sections.  Allow yourself to focus on 2 pages one day, Chorus only, Verse only, Section A .
- Follow the steps above on one section at a time.
- Review those sections the next practice and then add another part to it.

*Song in a foreign language

- Get to know the song inside and out with the melody and rhythms.
- Speak the text in rhythm to get the nuances of the language (ask your teacher to review pronunciation and listen to reputable singers on the language).
- THEN  sing the text.  It may difficult at first.  Look at where each syllable falls (this should be helped by first speaking it in rhythm).
- Mark any places you have difficulty with so you can ask your teacher in your next lesson.

Just like learning how to do a complex math problem or writing a multi-page essay, learning to sing a new song is easier when you break it down into steps and then build upon it.  HAPPY SINGING and tune in next week for tips on how to fit more practice time into your schedule!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Summer Musical Theater Series- A Unique Musical Theater Program Focusing on the Individual Performer

I am looking forward to another a fabulous summer program full of Musical Theater Repertoire!  It is so rewarding to watch all rise to the occasion with learning repertoire in a short period of time and perfecting it enough to perform! What proof that doing a summer program is so worthwhile!  Every year I watched timid singers grow by leaps and bounds in confidence, mastering hard repertoire, friendships blossoming between those who already know each other and brand new friendships being formed.

Why is the concentrated format of a summer program so beneficial?

-The concentration of longer lessons for just a few weeks makes everyone work harder.
- Much practice must happen in between lessons to master technique (breathing, phrases, and pitches) and to advance to the next phase of the song.
- Focus on the lyrics really enhanced the understanding that we are communicating when we sing.
- Masterclass work on acting emphasizes expression &how we must feel the emotion of the song.
- Dance workshop made everyone more comfortable moving in general.
- Masterclass work helps make all more comfortable with one another.
- Shorter span of time between first starting a song and performing it really creates a spark to practice and make it the best it can be.
- Keeps the singing voice working.
- Focused time can be spent working on singing without extra pressures of the regular school year.

No matter the exact format, a concentrated music program is so beneficial in the summer months!  Watch these clips on YouTube to see what can happen! Astonishing from Little Women 

Keep on Singing!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Summer Music and Working on the Trio of Talents- Why is Summer a Good Time?

Image result for summer musicNow that Spring Break is upon us, we are all starting the think about the next big milestone, SUMMER!  What is your child going to do during the summer months? 
It is a great time to work on your singing or any of the trio of talents!  Sign up to take voice lessons or a Musical Theater Singing Series, audition for a summer production, pick up dance or acting lessons. 


- You or your child have a little more free time (school is out or you have summer hours).

- There is more time to schedule something that might not fit into your school year.

- There is more time to practice.

- It can give structure to an otherwise unstructured time.

-It will keep you motivated to work on your goals.

- It will increase your chances of attaining those goals during the school year (get into a select choir, get a lead in the play, get a music scholarship for college)

- Many summer opportunities combine singing, acting, and dancing with an emphasis on one of the three.

- You can pick up something new or something that you know you need to work on.  (ie you are a dancer who know she needs to sing better in order to get the lead in the next musical).

- Summer programs are often an intensive concentration on a subject.

- It builds your confidence as a performer and a person.

-It is fun!

Give it some serious thought and sign up for something now! Find out more about summer music programs, especially those that focus on developing your individual talents. Happy Singing!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Take Care of Your Body and Your Instrument- It May Be Allergies or a Cold or Stress

Take care of your body, it is your instrument as a singer!  

As the spring rapidly creeps in, so too do the problems of allergies (thank you budding trees and flowers) and colds (thank you germs and fluctuating temperatures).  It is so important to take care of your body as a singer at the first sign of a sniffle. You can stop it from getting worse with some preventive measures.

It may be allergies.  If you are prone to spring allergies due to the budding trees, flowers, and fresh cut grass, start taking your allergy medicine. Wash your hair before you go to bed or regularly change your pillowcases so you don't sleep in the allergens.  

It could also be the start of a cold.  If it has been going on for a few days, it may have started as allergies and gone to a cold.  Go to bed earlier and drink some more O.J.  

You may be feeling some stress in the full swing of school, rehearsals, and start of spring sports! Stop and pay attention!  The best thing you can do is respond to what your body is telling you! What are some specifics?

10 Top Things to Take Care of Yourself and Your Singing Voice 
1.       Good Hygiene- Wash your hands and don't touch your face

2.       Drink 8-10 glasses of water (or non-caffeinated beverage) a day

3.      SLEEP  at least 8 hours every night!

4.       Exercise 3-5 times a week to keep up your immune system 

5.       Reduce Medicines - Use nasal saline spray first, medicines last, but take allergy medicines

6.       Sing Well - good posture, breath support, and sing in correct range       

7.       Speak Well Support your speech as if you are singing, minimize talking, don’t
          yell over loud noise!

8.       Practice Everything in Moderation (Singing and Speaking and Activity Level)

9.       Pay attention to your body signals.  If it doesn't feel good, don't do it!  

10.   Find time for a little relaxation and de-stressing time!
     Your body knows what it is saying.  If you take care of it and listen to it, you can make it through the allergies and stress and not get sick thus preserving your wonderful singing voice!  Keep singing! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Musical Performance Anxiety and How to Overcome it!

Musical Performance Anxiety and How to Overcome it! Accomplish that Goal.  

Performance Anxiety:  It is a high emotion this time of year as many of us prepare for performances in schools for musical theater productions and auditions.  Maybe you have never been the lead role before or are nervous about that duet you have.  Maybe you have an audition coming up for a solo in the spring concert or a voice competition.  You or your student is very nervous about the upcoming performance.  Memory lapses are happening, technique is suffering, music and the enjoyment of it stops.  How do you deal with this? How can you control it and turn anxiety into performance excitement?

Try to identify what is the problem. 

What happens to you physically, emotionally, and mentally?  Take the time to recognize when performance anxiety really hits you. What happens to your body? What is your brain saying to you?  Then talk it through with your voice teacher.

Physical:  Do you get butterflies or actually feel like you are going to faint? Take a deep breath and relax. Work backwards a little bit first.  When does it happen? Only at the actual performance or even when you are just thinking about a lesson?  Are you nervous about not knowing all of the notes and words or is it more than that?

Emotionally:  How do you feel emotionally?  Are you scared?  Are you excited with a little anxiety?   Get a feeling on what your emotions really are.

Mentally: Are you psyching yourself out even though you are prepared?  Do you fear what you can do is not good enough? Think about how you can improve your mental state and empower yourself with positive thought.

In preparation, learn the piece thoroughly.  Know the notes, rhythms, words, meaning of the text.  Just learn it without the concept of performing it.  If you get worked up for the first couple of days, walk away and come back.  Identify what frustrated you and get help from your teacher.  The second week if you get worked up, force yourself to ‘get back on the horse’ and keep going.  Your teacher can help you with this.  Have patience with yourself.

Once you know the nuts and bolts of the piece, put yourself into the character of the song.  Paint the picture of the scene you are describing in your head or imagine you are truly telling your love of your commitment.  Connect to the meaning of the piece and put yourself in the scene you create.  Try to forget that anyone else is out there listening.  You are that person. The more you connect with the text, the more your body and your mind may just remember what to do and you create beautiful music.

If it is not working, to calm you down, explore yoga poses and deep breathing.  Center yourself with a few yoga poses such as Tree Pose and Mediation Pose.  Visit a blog on yoga

Pull together your resources above and identify if your anxiety is more physical, emotional, or mental and approach it from that angle.  Regroup and give it a try.  YOU GOT THIS!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rehearsals, Rehearsals, How Do I Keep Up with Practicing and Singing So Much?

In the crazy times of many, many rehearsals, how do you keep up your good vocal health and make time for your own practicing?  Many of us start to feel overloaded at this time of year.  Rehearsals for the school (or community) musical are in full swing, you have rehearsals for choir, and All Catholic or District Choir music on top of that.  How do you get it all done with your school or work load?  It is essential to be organized and healthy!

1. Make a plan for what absolutely must get done in a week.  A sample list might look like this:

-Study for math test Friday
-Practice repertoire for voice lessons
-Learn new song for musical
-Learn 2 songs for District Choir
-Workout 2-3x

2.  Determine how much time you need/want to devote to each activity

-Homework - 2 hours per night
-Study for math test Friday - 1/2 hour each night with 1 hour on Thursday
-Practice repertoire for voice lessons -4x this week at 30-45 minutes
-Learn new song for musical - 3x this week at 20 minutes
-Learn 2 songs for District Choir - 2x this week at 20 minutes
-Workout 2-3x

3.  Plan out what you will do each day and stick to it!!  Make sure to include time for relaxing or working out to keep your brain and body in check.  Some days will be easier than others to stick to your plan.  You may run over a little bit in different categories, but if you stick close to it, you will get it all done!  Put that phone and anything with social media attached to it in another room!  If you have time after all is done, then is your time to interact. 

3:00-4:00PM Homework
4:00-4:30PM Regular voice practice
4:30-4:50PM Song for Musical
4:50-5:10PM District Choir
5:15-5:45PM Study Math
6:00-7:00 Dinner and relax
7:00-8:00PM Finish Homework
8:00-10:00PM FREE TIME
10:00PM  Go to Bed!

3:00-5:00 Play Practice (musical song practice included)
5:00-6:00 Homework
6:00-6:30 Yoga
6:30-7:00 Dinner
7:00-7:45 Regular voice practice
7:45-8:00 District Choir Music
8:00-8:30 Study Math
8:30-9:30 Finish Homework

3:00-4:00PM Homework
4:00-4:30PM Regular voice practice
4:30-4:50PM Song for Musical
4:50-5:30PM Run on treadmill
5:15-5:45PM Study Math
6:00-7:00 Dinner and relax
7:00-8:00PM Finish Homework
8:00-10:00PM FREE TIME
10:00PM  Go to Bed!

3:00-5:00 Play Practice (musical song practice included)
5:00-6:00 Homework
6:00-6:30 Regular voice practice
6:30-7:00 Dinner
7:00-8:00 Study Math
8:00-8:15 District Choir
8:30-9:30 Finish Homework

You worked hard all week, take a break or using singing as a fun break!  Paint a picture, go out with friends.  Have a busy weekend?  Get a head-start on planning out what you need to accomplish next week.  Not too  much going on over the weekend, make a plan to get ahead on work for next week!

Be Healthy
Always make time for being healthy and make it a priority.  Most importantly:

- Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
- Drink lots of water (64oz daily is ideal)
- Fuel your body with healthy food
- Make time for exercise
- Wash your hands frequently
- Make time for free time/relaxation (especially some without technology)!

With a little planning, there is time to make everything happen and to feel good about it all!

Enjoy everyday and make life your own masterpiece! Susan Anders Brizick

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sick but Singing? "Ah the Joys of Singing in Winter"

Sick but Singing? "Ah, the Joys of Singing in Winter....."

The winter season is filled with singing, concerts, and shows.  What do you do if you find yourself sick?  Despite our best efforts to stay healthy, sometimes we do catch that cold.

First take a minute and assess if you have to do the performance or not.  If you are in the chorus, maybe you can back off a little bit on a song or two.  If you are the soloist or lead maybe not.  If it hurts when you are singing, really take a moment to re-evaluate your technique.  If the show must go on.....

Be Smart

Take care of yourself physically.  Get extra sleep, drink lots of water, wash your hands, take extra vitamin C, stay warm, avoid talking if you don't need to.  Do anything that will support your immune system and get you better.

Take care of yourself mentally.  Think about what you can and cannot do about the situation and get a little mental R & R.  Don't go overboard with the ramifications, just make a plan.

Take some time to take an unemotional and honest look at how the sickness is affecting your voice. Sore throats often lead to a raised larynx and reduce vocal power and resonance.  Swelling of the mucous membranes absorb some of your sound and affect your resonance.  If the cold has gone to your chest, it may impact your ability to rapidly fill your lungs for good breath support.  General aches can impair your endurance.  Figure out how this illness if affecting your singing.

After you do this, make rational adjustments.  Reduce your expectations a little bit.  You may not sound as you usually do.  Maybe that high C is not going to be as loud as you know it can be, maybe you need to add a few breaths into phrasing to help you, maybe you need to increase your support or warm up for more time than usual.  It is best to get through a performance by singing on cue and in tune than worry about subtle changes.  Showing up and showing professionalism is part of a singer's life and everyone will understand.  In the meantime do your best to relieve your symptoms and get better so you can do your best on that day!  Remind yourself that you will wake up again tomorrow and the next time you sing you will be well and astound everyone!

Many singing greats have had to make the show go on and admit they learned something from singing with a cold.  Opera singer, Renee Fleming, states in her autobiography that she truly learned to sing when she was sick.  She could no longer cheat on my technique and get away with it, she had to listen to her body and trust her technique to get her through.

This is not encouraging you to sing if you are very sick or if your throat hurts, but a means to help you get through it when you need to.  Of course, the ideal would be to take care of yourself to the point that you never get sick (but let's be realistic, we do), but be smart if the show must go on.

Dr. Jahn's Advice (Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and author for Classical Singer):

-Make a realistic appraisal of whether you really need to sing or can cancel.
-Make an unemotional checklist of how your vocal production is impaired
-Develop a strategy for working around those impairments,
-Use medications and adjustments in technique
-Accept a philosophical attitude toward a temporary setback

Stay healthy and smart about your singing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Resolutions 2019 for Singers Only!

Image result for happy new year

As we enter the seasonal New Year Resolutions, I find myself making new resolutions for my singing, teaching, and personal life.  Make the resolutions realistic and attainable.  Maybe you just need to get more organized or take more time for you to be more effective in your practice. Make your own tree of resolutions that can grow throughout the year.  What can you resolve to do to make yourself a better singer, better, student, better teacher, better you?  A few things always come to mind for me:

1. Make a schedule of practicing and stick to it!

2. Pick a focus for each practice session.

3. Set goals for singing for myself (and my students).

4. Make a timeline to achieve those goals.

5. Sing just for the sake of singing a few times a week.

6. Workout (cardio and/or yoga) 3-5 times per week.  Do what suits you and your mind.

7. Drink lots of water and try to get 8 hours of sleep per night.

8. Take 10 minutes a day (or more if you can) to do something for yourself.

9. Tell people in your life how much they mean to you and take the time to say "Thank you" or "I love you."

10.  Breathe when it seems too much and regroup.  It will all work out.

This may seem like a long list.  They are little attainable goals.  I think I can make them work.  Take what you like, disregard what you do not.   Regardless, do your best to make 2019 a happy, prosperous, and wonderful year!