Thursday, February 24, 2022

How Do I Know I am Making The Most Of My Practice Time? What Is The Best Way To Practice?


How Do I Know I Am Making the Most of  My Practice Time?  

There are so many ways to practice, what is the best way to make sure you are prepared for your lessons and progressing at a good pace?  Here are the top 6 things you can do to maximize your practice time.

1. Practice in a clearly defined practice space.

*   Set up a place to practice and do not leave it.  Once you have started practicing, do not answer your phone, text, talk to anyone.  It is your private singing and practice time; stay on task.

2. Practice what your teacher gives you.

* Voice teachers craft warm-ups (vocalise) for a reason. Start practice with the warm-ups from your previous lessons as well as a few favorites you know warm up your voice well.  THEN move on to your repertoire.

3. Practice songs focusing on what your teacher recommended in your lesson in addition to learning new pitches.

* In your lesson, pinpoint 2 or 3 things you should work on during the week in practice.  Put it into your own words.  i.e. Breath Control (use your laughing muscles) and Breathe only where you have breath marks!  You can do this with your teacher in every lesson.

4. Pay active attention to your voice in the moment. 

* Make a note of it in both your warm-ups and repertoire.  Write down questions for your teacher to take to your next lesson.

5. Ask yourself WHY if things are not going the way you want them to in practice. 

* Target the tough areas.  (See details for this process next week!)

6. Sing a "Cool Down" for your voice.

* Sing a song that is well set in your voice.  This way you 'warm-down' and know if your practice of the day follows good technique for your vocal development.  It is always fun to end your practice time by just singing something you love!

Remember:  The more active your brain is when practicing, the more you will get out of your practice time and the quicker you will obtain your singing goals!  

Tune in next week for how to have a more successful practice session and target trouble spots in practicing using the "Why" Technique.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

What is the Triple Threat in Musical Theater? What do I need to do to be competitive in Musical Theater?


What is the Triple Threat in Musical Theater?  It's all the things you need to be good at to be a Musical Theater star!  You must be a good singer, a good actor, and a good dancer; all rolled into ONE!  It can be done, but most people need to take extra time (and Lessons) in all three!

Singing, acting and dancing are all very important in musical theater.  We all have one area in which we excel, one or two that are decent or needs a little more work at varying times in our lives.  Some things are genetic, we have a natural affinity to them.  Some we were exposed to early on in our lives through dance class or being taken to see plays at a early age.  And some are just skills that we haven't had the time to work on improving OR just need additional time to work on!

What can you do to get there?  Take a moment and think about your skill set.  What comes easily to you?  What challenges you in rehearsals the most?  What did the director say would be beneficial for you to work on for future auditions?  (That's a tough question to ask, but always a good one to know what skills others think you can improve upon!)

Let's look at the scenario of a person or two:  


Madison is a great dancer.  She has been taking dance lessons since she was 5.  She takes ballet, hip-hop, modern.  She dances up a storm.  Acting comes naturally to her.  She is always pretending to be in a play with her friends and is really good at imitating accents or repeating lines from movies or shows in perfect character.  It comes naturally.  She tries to sing in choir because she knows she should.  It will help her in that next audition for the school musical.  She struggles though. She lacks confidence and it's hard for her to hear herself in choir because she sings softly so she doesn't embarrass herself by singing a wrong note.  

What should Madison do to be a better Triple Threat?  You guessed it, take VOICE LESSONS!  Here she can work on her skill set and her confidence.  In a one on one situation she and her teacher can really figure out what she is already capable of doing vocally in a comfortable environment.  They can work on good singing technique to advance her skill set even more.  They can explore different categories of musical theater singing to see where she is most comfortable and begin work on more challenging songs together.  They build her confidence and skill set.  She also can add acting lessons OR find a summer singing program that also works with Acting a Song (My Summer Musical Theater Series would be an example)

WHEN can she do this?  Always a hard thing to make the time, but summer is often an excellent time to begin working on that added skill. Since so many schools do a spring musical, late spring, summer or fall are wonderful times to begin voice lessons! ANY time of the year when she may have one less activity in her schedule OR a number of months before an audition.


Paula loves to sing.  She has been singing ever since she can remember.  She sings in choir at school, the audition only Chamber Choir, at church, in musicals, has had solos in all, she sings whenever she can!  Paula also loves to dance and has taken dance classes off and on for years.  She dances with her friends and it comes pretty naturally to her.  Paula really struggles with her acting.  She find it hard to fall into being a character outside of her self. She is an open book with her emotions in her regular life so it is hard to pretend to be someone else by acting.

What should Paula do to be a better Triple Threat? Take ACTING LESSONS or get involved with a theater program.  By working with an acting coach in either an individual lesson or acting class, she can work on techniques to help her build her acting skills.  Alter her identity of always wearing her heart on her sleeve and learn how to act the part of a different human for a small period of time.  She can learn its fun to do that and have a good time with others in a group setting OR work on monologues and channel her inner actor.  There are many individual acting coaches and local theater programs which have small group acting class.  

WHEN?? Summer is always a good time, but so is ANY time of the year where maybe there is one less activity on the regular plan.  And similar to Madison, a number of months before and audition.  There are summer programs which help a singer learn to ACT a song or have acting games and segments interspersed with working on a show or scene.  


Allison loves to act.  She has been involved in straight theater since she was little as her parents always called her the little actress.  She is a natural at impersonations.  She also comes from a musical family and sings all the time. She does notice however that her voice is not as strong as she would like it to be to try out for the musical.  She doesn't sing in choir because of her class schedule.  Her other reason to pause- her 2 left feet.  She struggles with dancing and doesn't really like to dance along with friends at a party or dance.  She feels awkward.  

What should Allison do to be a better Triple Threat?  DANCE CLASSES first and VOICE LESSONS or SMALL GROUP VOICE CLASS/join CHOIR.  Taking dance classes will help Allison get more comfortable with moving her body and familiar with basic dance steps.  There are many Musical Theater Dance classes offered through all times of the year.  If after a class or two, there is not time for both dance class and voice lessons, she can find programs that work on both skill sets.  I offer both a Dance workshop in which we work on basic dance steps and sequences commonly used in Musical theater productions and a masterclass that helps with acting a song.  

WHEN?  Same answer- when you can carve out the time.

WHY and WHATS IMPORTANT?  Working on your skill sets in the areas which you are strong is just as important as the skill sets in which you need a little help.  Becoming more comfortable and gaining knowledge in your #2 and #3 skills is just as important as fine tuning the one you excel in!

Do you fit the description of any of these people?  A combination of them?  Do you want to land that lead or larger role in the next musical production at your school or community theater?  Take some time and figure out which skill set YOU EXCEL at and which maybe you can IMPROVE.  Do you have plans for the summer yet?  MAKE some by enrolling in Voice Lessons, Dance Class, Acting Lessons OR a summer program or show to work on your Singing, Dancing, and Acting.  If summer isn't the time for you, analyze when you have a slightly lighter schedule and make it (YOU as a Triple Threat) a priority.

For more information about voice lessons and programming in my studio or the local area, comment on this article!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Teaching a Singer Using the Mentality of a Dancer: How and Why?


Teaching a Singer Using the Mentality of a Dancer-  Seems a little different but hear me out and you'll see its beneficial.  Dancers seem to be more mentally and physically disciplined than singers.  Part of this is due to the early age at which many dancers start and part due to the fact based pedagogy dance teachers use that obeys the basic laws of nature.  

Dancers, like any athlete,  are taught at an early age to stretch and warm-up well before working on a dance routine and to cool down and stretch afterwards.  There is a method, stick to it.  

Dancers also understand that learning to dance requires patience with initially low expectations.  They taught that the more diligently and regularly they practice, the more success they will have. 

Dancers know that their muscles are challenged by learning new dances and they are told that it may be not be easy, it may take time.  They are taught that systematic and continual work of the muscles is necessary to accomplish the task.  It will take the awkward beginnings of that pirouette and make it happen beautifully over time.  

Dancer teachers work the whole body the whole time, not one side or the other.  

How is it different with Singers?

Singers on average start a lot later in training although they have been naturally singing in some way their whole lives.  They often jump right into repertoire cold without warmups or a cool down because that is what they have always done.  Singing lullabies, with the radio, in music class.

Singers often expect quick results and have high expectations without putting in the work.  It is not publicly known how much work successful opera singers and musical theater stars put in.  We also see all of these success stories and people being in the right place at the right time with a song that is picked up by a recording studio.  Sound is enhanced with all of the technology we have.  

Singers don't see all of the muscles on the outside or feel them working in the same manner.  A singing teacher can not always point to a body part to help work on the particular technical issue at hand.  Much of it is hidden and approached differently.  

Many singers and singing teachers only work one register of the voice most of the time.  Stretching it out to work more registrations balances the singing voice and the singer.  This is an evolving concept still in the singing world as many different styles of singing emerge.  The increasingly pop sound of musical theater is a good example.  

So what does all of this mean?  What if we approached teaching our singers using a dancer mentality? 

I have found using dancing and athletic analogies in my teaching to help explain all of these concepts.  I love teaching voice to students who are dancers first.  They have already experienced what happens when there is dedication to a craft, it is drilled into them. Singers, it is important for you to spend the time practicing because it builds a solid  technique which will carry you far.   

Its expected that you warmup your voice and cool it down after working repertoire.  That's how your body and your brain get ready to focus on the task at hand.  Add some yoga to center yourself and then do your vocalise. Its important that you practice the particular warmups you are given as they will help you in your work on your repertoire. Then move on to work on your song (s).  Spend 2-3 minutes cooling your voice down (speaking after singing counts to).

Diligent, regular practice is key to success in any physical endeavor.  That means singing too! Shorter more frequent practicing makes all the difference.  It works your muscles, your mind, and builds your stamina.  Its like learning a dance sequence, your muscles have to learn what to do and regularly practicing, even if in small sessions, helps your muscle memory so it becomes natural or easier. 

This is hard to instill as most singers have 1 lesson a week, so the regular work falls on the individual singer.  Discipline is important, but so is the regular support of the choir directors who spend a little time on warmups and vocal technique in rehearsals. A teachers job is to help the student develop a regular practice schedule working a variety of skills.  The more regular practice time spent develops all of the wonderful things you have learned in your lessons. 

 As the old dance adage says, 

"If I don't [dance] for 1 day, I know it.  If I don't [dance] for 2 days, my teacher knows it.  If I don't [dance] for 3 days, everyone knows it."  

Go on, read it again and substitute [sing] for every [dance].  That's it, and repeat!!  So important!

It's also important to challenge yourself in learning something new or stretching your boundaries to grow .  It's not going to be easy or perfect the first time and that's okay.  That's why you do it in a safe, comfortable space:  your lesson and your practice time.  Dancers get it may not be perfect the first time, but if we work on it, we will get there.  We can step briefly out of our comfort zone in practice and work towards being comfortable with that skill to move it into our comfort zone for performance in time.  

This is another thing to learn from teaching our singers with a dancers mentality.   How many times have you heard a dancer say they have 3 different types of dance class this week?  Its what is required by the studio to continue to work on different technical skills and be well rounded.  Yes, singing teachers we should do the same to develop the different technical skills needed to work on the various genres of singing.  The singing world has come a long way in the last 10-20 years in this, but we need to be diligent about helping our students add that to their practice. 

So the long and short of it is, we can teach singers using some elements of a dancer's mentality and watch singing students soar!

By approaching teaching this way, we also start to work on our students Triple Threat of Dancing, Singing and Acting in next week's article. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

How is singing connected to our health? Can it improve your overall health? Can it make you happier?


It has long been said that singing lifts your spirits and that making music improves your mood!  Is this just a saying or is it real?  Can singing actually stimulate physical responses in our bodies that can have significant impacts on our health and well-being? Is this temporary or can it make a lasting difference to you overall well-being?  Life experiences and science tell us yes it is long lasting and yes its real!

What does it mean to be healthy and what does it mean to experience well-being?  How does this affect the singer physically?

Singing is a physical activity requiring fine motor control, physical stamina, and improves breathing and lung function. Singing requires coordinating breath, posture, and fine motor skills of very small muscles of the vocal folds.  It also regularly challenges the cardiovascular system which in turn lowers the resting heart rate and improves cardiovascular health (Maxfield, Journal of Singing March 2015).  Physically it makes you stronger.

There is a also a positive effect of singing on the immune system and our responses to stress.  Scientifically, singing increase SIgA an antibody that plays a vital role in mucosal immunity or protection to mucous membranes throughout the body.  It has also been associated with positive mood. Another plus.

What are the physical and emotional impacts associated specifically with solo singing?

Singing can be an anxiety inducing endeavor but if the singer copes successfully with that anxiety, the experience can result in positive emotions, relaxation, and a feeling of group fellowship and overall satisfaction with the performance Maxfield, (Journal of Singing, 2015)  So a little stress can have many benefits so long as it doesn't manifest itself in performance anxiety.  Raising the heart rate and getting the butterflies moving are good for us and our well being!

What are the physical effects of singing on our psychological well being?

Singing is said to improve our mood and sense of satisfaction as well as improve our personal growth and sense of purpose in life.  We often feel more energetic and relaxed after singing lessons or singing along with the radio.  Our muscles are more relaxed and our minds in better focus.  Its undeniable through science and our experiences that singing improves your physical and mental health! 

How can singing teachers put some of this information to use with students in lessons?

- Use both moments of just singing for singing's sake and technical challenges in lessons to balance the physical and emotional benefits of singing 

-Challenge students on a regular basis in a safe environment to elevate the stress response that is surmountable with regular Masterclasses and Studio Class in which students perform for eachother, 

- Encourage students how to critically evaluate their own performances and make necessary adjustments in lessons AND after Masterclasses.  Give them time and pause for their evaluation! 

The bottom line is that much developing science confirms that singing IS good for our health both physically and emotionally.  SO...get out there and get singing!

What are steps that can be taken by singing teachers and coaches to maximize health benefits of singing among their students?