Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sing with Confidence: Helpful singing tips for vocalists

Feeling nervous about an upcoming performance? It’s a completely normal feeling! Getting used to being in the spotlight takes time. Learn how to sing with confidence using the tips in this article. 

How often do you listen to your favorite bands and pop stars and imagine yourself in their place, singing to an adoring crowd? Lots of people dream of unleashing their inner rock/pop star, but few actually take the bold step of doing so in real life. It takes a lot of courage to learn how to sing and, whether you’re an experienced performing artist or planning your on-stage debut, it’s always helpful to practice a few tips and tricks that will help make your performance the best it can be. 


1) Be Patient--Give Yourself a Minute
It’s natural to get nervous or feel overwhelming anxiety before you perform. This simply means that you care about what you’re about to do! The problem is, anxiety tricks your body into a fight or flight state—your heart beats faster, your breath quickens, and your muscles tense up.

When this happens, find a quiet place, close your eyes, and take a slow, deep breath. Hold it in for 10 seconds and then let it out. Repeat 2-3 times until your heart rate slows. A shorter version of this is helpful on stage, too. Take a second before your song starts (your audience won’t mind a 5-second delay) to center yourself and it will make *all* the difference.


2) Practice Often and Be Technically Prepared
Think of practicing as an insurance policy for you voice--the more you practice, the more you know your voice. The more you know your voice, the more confident you are singing in any situation. Preparation is the backbone of self-confidence.

Well ahead of your performance, think about your strengths and weaknesses, and work with your voice teacher to create a plan so that you feel fully prepared. Fumbling around with your instrument? Practice your piano or guitar parts until they become muscle memory. Worried about forgetting lyrics? Hand write them over and over until you don’t have to think about them. Not feeling vocally consistent? Break down the issue with your instructor in lessons leading up to the performance. Feeling like your song just isn’t clicking? Workshop them with a mentor or fellow musician. At North Main Music, we host Performance Workshops a couple of weeks before our student concerts, to give performers an opportunity to test out their song ahead of time and get valuable feedback from the workshop facilitators and attendees. 

Most importantly, be sure to warm up your voice on performance day!


3) Take Risks
You may have heard the quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” When applied to singing, the same rings true!

We often hear this voice in our head when we first start singing that sounds much different than the voice that actually comes out. When applying the building blocks in practicing scales, exercises, and simple tones and in mastering them one step at a time, we then feel comfortable enough to take risks in the creation and formulation of new exercises. If you hear something in your head, but don’t know exactly how to create the sounds, try anyway. 
Taking risks in singing means stepping into uncharted waters of sound and testing all of the different sounds available to you. This can be as simple as humming a line to your favorite song out loud.

Every great singer has to know how to hit the “bad” notes a few times before they understand what it means to hit the “good” ones. In the end, confidence in singing comes from knowing both the “good” notes and the “bad” notes and how to move more fluidly and comfortably between all of them. The truth is, you will never know unless you try and it takes more courage to try than not to. Having the courage to take risks will build confidence in knowing your voice.’’


4) Remember Your “Why” 
Connect with your song and your purpose, and the audience will feel you. Whether it’s a cover song or an original, we must remember the emotion, experience, or memory that brought us to the song in the first place. As singers, we’re often performing the same song over and over. It’s easy to fall into a routine and go through the motions, but your audience will see right through this. There’s nothing worse than watching a performance and the singer is clearly just phoning it in. No matter how many times you’ve sung a song, dig deep each time and remember *why* you wrote these words or *why* you were drawn to this particular song. Find that emotion and use it to express yourself—That is your job as a singer.


5) Enjoy Yourself
For one song, you’ve got 2 to 4 minutes on stage, so make the most of it! If you spend the entire time rushing through, or focused on what could go wrong, you’ll miss the magic. Be present for these moments, enjoy being on stage and connecting with your music and your audience. This is what being a musician is all about!

When it comes to voice lessons, it takes patience, practice, and a little bit of risk-taking! Ultimately, you are the captain of your own ship. Learning how to sing is an art and a balance of all of the above tips and advice. With the combination of all of them, you will find yourself well on your way to singing even more vibrantly and confidently in no time.
Want to put these tips to the test? Then sign up to sing at our next Student Concert! Talk to your instructor or stop by the front desk to learn more.



This article was inspired by and adapted from this article on takelessons.com and this one on songbirdsf.com.https://songbirdsf.com/five-tips-for-singing-in-front-of-a-crowd/ 


Photo credit: Doug Guarino

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Piano Myths Busted


Do you dream of starting piano lessons, but worry that you’re too old, or too busy, or lack the discipline to focus and learn to play? These are some of the common excuses that might keep you from learning piano. In this month’s article, Elena Stabile, one our awesome piano instructors, helps us debunk a few of these excuses and myths.
Most everyone has thought about taking piano lessons at one point or another, but there are some pervasive myths and excuses out there that keep new students from taking the first step to actually doing it. We’re going to address these five myths and help you make an informed decision about taking piano lessons.

Myth #1 – “Piano lessons are boring.”

If you’re unfamiliar with piano lessons, you may imagine sitting at the piano with a mean teacher who keeps yelling at you to play the same scale over and over. The truth is, most of us are far from scary! Learning an instrument can be a challenge, but it’s an extremely rewarding challenge. As piano instructors, it’s our job to make that journey as fun as possible! Different instructors have different techniques for accomplishing this, so it’s important to find someone who is a good fit for you and your learning style — and who also understands your goals. At North Main Music, we encourage you to take an introductory lesson as a way to get a sense for an instructor’s teaching style.

Yes, there are some things that everyone needs to learn — such as theory and scales. But learning these things doesn’t have to be boring! What if there’s a way to show you how scales fit into your favorite rock or pop songs? And how knowing music theory will empower you to quickly learn the songs that you love? Even when you’re learning things that seem difficult and less fun, work with your instructor to find creative and practical ways to incorporate this new knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to learn — and how much fun you’ll have doing it!

Myth #2 – “If you don’t start piano lessons by age 11, it’s too late.”

Over the years, we’ve heard this myth attached to several different ages, and many variations of thought, such as, “You can learn the instrument, but you will never be able to reach your full potential” or “It will be much more difficult to learn if you start after a certain age.”

Age really doesn’t matter. It’s about your passion for music, desire to learn, and your dedication to investing time in practicing and honing your craft. So if you’re an adult or teen who wants to take piano lessons--do it! It’s never too late to start learning the piano.

Myth #3 – “I don’t have time for piano lessons.”

In the 21st century we don’t *have* time, we *make* time for the things that matter most to us. “‘The excuse of ‘not having time to practice’ falls in a similar vein,” said Elena Stabile, North Main Music piano and voice instructor. “People sometimes expect that being a musician means practicing for hours a day. Sure, that's what you'll do if you're a full time concert pianist, but we don't expect that from our students, especially if they do multiple activities or work full time. Teachers help their students find ways to best and most efficiently practice, given the demands of their lives and what they're currently working on. The approach is totally individualized.” Many North Main Music instructors also encourage their students to record their lessons on their smartphone. Doing this provides a great resource for practicing at home because it reinforces what you learned during your lesson.

At North Main Music, we have daytime, evening, and weekend lesson times available and we’re open on most holidays, too. In addition to having a variety of lesson times, many North Main Music instructors also encourage their students to record their lessons on their phone. Doing this provides a great resource to take home and use to reinforce what you learned during your lessons.

Give us a call or send us an email to discuss your schedule and how we can work with you to find a lesson time that fits your life.



Myth #4 – “I can’t start piano lessons because I don’t own a piano.”

The piano is an impressive instrument to behold both visually and musically--especially a baby grand! Although nothing may compare to playing a well-tuned, full-sized piano, the truth is, you don’t have to own a piano to start learning. There are many different types of affordable keyboards that are great to start with, especially for beginners. If the student is a child, we actually recommend taking this route if you don’t already own the piano. Even kids who love music will often want to try a few different instruments before settling on one. Starting with a keyboard will allow them to try piano without having to make a serious financial commitment.

There are many great websites where you can find amazing deals on lightly-used keyboards. If you decide you would rather buy new, most music stores offer these options as well. The bottom line is, no matter what you start learning on, the most important thing is to get started!

Myth #5 – “Trying to play ‘by ear’ can actually hinder your progress in learning piano.”

We’ve heard stories of students being told not to use their “musical ear” to assist them while reading notes. And for some reason, many students feel like they need to choose to be either a “note reader” or an “ear/chord chart player.”

While most people are naturally inclined one way or the other, it’s equally important for a student to develop both skill sets. Some instructors like to incorporate ear training exercises for their students, in addition to note reading. This helps to create versatile, well-balanced musicians who can adapt to any situation. Your ability to hear what music should sound like will also prove extremely valuable in correcting mistakes as you are practicing on your own throughout the week. So to sum things up, playing by ear will definitely not hinder your progress in learning piano. In fact, quite the opposite!

Piano lessons can add great enjoyment to your life, regardless of whether or not you aspire to be a professional musician. If you’ve let piano lesson myths keep you from starting lessons in the past, maybe it’s time cast excuses aside and give it a try! Happy playing!



This article was inspired by and adapted from this article on takelessons.com.

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Meet Elena Stabile, piano and voice instructor at North Main Music

Elena is a professional singer, with a performance background in both voice and piano. She studied at Lawrence University and Conservatory of Music (BA and BM) and the University of Tennessee Knoxville (MM), and got her start teaching during undergrad as a music theory and aural skills teaching assistant and tutor before moving to private voice and piano. Elena's performance experience is primarily in opera and in contemporary classical music; and she also frequently sings in churches as a soloist or as a part of an ensemble. Elena is new to the area--she moved to Nashua in July 2018--and she's very happy to be working at North Main Music. "Working at NMM has provided me with a very positive and supportive teaching environment," said Elena. "I love seeing the growth my students have already experienced in such a short time, and I'm excited to continue working with them and to help them achieve the goals we set out for them when we first started."