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Breathe Easy: 10 Tips for Vocal Students

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For most singers, it?s easy to identify problems and know when something is wrong with your voice. Singers know what their voice sounds like and feels like on a regular basis, so when something doesn?t seem right, it?s usually easy to identify the problem. While you may be able to identify vocal problems, it?s easier to prevent them than fix them.

Here are some tips for keeping your voice and vocal cords healthy.

1. Posture. Posture is one of the most important things singers need to master! In order to breathe easy and get the most air through your lungs, your rib cage needs to be open.
2. Relax. Your body and throat should never feel tense or like you are trying to force sound out. The best sound comes from relaxed singers.
3. Practice. Practice makes perfect. That saying definitely applies to singers. The only way to excel is to practice. Try to aim for 30-60 minutes 5 times a week.
4. Warm up. Vocalists need to remember to always warm up before a performance and practice! If you forget this important part, you can cause serious damage to your voice.
5. Diet. Singers should be conscious of what they are eating and drinking at all times. Some foods and drinks should be avoided before a performance. Other things, like alcohol, should be avoided at all times.
6. Tilt. Tilt your head back slightly when singing. This can open your throat and vocal cords more allowing for a relaxed sound.
7. Hydrate! Make sure to always keep your vocal cords hydrated by drinking lots of water. Dry throats will produce cracked sound and damage vocal cords.
8. Don?t clear your throat! Clearing your throat too much can irritate your vocal cords and make them hoarse. If your throat feels plugged, try drinking a glass of water and resting your voice.
9. Rest. Make sure to get plenty of sleep each night! Especially make sure to spare your voice when you?re sick. You never want to overwork your voice.
10. No smoking. Inhaling smoke, even secondhand smoke, can seriously irritate your vocal cords.

More vocal tips for students:
Dos and Don?ts for a Healthy Voice
10 Foods and Drinks Not to Consume Before a Vocal Performance
10 More Vocal Tips

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Beat the Cold: 10 winter care tips for your instrument.

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1. Keep your instrument case shut to regulate temperature and humidity. Instrument cases not only keep water out, but they keep moisture in. It?s definitely important to keep your instrument in its case when transporting it.
2. Buy a humidifier to keep moisture in your home. If your instrument stays inside and you?re able to regulate the moisture levels, your instrument will have no idea the air is dry outside.
3. Tune your piano! Piano strings should be tuned twice a year and the start of winter is definitely a good time. If the air in your home is dry, then your wooden piano might shrink and cause the strings to lose their tune.
4. Wear a scarf and drink warm tea to keep your vocal chords warm. When you?re throat is cold, your voice will not sound flawless. Some musicians are known for requesting the heat be turned on in all their venues to make sure the temperature is best for their voice.
5. Don?t leave your instrument in the car! If you need to run some errands after practice or a gig, take your instrument home first. You may think you?ll just be a few minutes, but if you get caught and your instrument stays in the cold car for a period of time, the instrument will get cold and the wooden structure will contract. Then, once you turn the heat on or take your instrument inside, the heat will be such a shock that real damage can occur to your instrument.
6. Keep practicing! Just because you?re on winter break and lacking motivation does not mean your instrument should be neglected. Your instrument will benefit from consistent use, especially in the cold dry winter.
7. Don?t store your instrument in a dry place like a closet or garage. These are closed off from heaters and the humidifier. Instead, keep your instrument out in the open.
8. Don?t store your instrument near a heater or fireplace! Even if you have a humidifier to regulate the moisture in the air, close contact with heat sources will dry out your instrument before the humidifier can balance out the air.
9. De-tune your strings if you won?t be playing your instrument for an extended amount of time. Tuned strings place significant pressure on the neck of your instrument which, when combined with the air trying to dry out and shrink your instrument, is not good. Both forces working together will shrink your instrument more than you?d like.
10. Keep a close eye on your instrument! If something doesn?t feel right, get it checked out right away. It?s much easier to fix problems when they?re just starting out as opposed when the damage has already been done.

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How Often Should You Tune Your Piano?
Summer Instrument Care
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Listen up and be happy: 10 ways music improves your mood!

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1. Music provides entertainment. If you?re bored at home and can?t find anything to do, music can be a way to entertain yourself. Concerts also provide great entertainment!
2. A song can take you back in time to older, better memories. Songs have a way of taking you back to the first time you heard it, or when you heard it with someone special.
3. Music calms you down when you?re stressed. Studies show that if you?re stressed and listen to classical music, your stress will melt away as your heart rate syncs with the music.
4. Music can be a distraction from a hectic day. If you?re feeling overwhelmed or have had a bad day, listen to your favorite artist to improve your mood. When you?re singing along with the lyrics, your mind doesn?t have time to think about anything else.
5. Music can be a way to connect with lost loved ones. Think about a song you shared with that person or an instrument you both played. Playing the song or instrument can make you feel closer to them.
6. Music can help expel unwanted thoughts and emotions. If you?re feeling sad and want to get in a good cry, play some sad songs that you know will make you cry. Afterwards, you will feel refreshed and ready to move on.
7. Playing a song on an instrument can help you feel talented. Playing an instrument increases self-esteem because it?s something to excel at. If you feel like you can?t do anything right one day, pick up your instrument and show the world what you can do!
8. When performing, music can bring about strong emotions! Think about when you?re singing an emotional song and you start to smile or cry. Music has the ability to change your emotion within seconds.
9. Music can energize you in the mornings. Feeling groggy in the morning? Blast a favorite tune and just try to stop yourself from dancing! Music has a way of energizing your mind and body.
10. Music can help you feel like yourself again. Everyone?s had a bad day where they just don?t feel like themselves. Listening to or playing familiar music will help bring you back.

You might also like:
Improve your overall well being and start singing!
Music Lessons Help Raise Children?s Self Esteem
Music lessons = Better Communication Skills

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Case Closed: Winter Instrument Care Tips

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Just like your skin gets dry and cracked in the winter, your instrument will too, especially instruments made of wood.? But applying lotion directly to your instrument isn?t the answer.? Instead, you need to take precautions to prevent your instrument from drying out.

Here are some winter instrument care tips:

Regulate: Instruments need consistent temperature and humidity for best upkeep.? In the winter, the humidity levels severely drop (that?s why your hair is frizzier in the summer and more static-y in the winter) which is what dries out your instrument.
–To regulate the humidity, you need to know the humidity levels in your room.? A hygrometer monitors relative humidity.? When buying one, be sure to do some research to be sure you purchase an accurate one.? Inactive readings will be of no help in regulating the humidity.
Humidify: A room humidifier adds moisture into the air.? If you?re going to use a humidifier, it?s important to store your instrument in that room only.? Humidifiers require constant upkeep to be sure they do not dry out.
–WARNING: If you?re thinking of using a humidifier, make sure you are prepared to constantly keep an eye on it.? If your instrument gets too much moisture, it can do more damage than too little moisture.? Similarly, if you let your humidifier dry out, then your instrument will experience extreme climate changes, which can severely damage your instrument.
Case closed: For instruments, the case is their defense against weather, water and damage.? Take advantage of the fact that your instrument has a case by leaving the case closed whenever possible.? If your case protects your instrument from water, then it should be able to lock in moisture keeping your instrument from drying out.
Acclimate: If you?ve ever owned a fish, you know that you can?t simply buy a new fish and drop it in your tank.? You need to put the fish and its current water and container in the tank to acclimate the fish to the new temperature.? I know that instruments are not living things, but they can take just as much care as pets sometimes.? When going to a lesson, arrive early and let your instrument sit in the case for a while.? Then, open the case slightly and let your instrument slowly adapt to the climate changes.
–To make more sense of this, think about when you?re inside your warm house and have to go outside.? The second you get outside; you?re freezing cold.? Your skin tightens and your muscles tense.? Instruments experience this as well, except instead of shivering, they crack.

More instrument care articles:
Dos and Don?ts for a Healthy Voice
Tips for Piano Health
Summer Instrument Care

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Turn on the music and start studying!

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?Turn off that music and do your homework!? Sound familiar? Most of us have heard that at one time or another; someone yelling at us to turn off the music so we can focus. But is this actually counter productive? You may have heard that listening to music can actually make you focus better and it’s true.

Here are some reasons why listening to music while studying can help you focus.

Distractions: While studying, people often find that they are easily distracted by background noises. Traffic, pen clicking, the hum of the refrigerator running etc. are all sounds that people cannot control. These are the sounds most likely to annoy and distract you when you are trying to focus. If you find yourself becoming distracted by sounds that you cannot control, drown out those sounds with something you can control and would prefer to listen to?music! Choose a type of music that is not going to distract you from your studies, but instead distract you from the annoying sounds of life.

Relaxation: Studying is a time when your mind should be shut off from the outside world and completely focused on the task at hand. But how often does that really happen. When you?re trying to make your brain focus on one thing, of course all the other things you?re worried about are going to creep into your thoughts??Did I pay those bills? I better take a break and check.? If you try to study in complete silence, then the worries in your mind are going to seem much louder. Instead of trying to study with complete silence, put on some relaxing music in the background. Classical music is shown to relax most people, but that doesn?t mean it will relax you. Choose a type of music you know will relax you and allow you to focus on your studies.

Keep in mind, that listening to music while studying will not work for everyone. In fact, sometimes you can become so distracted by the music that you might not remember anything you had learned in the past hour. Take some time to figure out what works best for you. But don?t think that just because you?re listening to music, you?re not efficiently studying.

More articles about music and the brain:
Music Lesson Myth: Listening to classical music makes you smarter.
Music lessons = Better Communication Skills
10 Benefits of Music Lessons

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Volunteer: Do your part and spread some cheer!

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The holidays are a great time to volunteer. People are always looking to give to those less fortunate, but you might be stuck on how to volunteer. Local soup kitchens and food drives are always looking for volunteers this time of year, but there are also ways you can spread your talent and put your music lessons to good use. Volunteer at a hospital or local shelter and sing or play an instrument.

Here are some places to volunteer and why to play your music there.

Sing at a hospital. More and more hospitals around the country are incorporating the arts into their therapy and treatment options. That?s because people heavily exposed to music are shown to be happier and healthier. During the holidays, hospitals are flooded with carolers, but the rest of the year is lacking volunteers. Hospitals are filled with people who can be cheered up and what better to brighten their spirits than to sing to them. It may seem like a meaningless gesture, but even the smallest gestures are welcomed on the holidays.

Carol in your neighborhood. The number of people who carol around the holidays has significantly decreased in recent years. Our society is based around the idea that others should bring things to us. Caroling around your neighborhood is a simple way to spread joy to others. Get a few friends together and walk around the neighborhood singing. If you?re nervous about going door to door, start out by visiting your friends and family members. Or put up fliers and spread the word that you will be caroling one night so that people can be prepared and make sure they are home to hear you.

Put on a concert at a nursing home. Typically in nursing homes, the time between lunch and supper is reserved for activities. Speaking from experience (since I used to work and volunteer in a nursing home), nursing home activity coordinators are always looking for new and exciting ways to entertain the seniors. Often times, during small concerts, the seniors will join in and sing or clap along. If you?re worried about imposing with your caroling in a busy setting, then a nursing home is the perfect place to volunteer.

Similar articles:
Improve your overall well being and start singing!
Singing Your Way to Good Health
What is Christmas Caroling?

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How to Identify Piano Practice Mistakes

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In an earlier article, I discussed how there is no excuse for making mistakes during piano practice and there isn?t. However, things can get tricky if you don?t know where or why you?re making mistakes. We play the piano how we practice, so if you?re learning to play the piano while making mistakes then you will play in front of people making mistakes.

ere are some ways to tell why you are making piano practice mistakes.

First, discover where you are making piano mistakes.

Are you simply skipping notes or missing keys? Or are you forgetting a technique or how to play a note?

If you?re missing notes and fumbling through pieces: Slow down! This is a clear indicator that you?re simply playing too fast for your skill level and need to slow down and learn the piece better. Break the piece down into smaller parts and work through the more difficult parts of the song first. If you keep starting from the beginning and fumbling over the same parts and then starting over again, you?ll master the beginning of the piece and never get to the ending. If you break down a piece, you?ll be able to play each part and then put it all together. If you?re having trouble playing through a piece at normal speed, but you?ve already mastered each part individually, play the piece through more slowly. Once you can play the piece slowly, begin to speed up until you can play through the piece perfectly.

If you?re making mistakes that have to do with the more technical side of piano playing, like forgetting how to play a note or having memory issues, you don?t know the music well enough and need to spend more time with the basics. Spend some time away from the piano and practice. That?s right. Don?t sit at your piano and try to practice your sight-reading or ear training. Go into the living room and sit down and focus at the task in front of you. Simply slowing down and trying to work through your mistakes probably will not work in this case since you do not know the basics. You may be able to work through one piece, but if you don?t learn the basics, then you?ll continue to have trouble with the same issues.

You might also like:
How Songwriters Overcome Writer?s Block
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Music Lessons Help Raise Children’s Self Esteem

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Self esteem is an issue that parent?s worry about for their children. Children are constantly comparing themselves and being compared to other children. In school, students are trying to be the best and find their niche. Music lessons can be something that children excel at or it can help with their hand eye coordination with sports. Music lessons benefit children in immeasurable ways!

Here are some ways music lessons help children?s self esteem.

Music lessons help children make friends!
Just like all clubs and organized sports, music lessons bring together groups of children with similar interests. Even if your children take private lessons, you can still enroll them in recitals or music programs through school. Lasting friendships are made when people have similar interest. Making new friends and bonding with others over common interests will help raise your child?s self esteem.

Music lessons could be where your child shines!
Most schools have talent shows at the end of the year or solos in choirs. Singing lessons can help prepare your child for their talent show performance or land them the lead in the school musical. Children who are singled out for their talents will often have higher self esteem. Even if your children have natural musical talent, music lessons can take their skills to the next level and refine their techniques.

Music lessons make kids smarter!
Okay, so music lessons don?t necessarily make kids smarter, but they do help with standardized testing, listening skills, hand eye coordination, spatial reasoning etc. Like I said before, children will have higher self esteem if they are excelling at something; that includes school classes. Music lessons can help your children excel in school and find their niche among other students who excel in school.

Music lessons show children a whole new world of music!
Well-rounded, cultured children will be more open minded to change and new challenges. Music lessons introduce children to different cultures and genres of music. Kids love being right and feeling like they know more than others, and they will definitely know more than others if they are interested to new things with each music lesson.

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Music lessons = Better Communication Skills

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Tips for Vocal Performers

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Vocal performances are different than other instrument performances because your voice is your instrument. If you play the guitar and show up to a gig and have a cold, you can still make it through the performance. Not so with a vocal performance. Singing takes practice and dedication just like all other instruments, but there are some things that you will need to work on if you sing rather than play an instrument.

Here are some things that vocal performers will need to worry about that other instrument players may not.

Articulate your words. Articulate literally means to make clear. Your words should sound clear so that people can understand you. Have you ever gone to a rock concert where you couldn?t understand a word the singer sang? That?s because he/she didn?t articulate their words. A song will be more effective if the audience can understand the lyrics.

Overcome singing complications. All singers have had to overcome some unforeseen hurdle in their singing career. Even if the hurdle is just a common cold, you will not be able to perform as usual. Try not to strain your voice and cut your performance short if you feel exhausted. Always remember to err on the side of caution if something does not feel right with your voice.

Follow a healthy vocal diet. Everything you put in your mouth affects your instrument. Smoking and drinking during a performance are definitely not good things to do, even if the rest of your band is drinking. You?re vocal cords should always stay hydrated and healthy to make sure you give the best performance possible.

Don?t overdo it. Over practicing isn?t just going to exhaust you, it could permanently damage your voice. With other instruments if you practice and strain yourself, you?ll just have to take a break for a few days/weeks, but not so with vocal performers. If you think you?ve overdone a performance, take a break and go to the doctor if necessary.

More tips for vocal health:
10 Foods and Drinks Not to Consume Before a Vocal Performance
Is Karaoke Bad for a Singing Voice?
Diet for Vocal Health

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10 Tips to be an Environmentally Friendly Musician

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More and more artists are raising awareness about the importance in being environmentally friendly.

There are many ways for musicians to become environmentally friendly and below are some tips.

1. If you tour often, odds are you go through lots of water bottles!? Instead of buying new water bottles each time, reuse the ones you have.? Better yet, buy a refillable water bottle (ex: Nalgene).

2. Turn off lights and other electronics!? When you?re not using an amp, light or other electronic, turn it off.

3. Use digital sheet music or download music to a laptop or ipad.? Then you don?t waste paper by printing out each new song you would like to play.

4. Write songs about the environment to raise awareness about the benefits of being a ?green? musician.

5. Buy music online instead of driving to the store to purchase a packaged CD.

6. Get involved in the communities you?re touring by donating part of your profits to groups you support in the area.

7. Use rechargeable batteries for equipment and even tour bus amenities!

8. Recycle your own garbage, but also let your fans know the importance of recycling.? When you?re on stage, make sure to point out recycling bins and let your fans know you care about the environment.

9. Encourage your fans to carpool to your shows.? One way to do this could be to reduce ticket prices to all fans that come to your show in larger groups.

10. Make sure your whole band is embracing being environmentally friendly.? Just one person can make a difference, but you can encourage band members and friends to join you in your efforts.

For more information about becoming an environmentally friendly musician, contact Lesson Match!

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