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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
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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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It?s December; time to tune the piano.

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Piano owners know that a piano should be tuned twice a year (once a year at the very least) to keep the piano at top performance. But do you know the best times to tune your piano? A good rule of thumb is two weeks after you turn your heat on in the winter and two weeks after you turn it off in the spring.

Why are those the best times to tune your piano?

Well, here are some reasons why your piano will need to be tuned:
–Humidity changes
–Temperature changes
–Heavy hands
–Frequent moves

Humidity and temperature changes affect the tune of the piano more than anything else. When the seasons change, specifically from fall to winter and winter to spring, the humidity levels severely change in your home. Less moisture in the air shrinks the wooden structure of the piano causing it to lose its tune. Similarly, when you turn off your heat in the spring and moisture is back in the air, your piano will soak up the new moisture and the wood will swell. This also causes the piano to drift out of tune.

There are some ways to maintain moisture in your home, which could mean that you can tune your piano any two times per year. However, if you?re planning on trying to regulate the humidity for instrument care, make sure you are up for the challenge. Your humidifier needs to be constantly monitored to be sure it does not dry out. You also need a thermometer to monitor the temperate and humidity to make sure the levels are consistent. If you forget about your humidifier, then the levels will severely drop causing more harm to your piano than the gradual climate shift that happens naturally.

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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.

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Dos and Don?ts for a Healthy Voice
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Singing Your Way to Good Health

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Singing isn’t just for fun anymore! Studies show that singing actually improves your health and can help with some chronic conditions. But how?

Here are some ways singing can improve your health.

1. Asthma. This is one benefit that definitely makes sense. Proper singing requires deep breaths and breathing techniques. It?s no surprise that this helps people who suffer from asthma or other chronic respiratory illnesses.
2. Aging. Singing promotes youth for lots of reasons! Think about all the muscles in your face that you?re working by singing. You also feel younger since singing makes your feel happier and reduces stress.
3. Memory. Learning to play any instrument helps with your cognitive skills, but singing especially requires you to memorize lyrics and notes. This helps with your overall memory.
4. Immune system. Everyone knows that you?re more susceptible to illnesses when you?re stressed out. Singing reduces stress; therefore singing increases immune system health and keeps you healthier.
5. Posture. This may not seem like a great benefit, but good posture means better breathing and healthier muscles and joints. Slouching is not good for your body in any way and singing doesn?t allow for bad posture.
6. Self-confidence. When you feel better about yourself, you instantly feel healthier. Confidence plays a big part in your health because there are parts of illnesses and recovery that are mental. If you want to feel good, then the majority of the time, you will. Singing increases self-confidence because you?re not stressed, you?re meeting new people and you?re in a good mood.
7. Healthy diet. Believe it or not, there is a vocal health diet. Singers cannot be constantly eating processed foods and ice cream because it messes with their vocal chords. A diet for vocal health includes lots of water, no alcohol or caffeine and lots of healthy foods. You need to keep your body healthy in order to sing properly.

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Should you buy a used piano? Pros and Cons

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The value of a piano depends on many factors. Sometimes you can get a great deal by buying a used piano and you may even like it better than a new one.

Here are some pros and cons to buying a used piano.

Pros:
-The sound of a quality piano ages well. If you can get a quality piano that has been kept well, it should have a nice tone rather than a contrasting tone that can happen with newer poorly made pianos.
-You could get a great piano for a great price! Some people are in such a rush to sell their piano that they will sell it for a low price to ensure it sells quickly. This can be great because you could be getting a nearly new piano for a fraction of the cost.
-Piano history can be mysterious and be a great conversation starter. Pianos can last upwards of 60 years if properly maintained and think about what a great history that could have!
-They won?t break the bank. This is a given but used instruments are cheaper than new ones. Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, that it probably is. Keep an eye out for signs of piano damage before purchasing.

Cons:
-Cheap used pianos may be cheaply made or poorly maintained. Not everyone knows how to take care of a piano and they may not know what they are selling. Just because the instrument looks nice on the outside, there could be interior damage rendering it useless.
-While the piano may be cheap, the repairs might not be. Beware when purchasing a used piano of the repair costs that go along with it. When buying any piano, you should always have it tuned and checked out by a piano technician, which can be very pricey.
-Older pianos may not have a lot of life left in them. Older pianos have been through a lot in their lifetime: frequent moves, infrequent tunings, climate changes etc. All of these things can increase the amount of stress on a piano shortening its lifespan.

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Piano lesson myth: I never play my piano so I don?t need to tune it.

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Myth: Since I never play my piano, I don?t have to tune it. This seems logical, if you?re not playing an instrument, then why should you tune it.

Fact: Pianos need to be tuned regularly whether or not they are being played. In order to understand why you need to tune your piano regularly, it?s important to understand why you need to tune your instrument at all.

Why tune your piano:
Pianos need to be tuned because of the high string tension. This causes the strings to stretch and go flat. Regardless of whether or not your playing it, the string tension will always be there.

Your argument might still be that since you?re not going to play your piano at all, then you don?t care if the pitch is flat. However, if you ever want to sell your piano at a good value, then you need to take proper care of it! If your piano is left un-tuned and flat for too long, the piano may not be able to handle the stress of taking the strings back up to standard pitch. Essentially, not tuning your piano for long periods of time destroys your piano making it unable to play or sell.

A good rule of thumb is to tune your piano every six months or twice a year. Six months is the longest a piano should go without being tuned because that?s how long it takes before interaction between the strings occurs making it nearly impossible to tune. That means that when you?re tuning one string, the tension becomes too much for that string to handle and the strings around it (that might have just been tuned) lose their pitch.

Don?t fret if you go more than six months without tuning your piano, the damage is most likely reversible, it?s just going to take longer to bring your piano back to good health.

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Dos and Don’ts for a Healthy Voice

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Just like with any other instrument, you need to take proper care of your voice. Unlike other instruments, your voice is irreplaceable and if you don?t take care of your voice, you could lose it.

Here are some dos and don?ts for a healthy voice.

DON?T: Clear your throat! Ever! That means when you feel like something is in your throat or your voice sounds scratchy, resist the urge to clear your throat. Instead, drink or eat something acidic to help break down the phlegm like pineapple or lemonade.

DO: Wear a scarf! You know when you have a sore throat and drinking warm liquids soothes it, it?s because your vocal chords need to stay warm to maintain clear sound. Your throat should also stay warm since when your body is cold, your muscles constrict.

DON?T: Drink caffeinated drinks or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you and that is the worst thing for a voice. You want to make sure and steer clear of any foods or drinks that will dehydrate you.

DO: Drink lots of water! Since dehydration is the worst thing for your voice, water is the best. You want to make sure and drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. You can also get hydration from fruits and vegetables that have high water content. Just be sure not to eat too many acidic fruits.

DO: Rest! Singing is a workout for your voice and just like after any other workout, your body needs rest. Make sure and get 6-8 hours of sleep each night so you are fully energized throughout the day. If your voice gets tired mid vocal session, take a break and rest your vocal chords.

More about vocal health:
Singing Lesson Myth: Singing should hurt since it?s building the muscles.
10 Foods and Drinks Not to Consume Before a Vocal Performance
Tips for a Healthy Singing Voice

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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.

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10 Foods and Drinks Not to Consume Before a Vocal Performance
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Tips for Selling Used Musical Instruments

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What happens when you?ve purchased any used musical instruments for yours or your children?s music lessons but then decide you don?t want to continue with lessons on this instrument? You?re stuck with an instrument you?ll most likely never play again. Selling used musical instruments can be a great way to make some extra money. Most people have old musical instruments lying around, so why not sell them to someone in need of a reasonably priced instrument.

Here are some tips for selling used musical instruments.

1. Make minor repairs that can up the value of your used musical instruments. Cosmetic damage can often significantly lower the value of an instrument simply because it looks worn, even if it plays perfectly. In order to get the most money for your used musical instruments, make minor repairs and make sure your instruments look as new as possible.

2. Research the instrument you are trying to sell. Make sure you know what your instrument is worth so you are able to get the best price for your used musical instruments. You can check past eBay sales or do some Google searched to see how much instruments similar to yours sold for. You want to make sure you are knowledgeable about your instrument because buyers are going to want to get the best prices for used musical instruments as well.

3. Post ads on craigslist of in the newspaper. People who are looking to buy used musical instruments will most likely check these places first to see if there are any good deals. Be sure to include a photo and as much information as possible about your instrument. Buyers are going to want to know how long you?ve had the instrument, how much it was played, if there?s any damage etc.

4. Put up fliers around your neighborhood or let your neighbors know you?re selling the instrument. Most neighborhoods have children of all ages living there. School bands begin around fifth grade, so if you know of a household with young children, check and see if they are interested in buying any used musical instruments.

5. Talk to schools or other music instructors and see if they are in need of any more instruments or if they know parents interested in buying used musical instruments. Music instructors should know if people are in the market for instruments or who might be interested in your instrument in the future.

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