If you have been studying voice, or spent time around other vocalists, you may have heard them refer to their “book”. This book refers to a singer’s repertoire. What a singer chooses to study and perform is hugely important. It frames your identity as an artist and the way you are presented to your audiences.
I can’t count the number of times a student has told me, “I can’t sing with vibrato, I’m a pop singer;” or “I can’t sing an aria, I’m a musical theatre singer.”
Admittedly, I was once a victim of this kind of thinking. I would say, “I can’t belt, I’m a legit singer.”
How Adjusting Your Voice Can Completely Change It’s Quality and Sound
Most seasoned singers know that warming up is one of the most important tools to keep a voice healthy and maintain your tone. Vocal Timbre, or as it is described as the quality of that tone utilizing complex overtones, or sound waves, is that unique “something” that gives color and personality to your voice, and how it is recognized.
Think you can’t sing? I disagree.
If you struggle to carry a tune, chances are you aren’t tone deaf, but that some part of your voice is just a bit out of whack. Your voice is an incredibly complex system that requires all its parts to be in balance to function smoothly.
While there are many reasons to start voice lessons, a stronger instrument isn’t the only thing you’ll leave the room with every week. At any age, the added benefits of developing your singing instrument are numerous, but I’ll start you with 5 things you will also be learning while attending your voice lessons.
Music to Your Home is proud to work with the best, brightest and coolest musicians in NYC so we’ve been picking their brains about music lessons. The latest interview was with Kiyan T., who took the time out of his busy schedule consisting of teaching, recording and performing to answer these 10 important questions every parent considering singing lessons for their child should know.
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting vocal lessons for their children?
Kiyan: Make sure to speak with the child beforehand to see what they’re into as far as genre, or what they see for themselves musically, in conjunction with your own opinion. This way, you can know what you’re looking for in a teacher.
2) Why do you think vocal lessons have become so popular over the past few years?
Kiyan: Thats a large question! I think there’s a large correlation to singing and the high-glam pop star image that technology permeates into media. Its important to remember that singing is art, technical, and requires an instrument (the human body) to be understood and mastered, with plenty of love and passion!
3) What is the right age for a child to start singing lessons?
Kiyan: I would say no younger than 7. Maybe an unusually intuitive 6 year old?
4) How much daily practice time does it take to become a great singer?
Kiyan: I don’t think a “daily” regiment is the answer. You need to love singing, and feel that natural inclination to express through this medium, in order to have the desire to practice enough to become “great”, however many hours that takes.
5) Are vocal warmups important? If so what are you favorite to do?
Kiyan: Honestly, I talk so much that by the time I have to sing, the voice is already warm. I enjoy warm ups in minor keys that feel like musical lines. This gets the ear going, as well as a sense of carving out a phrase.
6) Do you think having a piano at a vocal lesson is important?
Kiyan: It makes it much easier, yes, but I have done Skype lessons without a piano for many years without a hitch.
7) What do you love about teaching voice lessons?
Kiyan: I love that, in my self-centric life as a recording artist, I get to take all of my musical faculties and apply them to another person. Its a rewarding balance of ego for me in the sense that while on my time, I will ask you to think of music the same way I do (visually, kinesthetically, emotionally), which leads to so much growth. I often find my approach just catches people off guard in how absolutely simple it is.
8) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Kiyan: I was in college, and I had a student come to me completely unable to match pitch. I’m talking: I play middle C, and he sings the F# two octaves below. After two or three months, I said “listen, I don’t know if this is going to work. I’m starting to feel bad taking money from you when I can’t even get a single note out of you.” He wouldn’t have it, and insisted that we continue. It was only after research on overtones from the piano as opposed to the human voice did I realize that all I had to do was use my voice as reference. I had him doing a major scale, in solfege, up and down, and unaccompanied in two weeks. What a huge triumph this was!
9) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Kiyan: My first solo show in New York was a highlight for me.
10) Who are the singers that have inspired you?
Kiyan: Too many to list, but: Patti LaBelle, Beyoncé, and Edita Gruberova.
Kiyan T. is available in NYC for voice & piano lessons. Contact us today to schedule yours!
Unlike the guitar, saxophone or piano, when it comes to singing, your body IS your instrument. And we all know that taking care of our bodies is not only paramount to living a healthy life but also helps you sing to your full potential. So when it comes to the idea of little kids starting voice lessons there’s a bit of confusion so allow me, someone who started formal singing lessons at 5 years old and with not a nodule in sight, to clear up any misconceptions.
Let’s begin by saying that most likely your 6 year old isn’t chomping at the bit to sing Italian Art Songs. If they are? Cool, we’ll cover that so read on. They probably enjoy singing the soundtrack to the latest Disney hit or Taylor Swift song. Either way, professionally trained voice teachers know that working with voices that haven’t matured yet require tapping into a skill-set and repertoire that accommodate an undeveloped body and mind.
Our philosophy is pretty simple, we think kids playing music, any kind of music, is igniting that part of the brain those newspaper articles are always talking about, so we’ll teach any song a kid wants, and we’ll show them how to sing it in such a way that they are laying the groundwork for correct vocal technique while having fun! Yes, it’s possible!
The first song I learned how to sing was the theme to Sesame Street. My teacher knew I loved it, it was simple, familiar, and I enjoyed practicing it every day. I eventually moved on to show tunes, ran through the Les Miz book, the Rogers & Hammerstein classics, discovered the Tapestry record, was introduced to Italian Arias and opera, fell in love with jazz, all the while rock and folk rested closely in my heart. But the point I’m making is that every genre I sang as I grew up, I was always using proper technique because my teachers recognized the right repertoire to suit my age and growing body.
Kids today have shows like The Voice to inspire them- and that’s amazing, but some of those contestants have no formal training and are actually straining their voices pretty badly. You can hear a lot of them “sitting” on their vocal chords, putting all that tension on the throat where it doesn’t belong. That’s the damaging stuff we are avoiding with proper coaching.
So are we looking to have your six-year old work on their belly breathing and tongue position? We’ll get there over time, but for now that child will enjoy singing their favorite songs while the seeds to formal training are planted. And you can rest easy knowing they’ll be no permanent damage in sight for your young musician.
For in-home singing lessons, visit our singing lessons page.
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