Category Archives: Music

Moon Song (Saturday Song)

It’s time for another edition of the few and far between “Saturday Song” posts!

Moon Song is about “The moon, father time, and the way things change, or don’t.” As usual, I’ll let the song speak for itself.

Written by my husband, Timothy Zieger. Copyright 2016.

Water’s Edge (Saturday Song)

As promised a couple of weeks ago, I’m posting another Saturday Song.

I’ll let the music do most of the talking. All you need to know is that this song is an expression of, in my husband’s words, “a narcissist’s dilemma.” Pardon the rough recording. Hope you enjoy, and have a lovely Saturday! 🙂

Written by Timothy Zieger, (c) 2015.

If you like what you’re hearing, you can follow our music on the web or Facebook.

Beneath the Sun (Saturday Song)

I keep promising that I’m going to make our music part of this blog. School’s out, the hubby is home, our home studio is built, and we’re finally at a point that I can start making posting our songs semi-regularly. Hurrah!

We may have a slight obsession with trying to make things ourselves, but homemade music has always been one of our passions and hobbies. We don’t presume by any means that our music is the best out there- we are constantly learning as musicians!

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Most of the recordings I will be sharing are rough, live-takes, and either minimally or completely un-mastered and un-mixed. This one was done in a resonant hallway of a local university, though most of our recordings have been done at home.

So without further ado, we invite you to join us in the process as we share these little “Saturday Song” posts. I can’t promise you one every Saturday, but I hope this is the first of many.

This song, “Beneath the Sun,” was written and played completely by my husband. In his words:

“[This song is a] vignette of a bike-ride’s roadside scene: a lone silver maple brushed by the wind in a field that lay fallow, aged stone walls and fence-posts grown over with wildflowers and grasses, mixed with inspiration from Gilgamesh’s quest beyond the mountains.”

Hope you enjoy! We love your feedback, and (if you feel so led) your shares with friends. If you want more, you can follow our music Facebook page, or our Soundcloud page. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

In My Other Life

I wonder what the neighbors think, I thought as I sat cross-legged in my yard, my hair pinned up in twists on top of my head, foraging a colander full of dandelions for meals. I carried my weedish bounty indoors, then returned outside to climb into the chicken run in my skinny jeans and cute white flats. (How practical.) Then I came inside to do my make-up.

No, I haven’t gone crazy. I’m curling my hair. #nocurlingiron #curlyhair #concert #weirdo

A photo posted by Abigail Zieger (@theyrenotourgoats) on

Now, I’m not generally a make-up girl. But I had a concert to sing in that night, so eyeliner & such was my duty.

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(We got to sing a little of Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame that night.) 

I’m often practicing vocalises or memorizing an aria while I’m milking the goat or shoveling chicken poop. It’s a good time to work on it, ya know? It’s just how things have been going around here- keeping our heads above water with the homestead by day, practicing music by night.

Music has been consuming more and more of our time recently- which has been wonderful! We’ve started taking on more private students, teaching preschool music classes, and looking for more professional performance work.

What’s more, my husband has spent the last two months or so rebuilding our garage and turning half of it into a private studio. We’ve been teaching and recording out this space, and it is really amazing to have a zone completely dedicated to our music making. It’s not quite complete yet, but it’s coming along. 

Room in process. #musicstudio #1950s #redcouch #secondhand #painting

A photo posted by Abigail Zieger (@theyrenotourgoats) on

The painting in this picture is one of my father-in-law’s masterpieces, and we are so blessed by his generosity to be able to hang it on our wall.

And, of course, I haven’t been blogging as much because I had another business website to build! You can check it out here if you’d like, and/or support us by giving us a like on Facebook here. 😉

Never fear- I won’t be going anywhere. l love to have dirt under my nails, and all the stage time in the world won’t change that for me. To me, working with my hands and making music go hand in hand. The balance of labor and song make the days pleasant, homey, happy.

I love it.

 

 

How to Get the Most of Your Voice Lessons

I haven’t really written about singing on this blog yet, but this has been on my mind frequently and I thought maybe someone out there could benefit from reading this. (If this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, I’ll be back to the regular stuff soon enough.) While I’m primarily going to be addressing voice students of a beginner to intermediate level, many of the principles could carry over to other types of music lessons as well.

how to get the most out of your voice lessonsI’ve taught private voice lessons for about six years now, and I’ve had my share of students from middle schoolers up through adult men and women. Some students are really efficient in their learning, and for others I feel as though I am repeating the same thing week after week after week. Over time, I’ve noticed some characteristics that my best students (read: the ones who make the most progress) seem to have in common. I’ve also thought of some suggestions that would help some other students to improve more quickly. If you or your child are currently taking voice lessons, think about how these tips could help you to get more out of your lessons and progress more quickly.

1) Come to lessons well rested, fed, and ready to learn. I can’t tell you how many times tired high school students have stumbled into their 7:00 pm lesson, bleary-eyed and yawning, exhausted from a day jam-packed with too many activities and too little sleep. They are distracted, their voices are tired, and their ability to focus is nearly shot for the day. Judicious removal of extraneous activities and a conscious effort to get more rest could help to remedy this problem.

Likewise, make sure you are comfortable in other ways- e.g., well fed, dressed comfortably, not physically ill or in mental distress over an emotional event in your life. As a singer, your body is your instrument. You don’t want to bring stress and exhaustion into your singing, because then you will not play it nearly as well- and perhaps you will even introduce bad habits due to tension, stress, or trying to over-compensate for a temporary physical weakness (e.g. sore throat, exhaustion, etc.).  Do what you can to prevent physical and emotional stress on the voice as much as possible.

2) Bring your music. Do I need to say more? I’m afraid I do. Bring your music. BRING YOUR MUSIC!  Your music should become like a dearly loved friend to you. You should make observations about this friend, spend time with her often, get to know her deeply and passionately, and want to bring out the best in her every time you see her. Your teacher can help you learn how to do this. If you are not bringing your music to your lesson, it is almost pointless to try to study the song, unless you are already very well equipped to do so independently. It does you no good to have your teacher make notes in his or her own copy for the week.

3) Take notes and/or record your lesson. More frequently than I like to admit, I have come home from a lesson realizing I forgot what it was my teacher said about a particular passage, or what the pronunciation was for this or that French word, or the name of a certain performer who I was supposed to research. If I had only brought a notebook and pen, a tape recorder, or- (here’s an idea for all you tech savvy people)- turned on the recorder on my smartphone, I could have had a record for the week that I could easily return to in order to answer my questions. It’s so much more efficient than waiting another week to ask again about what you were supposed to be practicing all along.

4) Practice consistently. I have had students who I can tell have not practiced all week long. This produces a lesson that inefficient, and, frankly, a waste of their money. I have students who may only practice the night before lessons. This is better than nothing, but still far from ideal. If you can only practice ten or fifteen minutes a day, that is far better than an hour at the end of the week spent in a “cram” session. Consistency is key in cementing a new concept.

5) Practice purposefully. Don’t just run songs aimlessly- all that will do is lock in bad habits. Rather, ask your teacher for specific exercises that you should rehearse to help you improve vowel quality, blending of the registers, expressive techniques, etc, as well as how to improve the problem sections in your songs. When practicing your repertoire, make sure you spend the most time addressing the troublesome passages. Slow them down and get them perfect. Merely singing songs over and over will not help resolve vocal challenges.

6) Let your teacher teach you. Allow your teacher to pick vocalises, sight-reading-exercises, and repertoire that he or she thinks will be the most beneficial to your vocal development. Respect his or her suggestions. Do not insist on singing only the songs you want to sing. You will grow more as a singer if you are open to doing the foundational work necessary to progressing forward. It will do you little good to pay a teacher to practice radio songs with you that you could be singing in your car. (I began to write a whole rant on this topic, but it’s since moved over to a future post. I may one day still share my craziness. 🙂 )

Hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to you and/or your child while taking voice lessons. Musicians, what has helped you grow the most in your instrument? Teachers, what wisdom do you wish you could share with your students? Happy studies to you!

 

Simple Gifts

What were you thankful for yesterday? For most of us, Thanksgiving brings to mind all the many joys we have in our life. But have you ever thought about being thankful for those things which humble you or constrain you? Have you ever seen a lack as a blessing?

Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

(Traditional Shaker song, Eighteenth century.)

We don’t often think about “coming down where we ought to be” as a gift. What is the “place just right” for most of us? The place where we have more money and a nicer house? The place where we earn recognition for our work? Is that the valley of love and delight?

Or, can anonymity and quietness be gifts? Can humility be a blessing? Can we find peace and contentment in where we are at, instead of always searching for the next thing? Can we be glad for the simplest of gifts and find joy there?

In all things, I want to be content with the blessings I already have. A comfortable home. Food to eat. A kitchen to prepare it. Warm beds and all we need to stay happy and healthy. A loving family.

But I also want to be thankful for the things I don’t have. The fame I don’t have that would build my pride. Lots of money that I would squander. Constant health that I would take for granted. Sometimes the lack of things is what builds our character the most.

Why should I seek elsewhere when I already have all I could ask for right here? This is my place. This is what I am thankful for.

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I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with gratitude for all that is already within your doors.

“Though my feet may wander far from home, may my heart here never leave.”

Wrapping Things Up (Day Thirty-One of Homemade Music)

Welcome to the very LAST day of 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Well, folks, here we are. The last day of this series. Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve been able to. I’ve really enjoyed the feedback from you all, as well as the awesome community I’ve gained from getting to know some other 31 Days writers. It’s been a major challenge writing about one main idea for every single day of a whole month, but also a great personal discipline for me.

This month, I’ve babbled on and on about why you should make music and how to get going. We’ve discussed why music is good for the mind and the soul, and how to listen to potentially unfamiliar music. We have visited starting points for playing with singing, percussion, music-reading, and piano. I’ve given you listening activities to do with your family and briefly introduced you to folk music and sacred music.

We all hear music every day- in the car, the store, on TV, or in the office. Most of us have heard at least some recordings of great music, and some of us have been lucky to attend live concerts. But my agenda this month was to help convince you that it is well worth it to participate in music making, and to give you some tools to that end.

I hope that you were able to try at least some of the ideas from this 31 Days series. If you haven’t yet, maybe at some point in the future it will provide you with an avenue for musical exploration. If not, that’s okay too- I just hope that at some point you decide to give music a try- without fear, reservation, or self-consciousness!

Can music really make a big difference in your life? Think about it. Can it broaden your mind and sphere of experience? Can it heighten the senses? Can it develop your personal tastes? Can it be a comfort or a joy? Can it move powerful men to a change of heart? Can it sweep huge crowds of people with dancing and singing? Can it change the hearts of a nation?

I would dare to say yes. Yes, it can.

Do you think so too? You’ll never know until you try. Happy music-making to you!

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Resources for Church Music (Day Thirty of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

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Yesterday I spent some time talking about some guiding principles for leading church music. Today, I want to give you some resources for continuing to do that. This isn’t an exhaustive list- it merely includes the books and websites I use most frequently. Depending upon your church setting and musical culture, some of these resources will work better for you than others. Feel free to pick and choose as you will.

Indelible Grace Hymn Book- Indelible Grace focuses on reviving the tradition of putting old hymn texts to new tunes. The hymnbook is rich with carefully selected hymns of generations past, put to appropriate and pleasing melodies with new arrangements. The website is one of the most complete and helpful resources I have found for it’s music. Each one of the hymns (from a large index, mind you) includes a lead sheet, guitar chords, a demo, a power point (for you screen-using churches) and the complete score. Many include a piano solo arrangement. And all for free- beat that.

Trinity Hymnal We have the “red cover edition” of the Trinity Hymnal, and use it frequently. There is very little of the useless stuff you find littered throughout so many hymnals. Expect well-written, meaty texts and appealing arrangements. They have different editions for different denominations (with theological differences and all), so you can search for one that best suits your church if you’d prefer.

Praise! Our Songs and Hymns This hymnal includes a lot of the classic, homey old tunes that we associate with the era of Fanny Crosby. You want Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Nothing But The Blood, and Trust and Obey? This is the hymnal for you.

If your church prefers more contemporary music, almost all of those songs can be found on sites like Sheetmusicplus.com or Musicnotes.com. Or, if you like to live on the edge, you can just Google it and follow someone else’s lead sheet slapped up a free guitar tab site. Just be aware that these sites are scattered with glaring chord errors, and you may have to do some corrective work to the available music.

If you sing special music, offertory music, or communion music, you may want to look for some befitting solos. You can try The Sacred Collection: Low Voice or High Voice for a wide selection of sacred music across a variety of genres. I have also used some of Mark Hayes’ arrangements for voice in solo music: 10 Hymns & Gospel Songs for Solo Voice or 7 Psalms and Spiritual Songs are good for starters. If you enjoy singing spirituals, try some of Moses Hogan’s arrangements in books such as The Deep River Collection (I don’t have this book, but I do like Moses Hogan!). There are of course many more possibilities than this, but these are the books I have visited frequently for sacred solo arrangements.

What music does your church use? If you lead music frequently, what is your favorite resource for doing so?

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Church Music for Newbies (Day Twenty-Nine of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

If you are remotely musically inclined and a churchgoer, chances are at some point you either have been or will be asked to participate in music in some way. Depending on the type of church you attend, you may be able to join a choir or a “praise band,” or be asked to lead music in some capacity (cantoring or leading congregational hymns). Or, perhaps you will be asked to perform “special music,” which is basically a solo in church for you non-Christianese speakers.

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If you’re new at participating in church music, it can be kind of intimidating at first. So whether you’re just starting or just open to rethinking how you do church music, here are a few ideas for you.

1) Keep it meaningful. Text first. Always look at the words of a song before you choose it for church music. Is it God-glorifying? Is it well-written? Are there any wonky lyrics that you’re not sure you should attribute to God or the church? Is it clear? Picking well written words helps the congregation to stay with you mentally and in spirit.

2) Keep it simple. Now is not the time to try to show off. Ideally, you want to be leading others in worship- and being purposefully cocky or overly impressive is a surefire way to distract from that purpose. If you’re doing a solo, you will have a little leeway for performing with your own interpretation, but if you are leading the congregation in song, you will want to keep it simple and singable so that everyone can join in easily. (As you gain skill and experience, of course you can do more difficult repertoire- but that’s because you will be able to do it better, so it won’t be a distraction then!)

3) Keep it tasteful. During church is not the time to try to convince everyone that they should become reggae-lovers, or that hard metal can be Christian. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these beliefs, it is, once again, terribly distracting to use church as a venue to push your own musical preferences. (Believe me, I’ve walked these roads, and it all just gets muddied and confusing.) Better to keep it LESS stylized than more, or to go with a musical style that is generally accepted to be common among your congregation. Church worship should not be a divisive event. Keeping the music tasteful will help your congregation focus where they need to focus.

4) Keep it beautiful.  Pick songs that you can do well so that you can do them beautifully. Again, this will help you can focus on the worship rather than your performance. The more comfortable you are with the song, the more pleasing it will be for everyone.

5) Keep it cool. If you mess up or if the music is received poorly, don’t fret. Keep your focus on the worship and you won’t mind so much if it wasn’t perfect.

Have you noticed a trend here? The idea is to always keep your focus on the worship. Unfortunately, this is not always kept at the forefront when selecting church music. A lot of times we are more concerned about ourselves- about how we will be perceived, how we will sound, whether or not the sound system worked, or if we like a song well enough- than we are about the whole point of doing church music: to offer a sacrifice of praise.

Note: I do think there is a place for high art in church music. There is not much more lovely than hearing professional musicians performing difficult repertoire very well. While “low art” highlights our commonality and encourages everyone to join in, high art lifts the mind and draws a parallel to the complexities and richness of the things of God. However, each has their downsides: If we sing all low music, we forget God’s greatness. If we perform all high music, we become disconnected. I personally think that a balance between the two is the most appropriate way to go.

Come back tomorrow for some helpful church music resources. What do you most appreciate in your church music?

(Whew- 31 Days is almost over! Are you still with me?)

Resources for Folk Music (Day 28 of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Over the past several days of this series, I have tried to introduce you to a variety of folk genres so that you can begin learning some of the songs yourself. Today, I will share with you several of my favorite folk song resources so you can continue learning on your own. (I’ve also tried to keep the resource list very inexpensive!)

Something to sing about!: The personal choices of America’s folk singers
A really awesome collection of folk singers’ favorite song choices all in one book, published 1968. Before each artist’s selection, a brief biography and information on the song is included. This book has a great variety, and a steal at $3 for a hardcover copy.

Folk Songs for Solo Singers Several volumes house many tastefully arranged folk songs for the beginning voice student. While these books are meant more for performance than for community singing, they are still a unique resource. They join together the worlds of the folk song devotee and the aspiring vocalist.

The Fireside Book Of children’s Songs– A fabulous collection of children’s songs, such I was trying to link to in yesterday’s post. These are the enduring types of children’s songs with great melodies and tasteful arrangements that are appealing to both child and adult. The hardcover edition has a yellow cover, and J is often asking to sing songs from “The Yellow Book.” There are also other “fireside book” collections, and if they are anything like the children’s collection, I will be looking to gather them up as well.

Music Through The Day Another collection of simple folk songs and children’s songs. We don’t use this one quite as much, but it’s still got a wide array of music to choose from. It’s nice to find slightly different versions of the same songs across different books.


The Story That Crow Told Me A collection of rare and colorful recordings from the early 20th century of children’s folk songs. Now, be warned that not all of these are kid’s songs that would be acceptable today- things used to be a little rougher around the edges, you know- but they are fabulous and old timey and lots of fun to listen to. There is a second volume as well, though we only have the first.

Try looking at some of the links from my previous posts and use Youtube or Pandora to hear more from some of the same artists. Try looking up some big names for starters- Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Simon & Garfunkel, Joan Baez,  Smothers Brothers, or Woodie Guthry for starters. Try listening to multiple versions of the same song.

Look up some chords to a song or snag a book, learn the melodies, try some harmonies, and get singing/playing! There’s something wonderful about singing with the voices of many years past, isn’t there? 😉

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support in this way.