Category Archives: the Arts

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!



Blueberry Recycled Art for Preschoolers

It’s blueberry season! But it was rather wet and dreary the day we were supposed to go to the blueberry farm, so we were stuck home instead. To hold us off til we could get some good pickin’s, J and I decided to make some rainy day blueberry art together.


First, we looked up some pictures of blueberry bushes to refresh our memory on what the plant actually looked like.  (It’s amazing the things we don’t observe until necessary.)


Photo Credit

Next, I took an old Styrofoam fruit tray and drew a few simple leaves in them with a pen so that the lines made a good indent in the foam. Then I cut out the leaves. Voila, recycled stamps!

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We got out a piece of craft paper and squirted out our poster paint onto a plate (green, yellow-green, and blue-green for variety). Then I let J get smearing and stamping. I tried to encourage him to stamp the leaves in groups, but he preferred a somewhat separated blueberry bush. 😉

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We set our craft paper up to dry, and next got out a sheet of newspaper. The little man decorated it with a generous squeeze of blue and red paint, then we crumpled it all up and opened it again. The result was a type of tie-dyed newspaper.

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We set the newspaper up to dry and took a break with some blueberry themed books. Blueberries for Sal , The Blueberry Train, and Blueberries for the Queen were some of our favorite picks from the library.

Finally, after nap and dinner, we came back to our project. I had J practice cutting circles out of our purpley newspaper to make little paper blueberries.

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Next, we took some of our homemade Mod Podge and adhered the blueberries onto their bush. J decided to call it quits after only a small handful of berries… and there are no stems.. but you get the idea. For me, art with kids is more about the process than having it look perfect when its all done. So we’re keeping it real here!

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How do you celebrate blueberry season? Link up to your favorite book or craft to go with this delicious treat.

This post was shared at No Time For Flash Cards Link & Learn.

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