Your voice is an instrument
Here's a break from my usual content for something fun...a video I put together right after St. Patrick's Day of this year. I originally used just three of the audio tracks (and sang the fourth part) in a local community event at which my wife and I entertained. Enjoy this Irish Blessing!
If you like this video, please share it with friends! It's just a start, but I plan to make some more soon.
Is musical talent something that we are born with? Or is musical talent based solely on environment and training?
It has been interesting to hear so many different perspectives on the same subject as I have begun teaching music, and in particular, vocal music. Parents of children who are taking music lessons or adult music students seem to be the most firmly set in their view of this topic. Can we find a balanced perspective?
As we sing, a predictable musical process is taking place. Just like any other instrument, our voices create music by utilizing three basic parts: an initiator, a vibrator, and a resonator. One thing that makes the voice a unique instrument is a fourth part, the articulators. The information I'm sharing today I initially learned from my voice teachers and from a book entitled, The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults, by James McKinney. I would highly recommend this book for additional information on the topic of vocal usage and voice teaching.
Songs for holidays through the year
As we approach a busy season for holidays, I'd like to share a few fun song selections for various holidays. I have tried to pick the best version of each song that I could find on YouTube and a few from other sites. Many of these songs are familiar, but I hope you will get some enjoyment from these and maybe find something great for your repertoire...
Here are ten tips for church singers in regards to communication. What is the best way to communicate the message of your music to a congregation? Here are some fabulous ideas from my teacher and mentor, Ray Gibbs.
God has given man many incredible gifts, including the gift of music. Music, especially singing, is one way that man can communicate to God and praise God. This truth is referenced many times in the Psalms and other Bible verses. But why should Christians be concerned with studying the voice and singing? Isn't it really the heart that matters anyway?
One point to consider is the worth of the One to whom we sing. God is infinitely powerful, but incredibly merciful; he is all-knowing and perfectly holy. If we are truly singing for this amazing Lord, doesn't He deserve our best? When we view God correctly and view our music as a sacrifice of praise to God, we can begin to realize the importance of having the best music possible. When Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice, God was well pleased; but when Cain brought something that was second best, God rejected it.
Since the advent of microphones and electronic amplification, the art of singing has been modified to fit new styles that would not have been nearly as practical without the aid of amplification. However, going back to classical voice training is not a bad idea. It will help singers in any genre to maintain a healthy voice and get the best sound possible.
Since I have begun teaching voice students at our local arts center, I have found that there are three basic concepts that I want my students to grasp from the start. These are some of the fundamental concepts that other voice teachers may also want to communicate to their students.
To follow up on my previous post, here are a few more thoughts on the benefits of getting voice lessons. Whether you want to be a professional musician or not, voice lessons can give you some great side benefits.
1. Bless others through your music
For those of us who love music, there is not much that can compare to a well presented performance of good music. Some thoughts and feelings can be much more fully expressed through the power of the emotional connection of music. But seeing a church or community musician who is ill-prepared or does not yet possess good technical skill can greatly detract from the message that is being communicated.
The hobbyist or “just for fun” musician can deliver a powerful musical presentation when properly trained and prepared. It takes the time and discipline of good practice and learning the basics of a good vocal approach to get to this point. A music teacher can help you prepare to perform at your best level. This way, the audience won't be distracted by “that place where she always goes a little flat” or “the strained sound when he hits those high notes” but will be able to experience the enjoyment of the message in the music you sing.
2. Learn new approaches to finding your best voice
When I first heard a professional music teacher giving a presentation on proper singing technique, I was a young man in high school. Up to that point, I thought that I was a pretty good singer – at least, that's what all the folks at church told me. What I didn't realize is how much there was to know about singing! I had previously thought that, for the most part, people were just born a good singer or they weren't. What I later learned is that anyone can take whatever ability they have and improve it greatly by the use of time-tested principles. Even the greatest singers in the world still have vocal coaches and trainers, and they continually seek to improve.
What I was limited by when I was that young, naïve high school student was a lack of knowledge of singing, including how my voice really worked. By getting instruction from various voice teachers and choir directors in college, I really discovered how my voice worked. I also found out how to practically apply that knowledge to increase my enjoyment of singing and the enjoyment that other people had in hearing me.
3. Connect with new people
Becoming knowledgeable in a particular subject causes you to become more likely to be able to carry on a good conversation with others who have the same passion in that subject. For example, my wife has developed some great skills in photography (to see her website click here) and loves to talk about that with other people, especially when they can relate to the challenges of creating good pictures and share her love for it. We're all that way – we relate best to those who are like us.
At the same token, when you develop your skills in music you are far more likely to be able to relate to and connect with other people who are pursuing the same skills. As you get farther down the path to excellence in your music, you will be able to give encouragement to others who are facing the same challenges and experiencing the same successes as you. And there will always be someone who has more skill and experience than you, who will be able to come alongside and encourage you too. I have developed many friends and acquaintances who have the common denominator of a love for music. You can do the same!
While for some people (like me) getting voice lessons is the fulfillment of a life-long goal of learning to sing for an audience, many people do not have this desire and thus do not think that vocal training would be of any benefit. Here is what I know: voice lessons are not just for professional (or wannabe professional) singers. Anyone can benefit from some voice training.
So what are the benefits that everyone should consider about voice lessons? Here are a few to think about.
1. Voice lessons can boost your confidence in the daily use of your voice for speaking
Many people have concerns about their voices and are very self-conscious about the way that they sound. Others have bad habits in their speaking voice that have accumulated over their lifetime. The exercises and techniques that are used for opening up the voice for maximum singing potential are the exact same things that will benefit the speaking voice as well.
For those who speak publicly; such as teachers, pastors, business leaders, community leaders, etc.; vocal training can help them to develop power and projection needed to communicate to an audience. For others who use their voice as a tool for work every day in live presentations, phone conversations, web conferences and more, vocal training can help them to use their voice to maximum effect. As a music major in college with a minor in speech communications, I was able to see how the two arts of singing and speaking were inextricably linked.
2. Voice lessons can improve your overall vocal health
Those who depend on their voice to work for purposes of personal or business communication (which would be almost everyone) should consider the health benefits of vocal exercise. Our voices are meant to be a life-long tool that we can use. Roger Love, in his book Set Your Voice Free said, "The human voice is set up to speak or sing twenty-four hours a day without getting hoarse or strained or creating any physical problems."
As a voice teacher, part of what I teach my students is to treat their voices well, so that they can continue singing through their whole lives. Good habits required of a voice student are the same habits everyone should implement to maintain good vocal health. Some of these are things we know are right, but don't always follow, such as: drinking plenty of water, not using the voice for screaming or yelling, and getting enough sleep every night. Also, the vocal exercises used to both relax and strengthen the voice of the student are beneficial in reducing the strain of daily use for non-musical tasks.
3. Singing brings personal enjoyment
Learning to sing well can bring a great deal of personal enjoyment to music that cannot be experienced by someone who is not as confident or capable in the art of singing. Whether it be involvement in church or community music groups, singing has brought many people together to have a good time. I have found that as my abilities increased through my years of vocal training, my enjoyment of singing in groups also increased. I gained confidence in knowing what I was doing and was able to focus more on the people around me because I didn't have to focus so much on myself and my inadequacies in singing.
As you consider some of the benefits of vocal training, of which I have only mentioned three, consider getting some voice lessons yourself. Try it, you may like it!
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