Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inject Some Enthusiasm

I have to admit that I'm having an off day. My energy is not quite up to par, but I think this makes it a great time to discuss a concept that is so important to utilize in singing, in making music, and most importantly, in living life.

This is the concept of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is vital to the success of your life. Remember the quote, "if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything"? Sometimes you lose your zest for life because you think you have nothing to be excited about. The solution is to inject a little enthusiasm into the many tasks in your day and see if it doesn't change for the better.

I use this technique when running a choir rehearsal on a weeknight. I realize that people have been working all day, and I appreciate that they are committed enough to show up for a two hour rehearsal after a long work day. I know they're tired; so am I! But if I can get them enthusiastic about what they are singing and how they are singing, rehearsal goes from drab to fab, and those two hours fly like minutes!

You can inject enthusiasm into just about any task and make it more desirable to check off your to-do list. Gotta clean the house? Put on some good jazz tunes (or whatever else you prefer to listen to) and double your cleaning as an exercise routine. Need to run some unexciting errands? Envision how you will feel after you've completed them and imagine how the completed tasks will make your life easier. Have to brave the long morning commute? Download some new podcasts to your mp3 player and use your time in the car as "personal development". The fact is, you can turn anything you have to do into a more desirable task if you find a way to develop some enthusiasm for it.

In music, if I'm feeling apathetic about a particular task I have to do (chart a song in a new key, for instance), I first assign myself a time limit to work on the project. Usually it's 30 minutes to an hour. I promise myself that if I can't get into the work at the end of the time period that I can quit for the day and at least I'll have gotten started. But what usually happens is I get into the project and get excited about it and plow through until it's done.

Are there areas of your life that need an injection of enthusiasm? Maybe your singing needs some new life. Try to imagine what the author of the material you're singing was thinking and feeling when he/she penned the words, then try to get in that same spirit. Experiment with different vocal tones and dynamic levels. Research the style of music you're performing and see if you can find out something interesting about it that you didn't know before. Or, go completely off the wall and choose a new piece of music in a different genre than you ever performed before (reggae, anyone?) No matter what you do to spice up the music in your life, taking the time to become enthusiastic about it will be anything but boring!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Vocal Warm-up and What It can do for You

Hello fellow singers! I know it's been a while since I last posted, but rest assured, once I begin my new job as a chorus teacher, I am sure to have an array of subject matter and stories to tell you! For now, I want to take a moment to speak on one of the most important parts of vocal health, and that is the vocal warm-up.

Anytime I teach a private voice lesson, I begin with a series of stretches. (Some of these are covered in my previous blog post: Vocal Secret Weapon #3). The concept behind stretching is to let the body know that you're getting ready to sing and also to remind yourself that singing is a full-body experience. It's also simply easier to sing when all the muscles of the body are warm as opposed to tensed up.

After we stretch (and yes, I always stretch and sing with my students; it's unreasonable to expect them to do something that I can't do!), I take the student through vocal warm-ups. This might surprise you, but I spend at least half of each voice lesson on vocal warm-ups. Why? They are so important to helping a singer master the correct technique, and they can also be directly incorporated into the singer's repertoire, or "real life" material, as I like to call it.

The main purpose of vocal warm-ups are to help the vocal cords avoid injury. Aside from that, warm-ups prepare the body for heavy singing, help develop agility in the ranges, and get the singer in the habit of practicing good vocal technique!!! It's a win-win situation all around when you warm-up.

One thing I have to emphasize when talking about vocal warm-ups is that they are just that: warm-ups. You perform them as a preliminary exercise to singing whatever other material you're practicing. Therefore, they shouldn't be perfect or you wouldn't even need to use them! When I was recording some of my own vocal exercises for my students, I actually had not sung at all that day before I began. I used those exercises as my warm-up while recording them! They aren't perfect, but they illustrate the way warm-ups are supposed to sound, and more importantly, they provided the perfect warm-up for my voice that day. When you are performing warm-ups, they should be done with ease and should bring you more energy, not drain it! If the exercise is too strenuous, then it shouldn't be considered a warm-up. You don't want to do the hard work before you've even have a chance to sing a song!

Now that I've hopefully talked you into adding a warm-up routine to your singing, you may be wondering where to find warm-ups. The answer to that is easy. Look around you; they are everywhere! You can easily find warm-ups on the internet. Use this quick guide to help you evaluate if a particular warm-up will work.

1. Make sure the warm-up is easy to understand
2. Make sure you can perform the warm-up with ease to a certain degree and that it doesn't tire out your voice or temporarily decrease your range
3. After you perform it, you should feel "warm" around the throat and articulators. That's usually a good sign that you can begin practicing your other material
4. Make sure the warm-up actually helps your voice develop and grow

Warm-ups are critical to your success as a singer! They will ultimately help you increase your range and memorize what it feels like to sing properly.

Friday, July 1, 2011

From Choir Singer to Chorus Teacher

On April 10, 2008, I wrote these words in my personal journal:

"I've decided to wholeheartedly pursue teaching. I am getting everything together that I need, including all of my references. And, mark my words, Journal, I will get hired somewhere and I will make an amazing teacher. It has always been in my heart to teach."

If I'd only known how long and at times, how rough the journey would be, I most likely would have given up sooner. That was over three years ago, and over the past three years, I worked harder than I ever have before, became a substitute, went back to school, took a slew of tests, applied for jobs, interviewed, got rejected, cried, said I was done, then finally dusted myself off again and told myself I was worth a shot as a music teacher. I just needed the right school to give me a chance.

On Tuesday of this week, I had all but given up. We all have dreams that at times in our lives have to be laid at the altar, so to speak, because they are taking our energy away from other areas of our lives that could be more productive. I was driving to my church choir rehearsal and prayed and released what I thought was a dead dream of teaching into God's hands.

Several hours later, I found out that a high school I had interviewed for a week ago wanted to hire me as the Chorus Teacher! I have to be honest and say that after three years of relentlessly pursuing a goal with as much gusto as I could muster, I was a bit numb when I finally, finally accomplished it! I had never gotten past the point of rejection before, so now that I was on the other side, I had a whole new set of feelings to deal with. Namely, what on earth am I going to teach these kids?

Of course, now that the news has settled, my organizational skills have kicked in and I know that I'm more than capable of giving my students a quality music education. It's what I love to do when I teach private lessons, so I know I can do it in a classroom setting.

All I needed was one chance, and now that I've been given it, I vow to be the best music teacher that I can possibly be. These students won't know what tornado of a 5 foot woman hit them!

I'm so glad I didn't give up. My life has now opened up to this new road on my journey and I'm overjoyed to get the chance to take it. I believe that God placed me right where I needed to be, in front of the right people, and it was time for me to get my shot!

I also need to say that there are countless people along this journey who have helped me, encouraged me, given me invaluable information, and assured me that I was worth it. If you had anything to do with any of these things, you know who you are and I have to tell you that I am eternally grateful and couldn't have done it without you! Thank you.

Finally, now that I've accomplished my goal of becoming a teacher, I needed to set a new goal to strive for. I'm going to cut myself some slack for this school year so I can learn the ropes of being a first year high school teacher (gulp!), but eventually my long-term goal is to be Teacher of the Year, either at my school or for the county, whichever comes first! I'll let you know when that happens!

Please don't give up on your dreams. You never know if you're a phone call away from them coming true!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Making of a Music Room

There are two places in my house that I go when I need to be creative: the first place is my office, a small room that is built into our master bedroom. This is where I currently sit, writing this post.

The other place is my beloved music room, which just experienced a facelift! When my husband and I were looking for houses and found this one, there was a great bonus room towards the front of the house. The moment I saw it, I knew it would be my music room. It was a long-time dream come true. I remember when I was a kid, riding in the back seat of my parents' car and day-dreaming about having a house of my own someday. I would look at each house in whatever neighborhood we were currently passing through and decide if I could live there or not. The deciding factor: could I imagine a piano peeking out of the front window? If not, I knew I could never live in that particular house!

So a music room in my real-life grown-up house was non-negotiable, and thank God, my husband agreed! We moved into our house in 2008, and the first piece of furniture that was delivered was my beautiful baby grand piano, my wedding present from my husband. Unfortunately though, the music room didn't get much work done to it to help define it as a creative space.

Two weeks ago was my birthday, and my husband and I went to Ikea to get supplies to redesign my music room and make it what it is today. I never knew how handy my husband was until he spent the weekend putting together my new and improved music room! Voila! Here are some pictures of my new space!

This first picture is the first view of my music room you'll see when you walk in. My grand piano takes center stage, but the curtains really make this space! It's amazing how a few panels of fabric can change a room!

Turning to the right of my piano is my new built-in space that houses my keyboard and shelving and storage for music books. This cozy space is also a great place to write as well.

These are my handy "magazine racks" that house my piano and vocal books. I have been needing these for so long and actually held off on buying new material because I had no place to store it!

Finally, I like to make little signs with one word phrases to help me stay on task when I'm spending time in my music room. This is only one of them, but I also have signs that say "music", and "believe", and "inspire".

Now I appreciate my music room even more because it really has taken my creativity to new heights! I enjoy teaching students in there or even just sitting down to log in some good old practice every once in a while.

Do you have a space where you go to be creative? I hope it is filled with good things and little reminders that inspire your own creativity!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ten Ways to Survive (and Thrive) in Choir Rehearsal

For the last vocal workshop that I hosted, I wrote some new material that I thought would be relevant to choir members of any age. It is my top "Ten Ways to Survive (and Thrive) in Choir Rehearsal". I thought I'd share them here today:

1. On your way to rehearsal, perform several warm-up exercises in your car to ready your voice for singing.

2. Make sure you come prepared with your music in a binder and pick up the music you will need for the evening's rehearsal.

3. Bring a pencil and use it! Make marks all over your music to help you remember rhythms, notes, breath marks, etc. (Note: that's why you use a pencil, so you can erase!)

4. Make sure you sit next to someone who knows the part you are supposed to be singing well, then copy them!

5. Be an active listener and an active learner.

6. Increase your energy by sitting up tall in your chair with feet uncrossed (I know, this takes some getting used to, but I promise you'll be more supported and sing better).

7. Bring water and aim to drink the entire bottle throughout the rehearsal.

8. Ask questions if you're unsure of a certain part.

9. It's ok not to use your full voice for the entire rehearsal. When you're learning your part, sing quietly. When you know your part, then practice in your performance voice.

10. Have fun making a joyful noise unto the Lord!

I hope these tips help you soar through your own choir rehearsal with ease! Happy singing!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tonight: Free Vocal Workshop!

Just wanted to let everyone in on a great workshop happening tonight!

Discovering the Voice in You: Part 1
Presented by Kristin King
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Calvary Christian Center
1687 W. Granada Blvd.
Ormond Beach, FL 32174

This workshop will be located in Calvary's choir room, which is located at the back of the main building. It will cover the basics of singing including how our bodies produce sound and how you can strengthen your voice through warm-ups. There is also a Q&A segment where participants ask their vocal questions. The best part is that the workshop is free! If you're in the area and would like to get some free education on developing a great singing voice, I hope to see you tonight!

Also, for those choir members out there (of any choir, not just Calvary's), I will be presenting "Ten Ways to Survive (and Thrive) in Choir Rehearsal"!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Danger of Oversinging

Hello my faithful readers!

"Where have you been?" you may ask. Well, let's just say that life has gotten very busy around here. I thought I was busy before I started my business! Little did I know...

Anyway, today I want to talk a little on the lines of the danger of over-singing. The praise team singers at my church have been hearing about this from me for a couple of weeks because we've all gotten to hear ourselves from the live feed in the church's recording studio after a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night.

The result has been hilarity, people groaning, and hiding their faces in their hands (oh, wait, that was me!). The reason: no one that I know of enjoys hearing their singing in raw form. Especially when the monitors and acoustics and house sound give the illusion that we sound so good. Let me tell you something: electronics in this day and age cover a multitude of sins!

So while we hate to hear what we really sound like to the online world, the praise team singers have all taken away some valuable feedback about their individual voices.

Rule #1: Know your words! Sure, you may be able to hide it from the rest of the congregation, but the individual mix doesn't lie. If you don't know your words, it is glaringly obvious in the studio.

Rule #2: Try to avoid over-singing. Since most of us singers have a false perception of what we sound like when singing with a group, we tend to over-compensate by singing louder and LOUDER. It may be a lack of being able to hear ourselves in the on-stage monitors or trying to keep our volume matched to the singers around us, but over-singing only tires out the voice, drains our stamina quicker, and unfortunately doesn't sound very good in the live feed.

The best way to not over-sing is to practice those songs you will be performing in a place where you can perfectly hear your voice. Memorize the way your body feels when performing at the appropriate volume. You should feel relaxed and carry a nice, resonant tone. Continue practicing this way as often as you can by yourself before it is time to perform on stage with others. If you practice often enough, your muscles will develop muscle memory. Then, when you finally get on stage, utilize this memory to sing the exact same way you've been practicing, even if you can't hear yourself. If you feel yourself straining in any way, know that you are probably over-singing and allow yourself to return to that relaxed state and normal volume. Remember that you are not competing with other singers as much as you are trying to blend with them, so if someone else's volume is constantly dwarfing yours, ask if you can both try to sing on the same volume level (the nice way of asking them to bring it down!).

Over-singing without knowing you're doing so can diminish your vocal stamina over time, especially if you're not singing with vocal secret weapon #3: the diaphragm. Also, it can keep you from sounding as good as you know you're capable of singing from all that hard practice!

Keep on singing, friends!

Friday, June 10, 2011


It was a little less than two months ago when I started this blog and made mention of my dream of becoming a self-supported full-time musician.

Now after coming to the close of my first full week of being in business for myself, I can say that I've never been happier! I echo those other entrepreneurs who say, "I only regret that I didn't start sooner!"

This week has been extremely busy for me and nothing short of amazing. It involved teaching six lessons (not counting two tomorrow), leading a choir rehearsal, recording in my church's studio, and singing for a television program. Yes, I'm busy, but I'm also so happy and deeply fulfilled because each and every day of my week has involved music. Ahh, how long I've waited for this moment!

The great news is that it's only going to get better. I am getting ready to double the number of students I teach in my music studio within the next couple of weeks! God is really opening the doors of abundance and it's nothing short of amazing because all I did was step out in faith and pursue something I love!

Every time I teach a lesson, I can't believe that I'm getting paid to do this job. It's not even work to me, just fun, fun, fun. I'm reminded of the Scripture from Proverbs 18:16, which says, "A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." I can certainly say this is true in my own life thus far. I am so grateful for the opportunity to pursue my dream at this present moment.

Because we're never promised tomorrow, I hope you're doing all you can to pursue your own hopes and dreams on this beautiful Friday! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vocal Secret Weapon #3 (Final Installment)

Ok, so far, you've learned about the first two vocal secret weapons: #1- water and #2- the articulators. Today I will discuss the final and most critical vocal secret weapon. This weapon will literally make or break you as a singer depending upon how you use or don't use it.

I hope all the singers reading this have already figured it out.

Vocal Secret Weapon #3: The diaphragm (Did you guess right? If not, that's ok. Read on, friend.)
This singer is most definitely using her diaphragm!

When I say diaphragm, I am talking about the muscle underneath your rib cage that separates the chest from the abdomen and aids in breathing. If you don't already know is now, breathing correctly is very important in singing. When you learn to pull in the abs when singing, you will engage the diaphragm muscle. Using your diaphragm in singing will improve your breath support, tone, vocal power, etc. That I can guarantee. Failure to use your diaphragm can help you prematurely kiss your singing voice goodbye. Scary, huh?

Here's the problem: so many, many singers think singing is done from the throat up. I seek to shatter this misconception once and for all!

Singing is a full body experience! You should imagine the sound shooting straight up from your firmly anchored feet and coming straight up through the top of your head.

Your throat and vocal cords cannot handle the strain of singing heavily day in and day out. They are not built to do that. But, if you pull the power of the sound from your diaphragm, you remove the strain from the throat and cords and increase the longevity of your voice. Your diaphragm can handle strenuous singing. Use it!

In my book, The Complete Book of Beginning Vocal Technique, I define the diaphragm as "your singing muscle". It is probably the single most important factor in determining how long you'll be able to keep up singing. The first question I always think to ask when someone tells me they're having trouble with singing is, "Are you using your diaphragm?"

Now that you know what the diaphragm is and why you should always use it when singing, I'm going to tell you how exactly to know that you are engaging the diaphragm. Here are some basic stretches that will help you feel the diaphragm at work:

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and take a deep inhaling breath while raising arms in a circle. Stop the inhale when your arms are fully lifted. Pause a moment, then exhale as you release your arms back down to your sides. Do several of these exercises, working to pull the stomach towards the ribcage as you inhale. Notice how the stomach feels at this moment when it is fully engaged. This is how it should feel when you are singing correctly using your diaphragm.

2. Raise elbows and arms to a table-top position. Gently twist from side to side while pulling in the abs. Notice the deep contraction of the abs as you twist. This is what you want to feel when you are singing.

3. Now, try singing through any song and make a conscious effort to engage the abs as you sing. When you are correctly using your diaphragm, your throat should feel open and your tone should sound free.

The trick to making singing with the diaphragm a lifelong habit is to consciously make an effort to engage it every time you sing. Soon enough, you'll automatically engage the diaphragm and get the added benefit of a freer singing voice.

I hope you've enjoyed my mini series on vocal secret weapons. More importantly, I hope you're using them! As always, post a comment if you have any questions and I will get back with you. Thank you again for reading and happy singing!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Celebrate the Little Victories

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope you all are enjoying this beautiful day, spending it with family and friends, and thanking those citizens who have sacrificed so deeply to bring us the freedom we have today.

I was going to write a post on Saturday night, but I kept getting an error message every time I tried to open a new post window. I had been reflecting on a voice lesson I'd just taught on Friday with one of my students whom I haven't taught in a couple of weeks. While listening to her work on some new material, I noticed a stronger presence in her voice that hadn't previously been there. She stopped singing and fussed for making a mistake with the words, but I was so impressed by her improvement that I encouraged her to keep going.

Not only in singing, but in every area that we're trying to improve, we've got to celebrate the little victories. You can't just make a goal of losing 100 pounds and berate yourself each week when you've only lost 2 pounds. Big victories never come overnight, but they eventually come from the hundreds of little victories that add up over and over again. That's why it's so important to celebrate each little milestone you have.

Maybe you can't sing an entire Mariah Carey song you've been working on, but you can nail that one lick you've been practicing religiously for days. Celebrate it! Eventually, you will be able to sing the whole song, if you just keep at it!

I am one of those people who believe that if you work long and hard enough at something, you will eventually be successful at it. So, if you haven't found your big victory yet, maybe it means you haven't logged enough hours yet or shed enough sweat and tears! I'm serious, though! Your odds of success must increase the more you put your mind to any matter, like improving your singing.

So, I hope on this beautiful Memorial Day, you will find a small victory to celebrate in your own life, all the while, keeping your eye on the major prize that will inevitably come your way! Blessings!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vocal Secret Weapon #2

After reading about the first Vocal Secret Weapon, you're dying to know more, right? Ok, buckle your seat belt and get ready for this one. Again, this weapon is something we all have, but often don't think of how it can help us become a better singer. Actually this secret weapon is plural. Here goes...

Vocal Secret Weapon #2: The Articulators

The Ar-what-u-lators? you ask. The articulators are something you know all about but by different names.

The articulators include:
-soft palate
-hard palate

Tongue, teeth, cheeks, and mouth need no introduction, but just in case you're wondering, your hard palate is roof of your mouth and your soft palate is the soft part of the roof of your mouth as you get closer to the back of the throat. Go ahead and try to feel it with your tongue! No one's looking;)

Articulators are absolutely imperative to speaking because they help you articulate your words, but they are equally important to singing. You cannot sing and make any sense to anyone listening unless you use these tools to shape the sound.

Now here's where the articulators can sabotage your singing voice. When you take a deep breath, form a note, the vocal cords vibrate and force the sound upwards and out through your mouth. But if your soft palate and throat are not open enough the sound will come out squelched and strained. Or if your tongue carries tension as you're trying to form a word, it can stop the tone from sounding full. Likewise, each of your articulators will often try to "help the note", but are only adding additional stress to the sound because they carry tension.

So the first question to ask yourself when you're singing and having a difficult time is, Am I tense anywhere in my body, especially my articulators? When I was taking voice lessons regularly, I dealt with a lack of fulness to my chest range (more on ranges another time). I would be working so hard to produce a powerful tone, but the sound would come out all squeaky and weak. My voice teacher told me that my tongue was constantly tensing up, and sure enough, he was right. He told me to take a deep breath, relax, and then "pant like a dog" a few times, a trick I still use today for myself and my students. After I relaxed my tongue, the note came out the way it was supposed to sound, full and resonant.

Often the way you shape a sound with your tongue, cheeks, or lips can cause a strain to your tone. If any of these articulators carry unnecessary tension, then you will hear it and feel it in your sound. Try relaxing the part of you that is tense and even go back to some basic vocal warm-ups that use lip trills and buzz hums.

Also ask yourself if the vowel sound you're singing lends itself to tension in the articulators. Let's face it, some vowels were just not made for singing! Think of those vowel sounds that make the face spread, as in "eeeeeeeee" or "uuuuuuuuhhh", which causes the soft palate to drop lower than it should. If you are singing a difficult vowel sound, try changing it to something that allows the throat and other articulators to be free of stress. You will probably notice an immediate difference in your tone by making this simple change.

Sometimes a voice student of mine will have a wobble or shake in his or her tone when trying to sing a long, sustained note. Usually, this is because he or she is letting the mouth move way too much when singing. This movement suggests that the singer has no control over the sound that comes out, and that really is true if the articulator (in this case, the mouth) is not reigned in.

So why do I consider these articulators a secret weapon in singing? Just because, singers who learn to take control of them end up having incredible control over the total sound their singing voices produce. If you can control the articulators, you can sing it all, baby! The important part is recognizing that these parts of the body often carry tension and if not relieved, will continue to sabotage an unrestrained, pure tone.

My Vocal Secret Weapon series will be wrapping up next time and you don't want to miss the final secret weapon (it's the most important one!). Cheers and happy singing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Living the Dream

Several posts back, I blogged about the new show The Voice, which currently airs on NBC. I think the reason I love this show so much is because many of the singers have told the host, Carson Daily, that they are doing this singing competition because music is their life and they couldn't lead a happy, fulfilling existence without singing. The first time I heard a contestant say that, it really resonated with me because that is exactly how I feel about music. It will always be a major part of my life because I feel it's what God created me to do.

As of next month, my sole income will come from performing and teaching music. This is huge for me because I've always had side jobs that had nothing to do with music to help support me and my family. But I feel that the time is right and I'm about to take the plunge into living the dream-- my dream, to be exact.

To be completely honest, I'm scared to death! I've always had the heart of an entrepreneur, but never enough guts to act on it in a full-time capacity. However, after much prayer (and trepidation), I feel that now is the time to push for my dream. Each year brings me closer to the age of thirty, and I don't want to enter the next decade of my life having not put forth a major effort to do something I love and make a living at it!

Every time I feel fear, I receive comfort in some way. It may be through a Bible verse or just a word of encouragement from a close friend. Every book I've read in the past month has been about living an exceptional life by making your deepest needs and dreams a reality. I am feeding my spirit and my mind with information that will only affirm what I'm trying to do-- take a giant leap of faith.

Also, I pray often and really talk to God. This may sound strange to some of you, but yesterday I decided to make God the CEO of my new business. He gets to make all of the executive decisions and I'll just go with them! You can't imagine the pressure it relieved when I realized that, No, I'm not really in charge, never will be, and never was, as long as He holds the reigns on my life.

As a result, people have literally come out of the woodwork asking about piano and voice lessons. Two weeks ago, I had two phone calls out of the blue asking if I would teach lessons. This week I've had an additional two people again ask me about lessons. I am so excited for this new season of my life and the chance to show my clients my heart.

The purpose of my post today is to encourage you to live your own dream. It may have nothing to do with music, but everything to do with your core beliefs and values. I can tell you from experience that you will never be fulfilled until you try to make your passion a major portion of your life. If you can't quit your day job quite yet, what little steps can you take each day to get you closer to your dream life? What project can you start, or finish? What hobby or volunteer job can you call for information about today? Carpe diem! Seize the day!

You may ask, What about the possibility of failure? Of course, I'm concerned about failure. Who isn't? But at this point in my life, I'm even more afraid of not doing what God's called me to do. And if I do fail, at least I can say I made a die-hard effort!

Be blessed and encouraged to live your dream in whatever way you can today! Thanks for reading!

(By the way, stay tuned for Vocal Secret Weapon #2, coming up next time!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vocal Secret Weapon #1!

I've decided to do a series on secret weapons for the voice in three installments. We'll cover the first one today, but in order to find out the other two, you'll just have to keep reading my blog! How's that for a marketing ploy?

Are you ready for Vocal Secret Weapon #1? Imaginary drumroll, please...

Vocal Secret Weapon #1: Room Temperature Water

Ok, so maybe it's not such a secret. In fact, it seems kind of obvious that any person in general should be consuming a lot of water (I believe the recommendation is eight 8 oz. glasses a day, but who really does that, I'd love to know). But, this simple and free gift to us is often one that gets overlooked when we're looking for other more complex ways to strengthen our voices. Sometimes, it can be as easy as drinking a nice, lukewarm glass of water!

Notice I said lukewarm water as opposed to cold water. Why should singers be drinking lukewarm water? Lukewarm, room temperature water is a closer temperature to your body than cool, just-out-of-the-fridge water. Therefore, when it hits your throat, it will not shock the vocal cords the way that cold water will. It's totally ok to consume cold water, but your best bet before a performance is to keep it room temperature. This is the optimal way to lubricate your vocal cords and gently clear out any excess mucus.

Many singers I know will drink hot teas or use natural herbal sprays intended to clear out the throat before singing, but why not take advantage of the body's natural cleanser, water? There is nothing wrong with these other products, but in my experience, water has always helped me the most.

There are so many benefits to drinking a large amount of water each day, and one of the most recent benefits I just found out about is that water can actually increase your energy. In Joyce Meyer's book, Look Great, Feel Great (copyright 2006), she states that many times the middle of the day slump that many people experience is actually caused by a thirst for water instead of what we interpret to be tiredness! I often fight the urge to take a nap at 3 pm during the weekday and absolutely will fall asleep if I allow myself to even sit on the couch!

I don't know about you, but the chance of increasing my energy level and improving my singing makes me want to pour a glass of the good stuff right now! I hope you'll go to the kitchen after reading this and get your own glass of room temperature water. Then we'll have an imaginary toast to a better singing voice as a result! Drink up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Watch Out American Idol!

American Idol has some new competition as the fresh, exciting show The Voice airs its third episode tonight! Have you seen The Voice? Does it keep you entertained as much as it does me?

To be honest, I am not a fan of American Idol (for those of you who are gasping in shock, I might as well tell you that I also have never seen an episode of Glee). I suppose because I'm a singer, everyone and their brother thinks I haven't lived until I've auditioned for American Idol. Camping out in a long line of singers and hoping for a chance to belt out a line or two in front of a few producers is not my idea of fun.

But the idea behind The Voice intrigued me from the first commercial. Singers have the chance to audition in front of four vocal coaches who have their backs turned to the performers. If one of the vocal coaches likes what they hear, they can press a large red button that turns their chair around. If more than one vocal coach presses their button, the singer gets to choose which vocal coach he or she will work with. What a fantastic concept! Finally a show that showcases talent in the best possible way. I should mention that the vocal coaches are four famous recording artists: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine. I appreciate that the producers of this show chose to use artists who each have a unique background in the popular music scene.

Another thing that differentiates The Voice from American Idol is that the singers were already pre-auditioned and each one that sang in the past two weeks is actually good. No more suffering through bad and ridiculously horrible singers who simply want their fifteen minutes of fame; although I will admit, that is part of American Idol's appeal to many viewers.

The voice teacher in me can't wait to see how each of the famous vocal coaches instructs his or her team on The Voice. And even though it will air on my television shortly after I arrive home from a three hour choir rehearsal, I will still sit engrossed. That is how much I love music!

If you're looking for a fresh reality show with some great and unusual talent, check out The Voice, Tuesday nights on NBC.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Encourage the Gift!

I don't know if it's like this where you live, but in Florida, our education system has gone through such a budget crisis that the latest news is that arts and music programs will be the first to go as numbers are crunched further. This breaks my heart, not only because I am a certified music teacher who would love to teach in the public school system, but also because I have seen first-hand the positive effects music has on young people. They need music in their daily lives! They need to be encouraged to pursue their dreams and they need teachers and other adults to believe in them.

This past weekend, my church hosted a state competition for 6-12 graders called Fine Arts. In this competition, students from different churches around the state participate in categories such as art, songwriting, sermon, vocal ensemble, vocal solo, and instrumental solo and have the opportunity to earn a superior with advance rating that allows them to compete at a national level Fine Arts. This year, I was supposed to be a judge for the keyboard category until a bout of sickness landed me in the ER. I missed my chance to be a part of this competition and I know I missed seeing some incredibly talented youth. I used to participate in this very competition when I was a teen in Kentucky. I went to nationals several times as well and these memories are some of my fondest as a budding musician.

What I remember most about Fine Arts was not the competition, because at times, it was fierce and the judgments weren't always fair. I remember the chance to interact with other teens who were just as passionate about music as I was, and the feeling of fitting into this fantastic culture that promoted arts among youth. The motivation I got from being involved in such a program was a great factor in my deciding to major in music in college.

My point is, our children and teens need our approval to go after their dreams in the arts, whether or not they get the opportunity in their own schools (sadly enough). One thing I love about kids is that they have little inhibitions. When I'm teaching a young voice student and I ask her to perform a warm-up exercise that may sound silly, she has a laugh, and does it anyway. When I ask her to perform in an upcoming showcase, she agrees because she knows the excitement of the performance will overpower the nerves. Somewhere along the line, we adults seem to lose the excitement of creating art and gain even more trepidation over the performance. What happens to the simple euphoria of singing and being a vital part of an art culture? What makes us afraid to be who we really are?

Imagine a world where we encouraged our youth to go after their music dreams with everything in them. Imagine if we kept encouraging them through adolescence and early adult-hood until they knew without a shadow of a doubt that they can be successful and have fun at the same time. Eventually we'd end up with some pretty solid, rockin' musicians! We desperately need to encourage the gift in our future musicians, artists, and authors. Don't miss your opportunity, however it may come, to shape the life of a child.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning a Song During Crunch Time

Happy Thursday to everyone! Hope you all enjoyed a great Easter! I had the opportunity to be a part of my church's Easter program this past weekend and sing a solo during the production. It was a great honor and I ended up having a blast! But I will admit to you a serious weakness of mine- I am a procrastinator. I knew the name of the song I would be singing about a month ago, but I chose to start learning it this past Wednesday!

I know, I know, I shouldn't be admitting this, but I think it proves an important point. Many singers tell me that they can't perform a song if they have short notice to learn it. We all have a fear of getting on stage and opening our mouth to sing but forgetting the first line. I can definitely say that fear has been a reality for me a time or two and it's not fun! Forgetting words when I'm performing makes me want to crawl in the drum cage until the song is over and no one is staring at me dumbfounded anymore.

But if you're a singer who thinks you can't learn a song and perform it satisfactorily in short period of time, I want to encourage you that I believe it is possible. I'm going to give you some tips straight from my education classes. The fact of the matter is, if you are a working singer or musician, you may not always have the luxury of getting your music a month in advance. If you're a studio singer, oftentimes you'll be expected to arrive at the studio in time to learn your music on the spot before you record it! That's reality for a musician and you have to be able to adapt quickly in order to earn that paycheck.

Here are my tips for learning music quickly:

1. There are three broad categories of learners: visual, auditory, and kinestetic. Figure out which one you are and learn your music accordingly.

Here's a brief overview of learning styles, although they are pretty self-explanatory:
-Visual: you learn best by seeing. For instance, having a copy of the lyrics or music of a song would aid you best; you may have a photogenic memory
-Auditory: you learn best by hearing. If you can listen to a song or passage over and over again, you will learn it easiest this way.

-Kinestetic: you learn best by acting it out. If a song, poem, or passage has actions, you can easily memorize it by acting out the words and memorize the emotions.

In my case, I learn optimally with both visual and auditory cues. So, for my Easter solo, I set the song to repeat on my iTunes and typed out the lyrics (for some reason, the act of actually writing out the lyrics instead of just finding them online helps me too) and sang along, over and over again.

2. Practice, practice, practice. I am a true believer that practice does make perfect, but it does require some work. It's important to take as much time as you have before the performance and maximize it with practice. Try to view the lyric sheet in your head and picture the words or pretend the music to the song is playing nearby. You don't need to be singing out loud to get in good practice! The day before Easter, we had a dress rehearsal for the production and during the hours of down time when the choir wasn't singing, I was drilling myself on the words and melody of my song.

3. Reduce anxiety during the performance. Anticipate any possible issues that you might have before the performance so you're not caught off guard if they happen while you're singing. For instance, in rehearsal, the track I was performing with kept coming in a measure early, but I made note of that and wasn't surprised when it happened during my actual performance. Try to relax before you're about to sing and make sure you have that first line in your head ready to sing. Enjoy the experience! That's what singing is all about.

I hope this helps you the next time you have to memorize a song, poem, or passage on short notice. You can do it! Maximize the time that you do have with careful practice that caters to your learning style and get ready to nail that song!

By the way, I didn't miss a word when I sang my solo on Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Do You Sing?

Really, I want to know, "Why Do You Sing?" I ask myself this question often and today the first thing that popped in my head was, "I siiiing be-cause I'm haaaaappy! I siiiing be-cause I'm freeeeee!" You know what I'm talking about if you've ever seen Sister Act 2.

My honest answer to this question is I sing because I can't not sing. It may sound a little cliche to you, but singing is truly my heart. I've never tried to go without singing because I know I would be robbing myself of the daily joy that it brings me. You know how people say those things that you love are those things you do without receiving a paycheck? Singing truly is the thing that I would and will continue to do even if I never make a dime off of it. When I sit down at my piano and work through a new song, I fall into a zone that seems to transport me to another world; hence the reason when my husband calls and I'm in my music room, he can't ever get a hold of me!

I also love to sing because it's my favorite way to express my gratitude to God for all He's done for me. Worship songs are some of my favorite material to sing because they make it easy to tune everything and everyone out and focus on Who matters most!

So today, I challenge you to think about the reasons you sing. What causes you to spontaneously break into song in the shower? What makes a tune run through your head over and over again? Singing is a beautiful art form; one we can all enjoy for our own reasons.

Welcome to my Blog!

Wow, it's the very first post of "The Choir Singer"!

This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and today 4/21/11, I decided to get this blog off the ground and running!

My name is Kristin King. I am a twenty-something living in Florida and setting out to make my longtime dream of becoming a full-time musician a reality. I've always been a part-time musician, but I'm ready to make music my livelihood!

Currently, I teach voice and piano lessons to some amazing students. I am also a member of one of the best church choirs I've ever heard or had the privilege of singing with. Every Sunday, I sit down at the piano in our choir room and warm up the 100+ sopranos, altos, and tenors. And there's been one reoccurring theme that I've run into with choir members. Most of them love to sing, but they have no idea what they are doing when they sing or how to properly care for their instruments- their voices. Hence the idea for this blog: the Choir Singer!

In this blog, I will address common voice problems, trends, exercises, and questions from viewers. I will also keep you up to date on my journey as a musician and keep you aware of great resources that can help you become a better musician. I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoy this incredible journey!