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Voice Lessons

I’ve heard that students shouldn’t begin voice lessons until they are older (13 years/high school/after the voice change, etc). Why do you teach younger students?

I know boys go through a voice change. Do girls’ voices change?

What is Somatic Voicework© The LoVetri Method?

What is the best age to start voice lessons?

What is Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM)?

I’m nervous to start singing lessons. Is this normal?

What should I expect at my first voice lesson?

I have trouble matching pitch. I’ve been told I’m tone-deaf. Are voice lessons a waste of time?

I’m a rock/pop/country singer. I tried lessons before, but the teacher wanted me to sound like a classical opera singer. How can I maintain my own sound and still take lessons to help me with my specific vocal concerns? Is that even possible?

I’d like to take lessons at your studio. What do I do next?

I have a question that wasn’t answered here.

 

I’ve heard that students shouldn’t begin voice lessons until they are older (13 years/high school/after the voice change, etc). Why do you teach younger students?

I love working with children! I believe singing is the most purely human form of musical expression and a wonderful way to express emotions and simply have fun! Younger students can benefit from private vocal instruction in much the same way as teenage students: build confidence and overcome stage fright, become more self-aware, gain discipline and focus, and learn to read, hear, and perform music. Aural skills, which research indicates are an important part of successful reading, can often be improved more easily in the childhood years.

There are also cases where private voice instruction is especially important for children.

      • Children who have difficulty matching pitch may become embarrassed and develop a belief that they are “bad singers” leading them to avoid musical pursuits in the future.
      • The child who complains that singing hurts her throat will benefit greatly from learning a new, healthier technique.
      • For many pre-teen singers, male and female, the voice change can be a traumatic time. Without a knowledgeable professional to guide them through this challenging transition, many students lose confidence and may quit singing all together. I believe that is a terrible and avoidable loss.

Not every child will be ready for voice lessons, but by using a personalized technique based on function and voice science, even young students can experience the joy of singing in a healthy way while learning basic musical and performance skills.

I know boys go through a voice change. Do girls’ voices change?

Yes. From childhood to adulthood a girl’s voice undergoes several changes brought about by the growth and development of the larynx (voice box). Just as some boys have an easier voice change than others, a girl’s voice change may be virtually painless or somewhat traumatic. While a girl’s voice doesn’t drop as far in pitch as a boy’s, she will likely notice an increase in her lower range and a simultaneous difficulty in hitting the higher notes that were once easy for her. Breathiness, voice cracking or breaking, and intonation or pitch issues may also appear. This can be an emotionally difficult time, especially for the girl who identifies herself as a beautiful and effortless singer. It takes several years for the voice to fully mature, but in my experience, the most difficult part generally lasts less than 2 years. As with all the pains of growing up, this will pass, and a beautiful adult voice will emerge on the other side!

What is Somatic Voicework© The LoVetri Method?

Somatic Voicework© The LoVetri Method is a body-based method of vocal training based on voice science and medicine. It is a functional technique designed to work with the way modern research tells us the human voice physically produces sound. This method draws upon traditional classical vocal training as well as acting, dance, speech training, yoga, and various bodywork approaches. Because it is based on how the vocal instrument functions, Somatic Voicework© The LoVetri Method works for every style of music and is particularly useful for singers of rock, pop, musical theatre, and other Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) genres for whom classical training is insufficient.

Elizabeth proudly teaches Somatic Voicework© as a Level 3 graduate of the certification program at Shenandoah University’s CCM Pedagogy Institute.

For more information please visit, www.somaticvoicework.com or www.thevoiceworkshop.com

What is the best age to start voice lessons?

Nearly any age can be the best time to start voice lessons. I’ve taught students from 6 to 60. I take a different approach depending on student age as well as other factors like previous study and individual goals.

Lessons with young children involve a variety of activities to explore the voice, movement, and musicianship. Young students begin developing performance skills and have fun learning age-appropriate songs. Reinforcing and expanding upon topics learned in the child’s school music classes is also an important goal, especially as class sizes increase and music class time decreases in many schools. Read more about the benefits of voice lessons for young children.

Lessons with middle school students generally begin to look more like traditional voice lessons as they have longer attention spans. Fundamentals of healthy singing are explained more fully and song choice becomes more mature (though still age-appropriate!). The voice change may be a struggle for students at this age, and music theory concepts first introduced in elementary school often need review and reinforcement. Social concerns, “drama” in choir, and personal insecurities often surface in lessons. Giving perspective and caring for the singer as well as the voice is especially important.

High school students have different individual goals including making show choir, auditioning for school musicals, getting solos, winning competitions, and preparing for college auditions and a future career in music. Developing a solid technique and learning repertoire appropriate to their goals is the primary focus.

College and young adult students often have professional aspirations or a strong desire to participate in school and community theatre and choirs. Voices at this age are still developing, so continuing to build a strong, healthy technique is a priority, as well as pursuing individual goals.

Voice lessons for adults are structured to meet individual goals. Whether you want to sing with confidence at karaoke, make a joyful and beautiful noise at church, audition for musical theatre productions, record your own songs, or improve a specific area of your technique, it’s never too late to begin voice lessons!

What is Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM)?

Contemporary Commercial Music or CCM is the term used to describe non-classical musical genres. Until recently, styles like rock, jazz, gospel, musical theatre, and pop were described in vocal pedagogy circles by what they were not ie. “non-classical.” Fortunately, the CCM moniker is gaining wider acceptance among voice professionals as are the styles it represents.

I’m nervous to start singing lessons. Is this normal?

Yes, being nervous is completely normal whenever we start something new, and voice lessons are no exception. The voice is the most personal instrument. It’s quite literally a part of you! When we fear our voice will be judged, we are really fearing that we ourselves are being judged. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share your voice with others.

There are two important things that will help you feel more confident about starting voice lessons.

First, I want you to know that what you’re feeling is totally normal, and it’s ok. When you sing in front of me, I am not judging you. I strive to make our voice studio a caring place where it’s safe to try new things and make mistakes. I and every great singer have been in your position, and we’ve all made all kinds of mistakes. You’re in good company!

Second, I find that having an idea of what is going to happen in the first lesson makes it much less intimidating. For more on what to expect, read on!

What should I expect at my first voice lesson?

At your first lesson, we will discuss your vocal history and goals. I’ll teach you some simple exercises and listen to you sing them to assess different aspects of your voice like range, tone, and pitch recognition. I may ask you some questions to see how much you already know about reading music and vocal technique. Depending upon your goals, we may begin working on a specific area of technique or a song.

I have trouble matching pitch. I’ve been told I’m tone-deaf. Are voice lessons a waste of time?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! Most people who think they are “tone-deaf” have perfectly fine hearing and can learn to sing pitches more accurately. I have specific techniques to help you better match pitch. It will take some hard work, but we will have fun with it. I love the opportunity to help anyone make music more beautifully and confidently. Please don’t waste anymore time being afraid to join your church choir or sing “Happy Birthday” with your friends or lullabies to your children. Contact us to get you singing proudly pitch-perfect!

I’m a rock/pop/country singer. I tried lessons before, but the teacher wanted me to sound like a classical opera singer. How can I maintain my own sound and still take lessons to help me with my specific vocal concerns? Is that even possible?

Finding the right teacher is key for every student. For the Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) singer, there can be a special challenge in finding a qualified teacher who understands the professional demands and expectations of your style. This is because the majority of vocal training programs are focused on classical technique and repertoire.

That’s one reason I’m so proud to be certified in Somatic Voicework© The LoVetri Method (SVW). With its focus on function, SVW was developed with a tremendous respect for CCM styles as “real music” with unique challenges that set them apart from classical styles.

It is absolutely possible to learn strategies to increase endurance, reduce strain, and take care of your vocal instrument while maintaining your unique artistry and the aesthetic qualities necessary for your style of music.

I strongly encourage CCM singers to give lessons a try with a teacher who respects your style of music and understands your individual needs.

Contact us to take lessons with Elizabeth or for a referral to SVW teachers in your area.

I’d like to take lessons at your studio. What do I do next?

Please click on join our studio and fill out the online registration form. We will contact you to set up your first lesson. We look forward to meeting you and guiding you on your musical journey!

I have a question that wasn’t answered here.

Please contact us with your question, and we will happily answer it to our best ability!

 

Guitar Lessons

What is the best age to start guitar?

I’m in my 30’s/40’s/50’s etc. Is it too late to start learning guitar?

Is guitar a difficult instrument to learn?

What guitar should I buy for a first lesson? Should I get an acoustic or electric?

Can I buy a really cheap guitar for my child’s first lesson? I don’t want to spend too much before I know if he/she will stick with it…

Should I buy a smaller scale guitar for my child since his/her hands are so small?

Do I have to cut my nails to play guitar?

I’ve heard that it hurts to play guitar. Is this true?

Is acoustic guitar very different than electric guitar?

Is a guitar expensive to maintain?

Do you have any tips to stay motivated?

I’d like to take lessons at your studio. What do I do next?

I have a question that wasn’t answered here.

 

What is the best age to start guitar?

Like so many things, it depends. There are many factors in deciding when the best time for you or your child to start guitar lessons is. Mental maturity plays a big role. Eight years old is usually the youngest I will take, but if a younger child has the focus and drive to do it, I will definitely consider taking them on! Guitar can be quite difficult in the beginning, and I’ve noticed that younger children tend to give up on it more often than older children. Children have a way of surprising you sometimes, though. I have a nine year old student who started when she was eight and can play many well known songs! I find that early teenagers do quite well with guitar. At this point, they have a much better focus and, quite frankly, their hands are bigger. Hand size is important, but small hands don’t necessarily mean you can’t play guitar and play it well. So, overall, there isn’t necessarily a best age, but I will say eleven to fifteen is a great time to start.

I’m in my 30’s/40’s/50’s etc. Is it too late to start learning guitar?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! The oldest student I’ve ever had was in his sixties! One of the biggest factors in learning an instrument is mental maturity and willingness to put the time and effort in. There’s no question in my mind that learning an instrument like guitar can help with mental focus. Not to mention, it’s really fun for any age! I’ve had many students brand new to guitar in almost all age groups. I’ve also had students in each age group excel and really learn to play. It’s about attitude, focus, practice, patience, and discipline. Old dogs can learn new tricks. I have plenty of students who have proven that!

Is guitar a difficult instrument to learn?

In all honesty, yes, but it’s also very rewarding! It’s true, no one has ever picked up a guitar for the first time and played it amazingly. It is, however, easy to stay motivated but it takes a high degree of focus and discipline, especially if you want to get very good. One nice thing about guitar, though, is that it doesn’t take a tremendously long time to learn some songs you want to play. Patience is key, though. It does take some time to get both hands truly working together with good timing.

What guitar should I buy for a first lesson? Should I get an acoustic or electric?

This is a very important question and carries more weight than you may realize. One thing I will say right off the bat is that I recommend getting an acoustic guitar to start with. You don’t have to, but there are some benefits to this. Acoustic guitars have more tension on the strings and are a little harder to push down than electric guitars. This forces a student to build forearm strength early, which I feel is extremely important. Most experienced guitarists have vicious gripping power! Once you’ve played for awhile you’ll understand why. If a student really wants to start with an electric (they’re awesomely fun, so I understand why) then we’ll definitely do that! First and foremost, I want every student to be excited to play guitar.

Since this can be a rather complicated answer, you can contact me, and we can talk about it!

Can I buy a really cheap guitar for my child’s first lesson? I don’t want to spend too much before I know if he/she will stick with it…

This is a completely understandable question. I make a living as a musician so, believe me, I get the financial concern. This is the paradox we often find ourselves in, though. If I buy an expensive guitar, I’ll be out a lot of money if my child doesn’t stick with it. But, if I buy a really cheap guitar it’ll probably be terribly hard to play and not very fun. It won’t sound very good, and it’ll probably be the cause of my child losing interest. I’ve seen it happen. I had a young student who was on the verge of quitting after about six months. She was getting frustrated, and I could completely understand why. I told her parents that it was time to get a higher quality guitar, or she won’t want to continue. They took my advice, and now she’s one of my best students. I’ve had students decide not to stick with it, but not many. If you want a good guitar that won’t break the bank, contact me, and we’ll talk about it. There are options!

A word of caution: DO NOT EVER BUY A GUITAR FROM REGULAR RETAIL STORES THAT DON’T SPECIALIZE IN MUSIC! I have never seen a guitar at these places that I thought was suitable for even the most novice beginner. This is a sure-fire way to destroy a student’s motivation because they are, quite frankly, terrible guitars. I don’t care what the price is or which guitar virtuoso’s picture is on the box, DO NOT GET ONE OF THESE!

Should I buy a smaller scale guitar for my child since his/her hands are so small?

You can, but I don’t recommend it. Most smaller-than-standard scale guitars are very low quality. Even small, young hands can learn to stretch and hit the right spots. Not to mention, they’ll grow into it. If you don’t believe that a small child can play a full size guitar, watch this:

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No excuses…

Do I have to cut my nails to play guitar?

On the fretting hand, yes. On the picking hand, no. If your nails on your fretting hand (usually the left hand) protrude past the end of your finger you will have a very hard time playing accurately. Sorry, it may not be fashionable, but it’s worth it. Keep your nails short on that hand! The picking hand (usually the right hand) can have longer nails. As a matter of fact, we can use them for finger-picking! Classical guitar is all about finger-picking and requires a very specific nail structure for the picking hand. They’re longer but rounded. If your curious about this, feel free to ask me about it.

I’ve heard that it hurts to play guitar. Is this true?

It can be a little uncomfortable at first, especially in the fretting hand (usually the left hand). When you first start, sometimes the higher strings can feel a bit like razor wire, and it takes some time to develop skin thickness in the fingers, though, not as long as you may expect. My students typically stop complaining about it after a couple weeks. After that, it really isn’t uncomfortable at all. I’m a little bit of the mindset of, “no pain, no gain” here. When I was a young teenager I played for an obscene amount of hours every day, even to the point where one or two of my fingers would bleed. Most times, I would just put electrical tape on them and keep going. I don’t expect anyone to take it that far, but you’re not going to get much sympathy from me on this subject, so be strong!

Is acoustic guitar very different than electric guitar?

Yes and no. The standard tuning is the exact same. Some people prefer one over the other, but this is typically a stylistic choice. If you’re a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon or Jason Mraz, you’re probably more prone to play acoustic. If you’re more of a lead rock guitar player you’re probably going to play electric more often. As a guitarist, you’ll probably play both quite often with a preference for one. If I really think about it, I play them fairly equally.

There are differences you should be aware of, though. The main thing is that acoustic guitars typically have thicker gauge strings on them with higher tension in comparison to the electric. This makes them a little harder to push down and bend. Acoustics typically have fewer frets as well. They sound quite different, too. Acoustics are usually fuller and more metallic sounding. Electric tone can change so much depending on the guitar, amp, and any array of effects units.

Is a guitar expensive to maintain?

If you take care of it properly, no. Keeping a guitar in it’s case is a good way of protecting it against the outside world. That includes the weather. Humidity can do funky things to a guitar, especially an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars need to be properly humidified. Every once in a while, you will want to have your guitar set up. This goes for acoustics and electrics. This is a process of setting string height (also known as “action”) and setting intonation among other things. If you would like to know more about this process, contact us, and I’d be happy to guide you.

Do you have any tips to stay motivated?

I’ve always been pretty obsessed with guitar, so this is kind of a tough question for me. A handy trick I’ve done over the years is I have a guitar out in the room I’m most often in. Though, having your guitar in your case is the only way to really protect it, it’s not doing any good if you’re not playing it. I find that if I have my guitar(s) in a closet or basement where I rarely see them on a daily basis I won’t play as much. If it’s staring you in the face in your room or in the living room or wherever you mostly are, you will play more often. If you watch television, just strum chords lightly or play on the commercials. It’s very important to have the guitar in your hands often. It needs to feel like a part of your body. As a matter of fact, I have trouble singing without a guitar in my hands! That’s how much I’ve made it part of my body.

I’d like to take lessons at your studio. What do I do next?

Please contact us with your interest and any questions you might have, and we will be happy to guide you.

I have a question that wasn’t answered here.

Please contact us with your question, and we will happily answer it to our best ability!