5 ways learning to play piano will transform your singing ministry

octavesEvery singer longs to be the best they can at their craft. But of all the training, articles, You-Tube videos, books and manuals we consult for help though, the one most powerful thing a singer can do to improve virtually every aspect of his singing is often completely overlooked. That is learning to play an instrument. In particular, learning to play piano.

Today I’ll cover a list of powerful benefits a singer will get from learning to play piano.

1. Harmony becomes instinctive for you

Many singers struggle with learning and remembering their parts in situations where they have to sing harmony with others. Even those who pick it up easily can not often find that harmony themselves without someone teaching them their part. Learning to play gives you a completely new insight into harmony and how it works. You learn how to form chords, how notes harmonize with each other and how to build those harmonies from scratch. As a result singing harmony becomes second nature to you because you now understand how it’s constructed and how it works.
2. You become more creative vocally

Aside from the more common desires we have for more range, better breath control, vocal stamina, power and the like, many of us just feel kinda stuck, you know what I mean? We feel like we’re doing the same stuff all the time. The same vocal inflections, same runs and riffs. Learning to play piano opens your creative mind up in ways you’ve never thought of before. I’ve said before that your voice is a musical instrument and you should think of it that way. Learning to play bridges that mental divide between the physical instrument and the vocal instrument, your voice.

As you get better and better on the piano you’ll find that you get more and more creative with your style choices when you sing riffs, runs and even just normal melody choices within a song.

3. Everything about music comes easier and faster for singers who can also play piano

To learn piano you have to learn some musical theory. You have to learn how music works. Why music always goes in certain directions. Why certain notes work together. Why things repeat in certain places. How music moves in patterns and circles. The more you learn about this in your studies of the piano the more aware it makes you as a singer. Soon you’re learning vocal pieces in half the time. You know what your part is going to be before the director or musician gives it to you. You know what keys you sing all your songs in and how to tell the musician where you want him to go. It’s an entirely new awakening for a singer. You really do become a musician in every sense of the word.

4. You don’t need a musician anymore. You can accompany yourself!!

This is probably the coolest benefit of all. And if you’ve ever been asked to go sing at a church you’ve never been before only to find that the musician (a) doesn’t know the song you want to sing or (b) there IS no musician!) then you know what an incredible sense of freedom that would be. To be able to just sit down and play for yourself. Wow.

5. You’ll start writing your own material

When you learn to play an instrument something happens to your entire creative process as a singer. It makes you think differently. So it’s only a matter of time before you start hearing melodies and getting little phrases to go with them. Before you know it you’re getting ideas for songs. It’s an amazing gift.

There is no other single thing that can benefit a singer more ways than learning to play piano. Contrary to what you might think though, it’s not something that’s out of your reach or too hard to do. Today there not only many home study options available, but several that specialize and focus specifically on learning to play Gospel. When I went looking for some training to improve my own playing some time ago, I came across a company called Hear And Play.

Hear And Play is a Gospel is a piano training company that specializes in learning to play all aspects of Gospel music. These guys have absolutely set the standard by which all other such companies are judged, in my opinion. I’ve learned so much since I started following them and purchasing their training products, and my own playing has improved tremendously. What I like about this company is that no matter what level you’re on; complete beginner who doesn’t know anything at all, or seasoned professional who wants to take his playing to still another level, Hear And Play has training methods and products available for you.

I have been so impressed with this group of young, saved, African-American musicians that I became an affiliate of the company so I can help promote this incredible resource. That simply means that if you end up buying something from them I’ll get a small commission. I don’t mind sharing that with you because I’d tell you about them either way. I highly recommend checking these guys out. Their 300 page course is one of the products I’ve purchased myself and again, I recommend highly.

Click the link below to go check it out.

Take care!

Ron

4 steps to gaining more confidence about your singing

Doppia IdentitàOne of the most common issues that plague Gospel singers is simply lack of confidence. Many singers struggle with fear and doubt at the very thought of getting up singing in front of people. Oddly enough, a great number of people struggle with this lack of confidence even in the midst of constant encouragement and complements about their singing. A lack of confidence is very much rooted in fear. And, since we already know that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear, it might help to first define what confidence is. Then we can deal with where the lack of confidence comes from.

Dictionary.com defines confidence this way:

 

 con·fi·dence

kon-fi-duhns]  

noun

1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed.

2. belief in one’s self and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:  His lack of confidence defeated him.

3. certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.

 In other words- and regular students hear me say this all the time- confidence comes from what you know. Or, as my pastor often explains it when he talks about salvation- what you “know that you know”. As believers we all know that we often don’t feel Saved. But no matter how we feel from day to day, our assurance- or, “confidence” comes in knowing that we know that we know we are saved.
Singers who struggle with their confidence level are people who are not yet convinced of their own ability. You don’t fully trust and believe in your singing ability. You aren’t self assured.  Here are 4 steps beginners and experienced singers alike can take to start gaining more confidence.
 
1. Embrace and learn to like your own voice.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t like their own singing is because they’re comparing it to someone else’s. You MUST stop doing that if you ever hope to get to a place of confidence in your own voice. Every singer is different. Everyone has a different style, tone, vibrato; any number of things that make every person unique. And the thing is, no matter how popular and well loved someone is, you can be sure of two things:
a) there are people who like that style of singing
b) there are people who don’t.
The same is true of your own singing voice. Even if not everything you hear about your singing is positive, there are certainly just as many people who are blessed by your singing. That’s God’s design. There are different styles because there are different people. One sound, one style won’t reach them all. There are people assigned and earmarked to be blessed by YOUR gift specifically. So you need to get to a place where you can appreciate your own voice for everything that is is, and more importantly everything it’s not. Your gift is yours alone, and the Bible says it is good and perfect.
To start embracing your own voice you’re going to need to hear it a lot more. Become used to it. Learn what you do well and do it a lot. In other words:
2. Do a lot more singing
Remember, confidence comes from what you know. And knowing something comes from repetition. So even if you’re not singing in public, you need to make a habit of singing a lot. On a daily basis. I don’t mean some huge production. I’m just talking about the process of singing out loud so you can hear yourself doing it. Just around the house. In the car. Running errands along with the radio. Do it. Not only does this help you really get to a place of enjoying singing, but it will help you start to enjoy your own voice.
3. Start singing in public
If you’re not already a member, join the choir. The choir is a very forgiving, no-pressure place to start singing. You’re not asked for perfection. you’re not forced to come up front normally. You can blend in with others. Singing in the choir gets you used to being in front of people singing. It also teaches you more and more about singing and harmony.
4. Invest in vocal lessons
It’s one of the least discussed benefits of vocal lessons, but one of the biggest benefits.  Anyone who has taken them will tell you that taking vocal lessons gives you a huge boost of confidence. Why? Again, it goes back to knowing what you know. Nothing makes you more certain of your own vocal ability than taking voice lessons. Your vocal coach will help you and guide you through every issue you’re struggling with as a singer, and train you how to do it correctly. When you hear those things rapidly improving you can’t help but feel more confident. For the more experienced singer who is already singing in front of people on a regular basis but still struggling with confidence issues, vocal lessons are often the one missing link to sending your confidence levels through the roof.
Why? Again,  it goes back to knowing what you know. Less experienced singers worry about their ability to sing well. More experienced singers worry about much different things, like hitting the high note, not cracking, not losing their voice during the song, running out of breath, being able to truly minister to the audience, etc. All of these thing are easily fixed by studying with a good vocal coach. Live lessons with a trained vocal coach can be costly enough for most people to discourage them from doing it. Home study courses are always a viable option to get professional training at a fraction of the cost of live lessons with a coach.
So when you can walk up to the front, knowing that you’re going to hit every note in the song, that you won’t crack or “mess up”, and most importantly that every person in that audience that God put there specifically to hear YOU will receive exactly what God sent them there to get from you; then that’s a great sense of knowing. Assurance. That’s confidence. Get started building the confidence you need today by joining my own home study vocal training program, Vocal Ministry Breakthrough.

If it’s Ad-libbing that scares you, check out Ad-lib Like A Pro.

Are you a one-dimensional singer? Here’s how to break free

I’m about to state the obvious here, but I don’t say everything the same way when I’m speaking. The tone, volume, emotion, even pitch of my speaking voice changes depending on what I’m talking about. My voice doesn’t sound the same when I’m talking to my boys as it does when I’m talking to my girlfriend. I speak much differently when I’m angry than I do when I’m sad. We all do.

And yet isn’t it amazing that many of us do exactly the opposite when we’re singing? I think most would agree that our singing voice is really just an extension of our speaking voice. Yet many singers;-especially in Gospel- approach every song the same way. “POWERFULLY.” Singing with power and strength and conviction is important in Gospel style singing. But it has become so important for many singers that it’s the only way they approach a song, no matter what it is. Ever heard a singer do a fast, energetic foot-stomping Old 100 Gospel song, then come back and sing a worship song the same way?

A singer does both himself and the song a disservice when he allows himself to be one-dimensional in his approach to singing. Every song deserves all of the different degrees of emotion that we use in our own speaking. Years ago I sang a song at our church called “I Believe”, by John P Kee. If you’re familiar with the song you know it’s one of those foot-stomping , hand-clapping churchy songs he’s known for. Every time we did the song the church would be rocking. Years later, just recently in fact, I was blessed to sing a song by Fred Hammond called “Take My Hand”. The members of the congregation, many of whom have been knowing me since I was a child, absolutely went nuts. People were coming up to me acting as if it was the first time they’d ever heard me sing. Several people told me they knew I could sing, just not like “THAT”, lol.

What they were reacting to of course was hearing my voice a totally different way, because I was singing a song that evokes a totally different emotion. Just like I do when I’m speaking, I changed my vocal style and delivery to match the emotion and the feel of the song. One person that comes to mind right now who is a master at this very thing is Jill Scott. Listen to her sing “Hate On Me” and compare it to the beautiful balad “He Loves Me”, the way she purrs on the song “Not Like Crazy”. Ask Jill about that and she’ll tell you that’s no accident. It’s something she does very deliberately. And something we all should do.

Start spending some time with songs you sing, just listening to the words. Try to tap into the emotion of that song and then start experimenting with your voice. Try different degrees of softness, edginess, and volume to make your voice express the emotion in that song. And don’t be afraid to allow your voice to sound completely different if that’s what the song needs. When Jill sings the song “Golden” you can hear the happiness in her voice, can’t you? Work on making that happen in your own vocal interpretations. The more you do so the more you’ll discover about your own voice that you never even knew you had.

 

Take care!

Ron

5 tell-tale signs you need vocal lessons

The great majority of people who have the gift of singing were born with it to some degree. It is a special gift, to be sure. But that special privilege tends to make most naturally talented signers take their gift for granted. Most are under the impression that because they are naturally gifted to sing, there is simply no need to do anything beyond just that. In fact, many singers are down-right offended by the suggestion they take vocal training.

I suspect though, that has a lot to do with singing lessons being mentioned in conjunction with bad singing. It’s often the first thing people say when they hear someone singing poorly; “oh man, she needs some singing lessons!” So in the minds of many accomplished singers, vocal training is for people who can’t sing. Naturally gifted singers often feel so strongly about this that they accept even the most obvious signs they need some training as “normal”.
Here then, is a short list of things that are strong clues you need a vocal coach.

1. I get hoarse after performances regularly.

Contrary to popular belief in the Gospel community, getting hoarse is not normal and it’s not ok. It’s not some badge of honor you wear proudly as proof you gave it your all. Hoarseness is really an injury. There are other causes that can bring on hoarseness, but if you’re getting hoarse after singing, then the way you’re singing is causing the hoarseness. It’s mostly caused by common bad vocal techniques that are easily corrected with vocal lessons.

2. High notes are tough for me.. I really have to push hard to reach them. I feel like I’m screaming to get them.

Well, you feel that way because you are. But that’s the only way most of us know how to reach them. This yelling we do to reach high notes has a lot to do with the hoarseness. Vocal training teaches you how to access higher notes in your range in a safe way that eliminates all of the strain and pushing.

3. I’m always pretty comfortable. I seldom have to strain for high notes. I know they keys I’m comfortable in so I just stay in those keys.

Then that means you have limited range and you’re simply compensating for it by always playing it safe. It may sound great but you’re severely limited. Chances are you either pass on a lot of songs because the key is too high, or you’re lowering the song key until it fits in the limited area you’re comfortable in. Vocal training increases your range and allows you much more freedom of expression. Many singer/songwriters unwittingly write around their own vocal limitations. After a while their songs take on similarities and start to sound alike because there are only 2 or 3 keys they feel comfortable in.

4. I’m always out of breath. I can’t finish phrases without having to breathe in the middle. I can’t hold notes very long at all either.

Improper breathing is the problem there. Most people just breathe incorrectly for singing. This is totally reversible and easily corrected with vocal lessons.

5. My voice gets tired quickly. I can’t sing very long before it starts to give out on me.

Lack of vocal stamina is a very common issue and, a very important one if you plan on taking your ministry to the next level. Yet many people would have a hard time lasting through even 3 or 4 songs. Increased vocal stamina is another benefit of taking vocal lessons.

 

This is not an exhaustive list by far. These 5 are simply some of the most common challenges many very talented, gifted signers have going on a regular basis. The truth is, I could double it to 10 easily right now, and still not come close to listing all the benefits of taking vocal lessons for an accomplished singer who has never had them.

The bottom line though, is that even the most gifted of singers should invest in vocal training. And certainly every professional that is serious about doing this for a living. Find a vocal coach you like and click with well, then take 2 to 3 months of weekly lessons. After that maintain your new skills by going back for a tune up about once a month or whenever you’re preparing for a new engagement or performance.

Most people don’t know it but pretty-much every signed artist takes lessons and has a certain vocal coach they go to on a regular basis. You should too! You can take professional lessons in the comfort of your home, on your own schedule and for a fraction of what it would cost to take lessons with a live vocal coach. But many people won’t do that either because they feel they can’t really learn that way. Well here’s your opportunity to prove it to yourself free.

Subscribe to my mailing list below and get a free 5 day vocal training course. What can possibly happen in just 5 lessons at home on your own? Take the course and find out!

 

 

Singing with a cold

No273 13 Oct 2009 SneezeI’ve tackled this subject briefly in a video blog a few years ago, but it’s a subject we singers need to talk about often; especially this time of year. I went looking for some additional information to share this time around, simply because I thought my video blog years ago was informative but pretty generic in it’s detail.

One of the most informative articles I found on the subject was written by a vocal coach I’ve known about for some time. His name is Mark Baxter. Rather than copy and paste his great article here, I’d like you to do me a favor and check it out on his site. While you’re there check out what else he has to offer and book-mark his site.
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Are celebrity Vocal Coaches really that much better?

Today’s post is a video blog where I’ll discuss vocal coaches who list celebrities among their list of clients. Often these vocal coaches are quite a bit more expensive to study with than many others. In this video I’ll tell you about a student of mine who went to see one and the conversation we had afterward.

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What not to drink before a singing engagement

Beverages2_sfx1-2 In this, the 3rd and final installment in what I’ll call the “singer’s diet” series, we’ll focus on beverages. If you’ve been paying attention and playing along on your board games at home, you know that I’ve taken a rather general approach to these articles rather than give you a hard and fast list of food items to go by. Why, because everyone is different and different foods and beverages affect everyone different ways. No sooner than I tell you to absolutely avoid something, someone will come along and tell you they have it all the time with no problem.
So instead, let’s start with a short list of general guidelines to consider when choosing something to drink:

1. Anything really cold should be avoided. Constricts the throat muscles

2. Caffeine should generally be avoided. Caffeine is a diuretic, so caffeinated drinks will dry out your throat. These drinks also dehydrate you, and make you go more often; which you don’t want to be worried about when you’re on stage. Include in this category all of the artificial sugars and sweeteners. Avoid those as well.

3. Acidic drinks (anything high in acid) should generally be avoided for pretty-much the same reasons. Acid can sort of “burn off” some of the protective coatings that keep you cords lubricated. And yup, we’re talking about acidic juices like orange juice and lemon juice.

4. Carbonated drinks like sodas should be avoided . Aside from the caffeine, there’s the carbonate. Which tends to bloat you and make you gassy and belchy (yes, I made that up, lol). Not something you want to be doing on stage.

5. Alcohol should be avoided. Besides the fact that you don’t want to be toasted while you’re up trying to perform, alcohol has many of the same effects as caffeine. It will dehydrate you and dry you out.

So if you’re thinking “well geeze, what does that leave me?!” Well, pretty-much anything you want that’s not one of those things. And there are always exceptions. For example, some say lemmon juice is nice to drink when you have a lot of phlegm, because it helps cut through it. You may, however, be helping one problem and causing another one with that scenario.

If you really want to simplify your life, drink room temperature water. Simple as that. But in order for water to really benefit you, you have to be drinking it on a regular basis. DO NOT load up on a ton of water right before going on stage, unless you want to be running for the bathroom halfway through your second song. Rather, you should sip on it to keep your mouth from becoming dry.

But in order to reap all of the many benefits of drinking water, you must try to stay hydrated as a general rule. Drink water on a regular basis. Your vocal cords will be moist, excess mucus from colds will be much thinner, and your voice overall will be cleaner and more crisp.

At the end of the day though guys, you really do have to become a student of your own body and your own instrument here. There are hundreds of people who will disagree with every point in this blog simply because they personally have never had a problem with it. Use this as a general guideline of all the common things that are true for most people. Then tailor your routine to what works best for you. Don’t make it so strict that you don’t even enjoy singing anymore. Singing isn’t supposed to be that way.

Enjoy your life! Just remember, not only your voice but your whole body is your instrument. Try not to take it for granted.

Take care!

Ron