3 things in Vocal Ministry Breakthrough not found in any other home study vocal training course

This past Saturday, as I’ve done for several weeks now, I got up at about 7am, made myself some coffee and went to work creating and editing the content for my soon-to-be-released home study vocal training course, Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. This particular Saturday was all about editing videos lessons I’d already completed- a long, tedious process that I spent about 10 hours of my Saturday doing. As I worked on the course content I thought about how important it is to me that the course have something unique and different to offer my customers, followers and friends who have been supporting me since I came on-line.

I started thinking about all of the nice things people have said to me about the free 5 day vocal training course (which I still give away for joining my mailing list), and I noticed a few comments that seem to come up over and over. Sunday morning as I did a real-time review of all 7 videos I’d spent all day Saturday editing, I could finally see from their eyes what they’ve been telling me in the many comments I get at the bottom of the videos.
I have to say guys, I’m pretty proud of the product that is developing here, and I think people will really, really be blessed by it. As I told a friend just the other day, I don’t want this to be just another home study vocal training course with a Christian name slapped on it, but nothing really different or decidedly Christian about it’s content. And I think I’m well on my way to achieving that. So I thought today I’d just share with you 3 things you’ll find in the course that you don’t typically find in any other home study vocal training course.

 

1. Mistakes!

 

One thing I’ve always done is be very real and very candid in everything I do. So in my training videos I made the decision a while ago that I would just turn it on, shoot and be myself. I edit things where I’m over-explaining or being redundant, but otherwise you see it all. In this course you’ll see me have trouble and crack and sound horrible in some exercises! Now, most vocal coaches would never show you that. They would be good and warmed up before they start, then if they have any trouble with an exercise, they’d edit that out. They would then practice it until it’s perfect and then film that.

But I want my students in the course to feel comfortable, not inferior. It’s kinda like those exercise dvd’s you buy where everybody in the video has these amazing bodies and you think “OMG  I’m never gonna look like that!”  You’d feel better if you saw at least a couple of people a little out of shape, in the back sucking wind like you, lol! I don’t want anyone feeling that way as they move through my course, so I leave my own cracks and flips and breaks right in, and then we laugh about it together! That way when it happens to you, you know it’s normal and it’s ok, because you just saw the vocal coach have the same problem with the same thing!

 

2. Plain English.

 

One thing I’m complemented on more than anything else is the fact that my instruction is simple and easy to understand. That’s because I’ve always avoided using most of the industry terms and complex anatomy names that many coaches use. I speak in a language that’s much like the language I use every day talking to my friends. So my training videos tend to feel like that for people who watch them.

 

3. Prayer and scriptural teaching

 

make no mistake, this is a vocal training course. As such the lion’s share of what you get in this course will be vocal training, heavily focused on proper technique. But as I said, I wanted to be sure that this course had something specific to offer people who work specifically in music ministry. People who are believers and want to improve not only their singing, but their ministry. In other words, I don’t want this to be just a vocal training course with a Christian name. I want it to be a vocal MINISTRY course. As such, subscribers to this course will see things not likely found in any other home study vocal training course. Like videos where I teach on music ministry-related scriptures and concepts that help you transform your music ministry mindset. Gospel singers will hear references to popular songs that many of us have trouble with. It is in every sense of the word, a Vocal Ministry course.

Subscribers to the course will find it easy, funny, engaging and inspiring. I can’t wait for you to see what God has given me to give to you! Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is available now on my website. Take the step now to invest in the most fertile ground you can invest in. Your own ministry.

I’m looking forward to working with you!

View The Course

Image courtesy of Master isolated imagesFreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 compelling reasons to take vocal lessons with a coach who specializes in your genre

Before I even get to the list I’m going to present to you today I want to preface it by saying that I believe all trained vocal coaches can significantly improve the average singer’s voice. There are many methods and techniques out there, and quite often you’ll see vocal coaches touting theirs as superior to all others. Even worse is when they go on to point out other methods or techniques as bad or useless. That’s something I think really lacks professionalism and something I avoid doing. I don’t know a single professionally trained vocal coach that doesn’t have a long list of happy, glowing testimonials. Most methods based on solid technique have more similarities than differences.

The truth is, good technique is good technique, period. And there is something to be gained from just about all disciplines of professional vocal technique. I’m going out of my way to point that out because I believe any style of singer can benefit from vocal lessons with any vocal coach that has had some kind of professional training with benchmarks, certifications of some kind and levels of proficiency that must be met. When you get into people who have started teaching lessons based on nothing more than the fact that they’re a naturally good singer, that’s when you run the risk of possibly doing some harm to your voice.

All that said, I do believe there some very distinct benefits you get from studying with a vocal coach who specializes in your particular style or genre of music. A genre-specific vocal coach;

 1. Knows The Music

A vocal coach who specializes in your style of music will know most of the artists and popular songs of that genre. That’s a big help when you’re working on specific songs because the coach may have the song, know how to play it, or simply be familiar enough with the song that he understands better what your challenges are or what you’re trying to accomplish

 

2. Knows The Lingo

Every genre of music kinda comes with it’s own language. This goes beyond common terms like the verse, the chorus, etc. It’s the kind of language that centers around the very culture of a genre of music. Once I was taking a vocal lesson with a vocal coach who specialized in theater, for example. I was working on Hezekiah Walker’s “Grateful”. Of course, the tough part was the last modulation (moda-what?) that happens in the vamp (the what now?)…you know, the press (hunh?).

But when it really dawned on me how different it can be working with someone not familiar with the kind of music you sing is when he got frustrated with the fact that the song was so high for a tenor. “Good God, why don’t you just change the key?” Again, a logical and fair question, but one you don’t have to ask if you know the culture of Gospel music.

3. Knows The Lifestyle

Every genre of music has a lifestyle. The people who dedicate their lives to it grew up listening to it. It shaped everything from the way they talk to their style of dress. Again, that’s something that has little to do with good technique. Bot often it’s the intangibles like those that make one vocal coach a better fit simply because he understands it better and can thereby relate better. Another example of that comes to mind with the same vocal coach I mentioned earlier. I had the privilege of  watching him work with a few students that day. They were all little girls or young teen-age girls coming in with their moms. He specialized in theater so they were all doing these show tunes and talking about all the various venues and audition processes, other professionals in the industry, etc. Then she pulled out her sheet music for the song she wanted to sing. He took a quick glance over it and started to play it on-site.  Again, we teach the same vocal technique! But she would have gotten so much less from me than she did him, simply because I just couldn’t relate to the culture, nor did I know the music or the artists.

Funny story, I sang a song for my vocal coach the first time I met him. I think it was Amazing Grace. Now,  I thought I was singing it pretty straight-forward and rather non-descript. But when I finished he said “wow, you should really think about doing style coaching!” We went on to say how sooo many of his students who sing pop have great voices but lack any “soul”. And he couldn’t teach it to them. Just like I couldn’t teach them the in’s and outs of theater that must accompany the technique.

That’s really the whole premise behind my new vocal training course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. As I said to one student just the other day, I really didn’t just want to do a typical vocal training course and slap a Christian title on it. I wanted it to be something that speaks to the whole person. That’s really what the name is all about, as is the name of my company. I’m not just trying to take your voice to another level. I’m trying to take your MINISTRY to another level. And that’s the special difference you’ll find in this home study course that you won’t find in any other one. The same is true when you study live with me, as many of my former students will attest.

So in summary, you can likely get good results studying with most any trained professional. But studying with someone who specializes in your genre or style of music gives you those little extras you can’t get anywhere else. So study with someone who “gets you”, and you’ll be rewarded with much more than just some good technique.

Image courtesy of “Danilo Rizzuti FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

7 keys for success with a home study vocal training program

If you’re connected with me in any way you’ve heard by now that I have a full length, 6 month home study vocal training program Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. But even with all the financial, convenience and time saving benefits of studying home, I’ve encountered a few people who are skeptical of taking lessons this way. In this article I’ll give you 7 keys to getting the most out of a home study vocal training program; or any home study course, for that matter.

1.  Self motivation is NOT EASY. Know that going in and be determined to stay the course.

One of the hardest things about doing pretty-much anything at home on your own- whether it’s taking a vocal training course like mine or working out at home, is making yourself do it. The number 1 reason people fail with home study courses is simply not doing the course work. In the comfort of your own home with all it’s distractions it’s all too easy to just decide to do it tomorrow. Only tomorrow often never comes. Go into a home study fully aware of this and resolve to be absolutely determined to do your course work daily.

2. Set aside a time for your course work and stick to it.

Assign a time of day or evening you will do your lessons, and stick to it. Doing so will help you adjust your schedule around that time slot so you’re more likely to do it every day. Don’t make the mistake of making your lessons the last thing you do after you’re done with everything else. You will be tired and more likely to blow off your lesson for the day.

3. Make the family aware and ask for their support and encouragement.

You may as well start wrapping your mind around the fact that you’re gonna have to make a bunch of really weird, funny, embarrassing sounds in front of your family, lol! Telling your family in advance that you’ll be doing this will help everyone acclimate quickly. Inform the family that you’ll be taking a home study vocal training course, and that you’re really serious about it. Tell them what time of day you’ll be doing the lessons and about how long, and ask them not to disturb you during that time. Having the family on board and aware of what you’re trying to accomplish makes it easier to stick to your designated lesson time.

4. Choose a quiet, out of the way spot to do your lessons and practice time.

Again, designating a specific time and place for your lessons serves to quickly establish it as a regular part of your daily routine. You need that place to be as quiet and out of the way as possible not only so you don’t disturb anyone much, but so you are less likely to be disturbed yourself.

5. Take the course as seriously as you would face-to-face lessons

It’s a very common thing for some people to automatically take studying at home less seriously than studying at a studio. Of course everything I’ve listed above plays into that in it’s own way. But there’s something about a treadmill in your living room that just feels way more “optional” than the one at the gym, doesn’t it? The same holds true with vocal lessons at home via a home study course vs. going to a vocal studio and standing in front of a vocal coach for an hour.

Approach your home study course with the same determination and resolve you would for live face-to-face lessons. Remember you’re paying for the lessons so if you don’t take them you’re throwing hard-earned money away.

6. Don’t skip ahead before you’re ready

It’s very important that you’re honest with yourself when you’re studying at home. You may be tempted to move on to the next video if you get frustrated or just tired of doing the current one. If you do that however, you’re sabotaging your own progress. Stay with the current exercise until you have it down before moving to the next one.

7. Incorporate a live session periodically.

One of the biggest drawbacks about studying vocal training at home is that you’re often just not sure if you’re doing it correctly. For that reason you should seriously consider scheduling a short Skype session with me about once a month, or any time you find yourself stuck. Live support/coaching is something seldom available with other home study courses, but it can be the key to getting you past a plateau and keeping you progressing.

So there you go! Follow these 7 tips when you sign up for Vocal Ministry Breakthrough and you’ll see dramatic results in pretty-much every aspect of your singing; all of which will transfer to dramatic changes in your ministry. “I’m ready to take my music ministry to the next level!”

Introducing the Vocal Ministry Breakthrough home study vocal training program

 This is an exciting day for me everybody! Because what you’re about to see is the official introduction of my first ever home study course. This is a detailed video describing pretty-much everything you need to know about my new course. Once you watch the video, take a look at the bottom. I have another little secret for you. Enjoy, and post any questions or comments you have.

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Psst….Can You Keep A Secret??

Sunday Best wrap-up for the 8-19-12 airing; We’re down to the final 2!

In Sunday’s airing of BET’s hit Gospel talent competition Sunday Best the remaining 4 contestants were cut in half, leaving only two contestants to compete for the title of Sunday Best for 2012. Watch today’s episode of The 4th Judge Report below for all the details and to find out who went home…and who, in my humble opinion, got ROBBED.

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How to survive a mass choir rehearsal

As I write this, we’re in the middle of rehearsals right now for our 13th annual Family & Friends Choir musical. This is the one time of year we open our choir up and allow anyone who has the desire to do so to come and join our ranks for one musical. We invite other church choirs we fellowship with, of course. But we also invite friends, family members and even members of our own congregation to come out and participate. Because we open the doors to our choir during this time of year without regard to any previous experience or knowledge of singing in the choir, it’s not uncommon to have members participating who have never sang in the choir before.

Even if you’ve done it for years though, these kinds of “mass choir rehearsals” tend to be very intense compared to your regular choir rehearsal at your own church. There is typically a large amount of material taught at a mass rehearsal. Depending on the instructor, the number of songs being taught and their level of difficulty, these rehearsals can be as long as 2 hours, even more in some cases. As the clinician for our annual musical for the entire 13 years I’ve seen some pretty common problems that almost everyone has at some point or another during these rehearsals. Today I’ll cover the 3 tips for dealing with the most common challenges of these grueling, mass-scale rehearsals.

1. Preserve your voice as much as possible

Choir rehearsals in general are some of the most stressful environments you can place your voice in. This is amplified in mass rehearsals where, again, there is just so much more material to cover. So you should go into these rehearsal with vocal preservation in mind. First, take some time to warm up on your way to rehearsal. If you don’t know any warm-up exercises, simple humming can be a great way to get your cords going and ready for intense use. I wrote about humming in another blog you can read here.

At the rehearsal, remember you seldom need as much effort or “air velocity” as you think. I have a tendency not to ask my choir members to sing hard or full voice while we’re learning the parts. There’s really no need to be hammering away when you’re just trying to get your key. However, many clinicians do want to hear that full, strong sound while they’re teaching the parts. If you can do light tone production while your part is being taught and then sing full voice when the instructor calls for everybody to sing, you’ll do strenuous singing only about half as often than you would normally.

Again, every instructor is different, so if you’re being pushed to sing louder go ahead and use full voice. Just keep the volume and air velocity to a minimum as much as possible. More about that in the next tip.

2. Don’t over-do it on modulations.

If you’re participating in a mass Gospel choir preparing for a musical, there WILL be at least one song that requires the choir to modulate. However most of us exert way more effort than we need, and way too early. For example, if you’re singing a song where you’ll be modulating by rising higher and higher in half-step increments (very common in gospel choir), many choir members will almost double the amount of air velocity or effort just going from the first key to the second key. By the time you get to the 3rd modulation you’re practically screaming on pitch.

Instead, try approaching the next key with no more pushing or volume than you used on the one before it. Depending on how many modulations you have to do, this could keep you singing comfortably all the way up to the last one or two keys. Most of us exert this extra effort not because we really need it, but simply because we automatically think we do whenever we know we’re going to a higher key. Try approaching each new key like the one before and you’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable you are.

3. Be smart with your lyric sheets- don’t lean on them too heavily

By far, the most challenging thing about these kinds of rehearsals for most people is the sheer amount of material that has to be memorized and the amount of time it has to be done in. To help with the process, many instructors provide lyric sheets for all the songs. However, if not used properly lyric sheets can and often do, become more of a hindrance than a help. If you want to read a deeper discussion about why and how they become a crutch that actually hampers the learning process, read about it here.

The short version though, is this: If you look at your lyric sheets the entire night, you will likely leave rehearsal having not retained anything at all. In fact it’s very common for people who do this to be still struggling with even the easiest songs after 3 rehearsals.

The smart way to use lyric sheets is as a guide only. Use them when your section’s part is being taught so you know what the instructor is saying and don’t have to stop him/her to ask. But that’s it. After your instructor has taught your section’s part you should begin making an effort not to look from then on. Remember the instructor will be repeating these lyrics again and again as all the section parts are taught. Take advantage of those repetitions by watching and listening to the other sections and NOT your lyric sheets. You’ll find that by the time the instructor is ready for everyone to sing together you’ll have just about memorized the passage from repetition. That’s a very general explanation though. I definitely encourage you to read the article I referenced earlier about lyric sheets; especially if you participate regularly in these kinds of rehearsals or you use lyric sheets in your own rehearsals.

Got a big event coming up for your choir? Let us help. Book Shena or myself as clinician for your next musical, annual or appreciation. We’ll come in and help prepare your choir for the big day.