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

How doing regular cardio makes you a better singer

A Brand New DayIf you’ve been a regular reader of this blog for any length of time you’ve no doubt seen me harping many times on the importance of improving your breathing technique for better singing. In fact Shena did a 3 part blog series dedicated to The fine art of proper breathing, which ended with a blog including 4 powerful exercises for great breath control. There’s no question then, that breathing exercises are an important tool for singers to add to your daily vocal workouts.

However there are a few other exercises that are equally as important and very effective for improving the singer’s over-all lung capacity and breathing. Adding them to your routine will not only make you a more powerful singer but a healthier person. I’m speaking about cardio exercises. Cardio exercises are not vocal exercises but physical exercise like the kind you get from walking, jogging or running, aerobic exercise, skating, cycling, skiing, dancing, swimming, rowing, tennis, basketball; you get the idea.

Cardio is short for Cardiovascular. These are exercises that raise the heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period of time. Doing cardio regularly improves your breathing because it increases your lung capacity. Now, in my own research I saw a lot of people mentioning “lung capacity  as the main benefit of doing cardio for singers, but hardly anyone went on to explain what that is, exactly.

At first mention you might think that means that you’ll somehow increase the size of your lungs. That’s not really true. As far as I know there are no exercises you can do to actually increase how big your lungs are. So when we talk about lung capacity we’re talking about how much air you actually take into your lungs. Many of us don’t take in nearly as much air as we could or even should, simply because of shallow breathing. And honesly a lot of that comes from simply being out of shape. Regular cardio workouts dramatically improve your breathing by improving your lung capacity. Meaning you actually breathe deeper and fill your lungs with more air naturally.

We already know the endless list of benefits to your heart and overall stamina and energy that cardio workouts cause. But think about the effect having a surplus of energy and stamina can have on your singing. Remember singing is very much a physical thing that can be compared to any athletic event. So a stronger, healthier cardiovascular system has some very powerful benefits for the singer in regards to both performance and breathing.

However it’s important to also point out that for the purpose of improving your breathing for singing, cardio must be added and used along with breathing exercises. And all of it must be used in conjunction with actually practicing singing with better breath control; actual singing, not just holding notes longer, or singing scales. You may, for example, get to a point where you can hold one note for a very long time. But singing an actual phrase has many different vowels as well as fluctuations in pitch and volume. All of these have a very different effect on how much air you need to say, finish a long phrase vs. just holding one note. Even holding one note gets more difficult the higher the note is, because it requires a different amount of support. So in addition to cardio and a regimin of regular breathing exercise, you need to actually practice singing longer phrases. Not taking breaths as often. Things like that.

So don’t misunderstand me here. You should definitely start doing some cardio at least 3 times a week, and it will definitely yield some very noticeable benefits to your breathing. It will give you more stamina and make you a more powerful singer. But the maximum benefits come only if combined with regular singing-specific breathing exercises and actual practice singing longer notes and phrases.

Now go for a walk!

Need help with with your breathing? Running out of air? Screaming for high notes? Most breathing issues are the result of bad technique. Taking vocal lessons dramatically improves your vocal technique, so your breathing improves also!  If you’ve looked before and found lesson to be too expensive for you, take a look at my new home study vocal training course. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough.  .

How to sing loud without yelling

The ultimate calling card of the Gospel music genre is powerful singing, isn’t it? That’s not only what most singers want, but it’s become what most listeners expect from Gospel singers. But there is a fine line between singing with a nice, full, powerful voice and just out and out screaming on pitch. Now, if you happen to be one of those singers with a big, powerful, loud singing voice you might not see anything wrong with that. After all, it’s Gospel singing! It’s you that they depend on the carry that section in the choir stand when the numbers are thin, right? And even when they aren’t thin, it’s your loud, powerful voice that really makes the section nice and strong…right? Well, yes and no.

You see, having a powerful, loud voice can be more of a curse than a blessing if you have no control over it. If you find that the only way you can achieve any note above your most comfortable one is to simply get louder and louder until you’re doing something a  lot closer to yelling than singing, then that’s not a good thing. Singers who have really big, loud voices often become more of a problem than an asset in group situations. That’s because in groups, choirs and praise teams it’s very important that the voices blend well vocally.  You want a nice, full, warm sound where nobody’s voice is standing out or overbearing. So if you’re consistently much louder than everyone else in your section, you’re standing out like a sore thumb.

The key to getting a nice full, powerful sound without screaming-even in the upper notes of your range- is breath control. What causes us to yell notes is the tendency we have to push with everything we have in order to reach them. When a singer does this, he is basically using all of the air he has at once. This causes notes to be harsh and “loud”. But not loud in a good way.

Taking a sudden gasp of air and then pushing it out as fast as possible is what we do when we scream. It’s what I did the other day when I was in someone’s back yard and two large dogs bolted out of a doggie door straight for me, lol! I wasn’t singing at the time, but the experience isn’t much different than the way most of us approach singing. The way to gain control of this “loudness” without losing your vocal power, is to learn how to control your breathing.

Not only is it important to learn how to release air in a more controlled way, it’s also very important to learn to control the position of your mouth. What happens when we scream? We make our mouths as wide as possible to accommodate all of the extra air velocity we’re pushing. But when you learn to use less air and sing with a more narrow position, the result is more volume with much less effort. But the sound you’ll produce when you sing this way is much warmer, even and controlled. This is the kind of volume that is strong and full, yet it’s not overbearing or unable to blend with other voices in the group.

It’s an overwhelming concept on paper, but it’s actually not hard to understand at all when you see it demonstrated. I teach that and many much more in my home study course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. Read more about the course and see clips here.

 

Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is now LIVE!

Well gang, I’m very proud and excited to announce that my first official coaching product has launched and is available for sign-up. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is the first home vocal training course of it’s kind and I’m excited for you to see it. Today I’m offering a free 7 day trial for everyone who joins. Your credit card won’t be charged for a full 7 days. Join and take a look around. Inside you’ll find the first lesson active and ready to go. But you’ll also find all 5 lessons from the free 5 day vocal training course. So go check it out, get signed up and tell me what you think. Oh, and if you’re going to look at this at work, be aware that I have a video on the site that starts automatically with music playing.  So watch the volume! Http://www.themusicministrycoach.com/vocal-ministry-breakthrough 

Image courtesy of “Stuart Miles”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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??