Advice for the Aspiring Vocal Student

shutterstock_235472368You might be thinking about taking up voice lessons. Maybe you want to learn how to sight-read hymns for your church choir, or maybe you want to take your singer/songwriter skills to the next level. Maybe you want to shine at karaoke night, or you might want to take vocal lessons to help allay your fear of public speaking. No matter what the primary reason might be for taking up voice lessons, most beginning vocal students have similar goals: to become more comfortable with their own voice and gain more confidence when they sing.

A vocal teacher can help provide students with a balanced understanding of what they are trying to accomplish and the tools to help them achieve their goals. Vocalists are unlike any other musicians – a pianist is connected to the ivory keys through their fingers, the violinist draws the bow over cradled strings, but a vocalist IS their own instrument. If there is a technique that needs to be corrected at the piano, you simply change your approach to the piano; if there is a technique that needs to be corrected as a vocalist, you have to learn new ways of managing your self. There is no “in-between” – everything happens internally. There is a certain disconnect with instrumentalists and their instruments, and one of their main jobs is to bridge that gap between the two, but a vocalist’s job is, in part, to be able to disconnect their voice from their self. You are not struggling against yourself; you are honing your instrument, and that is an important distinction to make.

One of the implications of this realization is that, when you are struggling to breathe properly through a phrase, or produce a beautiful high note, etc., remember to HAVE PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF. The voice is unlike any other instrument, particularly in that it is always in flux. A piano, a violin, and a flute are all subject to fluctuations in temperature, yes, but they are not living organisms. A piano doesn’t have sinus issues from time to time, and a violin can’t catch a cold. Sometimes the vocal apparatus just takes a day off. And that’s OK.

One final thing to remember is this: you are you and no one else. A voice teacher’s job is not to make you sound like them, but to help you realize the potential of your own unique voice. Don’t be discouraged because you don’t sound like your favorite artist; be encouraged, because your voice is your own, and it has its own qualities to share.

For information about voice lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

“I Began at the Piano”

shutterstock_459327250For many beginning musicians, the piano is the first instrument learned. If you ask a professional oboe player, trumpeter, or violinist if they play any other instruments, they will likely tell you the story of how they started out on the piano and then branched out to their main instrument. Why is that? What makes the piano such a good foundation for further musical study?

One of the main reasons for its ubiquitous nature is that the piano provides everything to the musician in an easily understandable, sequential order. When the 5-year old, who is just beginning to show interest in music by humming their favorite tunes or banging out rhythms on pots and pans, is brought to their first piano lesson, they are shown a keyboard that is arrayed from left to right in alphabetical order. There are no frets to consider, no valves to learn. This doesn’t mean the young child can’t learn the right combination of motor skills to achieve the note they want using different frets or valves- the piano just eliminates one of the steps in creating that sound.

In one sense, the piano is also a very easy instrument to play. If you press your finger down on a key, it immediately sounds like a piano. The same is not necessarily true if you picked up a violin or a flute for the first time and tried to produce a sound. Once again, this doesn’t mean that the beginning student can’t learn how to navigate their new instrument- the piano just eliminates the potential frustration of not being able to instantly create a pleasing, recognizable tone.

Another good reason to begin your musical career at the piano is that it helps solidify your understanding of musical structure. The pianist routinely plays both melody and harmony- it is a chordal instrument, allowing the music student to become acquainted with musical progressions in a way that a single line instrument might not emphasize.

The piano might not be your instrument of choice, but it certainly provides a well-rounded foundation from which to begin any course of musical study.

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

Glimpse of Downtown L.A. Skyline from Walnut Trail

A beautiful February morning for hiking in Southern California.

DSC05970 Taking in the view of the Los Angeles downtown skyline far in the distance while following the Walnut Trail in Eaton Canyon.

DSC05972For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

View of Pasadena and Altadena from Echo Mountain

Photos taken while following the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain in the Angeles National Forest.


The trail begins at the beginning of North Lake Avenue in Altadena, which is pictured below with Pasadena in the background.


Enjoying the view of North Lake Avenue in Altadena and Old Town Pasadena.

DSC06188For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.

New Fabric Art for Music Lesson Classroom

Special thanks to Jeanne, the artist who contributed the amazing wall hanging that now decorates our front music lesson classroom!

New fabric art for the group music lesson classroom.
Fabric Art
Fabric Art

For information about music lessons at the Altadena Academy of Music, please call    (626) 296-0799 or use our email contact form.