16Apr/19

How long and how frequent should singing lessons be?

Basically, singing lessons should be as long and as frequent as you can afford them!

This is true for singers, whether you’re a beginner or a touring musician.

Wait, does that mean I need to have multiple lessons every week?

No, I’m not suggesting you should have a singing lesson every day – that’s a bit much! But a lesson at least once a week is beneficial for 99% of our students.

Normally, students benefit most from a 60 minute lesson every week to work in-depth on their voice and take a look at a song at the same time. This gives the teacher, and you as the student, an idea of how well you’re practicing and progressing.

But if 60 minutes a week is not financially viable for you, it’s better to have a 30 or 45 minute lesson every week.

When you’re training your voice, frequency is much better than duration – you don’t want to form any unhealthy or bad habits!

So, let’s put that in perspective

If you’re training for a marathon, you need to go running more than once a week, don’t you? You aren’t just going to go for a 15 mile run on a Monday and not do anything for the rest of the week – any bets you’ll go for 3 or 4 runs across the week rather than do it all in one go. Marathon training requires lots of regular training with scheduled rest days; singing is the same.

So, why do you break it down into small sessions?

The more you do it, the better your stamina gets, so you can increase the pace/distance/terrain of your run each time. In between sessions you refine your technique to get a better time, protect yourself from injury and increase your endurance levels.

Singing is pretty much the same – yes, you are working with your voice rather than your body, but the basic way of training is the same. The more you can train and refine your technique, the stronger and more developed your voice becomes.

Think of each singing lesson as touching base with your teacher. They’re going to assess your progression between lessons, and will give you the correct tools to help you to continue to progress quickly and easily.

Another benefit of regular lessons is that any problems in your practise are caught quickly. Imagine if you have one lesson a month and practised the exercise wrong every day for 4 weeks. That’s now a new problem to fix, and one that you have started to assimilate as a habit in that time.

Now think of the same scenario, but its only 6 days until your next lesson, so chances are we’ll catch it before it becomes a bigger issue.

But, I’ve got a gig/concert/tour coming up, I need more than one session a week!

Trying to schedule more than once a week would be ideal. If you’re a practicing musician; for example if you have several residencies or go busking every day, then it stands that the more frequently you have lessons, the better it’s going to be for you.

Olympic athletes train with their trainers every single day to ensure they are progressing and building results and professional singers are the same.

Many singers going on tour will consult a singing teacher daily for weeks before the tour, and regularly touch base with them during the tour as well for a tune up or to address problems that came up during a gig.

Remember, it’s down to you as well

In your lesson, your teacher can only do so much to help you progress. It’s up to you to practice in between your lessons and develop that stamina and vocal coordination you’ll need to maintain your vocal health.

The more frequently you practice, the better your technique and stamina gets, so the quicker you’ll be able to master that tricky song you’ve been working on!

But, be aware!

For a vocalist, too much practicing can also damage your vocal chords. Make sure you discuss your aims and goals, as a good teacher will help you plan to achieve those goals.

The plan should not only center around the teachers scope, but a combined beneficial plan that is centers around your goals as well. Having a couple of lessons a week depending on your needs as a singer is good, but if you feel it’s not necessary, then scaling back to once a week will be advised.

So remember, singing lessons should be as long and as frequent as you can afford them – but remember that frequency is better than duration! If in doubt, consult your teacher and discuss your thoughts and concerns. A good teacher will give you advice similar to what’s outlined above, and will always have your best interests at heart.

30Aug/17

10 Reasons Why Flute is an Incredible Instrument

Image result for flute playing10 Reasons Why The Flute Is An Incredible Instrument

I began playing the flute when I was 10 years old, mostly because I wanted to play in the school band, and the flute didn’t look as intimidating as the clarinet or saxophone (too many keys for my 10 year old brain to handle). When I was that young, I never would have dreamed about where the flute would take me in the years ever since. I have met so many amazing people and seen some incredible places. I’ve had the chance to perform alongside friends for audiences of a thousand and more. And with the power and accessibility of the Internet, I have been able to reach hundreds of thousands of people with my music. All of this has happened because of the instrument in my hands: the flute.

With this in mind, I decided to compose a list of 10 of the most salient reasons why the flute rocks my world, and why it can be a joy for anyone to learn!

The flute is one of the oldest instruments around, and one of the most diverse. It is virtually ubiquitous in every culture of the world. Learning the flute means learning how to take care of the body. Among many health benefits, it notably promotes good posture, proper and healthy breathing, core strengthand control, and finger dexterity.
Flute requires a high degree of patience and discipline, which happen to be necessary attributes for academic excellence and good work ethic.

The flute is NOT just an instrument for the orchestra. It is found quite frequently in jazz, folk, and world music. It can be used effectively in settings ranging anywhere from a church service to a home recital to a rock concert (yes, I have played in all 3 of those settings). Not a performer? Not a problem! The flute is the perfect way to step away from work to unwind and make music for yourself. Flute can get you scholarship money for college! Most university marching bands offer stipends to members, and third-party scholarships are often awarded to those with a diversity of skills, experiences, and talents.

The flute is easy to maintain and transport. You don’t have to worry about reeds,
temperature, or humidity. Simply put it together and go. Also, if you’re traveling with it,
you don’t have to buy it an extra seat on a plane! Many will say the violin sounds the most like a human voice, but the flute is the closest to the voice when it comes to how sound is produced. Flutists breathe exactly how vocalists breathe, and require the same type of air support to create good sounds (I’ll save defining “air support” for another day.). Many other details and facets of flute playing closely mirror the way vocalists train their voices. Music has been proven to increase cognitive and perceptual skills, aka more brain power. Don’t believe me? Check out this video (https://youtu.be/R0JKCYZ8hng), and if you’re really intrigued by the topic, read ‘This Is Your Brain’ on Music by Daniel J. Levitin.

The flute is the perfect way to give your brain a workout! Though the flute doesn’t have as much music written for it as the violin or the piano, it’s been making a big comeback since the turn of the 20th century. When a German guy named Theobald Boehm figured out how to make the flute out of silver, it revolutionized how the flute sounded, and composers started to take notice. Today, the flute is on the cutting edge of avant-garde techniques, and has been crucial to the progression of
classical music throughout the last century. It’s become one of the dominant solo
instruments in classical music today. I can teach you how to do this: https://youtu.be/QNG9gSJKbAo.

It is an immense privilege for me to be able to pick up and play this amazing instrument every day! I love playing it, listening to it, and teaching people how to play it. I hope to see you or your child at AMI to experience the joys of flute playing together!

Drew Powell
Flute Teacher – American Music Institute

11Jul/17

Guitar Learning & Benefits

Instrument Spotlight: Guitar

by Ryan Wallace – AMI Guitar Faculty

Who doesn’t love the guitar?
Guitar is the second most popular instrument to play, coming in right after piano. Why are these two instruments so loved by many musicians? It’s all about the versatility. Not only can you play them as solo instruments, but it is also easy to accompany yourself or others as a singer, or on a different instrument. But why start with guitar? It is a fantastic way to play your music anywhere you want without having to lug a huge instrument to the campfire, park, or any place the musical urge takes you. There are few pleasures in life quite like playing the guitar for a group of friends around a campfire at night or playing outside in the grass while the sun shines on you. It’s enough to make anyone feel like they are not only expressing themselves creatively, but also seeing life through a lens of ultimate satisfaction that few people get to truly experience. It’s an amazing way to feel at peace with yourself and the world, to build self-confidence, and to light a fire in yourself that is both invigorating and oddly healing at the same time.

Play Anything.
The guitar, along with the piano, is possibly the most versatile of all instruments. Whether you like classical music, folk music, rock, pop, metal, electronic, country, jazz, blues, or anything in between, the guitar fits in without a second glance. It can be played solo or to accompany a singer or other instrumentalist. Taking guitar lessons is not about just learning to play your favorite song, but preparing you to play whatever music you may find yourself wanting to play tomorrow, or ten years from now.

What can we expect from lessons?
Aside from learning the fundamentals of music and performance, guitar lessons are about learning to play the instrument, not just repeating memorized passages on it. However, learning your favorite songs is a great way to start doing that and keeps both kids and adults excited about playing and enjoying lessons! From that base, we can start exploring more complex music, and open up worlds of music that we often aren’t even aware exist since we don’t hear them on the radio. Coupled with learning songs, lessons will help establish good technique that will carry you in good stead as you advance through more difficult music. The world of music is nearly unlimited, and we don’t want to be held back by the narrow view we have of it at a young age.

Technique… what’s that?
Technique is often a scary word for us, and it can be synonymous with boring, frustrating, and any number of other unpleasant words. But technique doesn’t need to be scary! It’s simply learning how to play with the least amount of effort. Learning good technique early in our musical lives teaches us how to approach the instrument in a way that will allow us to advance as far as we like, rather than be held back by songs that are “too hard”. Different styles of music will demand more or less from us technically, but they all share the same basic principles. For instance:

Hand position
Good hand position can take a passage from seemingly impossible to one that simply requires a little extra practice. The longer we play with poor hand position, the harder it is to retrain our hands down the road. It also increases the likelihood of injury if we aren’t careful, so training early is welcome and beneficial.

Finger shape
Whether it’s our left hand fretting or our right hand picking, the shape and angle of our fingers on the strings can have a huge impact in both the sound of our playing and the fluidity of our motion. Whether we’re going for fast and flashy, or sensitive and beautiful, the guitar only makes the sounds our fingers tell it to make.

What can music lessons do for me?
Aside from the joy of learning to play music, there is nearly endless research on the benefits that studying and playing music have on our brain and our lives. Playing music also encourages creativity and expression, and working with others in bands and camps teaches teamwork and creates powerful bonds with others.

Music is a wonderful way to bring creativity and beauty into our world, while making for an incredibly rewarding journey. The feeling of mastering a song you once thought impossible or playing a show with friends that highlights a night for the audience is something that everyone should experience.