Tag Archives: musicians

Voice Teachers Discuss Vocal Performance & Recording

Using the Microphone, Playback, and Recording Process to Critique your Voice and Improve Vocals

recording voice

Singing Well – The Art of Knowing Your Voice

“Just sing it like you did outside of the booth” is what I continuously heard from my producer and sound engineer the first time I stepped into a recording booth. “Okay, I’ll try”, replying out of frustration.

Nothing.

I still was not producing the same vocal ability and performance that I could when I was singing to a group of people in an acoustic room with no amplification. It became more than exasperating. So I took a break. In fact, I took many breaks the first few months that I recorded in the ‘booth’, as we vocalists call it, because I just wasn’t hearing the voice that I knew so well in my head. The microphone had this ability to make me perform in an entirely different way, with an entirely different focus, and it happened on stage too. The difference between performing acoustically versus in a recording booth or through a live feed microphone can take any singer, trained or beginner, and bring them back to square one. I thought I had this whole singing thing “down-pat” until I began to realize that in singing (and most definitely in all music), you never really have it that way at all.

In learning to sing with technique, any trained teacher will teach the student about posture, breathing exercises, intonation, diction and all of the tools for learning how to perform. However, there is so much to learn about the voice, and not all of it comes with a teacher. Each of us have a different timbre, a unique tonal quality particular to ourselves. For most vocalists, pair this with a passion for music and singing, and it becomes soulful. There is absolutely a benefit to learning technique through training with a voice teacher, but sometimes we must learn from experience in order to grow. In this case, while recording in a booth may be frustrating at first, there are many benefits to learning to sing through amplification.

While not getting too technical explaining the art of singing through a microphone, there actually is a beauty and a science to it. As a vocalist, we begin to hear ourselves sing through our own head. Have you ever listened to yourself on a recording machine and thought to yourself, WOW! that doesn’t sound like me at all! It not only is interesting to learn how to “work the mic” but also, how to listen to yourself. You can learn a lot by listening to your recordings over and over, learning what sounds good and what doesn’t.

Play around with the levels of the instrumentation and your own vocals in the headphones. You can make the instrument levels higher if you need to be able to hear them better. Also, you can add sound levels to your vocals so you can hear them better as well. Listening to your singing voice may be one of the hardest things to get used to, but it truly is very important when recording. This is where you start to learn how to work with the microphone and really get the most out of a recording. It is nice to hear a rough mix of your vocals so you can learn where to improve, even if it is just in your own home studio! Here, you can start to learn the difference between your acoustic voice and your recording voice.

Also, it is always about the performance! You may be the best singer in the world but if you don’t perform with your heart and soul, it will come through on a recording. When listening back to your recording, take notice of places where you may be able to improve. Can you show a little more emotion in a certain area? Can you step away from or step closer to the mic to make a portion of the song come to life? This is almost like a dance. It can be difficult in the studio, because you may think you don’t have the energy cultivated in front of a live crowd. But you can access that. Pretend you’re in front of an audience, if that works for you.

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to ENJOY yourself! Though at times it may be frustrating, this should be fun. It is a great experience and a talent to pursue, and it is more than worth it when you can play your vocals for friends and family and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

For a more in-depth look at vocals in the studio, check out “10 Tips for Nailing Your Vocals In The Studio” by Jeannie Deva at http://www.taxi.com/transmitter/1108/10-tips-for-vocal-recording.html.

What To Expect – Drum Lessons

“What To Expect – The First 6 Months of Drum Lessons”

By Tom Cullen

Drum Lessons in Philly for Beginners

Drum Lessons for Beginners

So you’ve decided to take some drum lessons. You’re probably wondering what to expect – How often will I have to practice? How long until I begin to see results? The answer to those questions is, well . . . another question. What are your musical goals? All goals are met by a series of smaller goals, and you will have to decide how important progress is to you. Drums can be one of the most difficult instruments to master, but they can also be very easy and fun to play. Most drumming in the music we hear is comprised of just a few, very basic ideas. These basics can be learned within a 6 month period.

The First 6 months of Drum Lessons

The first thing you’ll learn is how to play rhythms between the right and left hand clearly. In order to do that, you will learn how to properly hold the drumsticks. How the drumsticks are held will effect a range of things from, speed, sound, comfort and even avoiding minor injuries (that’s right, you can hurt yourself!). To get a good feel for handling the sticks, you will need a consistent practice of 15-120 mins a day. Working on control of the sticks will also give you an introduction to reading music. Learning to read will begin to feed your imagination with a vocabulary of rhythms and stimulate creative ideas. Learning the language of rhythm helps us to understand and decipher the music we enjoy listening to.

After about 6 weeks, you will begin coordinating your feet with your hands. This is usually done by adding the bass drum, which is played by your foot using a pedal device. You’ll be doing 3 things at once. At this point you will also be learning the basic concepts of drumming, common in most of the music we hear.

The first concept is unison. Unison is when two parts of the drumset are played together at the same time. The next idea is “2 over 1”when one drum plays two notes and the other drum plays one. The final concept is the single stroke. The most common use of the single stroke is during a drum fill, but single strokes happen more often than we notice. They usually occur between a cymbal and snare drum or a cymbal and bass drum during the song’s “groove”.

Most drumming you hear is that simple! The trouble for most students is accepting that learning an instrument is a process (remember, all goals are met by a series of smaller goals?). If you make practice a part of your weekly routine, progress will be natural and easy to see and hear. If you follow your path consistently, and with the help from the right teacher, the first 6 months of drum lessons will allow you to play most of your favorite music.

Of course, after that, there is still much to learn. For example, though basketball is a simple sport consisting of 3 things (dribbling, passing and shooting), the best basketball players have perfected these techniques with strength, style and finesse. Perfection is a process, full of trial and error. Playing drums is a craft. Over time you will “sculpt” your own style and sound to where it becomes a direct extension of your musical ideas. Possessing the basic building blocks of drumming will allow you to pursue your own, original take on the instrument. Don’t forget – you get in what you put in.

“I would like students to understand that the learning process takes time. Practice as slowly as possible, because the slower you practice, the faster you learn.

-Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (The Guinness Book of World Records Most Recorded Drummer of All Time)

Drum Tutorials and Technique Discussions

drum teachers and lessons for technique enhancement

Keeping in mind certain principles while exploring drum technique is key to avoiding injury and maximizing performance.

Basic Drum Stick Technique

Stay Loose, Avoid Injury, and Maximize Natural Motion with Rebound

Most drummers, beginners and experienced, struggle with stick technique. There are many different ways to hold the sticks and strike the drums. I’ve spent many years working on technique and have even had to relearn the fundamentals after a hand injury. Through these trials and tribulations, I discovered that there isn’t just one technique for holding the sticks. There are, however, certain principles that will make techniques more effective (and help you avoid injury): form should be comfortable and loose, motion should follow natural body motion, and technique should utilize the rebound of the drum or cymbal.

 

  1. Stay loose! No matter how you hold the sticks, you should never feel tense or stressed. I liken holding the sticks to holding a hammer and building a shed – If you grip the hammer too tightly, you probably won’t last a dozen or so nails. If you allow the hammer to do the work, you can swing that thing all day long. Drum instructors talk about the fulcrum of the stick. This is the area where the pad of your thumb and the first or second finger hold the stick. It should be around the bottom third of the drum stick. How you hold this point is dependent on your own physiology (more to come on this), and you should never grip tightly. The balance point should be relatively loose so you don’t create tension in your tendons.
Drum Tutorials

5 Examples of Fulcrum Hand Positions – Students may prefer different grips based on their physiology.

  1. Embrace Natural Body Motions. Think of a hinge on a seesaw – The wrist is a hinge, and your technique should use that seesaw motion to your advantage (I like to play with my wrist relatively flat). Regardless of your preferred technique, the wrists should be loose and doing most of the work. A lot of people focus on using the fingers. Fingers are important to technique – they allow you to play at softer dynamics and get a lot of snap out of your sound. However, you can do all of those things with wrist motion. If you are using your fingers, just make sure they don’t impede the motion of the stick – You never want to create extra fulcrums with your fingers. Make sure your fingers are in a natural and relaxed position to avoid creating tension between the tendons on the top and bottom of your forearm. Such tension can lead to injury.
Relaxing into Drum Form

Find the balance point (fulcrum), but stay loose and relaxed – Find an interplay of rebound and natural motion

learning drums and taking drum lessons

Notice the looseness in the wrist (seesaw motion) and fingers across multiple techniques.

  1. Rebound is Everything. Sticks are designed to achieve maximum rebound. This is why sticks taper towards the end and have a defined tip. Likewise, drums and cymbals also have substantial rebound. The degree of rebound varies based on tuning and cymbal weight, but you must always use it to your advantage. If you strike a drum or cymbal and don’t feel the stick flying back at you, then you aren’t loose or aren’t holding the stick at it’s balance point. Stick rebound is like dribbling a ball – You should always feel the power of the stick coming back at you after you throw the stick down at the cymbal or drum.

 

Summary

Your technique will be influenced by the size of your hand and fingers and will not look exactly like others’. Regardless, it should still follow the above guidelines. Constantly check that you are tension free, using natural body motion, and using the rebound of the stick and the instrument. If you are struggling, try practicing in front of a mirror to monitor the fine points of your technique.

 

Rittenhouse Square Music Recitals

recitals, musical performances, philadelphia, students, teachers, lessons

The Church of the Holy Trinity – Student Recitals

Philly Music Lessons | Student Recital, Rittenhouse Square

Come support local educators and join families, students, teachers, and those from the community at the Church of the Holy Trinity for another Philly Music Lessons recital. This year, with even more students in the lineup, you’ll be in for a treat as beginner to advanced students perform their best.

On December 6th at 3pm, stop by to hear cello, violin, piano, voice, drum, and guitar students perform in a gorgeous 19th century church on Rittenhouse Square. Tickets are $5 at the door for non-performers. Families and friends of students, and anyone living in the greater Philly community are welcome to join us!

Hope to see you there!

Here is a piece about the last season’s recital:

This past Spring, we held our recital once again at the Church of the Holy Trinity off Rittenhouse Square. We had fallen in love with the space and its acoustics during our winter show, and so we jumped on the opportunity to perform here again. The sanctuary of the church is full of natural reverb and boasts historic and architectural beauty to complement its top-notch acoustics. The church also sits center to many of the areas where we teach lessons, making for a fun day trip for the Main Liners, and a short rendezvous for the local Philly folks. Its not often students get to perform in such impressive spaces, and so we hope to bring everyone back again next recital!

Since the debut of our student recitals in the Fall of 2013, Philly Music Lessons has been hiring teachers to offer a broader selection of instruments. While we can’t wait to showcase our new violin, cello, and flute students this Fall, we were proud to have some electric bass this time around! And so that’s exactly how we kicked off the Spring show:

Jeremy Watts and Brandon Watts had been taking lessons with our own Donnie Felton for just a few months.  Traveling to our Fishtown studio week after week, the Watts brothers had been exploring R&B, combining a natural ear for music with their new-found technical comprehension of note reading and chord changes. The young duo (accompanied by their teacher on drums) killed a rendition of “Red Baron”, by Billy Cobham. If you aren’t familiar, “Red Baron” is a jazz-fusion tune from 1973. Its a song that requires a lot feel n grooviness, which Jeremy and Brandon surely brought to the table. As the brothers played together on electric bass and piano, improvisation on the keys was a highlight, in addition to the strong sense of rhythm provided by the bass. There’s nothing like opening a performance with this old-school tune and a family band!

This was just the beginning of a very cool set-list made up of original compositions, classical piano works, familiar modern pieces, some jazz/blues improv’ from an advanced jazz guitar student, and more. Someone even mastered a classical piano rendition of the theme song from the old nintendo game, Zelda (my personal fav)!

This Fall, we’re looking forward to having another great mix of instruments and an equal the variety of musical disciplines from our students. See you at the next recital!