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Finding Your Voice in Song

By: Stefanie Emery 

voice lessons

Many people are intrigued by the art of song and the beauty of the singing voice. For some, singing can come naturally, but for others it may be their life’s work to create the best singing voice possible. Either way, there are many mechanics and techniques that go into a well balanced singing voice.

When we learn that our natural speaking voice is in fact the same “voice” we use to match pitch for singing the mystery and challenge of singing can be simplified. The simple idea that we can transfer the speaking voice that we use to communicate every day to song will help a singer manage the obstacles of matching pitch, creating rich tone, and avoiding an overly breathy sound. 

Let’s break the singing voice down into three main areas. Chest Voice, Head Voice, and Mixed Voice.  Although we access these three “voices” differently, and they have different qualities to them, our goal is to create a consistent sound throughout all of our vocal “registers” thus leaving us with “one voice” instead of three completely different sounding voices. This is a big goal for most vocalists, as navigating between these areas can produce very different tones, volumes, and characteristics if not trained with proper control. Here are our three “voices” and some details on the resonators within our body that produce these sounds.

Chest Voice 

Most commonly recognized by the area where we use our natural speaking voice, the Chest Voice is accessed through the chest, acting as it’s external resonator, and in the mouth as it’s internal resonator. If you place one hand on your upper chest and say “HEY” you should feel a vibration in the chest. Chest Voice is where we produce our strongest sound which is usually the most easily accessed with lower pitches (think back to the speaking voice) and into a mid to higher register where we can produce big, belty sounds. 

Head Voice 

Head Voice is the opposite of Chest Voice because it is a much lighter sound and feeling. Think about taking all the weight away from a big chest voice and hitting pitches in your upper register, these are notes that feel higher and are not as easily achieved in a lower speaking voice area. Head Voice resonates externally in the back of the head and internally in the nasal cavity. To feel the Head Voice place one hand on the upper back of your head and say “WEEE” in a high pitch. You may feel that resonator vibrate slightly. Now say “What’s Up Doc” in the style of Bugs Bunny. Hear that very nasally sound you just created? You are using your Pharyngeal Resonator, or nasal tone, which is accessed externally off of the nose and internally at the back of the Pharynx. Your Pharynx is located internally towards the back of the head within the vocal tract. 

Mixed Voice 

Mixed Voice is where we combine the resonators of the Chest Voice and Head Voice, while  including the Pharyngeal Resonator to add in nasal qualities. Without this nasal component we won’t be accessing the “Mix” of these two other resonators to their fullest extent. All three of these resonators are present in a well balanced Mixed Voice. We use Mixed Voice to achieve rich, full sounds that span between our Chest and Head Voices allowing us to achieve the most consistent sound spanning our low and high registers. Mixed Voice can be used in our upper register to achieve higher pitches without them sounding thin or weak.

Learning how to access these three areas of the voice and how to coordinate the proper mechanics can be achieved through vocal technique exercises, experimentation, and application in song. 

Hearing Chest, Head, and Mixed Voice in Song 

While listening to a singer navigate through their vocal registers you can now start identifying which “voice” they are singing in. Dissecting a vocal performance is a great way to learn the different qualities of these areas of the voice. First, recognizing the pitch is most helpful because it will give us a clue to what register of the voice they are in. Is the singer singing low or high notes? Do they sound strong or light? If the sound is lower and strong there’s a good chance they are singing in chest voice, and if the sound is higher and light they are most likely in their head voice. Mixed Voice is sometimes challenging to identify because it usually sounds strong and has a large resonance. Many singers use their Mix to get powerful sounds in their higher register, thus, at times tricking the listener to think they could be in a powerful Chest Voice.  The song “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele is a great example of hearing all three of these voices. She uses her Chest Voice in most of the song but flips into her Head and Mixed Voices in many areas to create dynamic interest and to also achieve higher pitches with ease. Stylistically, she is choosing which voice to sing in to create differences in feel and tone, which creates an interesting performance rather than one that can feel monotonous and dull. When a vocal stays in the same area through an entire piece and lacks stylistic freedom the result is sometimes flat and underwhelming. Using your ear to analyze a vocal is a wonderful tool as it allows one to compare another vocalist’s abilities and begin utilizing the learned techniques in practice. 

Finding your natural singing voice is fun, experimental, and exciting. Knowing how your own voice operates is the first step to becoming a better more well-rounded singer,  and with dedicated practice you may start expanding your vocal range, techniques, and overall sound. As much as singing is technical it must also contain emotion and feel, because without those characteristics it may begin to sound lifeless or even robotic. Remembering that the tools, techniques, and mechanics of the voice are extremely important for vocal success should always be paired with the knowledge that music is an art and without personal expression and thoughtful emoting one will only be attaining, at best, fifty percent of their best possible sound. 

Fall Recital 2018 Highlights

The recitals are the best time of the year every time they come around. Not only do we get to enjoy great music, but we also get to watch the growth of each participant! A good concert, with a great community of people. What more could you want?

Our recitals happen twice per year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. If you’d like to perform on one, let your teacher know!

Check out our talented students!

Our seasonal recitals are a great way for students to get an opportunity to perform for friends and family! It’s also great for friends and family to get a chance to see the progress they’ve made since last time, whether they are 6 years old or 60 years old. Check out this video offering up highlights of every students performance from our Spring 2018 recital at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia!

Partnering with Local Schools – La Salle Academy

Music PartnershipsLa Salle Academy: Expanding our Teaching Partnerships

One of the core mission statements at Philly Music Lessons is that everyone deserves a chance to learn music. It drives us to make lessons available to many communities and families with varying income levels and schedules. That is why we offer the convenience of in-home lessons, as well as local studio lessons in Fishtown and South Philly, and why we offer financial aid discounts to low-income families.

To further expand opportunities for kids to learn music, we’ve started to partner with local schools, offering discounted private and group lessons during after school hours. Because our lessons are made available at an affordable rate, right on the school premises, it is much easier for kids to begin the process of learning music!

Engaging Students at La Salle through Music Performances and Presentations

DSC_0047 (1)We recently traveled down the road from our Fishtown studio to La Salle Academy, located in Kensington on North 2nd Street. Our teachers gave presentations to grades 3-8, showing them the basics of piano, guitar, violin and drums. Starting with the principles of technique and theory, our two multi-instrumentalist teachers, Sean Conlon and Emily Stewart, were able to give the kids a sense of what the beginning portion of learning an instrument really looks like. Our teachers performed solo pieces on each instrument, and followed with group performances to show how different instruments can come together to create unique styles and sounds. It was very inspiring for students to see professional musicians performing at an advanced level. We feel this experience gives them a sense of the hard work and dedication that goes into attaining such a level of musicianship.

DSC_0052 (1)DSC_0043 (1)With our presentations, children are better able to gauge their general level of interest in music. They may also be able to better determine which instrument they’d like to learn. We feel that starting a child off with an instrument that really inspires them is the best way to form a positive and lasting relationship with music. We hope these kinds of experiences at an early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

New Music Education Partnerships

Philly Music Lessons will be working to maintain and expand relationships with other schools in the city of Philadelphia throughout the 2018 school year. We feel our teachers have a lot to offer in terms of supplementing standard music education classes and providing individualized lessons to students who may not have access to them otherwise. As most educators know, there is no substitute for a great teacher.

 

Our Fishtown Community, Our Story!

Morning Music ClassesFishtown Community Building Through Music 
A few years ago, we moved our music lessons business out of our basement and into a beautiful space down the street in Fishtown. Feeling inspired by my own upbringing next to a fine arts and music institute for kids and adults, I decided to start teaching music classes to the smallest of our neighbors! I wanted to bring the experience of walking past an open window to the sounds of clarinets, opera singing, piano practice, and plays into my Fishtown community. Cracking open the windows on a warm June day, the sounds our first music classes and lessons were heard in Fishtown in 2014.


Bringing high quality music was a focus of mine. I had been to some great music classes throughout the city in my nannying days, and I realized how deeply kids responded to the ones with genuinely good music and real instruments. With this in mind, I created a flexible routine that engages kids through props, promotes spontaneous interaction between teacher and child, and trains the ears to hear pitches using Solfege, familiar songs, and other music-based exercises. At the center of my classes are our carefully selected teachers, often performers in Philly and teachers with a talent for connecting with kids. They play their guitar (and sometimes ukulele!), while performing and guiding children through various kids songs, rhymes, and our unique “Hello” and “Goodbye” songs. 


Each week, old standards and new children’s songs are presented. With a scarves, pinwheels, parachutes, puppets, shakers, various world instruments, a big piano, and more, we explore what it means to play music. Interactive pieces shift from the most basic of kind to more complex dances and movement games as youngsters progress through the months. Heavily based on individual groups, these classes are adaptable – a good fit for many different ages.


Parents, sit back and enjoy as you play with your baby through this guided 45 minutes of fun! You can read our march newsletter below. Stroller parking is available.
Read about our current teachers, Alex and Keely!

Sign Up Today for Music in March

Hello!

Let’s usher in the Spring with some music making at Philly Music Lessons! As usual, we’ll be meeting weekly for classes in Fishtown and in South Philly (4PM Fridays in Fishtown and 9AM Wednesdays in South Philly). Our multi-aged classes are designed for 0-3 year olds and make for an awesome part of a day with kids – moms, dads, nannies, and other caregivers are welcome. With singalongs, movement activities, tons of props and assorted musical instruments, we change it up as we keep a base line of familiar kid favorites!

March in Fishtown | $40
Sign Up
Fridays @ 4PM:
March 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th
*Please note: NO CLASS on the 23rd!

Address:
2111 East Susquehanna Ave

Philadelphia, PA

March in South Philly | $40
Sign Up
Wednesdays @ 9AM:
March 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th

Address:
1548 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Class Basics:

  • $10/class with a monthly sign up – Includes one makeup for missed classes per month, which can be used as credit towards upcoming sign ups or any classes scheduled at either location
  • $12 drop-ins with advanced notice only – Email ahead of time to let us know when you’ll be coming (please check with us to see if there’s space!)
  • First timers FREE
  • Online invoicing for monthly sign ups and drop-ins – Can pay online or make in-person payments

Baby and Tots Music Winter Schedule Updates!

Music_LessonBefore the Christmas holiday and New Years, we have a few more December music classes to usher in the winter. Visit us this week and the following for some warm, cozy music classes in Fishtown and South Philly! The last classes of the season will be Dec. 23rd (no classes between Christmas and New Years – see calendar for full schedule).

December Music Schedule
(Baby and Tots Classes Ages 0-3)

This week:

  • Dec. 13th @ 9 AM (South Philly – 1548. S. 13th Street at our Passyunk Studio)
  • Dec 15th @ 4 PM (Fishtown – 2111 East Susquehanna Avenue)
  • Dec 16th @ 9 AM (Fishtown again)

Next Week:

  • Dec 20th @ 9 AM (South Philly)
  • Dec 22nd @ 4 PM (Fishtown)
  • Dec 23rd @ 9 AM (Fishtown)

If you plan to come try out a class for FREE, please get in touch! And if you’re in the Fishtown neighborhood on Fridays at 3 PM or Saturdays at 10 AM, be sure to come see our space and visit our musical instruments, toys, and activities during our FREE story-time, free-play jam session! Free thru December (Sign Ups starting in Jan. 2018)

Please note that our Philly Music Babies schedule will be slightly different starting in January 2018:

South Philly Music Classes – Wednesdays @ 9 AM
Fishtown Weekday Afternoon Classes – Fridays @ 4 PM
Fishtown Weekend Music Classes – Saturdays at 10 AM

Sign Up for January! 

  • $10/class Monthly Sign Up
  • Weekly classes, with 4-5 weeks typically scheduled per month see schedule
  • *1 Makeup per month can be used during any schedule classes throughout the year, or can be credited toward upcoming months.

We do sign ups to make sure classes remain small and intimate. We have found that regular classes encourage more meaningful participation and more engaged learning! And who doesn’t want to get together with their little friends weekly?

Happy Singing!

-Coco

 

Unique Gifts for the Musically Minded

Shop Philly for the Holidays!

Studios in Fishtown and South Philly
In-Home Lessons in Philadelphia and The Main Line

gift certificates

 Gift Certificates from Philly Music Lessons

The holidays are nearly here! Help someone pay for the lessons they’ve been dreaming about for months. We have affordable private lessons in-home or at our studio in Philly. Music gift certificates make unique presents for all ages, while allowing you to support Philly musicians, educators, and the arts. Nourish someone’s creative pursuits, or encourage a new passion this year!

Contact Us for Gift Certificates

Great Gifts Under $20:

$40 and up:

  • 2 + Lessons starting at $52.50 (first lesson is still half-price). Request to purchase any number of lessons to help someone out with their musical studies.
  • 1 Month of Lessons starting around $120 (includes 1 at trial rate). Exact price depends on lesson duration and location.
  • Season Package of Lessons (10 lessons) – 10% off 10 lessons. Rates vary depending on duration and location. Starting at $315.
  • Voucher for Music Instrument Rentals (3 month minimum) – Price varies depending on instrument and size. Rentals start at $69 for the 3 months. Guitars, violins, cellos, uprights, brass, and woodwinds.

Private instruction at Philly Music Lessons begins at age 4, and caters to all ages and skill levels. Where we teach.

How it works:

  • Fill out the form below or Email Us with any questions.
  • We’ll get back to you within 1 business day.
  • After confirming your order, an invoice will be emailed to you.
  • The gift certificate can be emailed to you as a printable pdf (preferred method), or a gift card can be mailed
  • The gift recipient can contact us at any time after the holidays to redeem their gift certificate.
  • We will work directly with the gift recipient to find a teacher who can cater to their individual interests and can work with their schedule.

South Philly Baby & Tots Music Classes, Ages 0-3

South Philly ClassHello South Philly! We’ve been having a good time over here in Passyunk Square, bringing our cheery little music classes to this side of town. We’ve met lots of new faces at our 9 AM Wednesday class. We even had a special guest accompany me on piano last week! Co-owner of our South Philly space, Stephen Longenecker, played some impromptu piano while I sang my tunes and strummed guitar (you can tell this guy has spent quite a bit of time entertaining his own little ones with childhood classics, as he gave the “Ba Ba Black Sheep” melody a highly entertaining blues twist).

These classes are new to this part of Philly (est. in Fishtown in 2014), so be sure to get your first class in for FREE and try it out. Through the remaining months of the 2017 year, classes will continue to be held on Wednesdays at 9 AM (except for the week of Thanksgiving, and ending the week before Christmas). You can drop-in to any scheduled class for $12 – classes are $10 each when you sign up for the month or get a season package. Our 2018 Philly Music Babies schedule will be announced soon, so you can look towards 2018 for more music at 13th and Tasker.

Want to learn more about our school? Feel free to visit us in Rittenhouse Square in December for Philly Music Lessons’s 2017 Fall Recital. You can check out footage of students from all over Philadelphia and the Main Line playing in our highlights reel to get a taste of what you might see this season. You can also see some of our teachers performing here (we’re just beginning to grow their virtual portfolio – its worth watching!).