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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.

 

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

 

Meet one of our Violin Teachers! | Navid Kandelousi

Introducing a fantastic new addition to our teaching staff: Navid Kandelousi

violin teacher, strings, philly, fishtown, philadelphia, lessonsI started my musical journey at the age of six by studying violin with both Iranian and Russian teachers. In 1999 I was invited to join the Iranian National Orchestra as a violin soloist, a position which I held until 2006 when I left Iran for Italy.  I studied western classical music at the Verdi Conservatory in Milano, Italy and at the Moscow Violin Academy in Russia.  In 2009, I was invited to join the Gateway Symphony in New York City and the International American YPHIL Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.  I have mastered virtuosic skills on a great breadth of instruments including the Violin, Setar, Taar and Kamanchah, in addition to experience with piano, tonbak, santour and gheychak. Throughout my professional career, I have collaborated with numerous prestigious Persian ensembles such as the Iranian National Orchestra, the Orange County Orchestra, and have performed all the great composers internationally across Europe, Asia and America in venues such as Lincoln Center, Juilliard Music School, Albert Hall, Kennedy Center, Sydney’s Symphony Hall and Vahdat Hall, while winning numerous music and violin awards. My teaching background includes work at the Yamaha School of Music, Suzuki Violin School, and Master Classes in Kamanchah, Taar and Setar at the Julliard School. I received a scholarship from Maestro Daniel Philips in Queens College of Music 2012-2015 and recently attended the Silk Road Global Music performance with Maestro Yo-Yo Ma in Kennedy Center!

When did you begin playing Violin, and why?
I started in music when I was 6 years old, and I chose the violin at 8. I picked the violin because I fell in love with the sound it made the very first time I heard it.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I play Taar, Setar, kamancheh, and Tombak. These are all Persian instruments that I have been playing for many years along with my violin – they are also mostly from the string family.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
As a violinist, I would like to continue performing solo concerts! As a teacher, I want to be able to show my students everything I’ve learned. Most of all, I hope to become a better person in my life and enjoy music as much as I can!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
My understanding of violin technique really clicked when I heard the Paganini caprices performed by Shlomo Mintz. What a beautiful performance!

What is your favorite piece of music from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Paganini Violin Concerto No.1

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My most challenging moments are always learning new, difficult pieces with a teacher. It can be so hard in the beginning, but it always gets better!

What is your biggest musical achievement?
Finding the best friends and music lovers in my life

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love giving a lot of examples during my classes when I am teaching!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Practice slowly and correctly and every day!

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
I am also very involved in Middle Eastern folk music!

 

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!).