Arturo Riera

Arturo Riera

From the very beginning of music lessons, the voice is our first go to, tool to learn about notes harmonies and scales. This is an essential part of reading music and training your musical ear. However, the voice as an instrument is also the cause of many insecurities, such as not liking how it sounds, not having a wide range or just not feeling comfortable with others listening. The first step in order to overcome this, is to understand why it’s so important to control this natural instrument, what is vocal range and learning how to find your own voice through trial and error.

Why Sing?

There are two answers to this question, with the first one being the obvious one, which is that you want to be a singer. However if you are interested in playing instruments and don’t want to focus too much on singing, it’s still an useful instrument to have when getting involved with music. First of all, it’s the instrument you’ll always carry with you, to master this natural instrument is to carry melodies with you at all times. Secondly, singing is often an integral part of music education. Teachers involve students very easily by making them sing certain melodies or read sheets, not only does this improve the dynamic of the class itself, but it helps to develop a musical ear, remember musical structure of music writing, and reading.

Vocal Range

The vocal range determines roughly your range as a singer based on your lower note and your higher note,according to The New Harvard Dictionary of Music these vocal ranges classifications are:

soprano: C4 to A5
mezzo-soprano: A3 to F#5
alto: G3 to E5 (and contralto as F3-D5)
tenor: roughly C3 to A4
baritone: A2 to F4
bass: F2 to E4

The soprano and tenor are considered to be high voice, baritone and mezzo-soprano mid voice and alto and bass low voice.

This of course is not permanent, the vocal range can expand with practice and time, it can also be smaller if for example the vocal chords suffer some kind of strain, damage or not enough practice.

In order to know your vocal range, it’s as easy as playing notes to see how far can you go, and then find where you stand, this can help you know where you feel comfortable singing and what you want to improve. It also helps to know your vocal range so that you can look for singers with a similar tone to practice.

Finding your Voice

It happens many times to students that they want their voice to sound in a particular way, and they get frustrated because the only thing they find is something different than what they want, and something different than their usual speaking voice. This is important due to the fact that our singing voice is different than the regular speaking voice, because of this, some effort has to be put in order to find this new singing voice, and this requires patience.

Knowing your vocal range and listening popular singers will definitely help, however the best way is always to practice and record yourself, you may not like what you hear, but like any other instrument, you need to tune your vocal chords, and learn how to use them.

Even if you’re not very interested in being a professional singer, there is a chance that, while trying and learning the basics, you find a comfortable way to sing and you may discover an unknown talent, so long as don’t strain your voice, experiment with different techniques and get to know your voice.

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It’s always healthy to feel like there is some competition in every discipline, this includes music. These “competitions” however, are not exclusively with another person, it also involves ourselves and surpassing our past selves.

This kind of motivation is sometimes thought to be unhealthy or unnecessary, but the truth is that it can be fuel for motivation. The thing is not to make it something bigger than it really is, what this means is that if there is someone that you feel is better at singing than you, you shouldn’t try to imitate him and win at his own game, but rather find the best that your voice can be, in order to feel like you can be as good as any other singer.

With students this can be a delicate situation sometimes, because there is always an unbalanced pool of students that teachers have to deal with. This of course doesn’t happen in online lessons, unless there is some sort of interaction between the students of one teacher which could be a good a idea.

Online lessons sometimes lack this competition between students due to the nature of the class dynamic, and in order to see if it can be possible, let’s see the flaws and benefits of these competitions, and how it could be integrated into online music lessons.

Class Room Competition

There is always that one student that is extremely talented and focused, and there is always that one student that gets frustrated because he’s not as good as the other students.  One is proud and the other frustrated. These are two profiles that often arise in a classroom, but this is not all bad, while it may cause some trouble, in the end it works as some kind of filter, where the frustrated one can go two ways, one is getting bored, slowly losing interest because it’s too difficult or not worth their frustration, or it can become an obstacle to overcome, in this case, a competition against the one with the amazing talent, and against himself in a way that pushes him to be better. However as teachers, it must be reminded to students that self satisfaction is the most important thing when it comes to competition, nothing good comes from being better than someone else as a goal, competition is the means to achieving a personal goal.

Competition in Online Lessons

The whole idea of the internet is to stay connected, to be connected with other people even though a physical connection cannot be possible, that’s why online music lessons shouldn’t be isolated one on one classes, at least not always. It’s a good idea to establish a connection between students and let them know that they can share their ideas, help each other out in a way a teacher can’t and make bonds that sometimes will end up in competitive attitudes. Another very clear way to make this competition spirit arise is to start music contests involving prizes and recognition for their work.

There are many ways to start a competition, the teacher’s job in this case is to make them remember that a competition is not a bad thing if it can be channeled into energy to learn new things and practice.

Whether it’s online or in a class room, interaction with several students in a teacher’s plan is important to develop a fuller learning environment in which students can surpass their own expectations and feel like they are closer to their goals as a musician.

 

 

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There is an ongoing problem about the way we approach to tools or instruments today, which makes us focus more on how to use them rather than understanding how they work.

Some may say that it’s not necessary to know how an instrument works, or how it was made, however the same could be said about music in general. You could say someone is very good at playing, but doesn’t know a thing about scales, notes, and music reading. The point is that, this can stay this way  but there would be more control and freedom for creativity if there is also the knowledge to support the practice. The same goes to the instruments themselves, wouldn’t it be better if you knew how a guitar was made, or how the piano produces the sound it does, or knowing about the difference between one type of strings or another, it even goes as far as knowing about sound waves and materials.

How is sound produced?

There are a lot of vibrating causes, these include vocal cords and strings with tension, but to make vibration there must be a certain amount of tension in the vibrating body. These different vibrations can also be amplified in very different ways which involve different sizes of bodies, mics and more.

Sound can be quite malleable, and to understand its malleability it’s important to know at least a few of the sources.

Strings, percussion and wind

There are obvious differences between each of the instruments that can be found, but first, it’s important to make a first division in these three main categories: strings, percussion and wind.

Strings

These are instruments that sound due to the tension of strings mostly made of nylon and steel. As the vibration area becomes smaller the pitch gets higher, and more space means lower pitch.

This category is comprised of guitars, basses, violins, violas, cellos, harps, and many more.

Percussion

Percussion is all about “hitting” musical notes, this means that they are simple instruments which sound based on size and in many cases tension of leather.

These instruments range from barrels to drum sets.

Wind

These trigger sound with air, more specifically vibrating columns of air. These instruments are played by blowing which then makes the column of air vibrate, depending on its size the pitch is higher or lower, and it gets amplified by the tube.

Wind instruments are

Tuning an instrument

Tuning an instrument is an essential part of playing, not only is it necessary to maintain the right notes, but it gives more freedom as to the sound that we want to make. For example many guitarists use the drop d tuning, which is mainly used for power chords, hard rock, metal; it gives a heavier deep sound but also more possibilities with easy chords.

One of the most beautiful things for many before an orchestra is about to play is when everyone is tuning their instruments at the same time, for some it may be a disaster, but others hear many different sounds slowly falling into a place where great music can be achieved, it’s as if everyone in the room is synchronizing both in terms of sound and mind to deliver an experience.

Computer

Through experiencing music in the digital age, knowing how to manipulate sound to a certain degree it’s almost a requirement these days, and a computer is part of music composition as an instrument, it’s part of production, and a very integral part of the whole musical process. That’s why knowing at least how sound works digitally could help the overall knowledge in music.

There is just something important about getting to know a little bit more about the instruments we use, something beyond understanding how it works and fix it when it goes bad, it’s about getting the whole experience as a musician and learning every detail there is to learn.

 

 

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