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    Can Children Take Voice Lessons?

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    When it comes to singing, so many myths abound. Some people believe that singing is an innate skill and others claim their singing success lies in “using” their diaphragm.

     

    Another persistent myth is that children should not take voice lessons.

     

    We’re not sure about the origins of this myth but whoever created it certainly has never visited an elementary school classroom where songs are often integrated into the curriculum. And this person certainly has never visited a playground, where high octave screaming is a regular occurrence.

     

    So, what do we think about the myth that professional training will lead to “vocal abuse” in children and cause deterioration of their vocal cords?

     

    Our response: If you’re with a voice instructor who treats every student the same — young and old — then you’re with the wrong instructor. A good, responsible teacher tailors your child’s education to his abilities and desired outcomes. A voice coach should never push your child to sing with strong intensity, sing excessively or do overly challenging vocal ranges.

     

    The Music Junction co-owner Charissa Vaughan-Wheeler has been taking singing lessons since she was 4 years old and believes in learning to sing the right way from the start.

     

    “Of course singing incorrectly for a long time can cause damage to any voice, young or old,” Vaughan-Wheeler says.  “Kids can sing incorrectly whether they do it in front of a teacher or singing on their own – I would feel better if the teacher was monitoring.”

     

    For more information vocal abuse visit this website. To get another teacher’s perspective, read this Huffington Post story.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Using sound waves to levitate objects

    Think levitation is only a magician’s trick?

    Although you may not have learned this in your high school science class, the ability to make tiny particles float in the air is possible.

    The ability to rise in the air through the power of sound, also known as acoustic levitation, is not new. Scientists have been performing this act since the 1940s. However, a group of Japanese researchers have recently mastered three-dimensional levitation, making it possible to float an object up and down and side to side. You can see the levitation in action in the video above, which also provides a great tutorial on the science behind it.

    Scientists discovered that if they perfectly align ultrasonic sound speakers they can create sound waves that exert pressure. This pressure cancels out the effects of gravity. They can make the particles move in different directions by changing the strength of the sound waves. Fortunately for scientists, the sounds waves are slightly above the normal human hearing range, which is beneficial in applying this discovery to the real world. Unfortunately for musicians, we are unlikely to replicate levitation through our own music making.

    The advancement of 3D acoustic levitation provides many benefits beyond creating an intriguing YouTube video. Acoustic levitation could help scientists keep chemical mixtures pure in stem cell research and advance antigravity experiments in space.

     

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    Try Out “StarMaker” – a fun Karaoke App from The Voice!

    Traditionally, we’ve gone out to our local Karaoke Night to do some singing with a group of friends, but lately, those with a Karaoke itch have been turning to their smart phones.  That’s why The Voice created StarMaker, a karaoke app for android and iphones, says its users have logged 2 billion minutes of singing time since launching in 2010 – around 23,000 hours per day – and has nearly half a million likes on Facebook.  You can choose to submit a recording from the app to The Voice for consideration to be a contestant on the show.

    According to The Voice, StarMaker has “all the stuff that lets you create high quality recordings…StarMaker is your license to sing again, to practice a song until you nail it, to learn how fun it is to sing a great song. We’ve added studio-quality voice effects to help you sound better, and you can share your recording anonymously to the StarMaker community to see what people think”

    One thing that is great about this app is that StarMaker actually shows you how long or short your notes are, and if you are moving higher or lower with each note, in a way that borrows from reading music notes on the staff.  It’s nice to have a visual guide to a song – even when you’ve heard a song on the radio a million times, it’s still hard to remember every little nuance in the piece when you’re singing it on your own.  Another fun feature is “auto tune,” which corrects pitch for out of tune notes.  The corrections end up sounding a little computerized – think Cher in her song “Believe,” – but it does the trick.

    Karaoke apps are a great way for a singer taking voice lessons to try out their new vocal skills and have fun doing it.  In StarMaker, you have the opportunity to listen back to your recording after you’re done singing.  This is a perfect opportunity to check in on how you sound and make an analysis of vocal aspects you’d like to improve.  Then, try singing through again and see if you can make those improvements!  Or, take those concerns in to your voice teacher to get personalized instruction.  Your voice teacher will be your personal guide, and StarMaker can be your workshop!  If you love how you are sounding, submit to The Voice and see if they feel the same way.

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    Watch Disney Frozen “Let it Go.” One song, 25 different languages!

    When Frozen was dubbed into 41 languages, it meant that 41 singers had to be selected for the popular favorite “Let it Go.”  Hear 25 of the vocalists in 25 different languages.  It is really amazing to listen to one take of the song, with 25 different voices & languages all patched together.  Even though these are 25 vocalists, their voices meld into one.

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Let it Go” composer Robert Lopez is grateful that the animated hit’s 41 foreign-language versions are not his problem, but that of Disney Character Voices International senior vp creative Rick Dempsey, responsible for translating Disney’s films. “We were floored when we heard the compilation of ‘Let It Go’ in all those different languages,” says Lopez. “It sounded practically like Idina Menzel singing the whole thing,” says wife and co-composer, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who notes that it’s actually dozens of foreign voices dubbed for each language. “That’s why you want to work with Disney, because no one else has that touch all over the world.”

    Idina Menzel does have a spectacular voice, and finding 41 international singers who could equal her sound is impressive.  One amazing quality of Idina Menzel’s voice is her ability to sing higher range notes in an uber-focused sound placement.  Her high notes sound compressed to a sharp clarity that build effortlessly into the climatic moments of “Let it Go”.

    One great way to get that clarity of sound is through “vocal fry” exercises.  Vocal fry is the sound that is made by the vocal folds vibrating slow enough that instead of creating sound we just hear a “buzzing” noise.   It’s the sound you make when you’re tired and just waking up in the morning, or at the end of a long sigh or yawn – most of us know it as a “sleepy” sound.  But vocal fry is much more than that, it exercises and strengthens the vocal folds to create a focused, clear sound.  Vocal fry also aids in creating a “mix” sound on high notes, so that a singer can sing high with a sound quality that is more similar to their lower notes than, say, an opera singer’s high note sound quality.

    If you want to try to sharpen your sound, combat breathiness, and build killer high notes, try doing a little vocal fry every day.  The standard exercise is to move up and down a 5-note scale, increasing by a half-step after every repetition.  You should be able to hear a tiny bit of sound that is following the note changes, but mostly a full vibrating “fry” sound dominates.  After doing this for 5 minutes, try singing and enjoy how much easier it feels.  For a more advanced exercise, try starting on a vocal fry sound, and then transitioning into a gentle pure sound in the same breath.  The sound should come out very focused sounding, with a little buzz on it, almost the way a mosquito sounds in your ear.  With commitment and time, you could start hearing those Idina Menzel high notes in your own voice!

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    Voice & Piano Lessons Increase Kids’ IQ!

    As reported by PBS.org

    “A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

    Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.”

    “With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved–such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords–the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect,” said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg. – Forbes Magazine

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    Watch Sophia Grace & Rosie Perform ‘Girl on Fire’

    This is a favorite performance of Girl on Fire in a string of regular appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” made by Sophia Grace and Rosie, the pint-sized British child duo.  Sophia Grace has a very developed voice for her age, and the confidence to belt it out even in front of a large intimidating audience.  That’s partly due to her best friend Rosie, according to Sophia, who performs along side her to provide moral support and great dance moves.

    In this performance of Girl on Fire, Sophia Grace shows a lot of vocal control.  The fast vocal riffs and runs are impressive in a child her age.  Although once in a while the runs slur together, mostly the pitch changes are very pronounced.  It’s rare to hear runs executed so clearly at this age.  Sophia also has a very focused, clear tone, without the “breathy” quality of most young singers.

    This kind of vocal development is definitely possibly for a 7-8 year old student who is taking regular weekly voice lessons, but there are different factors at play that can affect how long the development takes:

    1) How does the child speak?  If the child has a very soft and breathy speaking voice, then that vocal quality will be the initial sound of the singing voice when beginning lessons.  If the child has a very nasal quality – where the back of the tongue normally rests almost as high as the “ng” (as in “ring”) sound when they speak – then that will be the particular starting place for the singing voice when beginning lessons.   So these natural tendencies will create differences in what the focus of study should be in the voice lesson, and how long it takes to develop an impressive, mature tone.

    2)How focused is the child?  If the student has a hard time concentrating, it can take sometimes as much as 3 times longer, or more, to make achievements in each vocal concept.  It’s important to be a good listener to be able to understand what vocal concepts are being addressed, and to continue concentrating on the concept while trying it out.  It’s possible for the voice teacher to focus on vocal exercises that need less explanation, and that automatically give vocal benefts when executed, but it still will always improve the lesson if the student is focused on the purpose of each exercise as they execute it.

    3)How physically self aware is the child? Children develop at different rates, so one student may not be able to feel how to create specific movements with their mouth or their breath as well as another student.  A young voice student who will learn quickly has a lot of control over things like: being able to relax the jaw, relaxing the lips, exhaling at a steady rate, controlling how much air pressure to use to support a note, enunciating words, being able to adjust the tongue, etc.

    4)How verbal is the child?  Children who speak articulately and with confidence will have an advantage in their voice lessons.  This skill will affect the student’s ability to memorize words to a song and enunciate them well.  Students who are shy and soft-spoken, who do not often speak in full sentences, or possibly mispronounce words,  may find it more difficult to learn the words to a song.  This is not a reason to forgo voice lessons – to the contrary – in this type of situation, voice lessons are an excellent tool to improving speech skills.  Often, young students feel empowered when they are given words to say, when they might feel more insecure being as verbal on their own.

    Regardless of how fast or slow a child shows vocal development from their voice lessons, it is still an extremely beneficial activity for any type of student.  Students who need more development in the areas mentioned above, will be able to practicing developing those skills in their lessons.  Every student should compare their progress against themselves, not against others, because the point is to find improvement in yourself, not compete against the improvements of others.

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    Jenny Lind – Americas first “Rock Star”

    Some refer to the 19th Century Opera star, Jenny Lind, as the world’s first Rock Star.  This recording from Nate DiMeo’s podcast, The Memory Palace, is a beautiful story about a beautiful singer, and what it was like to be a music fan in the 1800’s.  Before recordings could be obtained of your favorite artists, enjoying music was constrained to once-in-a-lifetime live performances.  I (Charissa) found it captivating to listen to how the music industry functioned during that time period, and the differences and surprising similarities compared to today.

    Looking at the past, it’s easy to see how universal the love of music and musicians is during all time periods.  We can’t deny the fascination we have with artists and their art.

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    Stevie Wonder performs “Songs in the Key of Life” album at Nokia Center

    Stevie Wonder has been performing wonderful holiday shows annually in Los Angeles for 18 years now to raise funds for the collection of toys for needy children in the Southland.  These holiday performances are a great musical event for families to attend, and always include special guest celebrities and well-known local talent to flesh out the fun program.

    For this year’s show at the Nokia Center in LA, however, Stevie decided to do something special and perform the entire song collection from his hit album, Songs in the Key of Life.  Cited by Elton John as the greatest album of all time, this album includes well-known Stevie Wonder songs like “Isn’t She Lovely,” “I Wish,” and “Sir Duke.”  I recommend listening frequently to this album – it’s addictive!  “Village Ghetto Land” is one of my favorites, for how musically beautiful the song is, and how poignant the lyrics are.

    The show began with Stevie Wonder coming onto the stage with his family to introduce the program, and his son and grandsons made a reappearance in some of his later performances.  Special guests this year included John Mayer, Chick Corea, & Herbie Hancock among others.  The show opened with five male singers performing the beautiful a cappella introduction of “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”  Other highlights included the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Gospel Choir directed by Jason White, who also kicked off the show, singing their hearts outs on traditional gospel repertoire.

    This was an overall wonderful performance and I highly recommend it as must-do family event every year!

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    Music and Your Brain

    The New York Times reports on a study showing that children who took music lessons at a young age had advanced development in their brain waves – even if they had discontinued lessons!  This is a neat finding because it shows us that even when a student wains in their commitment to lessons over the years, and maybe does not end up achieving a sophisticated understanding of their instrument, that just the act of taking lessons has forever improved them!

    After recording brain responses, Northwestern University found that “the group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested.  And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.”

    It might seem like increasing the brain’s understanding of sound would have little impact on overall development, but actually it directly affects how well a child can decipher language – improving their reading and listening skills.  And when you consider that reading and listening skills are a gateway to all learning, well, you could see how that would have a pretty large impact!

    One of the sound advancements for the brain is the ability to decipher sounds in the foreground versus sounds in the background – which can help everyone in focusing on the right sounds in their environment, but also be of help specifically for those with hearing loss.

    Brain waves of musicians are obvious to scientists who are looking at them. Ms. Parbery-Clark from Northwestern University remarks ““One of my lab mates can look at the computer and say, ‘Oh, you’re recording from a musician!’ ”

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    Introducing the classical comedy duo “Igudesman and Joo”

    This comedy duo from Great Britain combines their incredible concert musician skills with a sense of humor, creating an amazing and impressive routine that makes classical music more accessible to audiences while entertaining the heck out of them.  This video is just an exceptional, amazing performance that personally makes me (Charissa) so happy!  Please make sure to watch it to the end because each segment gets bigger and more ridiculous.  Just when you think they can’t top themselves, they do!

    Richard Hyung-ki Joo (pianist) and Alek­sey Igudes­man (violinist) worked together to create their show, “A Lit­tle Night­mare Music,” which had an American debut in 2009. “We always had a dream to make clas­si­cal music acces­si­ble to a wider and younger audi­ence, to take out the snob­bism and elit­ism, and to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple are not afraid to go to con­certs,” Joo says. “We were also fas­ci­nated by humor or the­ater within music, and we real­ized that (com­edy in the con­cert hall) was an art form that doesn’t exist in the dic­tio­nary but cer­tainly works.”

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